Watching Rocketboom go boom

by Mathew on July 6, 2006 · 8 comments

As I expected (or feared), the Rocketboom saga continues to deteriorate. First came the tearful farewell video from Amanda Congdon, the vivacious host and sometime swimwear model, saying she had to part company with Andrew Baron, the co-founder of the popular video-blog/online TV show. The implication was that she had been fired, because her partner owned 51 per cent of the company. Then came a response from Andrew — to me, as well as others, and on the Yahoo video-blogging group — that suggested he had been blind-sided by the video farewell, and that Amanda had wanted to move to L.A. to pursue her dreams.

The latest instalment came from Amanda in a lengthy discussion on her blog, in which she posted the contents of an email from Andrew discussing her plans, and interspersed his comments with her rebuttals (never a good sign). Despite the often repeated statements on both sides about how much each cares for the other and respects the other’s various talents, it is clear that there is a substantial amount of bad blood beneath the surface of this ongoing blogosphere drama (which has also been picked up by the Washington Post and Business Week). Amanda also suggests that Andrew is trying to take her 49-per-cent stake from her.

As Stowe Boyd notes, there are a number of useful lessons here — not the least of which is that the 51-49 ownership split is probably a bad idea for a startup, even between friends. My suspicion from Amanda’s lengthy post is that Andrew acted a lot like an owner and perhaps treated Amanda like the hired help, whereas Amanda clearly saw herself as a co-owner. There also appears to be another player, named Mario, who is an unknown quantity, but may have played a sort of Yoko Ono-type role. In the end, as Chartreuse points out, the battle between producer and talent is an age-old one, and it is rarely pretty.

Here’s hoping that Andrew and Amanda can both find a way out of this that allows them to keep their dignity, and to make the most of their respective talents. Rocketboom was a great thing in many ways, and it would be a shame to see it implode. Jason Calacanis, who has offered Amanda a job on her own terms, has some useful advice for talent-related startups.

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  • GregR

    Mario is Amanda’s Boyfriend. They lived together and Mario supported other initiatives in the background including her own website.
    I have no doubt he also helped on the production. He is created with Director on some of the videos.
    Also a lot of the video was shot in Connecticut at her parents home.
    Boy does this make good fodder for the first VideoBlogging Soap !!

  • Rob Hyndman

    Nothing wrong with 50-50 or whatever, provided there is an agreement underneath it setting out how people are to deal with disputes. Which doesn’t mean that disputes are easy to resolve, or even that an agreement can resolve them for you. But if 50-50 or 60-40 or 70-30 or 80-20 or 90-10 is not a good idea, entrepreneurship is over – many companies start with two founders, and should – one being a lonely number. Having a Board doesn’t fix anything – they’re appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the shareholders, which brings things back to the agreement.

    Note that a big part of their dispute seems to be lack of certainty about whether she could keep her 49%. Why? No agreement.

    At heart, this is about choosing your business partner very, very carefully and taking the time to document the agreement.

  • Mathew Ingram

    That’s a good point about the need for care and the fact that a board wouldn’t necessarily help, Rob. Although in one of her responses to a comment on her blog, Amanda says that she has a aigned contract in a safety deposit box somewhere. What it has in it, of course, is impossible to say.

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