Profile: Lisa Voldeng

Jul 30, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Lisa Voldeng has come a long way from founding Digital Mogul as a newsletter in 1998 to addressing what she sees as a “massive gap between market hype and market actuality” about new technology.
The founding managing director and chief analyst of Digital Mogul has built the San Francisco-based firm into a full-fledged analysis, consulting and research group to compete with Forrester Research and Jupiter Communications, save one major difference.
Digital Mogul has an attitude.
Backed by a core of eight full-time pros and 40 contributing analysts, Digital Mogul soon will be spun off into an independent entity that will be paired with a new entertainment arm-both companies owned by Ms. Voldeng’s Uberbabe Media.
Digital Mogul is talking to several button-down Wall Street firms about joint ventures.
On the entertainment side, Digital Mogul’s Uberbabe mascot will become the focus of a massive commercial franchise featuring the Uberbabe Web site, comic books, electronic games, films and merchandise celebrating the protohuman’s exploits in “kicking humans up the evolutionary ladder,” Ms. Voldeng said.
The contrarian, maverick voice behind Digital Mogul’s newsletters and the Uberbabe character-that is, Ms. Voldeng’s-is attracting more mainstream strategic partners and clients.
EM: Where did this contrarian voice and approach to analyzing the media come from?
Ms. Voldeng: I have conservative yet maverick parents. I grew up in Canada. My dad has been a CEO for a number of years. He was CEO of Idecom Electronics, which was purchased by Hewlett-Packard. Now he is CEO of NetMeasure, which he cofounded.
I worked as an interface designer at various firms, including Hewlett-Packard, which helped me to understand how companies work at a micro level. So it was a natural progression to look at companies on a macro level. Then I worked for a time as an independent consultant at Oracle and Netscape and worked at an analyst at Upside.
EM: What was the idea you began with?
Ms. Voldeng: This is my original business model that we’re finally executing on. We were careful about the way we rolled it out. The first two years we spent building relationships with clients, building our voice and building our brand. Our very first issue carried an analysis of HDTV and digital television and why they would not roll out in their current form. We’ve been ahead of the market from the beginning. But one of the downsides of being ahead of the market is people don’t understand what you are. We had to wait for a certain evolution in the market to occur before we could roll out the rest of our strategies.
EM: What do you do on the research and consulting side?
Ms. Voldeng: We turn out a regular newsletter and six major reports annually-the most recent being a look at interactivity. We are working on five consulting projects. Our clients include an investment bank, an ad agency and a hybrid entertainment company.
On the entertainment side, we have the official guerilla launch of the burgeoning Uberbabe franchise. It’s a parody of sex, religion and economics.
EM: What concerns you most about what’s going on these days?

Ms. Voldeng: We’re talking about the evolution of a post-media landscape where everything eventually will be interactive and digital. Players need to consider how to grow a pie that everyone can have pieces of. Who owns it is not as important.
But there is a lack of interoperability and uniformed standards, which threatens the growth of interactivity.
It will probably be at least 2006 or 2008 before companies in larger markets have a full suite of interactive services. There is a good chance that interactivity as it’s currently envisioned will be scuttled altogether because of the lack of interoperability and the lack of understanding of consumer demand.
EM: Is anyone breaking out of the pack?
Ms. Voldeng: We think the Game Show Network is doing some interesting things. They understand the need for interoperability and what the consumer wants.
It is an isolated market, but the video game industry last year was over $7 billion-more than film. Sony, which is building Cablevision Systems’ interactive digital cable set-top box, is the perfect choice for it. They have grand plans in theory, but they are inhibited by their divisions operating like little fiefdoms.
EM: How have you funded your enterprise?
Ms. Voldeng: We bootstrapped for the first couple of years and then brought in a few angel investors. We may consider doing a first-round series of fund raising at some point.