The Player: Tom Frank, CEO of Akimbo

Mar 2, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The play: Akimbo changed business strategies last week to become an Internet television technology and solutions provider. That’s a change from the last five years, during which Akimbo operated as a set-top box company delivering niche content over broadband to the TV. Now it provides solutions for content providers offering Web video, ranging from a video player to reports on usage to various monetization options, such as ad support, pay-per-download, subscription, gift cards and other transactional services for Web video.
The pitch: Akimbo enters a crowded field, but Mr. Frank said his company’s advantage is that its solutions are completely customizable and can be controlled by the client. Akimbo’s technology also can work as modules or plug-ins that can run alongside existing installations from other Internet TV providers. “We co-exist with all those systems. You don’t need to displace them, but we can augment the model,” Mr. Frank said. For instance, if content providers want to add rental options to a Web site, Akimbo can simply provide the rental module. Akimbo also can provide an end-to-end system. “This allows content brands to experiment with how to monetize their content,” Mr. Frank said.
In the mix: Akimbo inked its first deal with guy-centric digital network MavTV. Akimbo also has signed deals with other media companies, which it plans to announce in the second quarter.
The backstory: Akimbo first launched in 2003. But that business model failed to take off. “We are out of the hardware aggregation business and out of content aggregation,” Mr. Frank said. “I don’t know who is going to win in the hardware space and I didn’t want to have to bet on any one model to be successful. … Akimbo learned if you overinvest in a single strategy, that can be a mistake.” The company announced its new direction last week.
The money guys: Akimbo recently landed slightly less than $4 million in venture funding from existing investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Zone Ventures to fund the company’s new business strategy. Akimbo makes money via license fees and revenue sharing. The company expects to achieve profitability next year.
The cons: Akimbo competes with a wide range of established Internet TV platforms, including Brightcove, Permission TV, Magnify, Maven, Narrowstep, the Platform, Extend Media and Twistage.
The pros: Akimbo is reaching out to midlevel studios and other content providers with its solutions. Also, the online video business is flourishing, with ad growth expected to triple in the next three years.
Background: Mr. Frank was born and raised in Cincinnati. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Frank previously worked as chief operating officer for Real Networks and before ran Dick Clark Productions. He also worked at Procter & Gamble. He is 44 and lives in Hillsborough, Calif., with his wife and two children.
Who knew? Mr. Frank hired Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe for his first hosting gig back in 1998 when Mr. Frank worked at Dick Clark Productions. The two have remained friends and Mike Rowe provided the voiceover for Akimbo’s demo DVD.

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