Zennström Admits: ‘Our Timing Was Off With Joost’

We’re not at this year’s Le Web, the Paris web shindig that has itself at times proved controversial (bitching and temperature control). But all manner of hopeful startups are, and some that have already made it…

Niklas Zennström, one half of the Zennström-and-Friis entrepreneur double act that brought you KaZaA, Skype and Joost, admitted some errors along the way with two of those three…

“When we started Skype … it seemed at that time that all the stars were aligned,” Zennström said in a keynote. “We were very lucky with timing but we also made a few things that were right.

“With other companies, such as KaZaA and Joost, we made a lot of mistakes. We had the timing off and we made a few mistakes along the way and misjudged the market and the partnership opportunities … Joost is an example where we could not get the right partnerships or audience.

“Those mistakes are much more valuable learnings than the successes that you have … When something is not working, you have to take a deep breath and start again.”

That’s exactly what Zennström did when he wound Joost down recently, preferring to fight through the courts for a 14 percent Skype stake. Ex Joost CEO Mike Volpi told me after the Joost decision in July that Joost was squeezed out by the rise of Hulu and other aggregators.

Zennström gave no clues as to his next startup, a music service dubbed Rdio, but did talk about his last one: “With KaZaA, we were way too early. Our proposals to the record companies about subscription- or advertising funded models fell on deaf ears.”

And he addressed Le Web delegates’ favourite topic – why aren’t European startups are strong as Silicon Valley’s… ?

— “You have a culture of stigmatising failure which is very unhelpful.”

— It’s too hard to set up companies and hire and fire people

— But there’s a redistribution coming of the US’ internet power to international markets, he said.

— “Loic is the last European moving to Silicon Valley,” Zennström said of Le Web organiser and Seesmic CEO Loic Lemeur’s emigration from France.