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Streaming Media Firm Eyecast Closing

By Michael P. Bruno,
Washtech.com Staff Writer
Friday, April 13, 2001; 2:30 PM

Streaming media services company Eyecast Corp. of Herndon is closing its doors after failing to find further funding, the company's newly placed CEO told Washtech.com today. As part of its shutdown, the company Thursday laid off 45 of 65 workers, or more than two-thirds of its work force, and took its Web site down.
Woodson Hobbs, who became president and CEO a month ago in an attempt to turn Eyecast around, said a "skeleton crew" of roughly 20 employees remain at the company's Herndon headquarters to take care of "winding down" operations. He said he expects Eyecast to be fully shut down in roughly 30 days.

Eyecast now is informing each of its 85-plus customers, trying to pay off vendors and settling any other matters related to closing shop, Hobbs said. Eyecast will try to sell its software assets but Hobbs acknowledged that it will be difficult since most companies prefer to develop their own "strategic" software themselves.

Hobbs blamed a slowdown in the adoption of DSL, the Internet service that generally allows for faster Web access via a digital subscriber line, as well as a "high" cash burn rate and the overall demise of the economy as reasons that prohibited Eyecast from finding a new financing.

DSL services still are too expensive and far too unavailable, Hobbs contended, leading to a slowdown in that sector's growth. Eyecast was relying on broad adoption of DSL service to carry its high-bandwidth-demanding streaming media services. And Hobbs said Eyecast did not have a backup plan ready for adapting its offering to other modes of Internet service such as with dial-up modems.

Eyecast had raised $35 million total from New Enterprise Associates, New Horizons Venture Capital and ComVentures, Hobbs said. While those groups were willing to join another round they wanted a new group to lead it, he said. Because of the DSL market, Eyecast could not find an investor willing to lead another round of venture funding, Hobbs said.

Hobbs also said Eyecast suffered from a high cash burn rate, though he did not offer a figure. "That kind of scared off some of the venture capital people," Hobbs said.

Representatives from NEA and ComVentures could not immediately be reached for more comment.

Thursday's layoffs were the company's third known round this year alone. In late February, Eyecast laid off about 30 employees in late February, just weeks after it let go around 28 employees in January. Those laid off will get severance packages, Hobbs said, though the size of the packages depend on events such as whether Eyecast can find a buyer for some of its assets.

Hobbs said he was brought in at the request of NEA during the second week of March to try to save Eyecast. Hobbs replaced Shaun Amini as the chief executive, who moved to handle the company's technology, he said. Had Eyecast won a new round of financing it likely would have tried to hire another new CEO by the end of the year, Hobbs said.
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2001-4-13 -04:00
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