Joost's Renaissance Man

Is Internet TV startup Joost a technology company or a media network? The company’s recent hiring of Michelangelo Volpi from Cisco Systems as chief raises that question.

At Cisco for 13 years, Volpi most recently managed Cisco’s $11 billion routing and service provider technology group, including Scientific Atlanta, as senior vice president and general manager. Previously, he headed Cisco’s M&A activity.

But he told GigaOM’s Om Malik last month, “I never thought of myself as the router guy, and had broader interests. I come from the infrastructure side but I hate to pigeonhole myself.”

Certainly, Volpi’s engineering background fits well with Joost as a technology platform, especially since competition with myriad other video sites could hinge on technical execution to ensure user-friendliness. And his M&A experience will no doubt come in handy securing deals with content partners and other companies.

But Joost is also in the media business. Besides entering into alliances with heavyweights including CBS, Viacom, Turner Broadcasting Systems and Sony for content and investment dollars, it’s also signed up with Creative Artists Agency to gain greater access to entertainment content through CAA’s Hollywood connections. Then there’s the 30 big-name advertisers Joost has lined up, including Coke and P&G.

So Volpi will have to demonstrate he can select and package programming in a way that appeals to consumers and advertisers  — in short, the skills of a TV network boss. So Joost has to hope he’s as versatile as his first name suggests.

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