Following Their Massive Layoffs, Hi5 Gets A New Leader

img_7087jpgLast month, the social network hi5 cut a large percentage of its staff following a new round of funding that didn’t materialized. Now, the self-dubbed “world’s leading social entertainment web site” is getting a new leader at the top. Bill Gossman, formerly the CEO of the online advertising service Audience Science, is taking over as CEO of Hi5. Grossman was brought in by Hi5’s largest shareholder Mohr Davidow Ventures, where Grossman was a former partner and is a current executive in residence.

In the release (below) you can read between the lines to see where Hi5 is looking to head as it continues on at a smaller size. The site, is now focusing on forms of entertainment like casual gaming and micro-payments. Hi5 also recently partnered with Paymo to power mobile payments for virtual goods. Gossman, who obviously has experience in monetization, will now try to monetize hi5. The company’s former CEO, founder Ramu Yalamanchi, will stay on and take the roll of Chief Product Officer.

With nearly 60 million active users, the service has a good sized audience, but it’s long been far behind the big boys in the social networking space, MySpace and Facebook. Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide with 294.7 million unique visitors, with MySpace is coming in second with 125.7 million unique visitors. hi5 gets about 63 million monthly unique visits worldwide but only 3.7 million of those are from the U.S., according to ComScore’s March stats. And the problem with its audience is that a good chunk of it is in countries where it will be hard to attract advertisers, as VentureBeat’s Eric Eldon notes.

Below, find the press release:

San Francisco, CA; April 24, 2009 — hi5, the world’s leading social entertainment web site, today announced the appointment of Bill Gossman as CEO to lead the company through its next phase of growth. Ramu Yalamanchi, founder and CEO since the company’s inception in 2003, will assume the role of Chief Product Officer to lead the company’s product strategy in the social entertainment space.

This change augments the hi5 executive team with seasoned leadership, particularly around monetization of the company’s huge global audience of over 60 million monthly uniques. As the former CEO of Audience Science, Bill brings considerable expertise in online advertising, behavioral targeting, and other forms of audience monetization. He has also built and led several companies through similar stages of their organizational growth.

“The founding team at hi5 has built a tremendous asset in one of the world’s largest online communities, and a truly global distribution and monetization platform for games and other social entertainment content,” said Gossman. “I’m excited to be joining the organization to help leverage that asset by focusing on our continued leadership in the social entertainment space and building a scalable, highly profitable business.”

As Chief Product Officer, Ramu will focus his operational responsibilities on leading the product and engineering organizations to deliver innovative, world-class features that differentiate hi5 in the social entertainment space – particularly extending hi5’s successful micro-payments infrastructure and maximizing that revenue stream for the business.

“It is great to have Bill joining hi5 at this exciting stage of our business,” said Yalamanchi. “We have been incredibly successful in building a huge global audience and pioneering the social entertainment space. Bill brings highly applicable, stage-relevant leadership experience, particularly in monetizing online traffic and building scalable sales organizations, that will help take our company to the next level.”

With over 25 years experience leading high-growth organizations in the digital media space, Bill helped pioneer the behavioral targeting category at Audience Science and is an expert in monetizing online audiences. His previous positions include CEO of Sabrix and founder and COO/CFO of @mobile, a wireless Internet software company sold to for $400 million. Bill is a former partner and current executive in residence at Mohr Davidow Ventures, the lead investor in hi5.