John Ham, cofounder and longtime CEO of live streaming video service Ustream, is stepping down from the company he helped start four and a half years ago. Ham will be replaced by cofounder and (and former West Point classmate) Brad Hunstable, who will serve as interim CEO while the company looks for a permanent replacement. Ham will stay on as the company’s Chairman of the Board and an advisor.
Ham says that the decision to step down is one he made entirely on his own accord, and that the company has been preparing for his transition for the last 2-3 months. His reason for leaving? He says that he’s ready to scratch his entrepreneurial itch again, and will be announcing a new startup he’s working on by the end of the year. He isn’t talking about the new company just yet, other than to say he’ll be starting it with an (unnamed) founder of a social gaming company.
Alongside the news, Ustream is announcing that it’s raised another $6 million from existing investors Softbank and DCM. This comes on top of a $10 million round it raised as part of a joint venture with South Korea’s KT Corp, which was announced last week. Ustream has raised a whopping $103.8 million to date.
I spoke with Ham and interim CEO Hunstable about the move, and about Ustream’s health.
They say the service has strong traffic — 60 million users watch live streams each month — and that it now has three international offices, two US-based offices, and over 150 employees overall. They aren’t talking revenue numbers, but they say the company will be profitable in 2012.
Ustream has seen a steady evolution over the last several years as it’s focused increasingly on premium content. Like Qik, the service allows users to stream videos directly from their PCs, tablets, and mobile phones, but these streams are difficult to monetize and to consistently drive traffic.
So the company has partnered up with content owners including CBS, MTV, the AP, and many others abroad to stream shows and live events (TechCrunch has used Ustream to stream our TC Disrupt conferences). Hunstable says that the company will continue this strategy going forward, and that it will continue to foster growth in Asian markets, which have been a hotbed for the service.
When I pointed out that YouTube is also increasingly working with premium content owners for its own live streams, Hunstable said that Ustream has an advantage because it has been focused on live content for 4.5 years, and that, alongside the site’s social features, it provides a unique experience to consumers and content owners.
Ham and Hunstable were classmates at West Point, and originally started Ustream as a way to help deployed military personnel connect with friends and family back home.