Schadenfreude

Execs Abandon Airtime as Sean Parker Resorts to Meaningless Buzzwords

"We're iterating on our approach."
 Execs Abandon Airtime as Sean Parker Resorts to Meaningless Buzzwords

(Photo: flickr.com/christmas-on-mars)

Tech’s golden party boy, who was once portrayed by a mugging Justin Timberlake, has hit a wall with his new startup, Airtime. Sean Parker, (in)famous for cofounding Napster, serving as the first president of Facebook and as a Spotify board member, opened up to AllThingsD about the struggles the video chat service has experienced since its star-studded launch in June.

Of course, Mr. Parker was quick to obscure genuine vulnerability with the self-aggrandizing rhetoric of Startupland. “Running a start-up is like eating glass,” he told AllThingsD. “You just start to like the taste of your own blood.” (Perpetuating the notion that startups are only run by masochists is an easy way to lend your endeavor the sheen of nobility and forget–for a moment–that we’re talking about a service that’s basically Chatroulette 2.0.)

AllThingsD also reports that Shawn Fanning, Mr. Parker’s Napster cofounder, will soon take a backseat role at the company. Eric Feng, who was brought on after firing Airtime’s initial product team to gut the infrastructure and rebuild it from scratch in time for launch, will also be moving on.

Mr. Feng and Mr. Fanning are two key Airtime execs, and their upcoming departures represent a huge blow for a highly hyped company that’s only managed to net 10,000 monthly active users. The company’s embarrassingly gaudy launch event stands in stark contrast to the barebones startup it’s become three months down the line. But Airtime is betting on a host of new features it will roll out soon, like a “Reactions” option, which lets people record their reactions to YouTube videos to be played alongside them.

Still, Mr. Parker assures readers (and investors like Kleiner Perkins, which shelled out $33 million) that everything’s going just fine. “We are iterating on our approach,” he said, which is often just a fancy way of saying, “Please let a better idea strike us ASAP.”

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