SEATTLE (Oct. 18, 2016) -- James Heckman, former News Corp and Yahoo! senior executive and founder and CEO of two of the most successful professional publisher networks, Rivals.com and Scout.com, in collaboration with his veteran team of executives and engineers are launching an expert-driven, group media platform. TheMaven Network, Inc. will feature premium, vertical content across multiple content segments. The product launch is planned for the first quarter of 2017.
Heckman will serve as CEO of theMaven Network and is joined by Rivals.com co-founders and the entire executive team from Scout, including the CTO, COO, senior engineering team and its former chairman, one-time Yahoo! CEO Ross Levinsohn - who is rejoining Heckman as a board member of theMaven company.
“The collective knowledge and power of this team puts it in an enviable position day one,” said Levinsohn. “TheMaven team managed to develop a business plan, design a state of the art platform from scratch, secure funding and are on-boarding high quality publishers, all within 100 days of inception – this speaks to their passion, loyalty and commitment as a team.”
TheMaven also announced today that it entered a definitive agreement to be acquired by a public trading acquisition oriented company, Integrated Surgical Systems, Inc. (Symbol: ISSM), backed by MDB Capital Group. Post-acquisition, the name will change to theMaven Network, Inc. A formal 8-K was filed by ISSM with the SEC this week.
“Moving to become a public company so soon after inception is certainly bold, but it is consistent with our confidence in this team, the platform we are building, and the business plan we have fine-tuned and have dreamed about over the past two decades," Heckman said today. “And the backing of MDB Capital gives us the confidence we will have the necessary resources to execute on our aggressive strategy. We always believed the model will work in other categories and recent events gave us the motivation to pursue this long-held idea. TheMaven will be our sixth venture together for much of this team.”
The acquisition transaction in which ISS will acquire theMaven company as a subsidiary is being led by MDB Capital and its CEO, Christopher Marlett, a long-time collaborator of Heckman’s. Marlett commented by saying, “We first met James in 2004 while he ran Scout.com and believed that professional publisher networks would be a big part of the future of journalism and the best method for passionate interest groups to collaborate. We feel fortunate to be backing James, who is effectively the father of the industry in this new endeavor to bring the right platform at the right time to these enormous groups that exist but don’t have a great platform for their content.”
Notable executives rejoining the team include CTO Ben Joldersma, recent Google senior engineer and former lead architect at Rivals, Scout and 5to1; COO Bill Sornsin, former head of MSN Core Technology, and co-founder/CTO at Rivals and Scout; and a dozen of the most highly skilled digital engineers in the industry - all based in Seattle. Veterans from Yahoo!, Google, Amazon, MSFT and ThePlatform all joined theMaven, within days of their departure from Scout.
Co-founder and CTO Joldersma outlines the vision of theMaven platform: “We studied what made our previous media networks so vibrant over the years, and we believe it comes down to communities of dedicated followers with deep trust in market-area experts. So, this time we are going even deeper on tooling to help these mavens communicate with, manage, serve and grow their groups even better. The challenges and opportunities presented by mobile devices, social networks, multimedia, monetization, audience extension, search and social discovery can be prohibitive to the success of small to medium sized publishers. Thus, we are building a best-in-class service that continually improves to address new market opportunities and shore up against emerging vulnerabilities.”
Co-founder Sornsin added, “Because we take care of the technology and business platforms, theMaven is free to focus on discovering, creating insights, and interacting with their communities. People are passionate about politics, art, autos, technology and other subjects, and when these categories are led exclusively by a motivated expert or journalist, the passionate engagement will be at least as strong as for sports -- and in some cases, at larger scale. We believe this model is a great way to provide professional content that major media brands are no longer able to provide efficiently.”
Bios of key members of theMaven team:
Founder and CEO, Mr. James C. Heckman, Jr. has extensive experience in digital media, advertising, video and online communities for major public companies and several times as founder. He served as Head of Global Media Strategy for Yahoo!, and led all significant transactions and revenue strategy under Ross Levinsohn’s CEO tenure. He held the CSO role at Fox Digital/Myspace where he architected and negotiated the market-changing $900 million social media ad alliance between Google and Myspace and was instrumental in the formation of Hulu. Prior to Yahoo!, Mr. Heckman was Founder/CEO of 5to1 (sold to Yahoo!), CSO of Zazzle.com, Founder/CEO of Scout.com (sold to Fox in 2005 - then repurchased by Heckman-led group from 2013-2016), Founder/CEO of Rivals.com and Rivals.net (1997-2000 - sold to Yahoo! and 365-Sports, respectively) and President of NFL Exclusive, official publications for all NFL teams (1992-1998). He holds a BA in Communications from the University of Washington.
Co-founder and COO, Mr. William C. Sornsin, Jr. ran MSN's Core Technology team before joining Heckman in 1999 as co-founder and CTO of Rivals.com. He was then co-founder and CTO/COO for the original Scout.com; VP Engineering & Operations at Fox Interactive Media after Scout's 2005 acquisition; and rejoined Scout from 2013-2016 as CTO and later COO. Earlier, Sornsin held a variety of product and program management roles at Microsoft. He holds a BS Electrical/Computer Engineering from the University of Iowa and an MBA from UCLA.
Co-founder and CTO, Mr. Benjamin G. Joldersma’s career spans nearly two decades of large-scale platform development, most recently as CTO of Scout. Prior roles were at Google (senior software engineer Geo/Imagery), Yahoo! (Principal Software Engineer), 5to1, aQuantive, Rivals.com and Microsoft. Mr. Joldersma has developed a deep expertise in large-scale systems, rapid development and online product innovation. He studied Computer Science at University of Puget Sound.
Director, Mr. Ross B. Levinsohn is a leading industry figure who has long focused on the convergence of technology and media. He served as CEO at Yahoo in 2012 and prior to that role was Executive Vice President, Americas and Head of Global Media from 2010 to 2012. Levinsohn served as President of Fox Interactive where he helped create the largest digital businesses amongst the traditional media companies, and was instrumental in the formation of what is now Hulu. He serves on several public and private media and technology boards, including Tribune Media, mobile advertising marketplace YieldMo, Vubiquity, Zefr, and the National Association of Television Program Executives. He was Executive Chairman and Director of Scout Media, Inc. from 2014-2016. He previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of Guggenheim Digital Media. He co-founded 5to1 Holding Corp. in 2008 and served as its Executive Chairman since December 9, 2010. He co-founded Fuse Capital in 2005 and served as its Managing Director and Managing Partner. He served as General Manager at AltaVista Network. He served as a Vice President of Programming and an Executive Producer at CBS Sportsline. He has been a Director of FatTail, Millennial Media, Publish2, social travel site Minitime, DramaFever, Timeline Labs, Fuse+Mediam, BBE, TrueSlant, VSIDE, Doppelganger, Freedom Communications, Fabrik, Napster, Radar Networks and Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program. Mr. Levinsohn received a BA in Broadcast Communications from American University, and is a trustee there.