Watching Rocketboom go boom

As I expected (or feared), the Rocketboom saga continues to deteriorate. First came the tearful farewell video from Amanda Congdon, the vivacious host and sometime swimwear model, saying she had to part company with Andrew Baron, the co-founder of the popular video-blog/online TV show. The implication was that she had been fired, because her partner owned 51 per cent of the company. Then came a response from Andrew — to me, as well as others, and on the Yahoo video-blogging group — that suggested he had been blind-sided by the video farewell, and that Amanda had wanted to move to L.A. to pursue her dreams.

The latest instalment came from Amanda in a lengthy discussion on her blog, in which she posted the contents of an email from Andrew discussing her plans, and interspersed his comments with her rebuttals (never a good sign). Despite the often repeated statements on both sides about how much each cares for the other and respects the other’s various talents, it is clear that there is a substantial amount of bad blood beneath the surface of this ongoing blogosphere drama (which has also been picked up by the Washington Post and Business Week). Amanda also suggests that Andrew is trying to take her 49-per-cent stake from her.

As Stowe Boyd notes, there are a number of useful lessons here — not the least of which is that the 51-49 ownership split is probably a bad idea for a startup, even between friends. My suspicion from Amanda’s lengthy post is that Andrew acted a lot like an owner and perhaps treated Amanda like the hired help, whereas Amanda clearly saw herself as a co-owner. There also appears to be another player, named Mario, who is an unknown quantity, but may have played a sort of Yoko Ono-type role. In the end, as Chartreuse points out, the battle between producer and talent is an age-old one, and it is rarely pretty.

Here’s hoping that Andrew and Amanda can both find a way out of this that allows them to keep their dignity, and to make the most of their respective talents. Rocketboom was a great thing in many ways, and it would be a shame to see it implode. Jason Calacanis, who has offered Amanda a job on her own terms, has some useful advice for talent-related startups.

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