Note: This post is part of an extended auto-biography which is collected in my About page.
After Rotten Tomatoes’ acquisition by IGN Entertainment, my business partner and Rotten Tomatoes CEO, Patrick, departed the company and I took over as head. For the remaining eighteen months at IGN/Rotten Tomatoes, I worked to further expand the Rotten Tomatoes traffic and brand. We developed the Certified Fresh seal as a way for movie studios to take advantage of positive film ratings on Rotten Tomatoes in their marketing. Furthermore, we did a tour of all of the marketing and online departments of the major studios to further cement our relationship with the industry we were covering. Finally, I worked closely with the IGN Entertainment team to integrate and expand our ad sales efforts with their more well-developed bi-coastal, ad sales force as well as merge our server platform into their hosting environment. Most importantly, though, I did my best to protect the Rotten Tomatoes brand and team and hire up additional team members who could continue to grow Rotten Tomatoes upon my own departure.
At IGN, I was elevated to a Vice-President position and, as part of my corporate duties, I asked our CEO for the opportunity to explore international expansion in Asia. At the time, IGN itself was preparing to go public as the largest video games content web site with the highest concentration of young male visitors online. It also had some great products such as GameSpy, the early, popular game matchmaking software and Direct2Drive, a video games version of iTunes. I wanted to explore how we might be able to partner or joint venture with companies to relicense and promote these properties in Asia. My former partner, Patrick, had already departed Rotten Tomatoes in order to startup another company (Xiaban.com) in mainland China and I similarly felt that the growth opportunities in China at the time were enticing. As a consequence, starting in early 2004 I began frequently going to China and learning up on language, culture, and the Internet. Later on, as a part of IGN, I began visiting various gaming and internet companies and investors in preparation to create a representative office in Shanghai where IGN could begin partnering on expansion projects. The frequent visits helped cement my conviction that my next step after Rotten Tomatoes would need to take place in building something in China where the growth opportunities seemed as similarly exciting as the Internet Boom that I had taken a part of in the late 90’s.
In August 2005 and in the same month as it acquired Myspace, News Corporation acquired IGN Entertainment for $650 million. While the IGN’s acquisition was a really impressive feat by our CEO, I had only held a small amount employee shares in the company since our Rotten Tomatoes acquisition was done in cash. Furthermore, my efforts to help with IGN with opening it’s own Shanghai office were sidelined as all new efforts would be done in conjunction with the new parent company. I quickly made a decision that I wanted to return to entrepreneur life rather than working for a large company such as News Corp. and that I wanted to pursue my opportunities in mainland China. As a result, in December 2005, I left News Corp./IGN/Rotten Tomatoes and moved to join my former partner at his startup in China.