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Virtual reality startup Jaunt has named Hearst executive George Kliavkoff as its new CEO.
Kliavkoff, a media veteran who has spent time at RealNetworks and MLB Advanced Media, most recently served as co-president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication and also oversaw investments via the company’s Hearst Ventures arm. Prior to joining Hearst, he was chief digital officer at NBCUniversal, where he helped to set up Hulu as a joint venture with News Corp. and ran the business for a brief time before Jason Kilar was named CEO.
Kliavkoff points to all of these experiences as giving him a strong foundation to lead a company looking at the future of video as virtual reality. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a career that’s been all about focusing on what the next big thing is in video,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “This is a natural extension when I think about where the next great video platform is.”
Previous Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen, also the company’s co-founder, stepped down in May. At the time a company spokesperson said that Jaunt was looking for a leader that could guide it to more significant growth. Arthur van Hoff, Jaunt’s CTO who had been serving as interim CEO, says that Kliavkoff is that person.
“He’s got exactly the right kind of background,” van Hoff says, noting that he was surprised by the amount of interest in the role. “What we were looking for is someone who’s got a background in digital media, the energy to lead a young company into the next phase of the development cycle.”
Kliavkoff will relocate from New York to Silicon Valley to work out of Jaunt’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters. Van Hoff will continue to serve as Jaunt CTO.
Founded in 2013, Jaunt has raised more than $100 million in funding from investors including Disney, Evolution Media Partners and Google Ventures. The company has built an end-to-end solution for virtual reality filmmakers, including a camera, editing tools and a publishing platform. The company also is producing its own virtual reality experiences out of its Santa Monica-based studio.
Says Kliavkoff: “The combination of having employees that you know can get it done, but also investors who have your back when you’re building this kind of company at this kind of pace, is unique.”
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