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Project Concord: Stealthy video start-up has raised 'several million' from Andy Marcuvitz, formerly at Matrix Partners

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 22, 2010 02:20 PM

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Update: As of March 2013, Project Concord has changed its name to HitBliss, raised more than $10 million, and launched a beta of its product.

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My project for the week was to learn a bit more about Project Concord, a stealth mode start-up that has raised several million in venture capital funding and is not, in fact, located in Concord but in Lexington.

The company's site declares that it is developing "a new, more convenient way to experience your favorite movies and TV shows on demand, without having to reach into your wallet." 

"Our approach is radically different from anything else being contemplated in this space, and it has the potential to benefit publishers and consumers in a groundbreaking way," the site promises.

Sounds ambitious. Should iTunes and Hulu be frightened?

None of the venture capitalists or entrepreneurs I spoke with this week, all of whom have had experience with digital media, had heard of the company. Even people who had met the founders, the husband-and-wife team of Andrew Prihodko and Sharon Peyer, didn't know much about what they are up to.

Prihodko finally returned my call yesterday afternoon, and told me that Project Concord was founded in mid-2008, after he and Peyer left Waltham's NameMedia, the company that acquired their last start-up, Pixamo. (Pixamo was a photo- and video-sharing site the pair had launched while in business school; it never took venture capital funding, was acquired for an undisclosed sum, and has since been shut down by NameMedia.)

Prihodko says that while he and Peyer were hunting for funding for Pixamo, they met Andy Marcuvitz, formerly an investor at Matrix Partners in Waltham. (Joe Lassiter, a Harvard Business School prof, made the connection.) "[Marcuvitz] liked us, but he didn't burn to invest in photo or video sharing, but we kept in touch," Prihodko told me. 

Marcuvitz's Alpond Capital (the firm has no Web site) invested in Project Concord in the summer of 2008. Prihodko says he didn't really meet with other VCs. "We skipped the seed round -- it was a full-blown Series A" of several million dollars, Prihodko says. And the name Project Concord, which Prihodko describes as a placeholder? Several meetings with Marcuvitz took place in the Concord area, at restaurants like Vincenzo's. (Marcuvitz lives in nearby Lincoln.)

Prihodko isn't saying much about how the company will approach the challenge of monetizing Internet video. "A lot of companies with much larger resources are gunning for it, and we're paranoid about getting crushed or out-run by them," he says.

"The major thing we're trying to solve is how to make money off premium content, and we feel we've found a solution." He's hoping to start a beta test at some point in 2010, though he says it's contingent on how quickly the company can negotiate deals with Hollywood studios and other big content owners.

Working alongside Prihodko and Peyer at Project Concord are veterans of Endeca and ITA Software. The company is currently hiring application developers and user interface designers.

Marcuvitz wouldn't tell me how much money he has put into Project Concord, other than to confirm it's in the single-digit millions. "Where there's change, there's opportunity," he says of the digital video space. He suggested that I wait a while before writing about the company: "we've gone to great lengths to keep ourselves invisible." His other local investment is ZeeVee, a high-def video hardware company based in Littleton. Marcuvitz left Matrix Partners in 2004 after 14 years with the firm.

(It was this brief listing on the excellent start-up blog Buzz in the Hub that first brought Project Concord to my attention. Turns out that Highland Capital is not an investor.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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