Friendster’s TV Vet CEO is Out

After less than a year on the job, Scott Sassa, the TV executive Friendster brought aboard to help it find a viable business model, is disembarking. To take his place, the social networking firm has hired Taek Kwon, who currently serves as president of product and technology at Citysearch.

Friendster board member Russell Siegelman, who is a partner at investor Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, says Sassa’s departure was for personal reasons and shouldn’t be interpreted as a turning away from the advertising model.

“I wouldn’t read anything into Scott’s departure around the business model,” Siegelman told ClickZ News. “He, for his own personal reasons, decided it’s not what he wants to do anymore.” Siegelman added that he didn’t believe Sassa had another job lined up.

Since Sassa’s hiring the company has experimented with marketing for entertainment companies by building profiles for characters in movies. “The Anchorman” and “Little Black Book” were two films to get such treatment. The company also promoted “The Apprentice” in a similar manner for NBC.

Siegelman indicated such efforts would continue under the new leadership.

“We are experimenting with a whole number of different advertising models,” he said. “It’s too early to know what’s going to scale, what works and what doesn’t. Advertising is going to be a big part of this company’s revenue model, there’s no doubt about it.”

The choice of Taek Kwon as CEO, however, signals that Friendster sees the need to concentrate on its product and technology.

“There are things that we want to focus on in the site right now that I think are less media-oriented — usability, feature enhancements,” said Siegelman. But he added that Kwon’s work at Citysearch prepared him for creating Internet services designed to drive ad revenue.

At Citysearch, Kwon manages the content, product, technology an operations teams. Previously, he was vice president of engineering and operations at discount travel player Hotwire.

Kwon will take the reins as CEO on June 13. Sassa will stay on with the company until mid-summer to ensure a smooth transition.

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