Lightningcast is an Internet marketing online video and audio ad insertion company based in Washington, D.C., in the United States. Founded by Tom Des Jardins, Scott Berg, and Jayne Johnson, it was incorporated in May 1999. Early VCs included now defunct Redleaf, Nokia ventures and Birchmere, a Pittsburgh-based VC. At the time the company was founded, there were less than 1 million broadband-connected households, so jumping into the streaming media market was quite risky.
Technology: The firm was notable as one of the first to perform ad insertion into most forms of streaming media including live and on demand, Real and Windows Media. Early accomplishments were the deployment of synchronized audio and video and associated HTML elements. A key point of differentiation with competitors such as HiWire was the system's use of a stateful back end that avoided storing information in cookies. Although this was never used to its fullest extent, it did help lay the groundwork for another feature—a business rules layer for programming breaks with a great deal of flexibility called the Video Template Tool. The stateful back end was an outgrowth of the hardware/embedded systems background of the founders who came out of FORE Systems and Xylan. The company was an early supporter of the LAMP stack. Oracle was used for a while, but was replaced with MySQL. Lightningcast supported remote development early on, with an engineering team ranging across the US including Texas, Colorado and San Diego, but largely focused in Northern Virginia.
Customers: Early customers included MTV's online music as well as AOL's online music, Winamp, along with smaller companies such as Cyberradio2000. Lightningcast played a leadership role in lobbying congress for legislative relief from certain rulings by the CARP, running a fax server tied into streaming media ads run on its affiliates. Lightningcast launched the Instream ad network to serve its growing network of video affiliates, but this was never widely successful. Lightningcast employed as many as 75 employees and operated 7 offices (mostly ad sales).
It was acquired by America Online on May 17, 2006. It continues as of 2009 serving as the ad insertion engine behind Hulu and other Platform A clients. Alumni of Lightningcast have gone on to key roles in other companies including Ethan Evans, who led the development of Amazon's unboxed video download service.