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April 15, 2008 5:28 PM

Former Zillow manager takes on MySpace, MTV and more with video startup

Posted by Brier Dudley

PluggedIn, a new social network built around music videos launching Wednesday, is based in Santa Monica, Calif. but it has a few Seattle connections.

Like its chief executive, a former Zillow and Amazon.com manager who still lives in Mount Baker.

Jeff Somers is commuting up the coast, at least until his kids finish the school year. He moved to Seattle 10 years ago to become the business manager of Amazon's music store, and left three years ago to join Zillow.

Somers said he's enthused about Zillow's potential, but he couldn't resist the opportunity to return to the entertainment business and become a chief executive. He joined PluggedIn at the end of last year.

The 12-person startup was founded by Brett O'Brien, creator of online storage business Xdrive, which was sold to AOL in 2005. O'Brien and others from Xdrive built the service and brought Somers in to develop the business.

So far they've raised $2 million, including money from the founders and from actor and musician Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment investment vehicle. They plan to start raising more shortly.

Working with Overbook, Somers found another Seattle connection: Microsoft and Starbucks veteran Guy Primus, who leads Overbrook's interactive media business.

PluggedIn is going after a crowded market, facing giants such as MySpace, MTV and even Seattle social music startup iLike, but Somers said his company has some advantages.

They include a high-definition media player that minimizes buffering, by streaming content in small bits and adjusting the flow depending on connection speeds.

The company is also debuting with at least 10,000 videos, including content licensed from Universal that marks the first online broadcast of the label's videos in high definition.

"We're all about delivering premium-quality entertainment content to consumers,'' Somers said.

PluggedIn also built more than a million artist pages, but it's generating that content itself, as opposed to the approach of iLike and others that are offering tools to help artists build and manage their pages.

Here's a recent photo of Somers provided by PluggedIn:

somers.jpg

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.