Hi5, After Laying Off 50, Hires New, Ex-Investor CEO

Social network Hi5 has hired its largest investor to run the company, paidContent reports. Bill Gossman, who in addition to being executive in residence at Mohr Davidow Ventures (which has invested $20 million in hi5), was previously CEO of behavioral ad targeting firm Audience Science.

Last month, when the network failed to close a round of venture capital funding, the company laid off 50 people, or half its staff. Let’s see if bringing on a fresh face can turn the thing around.

See the release, after the jump.

San Francisco, CA; April 24, 2009 — hi5, the world’s leading social entertainment web site, today announced the appointment of Bill Gossman as CEO to lead the company through its next phase of growth. Ramu Yalamanchi, founder and CEO since the company’s inception in 2003, will assume the role of Chief Product Officer to lead the company’s product strategy in the social entertainment space.

This change augments the hi5 executive team with seasoned leadership, particularly around monetization of the company’s huge global audience of over 60 million monthly uniques. As the former CEO of Audience Science, Bill brings considerable expertise in online advertising, behavioral targeting, and other forms of audience monetization. He has also built and led several companies through similar stages of their organizational growth.

“The founding team at hi5 has built a tremendous asset in one of the world’s largest online communities, and a truly global distribution and monetization platform for games and other social entertainment content,” said Gossman. “I’m excited to be joining the organization to help leverage that asset by focusing on our continued leadership in the social entertainment space and building a scalable, highly profitable business.”

As Chief Product Officer, Ramu will focus his operational responsibilities on leading the product and engineering organizations to deliver innovative, world-class features that differentiate hi5 in the social entertainment space – particularly extending hi5’s successful micro-payments infrastructure and maximizing that revenue stream for the business.

“It is great to have Bill joining hi5 at this exciting stage of our business,” said Yalamanchi. “We have been incredibly successful in building a huge global audience and pioneering the social entertainment space. Bill brings highly applicable, stage-relevant leadership experience, particularly in monetizing online traffic and building scalable sales organizations, that will help take our company to the next level.”

With over 25 years experience leading high-growth organizations in the digital media space, Bill helped pioneer the behavioral targeting category at Audience Science and is an expert in monetizing online audiences. His previous positions include CEO of Sabrix and founder and COO/CFO of @mobile, a wireless Internet software company sold to Software.com for $400 million. Bill is a former partner and current executive in residence at Mohr Davidow Ventures, the lead investor in hi5.