Ole Holthe: Norwegian import launches American startup

When it comes to online networking portals, a few big players such as YouTube and MySpace utterly dominate the market. Ole Holthe hopes to muscle in on some of that action.

In 2000, while a student at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Holthe came up with an idea: Write a program that could record people’s action as they play video games and create a Web site so they could share the footage.

The idea became his Ph.D. project — named Geelix — and launched a new San Francisco tech startup, Gridmedia.

“It’s a service — like YouTube for video games,” Holthe says. “When you install it on your computer, it makes a heads-up display in your game, so it gives you all these social features in the game. It lets you know what your friends are doing and lets you talk to them.”

Geelix started with $2.5 million from the Norwegian government. Rather than setting up in Norway — a country known for its rich oil reserves but not so much for gaming — Holthe put Geelix’s headquarters in San Francisco, the hub of the technology and video gaming world, with the satellite office back home in Norway.

“Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, so since it’s such a small country, it can’t use the funds locally because it would drive up inflation, so it invests in companies outside of the country,” he says.

Holthe hopes to turn Geelix into more than just a social network. Another feature, which allows visitors to the Geelix Web site to watch live streaming video, can be an effective tool for parents to better monitor the games their children play.

“It’s a great way if you want to learn more about video games; what they are, how they work, what your kids are playing,” he says.

Holthe says he hopes to add educational and parental-rating content to the system.

Geelix is in its “beta” stage — meaning it’s available for use but still being worked on. Holthe says approximately 1,000 people regularly use Geelix and have uploaded 25,000 videos to the system.

Geelix’s eventual goal is to acquire content that can populate the increasing high-definition broadband consumer-entertainment market, Holthe says.

“You look at ‘World of Warcraft,’ there’s 10 million users there. These kind of games will change entertainment,” he says. “With more broadband and better connections from home, people are also getting HDTV. Where is the border between an multiplayer game and watching TV? That’s going to be blurred.”

Business

New project: The heads-up display

Last project: The network-packet streaming system

E-mails per day: 30

Voicemails per day: 2 or 3, usually

Essential Web site: Facebook.com

Best perk: Being able to do creative things in every way

Fave gadget: My cell phone. I don’t use gadgets much because you have to remember to charge them.

Education: PhD soon, in a few months

Last conference: Game portal for the Geelix partner program

First job: Working at my parents’ dairy

First aspiration: I wanted to work with video games.

Career objective:I really like being a chief technical officer and working on startups.

Personal

Age: 33

Likes: I really like creativity

Dislikes: A lack of ethics

Defining quirk: I try not to brag, but sometimes I can’t help myself

Hometown: Trondheim, Norway

Transportation: Ford Explorer

Fave restaurant: I forget the name, the place next to the Cliff House (Louis’ Restaurant).

Vacation spot: Is it tacky to say Las Vegas?

Clothier: I buy from all over, but I usually need someone to clothe me.

Role model: My parents

Reading: I don’t really read.

Worst fear: I don’t think I’m afraid of anything.

Motivation: Doing things that have a positive impact on people’s lives.

Edie Sellers is a writer, podcaster and talk-show host on KGO newstalk radio 810. Read her blog at www.kgo.com.

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