Music Lover Builds Business Connecting Listeners to Internet Radio
While earning an engineering degree at Ohio University, Jake Sigal worked as a professional DJ at bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings and frat parties. After graduation, his goal was to merge his two main interests: music and audio technology.
The Jewish News sat down with Sigal to ask him some questions about his three-year old company, Livio Radio.
What inspired you to launch Livio?
I had been working as a product line manager for Delphi’s Consumer Electronics group and was responsible for producing XM satellite radio products. When XM merged with Sirius, I knew the writing was on the wall for satellite radio as a shrinking industry and asked myself, “What’s next?”
I had always wanted to start a business, so I launched Livio Radio, an Internet radio company, from the guest bedroom of my Ferndale home in 2008 with help from a $10,000 loan from my parents. Three years later, Livio has several successful products on the market, including the recently launched Livio Car Kit, which allows users to listen to their favorite Internet radio stations on their car stereos via their smart phones.
Is Internet radio a growing sector?
About 150 million Americans listen to Internet radio, which boasts 45,000 channels. The market is expected to grow to 200 million listeners in the next 10 years, according to Bridge Ratings LLC. Sales of smart phones are also on the rise, with sales increasing by $2 billion this year compared to last, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
Livio is licensing its technology, Livio Connect, to companies that make devices that connect to smart phones, car companies looking to put technology into their vehicles and companies that want their applications to connect to cars. Livio’s Car Internet Radio application is available on iTunes and the Android market for consumers.
On what principles did you found your company?
Livio’s motto is “more music and less work” for end users, so its products are designed for easy use. I started the company so that people like my parents could have products they could use without having to call me for help. If my mom can’t use the product, then it doesn’t go to production.
Part of “more music less work” is getting customers products working, and that’s reflected in our customer service department, which is located here in the U.S. I’ve made a decision to do whatever it takes to get a customer working. The majority of calls we receive are about troubleshooting the Internet — not our products — but we still help. We won’t say “Sorry, go call Comcast.”
Is your company currently hiring?
Livio employs 15 full-time people at our Ferndale headquarters and our warehouse in California as well as a slew of contractors. And we’re always hiring.
Positions range from bookkeeping to engineering and everything in between. Currently, Livio is hiring a lot in engineering. Students can apply to co-op programs for both engineering and public relations. Unless you’re a music lover, don’t bother applying. Everyone in the company has to have a passion for music, and we’re always looking to hire people who are better than we are at the jobs we currently do.
What’s next for Livio?
My attention is focused on keeping up with paradigm shifts in car Internet radio technology: mobile phones, Bluetooth, wi-fi and the next thing beyond. There’s always going to be a “what’s next,” and Livio is focused on discovering what that is in a “more music — less work” way.
Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?
You really have to solve a very specific problem. You have to fill a niche that hasn’t been filled in your industry. You can’t raise money on an idea. You have to have a product and customers — something to tangibly show investors you have a market. You should have some experience in your industry as well as a lot of industry contacts.
When I started Livio, there were no funding programs available. It was the recession, and it was awful. Now, there’s a lot more. Visit the Small Business Administration website. I got a SCORE adviser through the SBA, who really helped me, for free.
Locally, Automation Alley, Ann Arbor SPARK and Bizdom U at Wayne State University all have funding programs.
My dad helped me out, but at first, I really had to bootstrap to make something out of nothing. I’m still driving a rusty 2002 model car. Ask yourself whether you’re ready to put in a half-day of work — and then pick which 12 hours you want to work. If that’s not you, you probably shouldn’t create a startup.
New Michigan Media