Livio is Living Large — All From Its Michigan Home Base

I added a new app to my iPhone this week: A nifty item called “Livio Car Internet Radio.” Best part? It was (in part) made in Michigan.

Ferndale-based Livio has always been ahead of the game, working with major players like NPR, Grooveshark and Pandora. Now, this little company that could is adding Apple’s wickedly amazing telephone to its list of accomplishments. Yup, and it was – and it bears repeating – made in Michigan.

Meet Jake Sigal. Let’s just say I’m a fan of his work and his decision to work here. He founded Livio in 2008, mostly to allow people to listen to Internet radio at home. He’s from Columbus and graduated from Ohio University (let’s not hold that against him).

As background, Sigal got was a DJ in college – he loves music. He got his first gig there. To borrow from his bio: Then he joined Stanton DJ as a product guy and engineer. After Stanton DJ, there was Numark. After Numark, there was XM at Delphi. After XM there was Myine Electronics. After Myine, he started Livio.

I’d say Livio is going to give XM/Sirius a serious run for their money. That is mostly because of this new Car Internet Radio thingie. With it, you can listen to more than 45,000 AM/FM and Internet-only radio streams from around the world using your Android, iPhone or iPod Touch through a Wi-Fi or 3G/Edge connection.

And it’s not just me that thinks so: It was already named a Top 20 finalist at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show’s Mobile Apps Showdown. If you’re looking for an affordable alternative to SIRIUS / XM satellite radio and have an iPhoneor iPod Touch, give the Livio Car Internet Radio a try.

Sigel and I traded emails and such recently – here’s a portion of what we talked about.

Q: What is new at Livio?
A: Car, car and car. We are covering the car in three areas. The first is retail with a car kit that plugs into your 12V adapter and puts Internet radio from your phone directly into your FM radio. The second is an aftermarket black box that just started shipping from DICE that will replace your current satellite radio with Internet radio that works with your car’s factory stereo. The third is our OEM system for cars in 2013 and beyond. All of these systems use the Livio Connect API to connect to our award winning Car Internet Radio application and other apps that use Livio Connect.

Q: How does the national exposure to your company help your growth in Michigan?
A: Google “Car Internet Radio”… That’s what the national exposure has done for us :-) I think that we have grown organically and have taken a good position in the space for Internet radio delivered in vehicle. Michigan is an great place to grow a company; cheap housing, combo of urban and rural living options, major Delta hub to fly nonstop to just about anywhere in the world. Also over the last few years there are a lot of good programs to provide access to seed capital to start a business.

Q: Do you ever have challenges with having your base here, and how do you overcome them?
A: Yes, of course. The hardest challenge is being taken seriously by companies on the East and West coast. We overcome them by keeping our heads down in the office and engineering state of the art products. We don’t talk the talk; we create the products our competitors try to copy.

Q: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs here?
A: If you build it they will come. Don’t waste your time pitching investors until you can answer this question: “my product solves the problem of _________, and we are the only product that can _________, and customers care because it ___________.” Instead of trying to raise cash, try developing a prototype and selling your prototype to customers.

Q: What’s next for Livio?
A: Helping radio stations go from current spots (audio ads) to a clickable audio billboard system. Basically smart ads that you want to listen to and can get coupons sent to your phone to save money while listening to your favorite jams.

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