Detroit’s Livio Radio Tunes in to NPR, Pandora, and a Passion for Pleasing Customers

At the close of 2007, Jake Sigal had a choice to make. He was a product manager at automotive supplier Delphi’s consumer electronics group, which manufactured XM Satellite Radio portable players. Then XM and Sirius Satellite Radio announced a merger and Sigal “saw the writing on the wall.”

“I always wanted to start a business,” says Sigal. “My background is in consumer electronics and there’s not a lot of consumer products that are made here in Detroit, and I figured, hey, it’s time to start my own company.”

So, he took a buyout at Delphi and in January 2008, in the guest bedroom of his home in suburban Ferndale, MI, Sigal launched what would become Livio Radio, a developer of standalone Internet radios. His flagship products are two specially branded radios—one plays National Public Radio programs and the other plays Pandora, the personalized online radio service that announced yesterday it has hit the 60-million-user mark.

Just a little more than two years later, Sigal has 10 employees, has moved the business out of his home and into an office down the street, and is the recipient of an investment from Beringea, one of Michigan’s largest venture capital firms.

The secret, Sigal says, is really no secret at all. It’s just to focus on what customers tell you they want, rather than trying to create a need where none existed. People want to listen to Internet radio without being tethered to their computers. Livio provides that service.

“We don’t invent technologies here,” Sigal says. “We only make the current technologies that people love more accessible.”

Sigal is 28 years old, but looks even younger, with an athletic frame—he bikes to work every day—and a faux hawk hairstyle. We sat down a few weeks ago in his office, along with a newly hired marketing person who comes to Livio straight from the Detroit Red Wings. Up until now, though, Livio has not really needed any marketing help. Even before the Beringea investment, word of the products has spread through customers and early media coverage that occurred kind of organically.

NPR approached Sigal at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2009 and asked if it was … Next Page »

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