Lots of Local Investors Join Livio’s Series C Round

Ferndale, MI-based Livio announced this week that it has completed a Series C round of funding for an undisclosed amount. Plenty of local investors participated in the round, including longtime backer Beringea, North Coast Technology Investors, and the First Step Fund. Rhode Island-based Angel Street Capital and Silicon Valley’s Western Technology Investment also contributed to the round.

Jake Sigal, the startup’s founder and CEO, says Livio will use the funding to grow its engineering team and continue integrating its products into more vehicles and smartphones. In the spring, Livio won a 2012 Frost & Sullivan New Product Innovation Award for its Livio Connect API, which enables users to control smartphone apps through the buttons on enabled car stereos.

In recent months, Livio has shifted its focus from stand-alone Internet radios to software and adding functionality to its API. Sigal says that before the year is out, Livio will announce a deal with a “major automaker.” Ultimately, Sigal says the company wants to work directly with manufacturers and phone carriers to include its technology directly in handsets.

Livio recently joined the GENIVI Alliance, a consortium trying to come up with an industry standard for how cars connect with mobile technology. “Right now, with one car company you tap the brake, with another you press the button—I think that’s nuts,” Sigal explains. “We’re trying to come up with an industry standard before someone gets killed.”

Jeff Bocan, Beringea’s managing director, says Livio’s innovative strategies to get Internet radio and mobile apps into cars are exactly why the firm has decided to become an investor,contributing a total of $2 million across the startup’s three rounds of financing. “Livio has truly market-leading software solutions regarding mobile app connectivity,” he adds. Sigal’s background in both digital radio (at SiriusXM) and in automotives (at Delphi) made him the ideal person, in Beringea’s opinion, to solve the problem of getting Internet radio into cars—which Bocan calls “the last frontier.”

Livio’s Series C round represents a triumph of another sort to Bocan: Proof that Michigan’s venture capital ecosystem has improved. “Breaking into the automotive sector is really challenging,” he says. “The fact that Livio is local is a big plus—auto manufacturers and suppliers actually want to see a company like Livio in Detroit.” And that, in turn, has boosted the confidence of local angel investors and VC firms.

“This is the sort of model you’d like to see with other startups in the region,” Bocan adds. “I’m not sure this deal would have gotten done five years ago.”

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