Bongotones Launches 3.0 Version, Mobile Apps, Detroit Location

Metro Detroit-based startup Bongotones, which sells customized ringtones, wallpaper, MP3s, games and more to a global customer base, recently launched its overhauled platform. Meant to be more appealing to users, Bongotones’ 3.0 version has a cleaner interface. On Monday, Bongotones will launch the mobile version of its site, followed by iPhone and Android apps a few weeks later.

“We’re rebranding as a mobile media company and really pushing into the international market,” says co-founder David Pakhchanian, adding that Bongotones has users in 100 countries, with a heavier concentration in parts of Europe. “Our focus has been the user experience and making it simple. We build custom sites in different languages for whatever music is popular there. Anything we do, we like to research it and customize.”

Bongotones was hatched in 2008 as co-founders Pakhchanian, Nareg Sagherian, and Soheil Banifatemi sat around a “nondescript apartment” brainstorming ideas for potential tech companies. What makes Bongotones a little different from other ringtone websites is that it provides an avenue for musicians and bands to convert their original music into mobile content and share it with fans. Bongotones also incorporates a social element to its site to encourage its users to build a network. Pakhchanian says that the site has about 500,000 subscribers, but that number is steadily growing.

Pakhchanian says Bongotones was originally going start a cell phone business, but after the co-founders did some research, they discovered the lucrative potential of ringtones. The company was started with a $7,000 investment from family and later received a small investment from Ann Arbor SPARK, but since then has been built entirely through sweat equity. “We stumbled upon ringtones and it seemed like a niche market,” he adds. “We really started to see an opportunity.

Bongotones, which has a team of about 10 employees, is currently looking for a new office in downtown Detroit. Pakhchanian wants Bongotones to be a part of Detroit’s growing tech scene. After all, he says, he hung out in the city long before it was fashionable. A fan of electronic music, he has always loved Detroit’s music scene. “I’d drive up and down Woodward in 1999, 2000-ish and there was nothing down here,” he says. “It would be pitch black. To see it like this is really positive, really nice. We love what’s going on.”

In one year’s time, Pakhchanian hopes Bongotones will have launched apps for every country its subscribers belong to. In five years, he hopes the Bongotones team goes on to bring other web startup ideas to life. “We feel that even with competitors, we rise to the top,” he explains. “Think of us as a portal. We have content and users; we connect the two.”

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