CD Changer: Meet Chris Wheeler, Murfie’s New CEO

[Updated 2/5/16 5:12 pm. See below.] Murfie, the online music market that will convert your collection of compact discs and vinyl records into high-quality digital audio files, has made some changes at the top of its org chart.

Chris Wheeler has been named CEO, according to an e-mail from Matt Younkle, who co-founded Murfie in 2011 and previously led the Madison, WI-based company. Younkle said the transition is keeping him busy for now, but that “there will be another startup in my future.” (Previously, Younkle invented TurboTap, a device that pours draft beer three times faster than traditional technology.)

Younkle said his fellow Murfie co-founder Preston Austin, who had served as chief operating officer, has also stepped aside. Younkle said he and Austin will now be advisors to Murfie, and that Austin will continue to work on The Rabble, a Murfie spinout that aims to turn public libraries into local music hubs.

Wheeler, who earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, now has a lot on his plate. Besides heading up Murfie, he’ll continue to serve as an executive partner with the venture fund WISC Partners, Murfie’s lead investor. David Guinther, a general partner with WISC Partners, said in an e-mail that his fund is leading a $1.5 million “Series A-2” financing round, which had its initial closing in December. That would bring the total amount Murfie has raised to at least $4.6 million, though that doesn’t include the startup’s Series A round that closed last April, in which WISC Parnters also participated, Guinther said.

Wheeler will also remain CEO of Heritage Ventures, which he called an “advisory service” that could also become a fund in the future. Heritage is based in Silicon Valley, where Wheeler lives. [This paragraph has been updated to reflect that Chris Wheeler is no longer CEO of Corporate Labs.]

Xconomy caught up with Wheeler on Wednesday to discuss customer acquisition, how Murfie sizes up other streaming music services, and additional topics. The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Xconomy: How did you first get involved with Murfie, and what about the company appealed to you?

Chris Wheeler: I first got involved with Murfie through WISC Partners and Matt Younkle. Of course, I have always enjoyed working with both Matt and Preston. [They’re] amazing entrepreneurs and have an amazing reputation. We also really liked the business model at Murfie. It’s really unique in the sense that it really helps produce a digital streaming asset, which users really like.

X: Shipping a box of CDs to Madison and having Murfie upload the music to the Web would seem to be a “front door” for your company. Is that how you onboard most new users?

CW: Murfie was originally built as a way for people to stream their collections. We encourage people to send their collections in, and that’s kind of the core of how we got started.

But a lot of people come to Murfie, buy music, and sign up for the streaming service without necessarily sending their music in—we don’t want people to feel like they have to wait. I think people understand that once they’ve acquired that music and it’s theirs and they own it, adding their existing collections at home is absolutely the right thing to do. We are the service that allows you to store your used CDs, stream them, and consolidate the music that you own.

X: According to Matt Younkle, Murfie’s vault contains more than 750,000 physical discs. Is all of that music owned by your customers?

CW: No. We have always had Murfie-owned music that we sell on our marketplace. We are ramping the amount of Murfie-owned music that we have so that our users have a larger selection to purchase.

X: How many employees does Murfie have?

CW: Around 20. We’re opening new office space in Madison. We’re negotiating with two possible [locations] right now. We expect to have that done very shortly.

X: Who are Murfie’s competitors?

CW: There really isn’t a head-on competitor. We actually think that people will … Next Page »

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Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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