Silicon Valley, Watch Out For Glastonbury

by | Apr 8, 2012 10:11pm
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Posted to: Tech Biz

The next big Internet music company that becomes a regular part of our lives — think Pandora, Grooveshark, and Spotify — may not come out of the tech hubs of Silicon Valley like Palo Alto.

It just might come out of a basement in Glastonbury.

That’s the hope for Tom Brophy, the CEO of a new company called Raditaz, which aspires to be the new name in world of Internet radio.

The company operates out of the Glastonbury basement partly because, Brophy explains, he wanted a shorter commute than he is used to (he lives with his family in Marlborough).

Raditaz currently has seven employees and is looking to grow, having just received a $150,000 grant from Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-public agency affiliated with the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development.

Brophy, who grew up in the Norwich area and studied accounting at the University of Connecticut, has been in the Internet start-up business for a while, having started and sold several Internet businesses since the late 1990s. In the early 2000s, Brophy joined a company called iwon.com, “just as the bubble exploded,” and managed to help save the company when he helped develop its first, and now-ubiquitous, internet search toolbar.

Now he has turned to Internet radio where he sees a shifting market and an opportunity.

The basic idea for Raditaz is to take what Pandora does, which is to create online radio stations based on user input, and do it better.

“First and foremost, we want to have as much music as we can get,” Brophy said.

Pandora, the industry leader in Internet radio, has about 1 million songs at its disposal. As of last week, Raditaz has 14 million songs, Brophy says.

Users start off by putting in five artists or songs that best sum up their taste in music, and Raditaz creates a near-endless playlist based on the inputs.

The company has access to so much music thanks to last week’s partnership with the Echo Nest, a “music intelligence engine” based in Boston.

“[Pandora has] an army of software developers who maintain their algorithm and their database. We don’t have to have that,” Brophy said, explaining that the Echo Nest platform does the “heavy lifting.”

A central distinguishing characteristic of Raditaz is it’s geo-tagging feature. Whenever a user creates a playlist, the site attaches a GPS coordinate to the playlist. Users can then track which playlists are trending in what parts of the country.

You can also skip six songs per station per hour.

Not interested in the same old top 40 playlists from traditional radio?

Users can actually adjust the popularity of the songs on their radio station, which Brophy says makes Raditaz “the best music discovery engine out there.”

Rather than moving his company out west where most of the industry is based, Brophy is actually bringing technology and money back east to Connecticut. In July 2010, Raditaz bought a company called Sonic Swap based in Palo Alto, Calif., in part to utilize technology they had developed.

Has Brophy had difficulty growing a tech-based company in Connecticut?

“We’re not a tech bed here in the Hartford area of Connecticut, so that was definitely a concern. But what I will say is that we’ve actually had great luck finding developers with great experience,” Brophy said.

“We continue to hire, and we still are finding really great candidates. So we’re really happy with where we are, not only as a company, but also where we’re located.”

That’s music to lawmakers’ ears.

“I think Connecticut is actually a good place to start a business,” Brophy said, explaining that he doesn’t have to compete with sites like Facebook or Google for talent.

Quoting industry research, Brophy says that 80 percent of people who listen to music are looking for a “lean back” experience, meaning that they don’t pick each specific song, as with sites like grooveshark.com.

Because Raditaz is registered with an agency called Sound Exchange — which pays artists for the use of their songs — the company is “doing it by the book,” and is less liable to copyright violation lawsuits, which have hampered some in the industry.

Brophy says that Raditaz is currently in negotiations with a major U.S. automaker, though he won’t say which one thanks to a confidentiality agreement, to have the Internet radio system incorporated in the car’s dashboard.

The site hopes to make its money primarily through advertisements on the site, along with a subscription service that could be ad-free.

Raditaz has also developed an app for iPhones, iPads, and Androids.

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