At its 28th Annual Meeting, Jake Sigal gave an inspiring presentation about the genesis of Livio Connect and what it means to be an entrepreneur in Michigan.
It sounded like a story from a textbook on entrepreneurship: Jake had been working for a Tier 1 automotive supplier just prior to the Great Depression. Sensing the writing on the wall, he left his good-paying, full-time job to start a business in his guest bedroom. Making matters even more interesting was that his first product was targeting a service that was largely unknown, Pandora Radio.
In 2008, Pandora had millions of early subscribers, but they were still relatively unknown. That did not deter Jake. He recognized the potential of Pandora to change the radio landscape and leveraged his experience with automotive electronics to make a $200 (retail) desktop radio for Pandora. With Jake’s background in consumer electronic product development and manufacturing, this was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out all of the necessary business and corporate development tasks starting a new company. Early on, he turned to SCORE, a program offered by the Small Business Administration, and his volunteer advisor helped him address these issues. Success followed – Livio sold several million dollars of products to the likes of Target, Costco and Amazon.
In 2010, with smart phone sales really taking off, Jake and his team realized that the future belongs to apps, so they pivoted and developed an aftermarket car kit that connected people’s apps to their vehicles.
Livio launched their car kit at the Consumer Electronics Show. Their booth was sandwiched between car suppliers and app developers. They learned that car suppliers wanted Livio software to connect Livio apps to their own vehicles. Separately, app developers wanted to connect their own apps to existing Livio hardware. This was ‘the ah-ha’ moment for Livio to create the Livio Connect API to connect 3rd party apps to multiple vehicles. This product and associated IP offered such value that Ford Motor Company acquired them in 2013.
With regard to the process, Jake had some advice to share with other entrepreneurs. First, building relationships with lawyers, bankers, other entrepreneurs and being in the entrepreneurial community brought opportunities to the Livio they could not have gotten on their own. Second, fund-raising takes a huge amount of time and it is time not well spent unless the targeted funds invest in the company’s space. Third, when possible, have your customer pay for your product development as they have a strong interest in seeing you succeed. And fourth, once you have built an initial sales pipeline, investors will become interested.
When asked what he enjoys most, Jake's answer was simply “Tomorrow“. The true enjoyment of having built Livio is that he surrounds himself with people who are similarly motivated, making coming into the office fun.
For more info on Jake check out his blog at JakeSigal.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeSigal