When it comes to entrepreneurs few are as unique and dynamic as Michael Robertson.
His latest venture is DAR.fm, dubbed TiVo for radio. While it’s too soon to know if DAR will be a rocking success, with Michael Robertson running the show you can bet it’s going to be big one way or another.
As his bio says, Robertson has a consistent track record of identifying promising trends often in disruptive sectors, building pioneering companies, and leading them to profitability and acquisition.
Over time has raised more than $100 million in private capital and orchestrated transactions with a combined value of nearly a billion dollars. He is perhaps best known for launching MP3.com in 1997. If you listen to music on an iPod you can thank Robertson for laying the groundwork. MP3.com brought online music to the mainstream by amassing the largest collection of digital music and introducing it to millions of consumers. It came public in 1999 in a wildly successful initial public offering.
In time MP3.com drew the fury of music companies that commenced a vicious legal assault to shut it down, and was later sold to music giant Vivendi/Universal.
Should DAR.fm also become a smashing success it could potentially draw the fury of radio giants like Westwood One or Clear Channel Communications. Just as MP3 essentially brought free, unfettered music to the masses, DAR has similar prospects. Right now, you have two methods of listening to your favorite radio show. You either listen to it live or you pay to download the podcast and listen at your leisure. DAR can work like a podcast that you don’t have to pay for.
“No longer must consumers be in their car from 9am-12 to listen to Rush, Dr. Laura or the Jim Rome show,” Robertson explained in an e-mail. “Using just their Web browser, users can record ANY station or show. Then, just as a DVR does, you can play it back on demand.”
You can see an online demonstration of DAR.fm by Robertson here.
Along these lines some of you will recall what happened in 1975 when Sony introduced Betamax. The system allowed you to tape record TV shows and watch them later. That brought a lawsuit by Universal City Studios that landed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Sony won and today they are known as DVRs.
Robertson is excited about DAR “because this moves radio into the 21st century, making it what people have come to expect from media: on demand, interactive and playable everywhere.”
You can record from a list of 1,200 radio stations. And, it’s free. You can also listen to the music from an iPhone, Android phone, Internet radio and other devices.
Robertson on Monday night provided some brief commentary to a class of aspiring entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. It was at the Founder Institute program and Robertson, who was off site, was conferenced in by Ken Rutkowski, Founder Institute conference leader. He was asked what his first job was.
“I was about 14 years old,” said Robertson.
He would take uncooked biscuit rolls, shape them into doughnuts, drop them in a deep fryer and sell them around the block for a little pocket money.
Fifteen years later he would raise $100 million to launch MP3.com, with a single sheet of paper describing his concept to venture capital investors. He was turned down by a VC firm initially. But six weeks later he got a call from Sequoia Capital, a famous VC firm known for funding Apple, Cisco, Oracle, PayPal, Yahoo and so on.
“They called me and that’s always a good negotiating standpoint,” he said.
As anyone who has ever tried raising money knows, it can be a really tough road.
“It can take a lot of time. There’s no secret formula. It’s like getting married,” said Robertson. “Raising capital is not always logical or predictable. It’s often just the opposite.”
Raising money is what many of the Founder Institute students plan to do for them to launch their company.
Asked for more advice, Robertson said this: “The No. 1 rule is to be informed; be super educated. Read everything you can about your field and make sure you know more about it than anyone else.”
This includes talking to your competitors, partners and just about anyone else who is versed on the subject. The goal is to be able to answer any and all questions that might be asked. And that was about all Robertson had to say on the subject.
One thing’s for sure. This won’t be the last time you hear of Michael Robertson.