Tech startup: Airborne Media Group Inc.
INITIAL LIGHT BULB Working at the Old Tymers Cafe, a sports bar and restaurant in downtown Durango, Ryan Danford and Justin Ginn learned time and time again that a noisy crowd at a sports bar makes it very difficult to hear play-by-play, especially with multiple games playing on omnipresent flatscreen TVs. They saw a possible solution: smartphones.
They approached Chip Lile of another Durango bar, El Rancho, and Cordell Brown, a veteran of the wireless Internet business who relocated from Houston to Durango after selling his previous company.
Both of them liked the idea, and Airborne Media Group was born. “They de-mothballed me and got me involved,” says Brown, who now serves as the company’s CEO.
The company ramped up development of its technology, Audioair, that would provide the missing link between televisions for the eye and smartphones for the ear.
The use of smartphones allows for delivery of all sorts of relevant content, Brown says. “In the sports bar market, they saw the need,” he explains. “How can people experience the rich content?”
IN A NUTSHELL Now up and running in more than 50 venues, Audioair is Airborne Media Group’s solution for the noisy sports bar.
“We use wi-fi to transmit an encoded message from the satellite or cable box to your smartphone or mobile device,” Brown explains. Users download an app and select the channel they want to hear. “Then it’s simply a matter of putting in the earbud or holding the speaker up to your ear.”
The latency is nearly nil, Brown says, so sound and vision sync up almost perfectly. “On the play-by-play, you can’t even notice it.”
Audioair debuted in September 2011 at the Uptown Sports Bar and Grill in Albuquerque, N.M., and then Brown and company demonstrated the system in Texas at Austin’s South by Southwest Interactive in March 2012. “Silicon Valley discovered us,” Brown says.
The company is now looking at the fast track, thanks to Palo Alto, Calif., law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
THE MARKET Beyond the 38,000 sports bars and restaurants in the U.S., Audioair is a nice fit for casinos, museums, airports and college campuses, Brown says. “Customers see it as a way of monetizing mobile communications,” he explains, as the audio-stream can complement rich media ads delivered via Airborne Media Group’s smartphone app. The company has been working with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Ignacio developing Winner Planet for the casino market.
FINANCING “I took a non-conventional approach,” Brown says. “I essentially crowdfunded the startup.” Brown approached sports bars and technology companies for seed funding but now is looking to land some venture capital. “We’re getting ready to take on an institutional round of investment.” Brown says the target is $5 million to $10 million.