Tech Startup: Mad Genius Radio

Commercial free personalized online radio

Initial Light Bulb: Eric Neumann had logged nearly 20 years in the radio industry before launching Mad Genius Radio with his wife, Rachel.

He saw the writing on the wall when first exposed to Internet radio in the late 1990s but believed the modern radio market was prime for a premium product like Mad Genius.

Developed with Boulder-based Inspiring Apps and Culture Foundry, the company is targeting big-time music fans – the 17 percent slice of the population considered “aficionados,” says Neumann – with a model that allows for more customization than other streaming services.

The company has 12 employees, eight of whom considered genre curators.

In a Nutshell: For $5 a month (after a 36-day freebie), Mad Genius Radio allows listeners more hyper-personalization.

It starts with curators culling a library of 23 million songs to create playlists for genres. Mad Genius even has a chief music officer who comes up with handpicked songs for genres like “Beautiful Mess” and “Smoke and Swagger.”

You can turn particular artists or albums on or off, decide exactly how much grunge or hip-hop you want, and sprinkle in a few “guilty pleasures.”

“With a handful of clicks, you’ve got classic rock radio with light Led Zeppelin, no Pink Floyd, and a smattering of Grand Funk Railroad,” says Neumann.

He notes: “54 percent of all radio is one-hit wonders.”

“People are not binary,” he says. “You can’t explain why you like one artist and you don’t like another.”

The Market: Booming. Streaming was essentially nonexistent in 2000, and now the average listener takes in 13 hours a week, nearly a quarter of that on Pandora, which is essentially the world’s third-largest radio company. In that same time frame, terrestrial radio saw the average hours listened per week plummet from 21 to less than 10. Spotify has nabbed more than 3 million paying customers in the U.S. since debuting here in 2011.

Financing: The launch was self-financed with the help of friends and family. Mad Genius is currently looking to close on a $5 million investment in the first quarter of this year. “There are a half-dozen VCs circling,” Neumann says.

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