Livio Radio seeks to connect in busy auto infotainment market
Last week, Massimo Baldini introduced himself to as many automotive executives as he could find at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
The president of Livio Radio, a dba of Myine Electronics Inc., was there to network and potentially sell the Ferndale-based startup's new automotive infotainment software.
The company developed and recently unveiled Livio Connect, designed to allow drivers to access a variety of audio-based apps from their smartphones via Bluetooth.
Livio already has secured a contract to supply Livio Connect to an automaker, but Baldini declined to reveal the company's name. The system will be featured on an upcoming 2013 model.
Livio Radio estimated revenue at $6 million in 2010 but declined to provide 2011 or projected 2012 revenue.
Software developers from all corners of the globe are rushing to the automotive infotainment market -- a $32.5 billion market last year, according to Northville-based IHS Automotive.
Microsoft Corp. software is already in Ford Motor Co. models, and Apple Inc. is making plans to work with manufactures to install its Siri voice recognition system directly into cars.
The market already is dominated by other technology companies, leaving 15-person Livio with an uphill battle but realistic opportunity, said Joel Hoffmann, a strategist at Intel Corp.'s automotive solutions division in Novi and a board member of the open-source automotive software alliance Genivi.
"The challenge there: The automotive development cycle is so long, and small companies typically need revenue a lot quicker," he said.
"With a new open-source software model, we could see where this whole new supplier world could do things more efficiently, opening up opportunity for companies like Livio."
Baldini, former business line director of satellite radio for Delphi Automotive PLC, understands that a startup breaking into the market on a mass level will be difficult. But Livio is capitalizing on market momentum, he said.
"Of course it's not easy as the small guy, but we're here at the right time with the right technology," Baldini said.
England-based semiconductor and software distributor CSR plc offers Livio Radio's software in its chips to automotive customers, and Livio is seeking new contracts with suppliers and automakers, Baldini said.
Livio Radio also recently secured Series C funding from venture capital funds -- including Farmington Hills-based Beringea LLC, Ann Arbor's North Coast Technology Investors and Detroit's First Step Fund -- to further commercialize Livio Connect.
The company declined to disclose the amount of funding.
Baldini said the Livio system transcends current software systems because it can operate with few limitations.
For example, if Livio Connect users want to access NPR's radio app, they can. If they want Last.FM instead of Pandora Radio, they can do that, too, Baldini said.
Toyota Motor Corp. has similar technology called the Toyota Entune, but users are limited to supported apps, such as iHeartRadio or Pandora.
Panasonic's U-Connect system, developed for Chrysler Group LLC and largely engineered at Panasonic Automotive Systems in Southfield, supports many apps, including Pandora as well.
Myine Electronics was founded in 2008 by Ferndale resident Jake Sigal -- who was a 2009 Crain's 20 in their 20s honoree -- with a $10,000 loan from his parents.
Myine has grown to offer 20 consumer products and has completed licensing agreements with Pandora and NPR.
Dustin Walsh: (313) 446-6042, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @dustinpwalsh