By Liz Segrist
Published Nov. 8, 2015
From the Oct. 19, 2015, print edition
When Charleston-based Geekin Radio launched on Aug. 20, the synchronized listening app scaled to more than 50,000 users in 72 hours.
Ten days later, the startup co-founders got a call from Google. They were being shut down.
“We crashed and burned,” Geekin Radio CEO Gavin McCulley said. “We scaled so fast that the infrastructure it was built on could not support it. ... Google shut us down because we were moving too much data through their server and we were disrupting other apps.”
|CEO Gavin McCulley expects Geekin Radio to play a big role in discovering artists. (Photo/Liz Segrist)|
The tech team spent the next three weeks building out their technology infrastructure —eating pizza and sleeping on the couches in the second-story office space above Seeking Indigo on King Street, Chief Growth Officer Hank Hanna said.
The new version of the Geekin Radio app, built on in-house infrastructure, relaunched a few weeks ago in the iTunes App Store. The cloud-based technology enables multiple users to connect on the app and listen to the same songs at the same time.
“We knew if we didn’t get out there now, we may miss our window,” McCulley said. “Timing is everything.”
Geekin Radio users can create playlists and invite friends via a text or social media post to listen in simultaneously. It is a shared music listening experience via smartphones.
Geekin Radio is the brainchild of co-founder and COO Thomas Vitale. He wanted to know what music Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III listened to before his games.
When Vitale’s search did not reveal any results, he decided to pursue the concept of social music listening. His father connected him with an intellectual property attorney to patent the idea and the technology. Vitale got the patent, quit his job in finance and officially launched Geekin Radio in January 2014.
“Geekin allows you to jump in the headphones of your friends, of athletes — of anyone you want to have a shared listening experience with,” McCulley said. “If you’re working out and I’m working out, we can be in two different time zones and we are listening to the same song at the same minute at the same time. Beat for beat. Tone for tone.”
The company has secured a round of angel investment; McCulley would not disclose the amount except to say it was “seven digits.” That helped grow the team to nine people. McCulley said a future funding round will be crucial to scaling the company and building out its tech team.
McCulley says the app can help artists get discovered, which could become part of its future revenue model. He said music labels “got very excited about the 21st-century way to push the discovery of new music.”
The co-founders are also considering a subscription model in which musicians and artists can get data on who is listening to and sharing their songs, for example.
McCulley declined to disclose numbers of downloads but said the app’s usage is growing by 10% a day. The co-founders envision people becoming “Geekin famous” by creating popular playlists and discovering new artists — similar to the way people have launched modeling, cooking or fitness careers by becoming “Instagram famous.”
They also want “Geekin” to become synonymous with listening to music together, the way “Google it” means to search for something.
“We wanted to create a word that meant simultaneous listening together,” Vitale said. “What is ‘Yahoo’? What is ‘Google’? Why can’t we create a name like ‘Geekin’ that means listening in with your friends? We want people to say they are ‘geekin in’ with their friends.”
Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.
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