Fresh Capital

Death to Muzak: Roqbot Raises $1.2M from Google Ventures and Others for Better Background Music

Finally, something we're glad to see crowdsourced.
492425175 a44505f5f5 Death to Muzak: Roqbot Raises $1.2M from Google Ventures and Others for Better Background Music

Disrupted. (Photo: flickr.com/toasty

Good news if poorly selected background music makes you miserable: Music tech startup Roqbot has raised a $1.2 million seed round, led by Google Ventures and Detroit Venture Partners and including Penny Black, T5 Capital, and Accelerator Ventures, as well as angel investors.

Roqbot aims to offer a more interactive alternative to the background music services that produce the anodyne mixes you’ll hear in the grocery store, without requiring the level of participation of a jukebox. Customers in a bar or bowling alley request whatever they’d like to hear via a smartphone app. So the business gets final approval, but doesn’t have to painstakingly build a playlist or default to a standard background music service. The idea is to create “a streaming music solution that’s customized for each location, that lets the customers engage with the music and discover what’s playing,” explained cofounder and CEO Garnett Dodge.

“At the end of the day, we’re really trying to create the best possible music experience that balances the interest of the business owner that wants to create a certain vibe and the consumer who wants to engage with that music and discover what’s playing,” he said.

The infusion of cash will enable Roqbot to grow its team, starting with the sales and marketing team and with an eye to expanding in specific geographies, cofounder and CEO Garrett Dodge told Betabeat. He expects the company will likely double from its current staff of five in the near-term.

Founded in September 2010, the company has focused thus far on “building out this platform,” and now it’s a matter of geographic rollout. At the moment, the company’s reach is limited to 40 or so venues, with beachheads in Austin and the Bay Area, as well as outposts in L.A. and New York. “That’s really the piece we’re looking to grow with this round,” said Mr. Dodge, adding, “I think like many other small business applications or business software, we definitely have a little more work to do to expand to all those venues versus a typical consumer application.”

“This round will give us the opportunity to really expand what we’ve built on the product side to a larger audience,” he told us.

Right now the company is focused primarily on working with business owners, but they’ve also partnered with bigger brands like the Gap and Miller Lite. Mr. Dodge explained there are basically two types of brands that might be interested in Roqbot’s services. The appeal is obvious for brands with physical locations–i.e, don’t lie, peppy indie rock probably inclines you to buy sundresses. (Could someone please tip Lane Bryant to these guys’ existence? We can’t take another “self-esteem boosting” mixtape.)

The use case for the latter group is similar, but without the physical location. Mr. Dodge offered the example of their partnership with Miller Lite in Austin: “You’re hanging out in the bar and Miller Lite has basically sponsored the interaction on the system there, so there’s a great opportunity for a brand to be in front of those consumers as they are deciding which beer they are going to purchase.”

Google Ventures partner Wesley Chan explained his interest in the company via email: “We like backing companies that transform the way people engage in their daily lives. Roqbot is one of the companies that can change the way we consume music in public places and interact with groups be it in a bar, restaurant or mall. They are making listening to music a social event.”

Yeah, plus we’ll only need 30 seconds to evaluate whether it’s worth staying at a bar. Now that’s our kind of innovation.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com