DETROIT — Roqbot, a startup that is changing the way music is experienced in bars, restaurants, and retail stores with a new mobile jukebox app, announced that it closed a seed funding round of $1.2 million led by Google Ventures and Detroit Venture Partners, with participation from Accelerator Ventures, T5 Capital and Penny Black.
Roqbot, named Best Music Tech Company in the 2011 South By Southwest Accelerator, aims to replace the jukebox and other background music services with a social experience for customers across the country.
Over the last few months, Roqbot has been working with businesses and brands in cities such as San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and Austin, and has recently collaborated with Miller Lite, Gap, Samsung, and the rock band Motley Crue to bring the mobile jukebox experience to larger audiences.
With more than a million songs streamed and over two times the average check-ins of Foursquare, Roqbot contends it is disrupting traditional background music distribution.
Patrons at Roqbot locations use the iPhone or Android music app to check in, discover what’s playing, request songs, vote on the queue, and see the venue’s specials. Ultimately, customers crowdsource the music experience at that location. Roqbot also delivers better music for business by providing venues with full control over what can be requested, continuous streaming, unlike traditional jukeboxes, and full customization to match the venue’s vibe.
Roqbot is also announcing the new Roqbot Mix Machine, a first for out-of-home music, which uses both customer and venue preferences to create a custom playlist for each business. For consumers that don’t have a Roqbot venue in their area, the new “Jukebox Reborn” campaign lets everybody easily suggest Roqbot to their favorite local businesses via Facebook.
“With the new Roqbot Mix Machine we make it even easier for businesses to provide a music experience that will keep customers coming back,” said Garrett Dodge, co-founder and CEO of Roqbot. “With just a few clicks, a bar can have a playlist that dynamically adjusts to customer feedback while still letting the business owner maintain control. This way, the music engages all of a businesses’ customers, not just the person putting dollars into the jukebox.”
Dodge is an Indiana native and a 2008 MBA graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was working on several mobile apps with Roqbot co-founder Katu Patel when they hit on the idea of Roqbot. The company was founded in Oakland, Calif. in September 2010, launched its first venue in early 2011, and expanded to new venues in late 2011.
So how did Detroit get involved in this California startup? Dodge said he happened to meet Detroit Venture Partners vice president Ted Serbinski in New York City at an event sponsored by Tech Stars, a tech company accelerator, where Roqbot was handling the music. One thing led to another, and the company got part of its financing from Detroit — and agreed to place part of its operations in Detroit.
“We’ll be expanding our sales and support operations in the M@dison building,” Dodge said.
Added Josh Linkner, CEO and managing partner of DEtroit Venture Partners: “The future of music in public venues will be a social and mobile experience, and we’re excited to back Roqbot as the leader in this exciting space. We’re thrilled that Roqbot continues to expand in Silicon Valley and is also hiring in downtown Detroit to accelerate the city’s growing tech core.”
Roqbot is part of the wave of tech companies doing business in downtown Detroit. The company is currently looking to hire new employees for its office in the M@dison building, a tech hub that is home to many promising entrepreneurs. For more information, please visit www.roqbot.com.