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Ford Motor Buys Ferndale Car Connectivity Startup Livio

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FERNDALE (WWJ) – Ford Motor Co. has acquired the Ferndale-based in-car connectivity technology developer Livio for an undisclosed sum.

The company says it will keep its storefront location in Ferndale and its employees.

Livio, which formerly made its own line of Internet radios and other hardware under the Livio Radio brand, offers software called Livio Connect, designed to make smartphone interaction (the art of pairing your handset with your car) simpler for developers and easier for users.

Livio Connect was used as the standard for Chevrolet’s latest-generation MyLink system. No word if that will continue under Ford.

Livio founder and CEO Jake Sigal wouldn’t get into the details of the transaction Thursday, but said he and Ford CTO Paul Mascerenas “have known each other for about three years. We met at CES, and CES is where all the action is, of course, and we just developed a good relationship. I’ve felt all along that Ford is a very good partner and we see the world in the same way.”

Segal said the acqusition will help Livio in its mission to develop a standard for smartphone-auto communication. He said that through Ford, Livio will have much greater access to communication standards setting organizations.

“Making it easier for app developers to get into cars — safely — is really the mission here,” Sigal said.

Sigal added that the sale “is a good story for Michigan. There were so many naysayers who said ‘you will never make it, you will run out of money.’ Well, we made it.”

Ford CTO Mascerenas also declined to give details of the deal to CNet, but classified it as “quite small” — which in Ford terms equates to something less than $10 million. He said the intent is to operate the company as a wholly owned subsidiary, to maintain jobs for all 11 Livio employees, and to continue to support those third parties that have licensed Livio’s technology. Exactly when we’ll see this tech appearing in Ford vehicles, and whether it will maintain compatibility with Ford’s own AppLink,
remains to be seen.

Sigal started Livio in 2008, at age 26, with a $10,000 loan from his parents.

Before starting Livio, Sigal worked at Delphi’s Consumer Electronics Group, working as a product line manager for XM Satellite Radio. Before Delphi, he worked at Numark Industries in Cumberland, R.I. as a product developer, where he invented the original Ion USB turntable, which plugs into a computer and turns vinyl into mp3s. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Ohio University.

He now sits on the university’s Russ College of Engineering Board of Advisors. Sigal is also a board member of the Consumer Electronics Association’s Board of Industry Leaders and its Small Business Council.

As for what’s next for Sigal, he said: “Right now I’m focused 100 percent on this transaction and this technology.”

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