Cincinnati startup Lisnr comes full circle at SXSW


AUSTIN, TEX. — It all started on a bus. 

In 2012, before the name “Lisnr” had reached many ears at all, several Cincinnati entrepreneurs joined the crowd on the StartupBus, a kind of accelerator-on-wheels that brings entrepreneurs together for a three-day bus trip where they can develop a business strategy and plan a pitch. The journey allows the riders to connect with important industry figures as well as get a feel for how their concept may be received on a grander scale and ends at South By Southwest in Austin, the annual music, film and interactive media superfestival.

At the close of the 2012 bus trip and subsequent SXSW experience, Lisnr’s journey had begun.

Lisnr is the Cincinnati company known for their Smart Tone ultrasonic technology that transfers data through audio. With a constantly growing client base that includes big names like RocNation, Sony Music, John Frieda and Atlantic Records, Lisnr is on the move.

This year, having quickly surpassed their financial expectations in recent months, the founders decided to bring their talents back to Austin, where it all started.

Lisnr CEO Rodney Williams and his team returned to Austin this week to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities and connections the festival has to offer a growing tech company. SXSW has exploded in recent years, providing attendees with more than just up-and-coming music acts and tech conferences — it's now become a breeding ground for brilliant ideas that hope to soon emerge as established companies. 

With an successful business under their belts, the Lisnr team hosted their very own event right smack in the middle of the city-wide festival on Monday, March 16 (which I attended).

“Three years ago, we were just a team with an idea on a bus,” Williams said. “Now we’re hosting a meet-and-greet at the W. It’s crazy.”

More than 100 people showed up for the event, including members of the investor group Mercury Fund, which has offices in both Austin and Cincinnati and has already invested in the Lisnr concept. Also in attendance were representatives from possible future clients like L’Oreal and CBS Interactive. When I spoke with Williams, he was trying to keep all of the business cards he’d collected from falling out of his pocket.

The Lisnr team has barely had time to breathe since their arrival back in Austin. Following Monday’s meet-and-greet, the team had dinner reservations with a New York company intrigued by their concept, followed by invitations to numerous shows and events until their departure on Thursday. It’s enough to make anyone need a serious nap, but there will be none of those for Williams and his team.

“We’ve worked really hard,” Williams said. “It’s so much fun, and I don’t want to miss any of it.”

Needless to say, Lisnr is doing well for itself. And though they've established a bustling office in New York City, their Cincinnati office on Broadway is still their home turf.
 
Signup for Email Alerts