Cincinnati’s Lisnr joins top-ranked national accelerator

Cincinnati-based tech startup Lisnr is joining one of the nation’s top accelerators.

Lisnr is joining a program run by No. 2-ranked seed-stage startup accelerator Techstars in conjunction with design and advertising agency R/GA.

Lisnr CEO Rodney Williams told me that it’s not the first time the company has applied to join an accelerator, but it’s the first time it has gone through with it.

“I think ultimately Lisnr could become something that’s extremely disruptive to the marketplace, particularly to the Internet of Things,” Williams said. “That’s what this accelerator is about.”

Lisnr embeds inaudible tones in music. When smart devices pick up on those tones, additional content or promotions are unlocked. The startup has raised more than $4 million in funding and was the winner of a Business Courier Innovation Award in the marketing category.

“This is a terrific opportunity for the Lisnr team to connect with some of the people and brands on the forefront of advertising and consumer engagement,” said Justin Thompson, principal at CincyTech. CincyTech was an early investor in Lisnr. “R/GA and Techstars are two world class organizations, and Lisnr is a worthy participant.”

Now Lisnr is looking to expand the use of its technology to more than music.

Lisnr’s audio technology could be used to unlock promotions or additional content when users are watching a show or advertisement on TV, for instance. But Williams has larger plans.

The Internet of Things describes the interconnectedness of smart devices. The Nest thermostat allows users to change their home’s temperature from their phone, for instance.

Lisnr’s technology can be used by any device with a microphone, but also by any device with a speaker as well. Williams sees Lisnr’s technology being able to integrate with smart homes in much the same way, turning on lights when a user enters a room, for instance. Only Lisnr would use sound instead of Bluetooth or an Internet connection.

Lisnr could also be used by retailers to embed tones in their store PA systems that would direct marketing to consumers based on where they are in a store.

“We were well ahead of the proximity marketing market a few years ago, but I couldn’t even talk about it, because proximity marketing didn’t exist. The music app was a simple use that was easy to digest from a consumer and investor standpoint,” Williams said.

“Now we can be a leader. Now we can start talking about Lisnr in the way we’d like to. We’re going to use this accelerator to help with that.”

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