Written by Robert Leitch.
Stop what you’re doing and just listen. Maybe you hear the hum of your computer, the birds outside your window or your kids playing in the other room. There are also sounds you don’t hear – those with frequencies too high or too low for the human ear to pick up. Cincinnati, Ohio, startup LISNR allows businesses to harness the power of these inaudible sounds, and transmit messages to anyone’s microphone-equipped mobile device.
“LISNR is innovative in the marketing space. Our customers have been trying to touch consumers right where they are for years,” said LISNR CEO and founder Rodney Williams. “We take that age-old problem and make it easy using audio.”
Sporting events provide a great environment for targeting consumers using LISNR. The technology allows teams to connect with fans from the moment they enter a stadium. LISNR can target exactly where a fan is located in the facility and transmit targeted messages to their phones. For example, if a fan needs to take a bathroom break during a game, the speakers in the restroom can transmit an audio signal and push game updates to the phones in the room.
“Many of our competitors are Bluetooth-based, but that requires the installation of special hardware,” said Williams. “Our audio-based technology is more efficient and accurate and businesses can simply use their existing speaker systems to transmit our tones.”
LISNR has a wide range of clients, from television networks to concert venues to retail stores. They’re also working closely with mobile device manufacturers and companies creating the newest wave of wearables like smart watches.
“We’re targeting any company that wants to use technology to connect with consumers via mobile devices,” said Williams.
LISNR recently ranked twelfth on the 2015 CNBC Disruptor 50 list, alongside powerhouse innovators like SpaceX, Uber and Airbnb. Williams said being part of this list provided his young company the critical validation it needs to succeed.
“Other companies on that list have raised hundreds of millions of dollars. We’re one of the smallest companies, and I believe the only mobile ad tech company and the only company from the Midwest,” said Williams. “This list shows outsiders that our system works and can address a problem that could disrupt the market.”
In September 2013, LISNR received a $250,000 investment from CincyTech, a regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier in southwest Ohio. This funding allowed the company to service clients in cities outside of Cincinnati and expand to new markets without having to move their headquarters. In addition to their home base in Cincinnati, LISNR also has offices in New York City and San Francisco. They currently have 22 employees with projections of 30 to 40 by the end of 2015.
“Cincinnati is an excellent place to start a business. The cost of living is low, there is a great talent pool for employees and the city is the ideal testing grounds for a new business,” said Williams. “We love Cincinnati and Ohio. It seems like a lot of other startup hotbeds are focused on creating as many companies as possible, resulting in a lot of failure. The goal in Ohio is to grow sustainable and viable companies, which I think is key for success.”