A volume-boosting Montreal-based music app is getting a boost of its own. Amp Me Inc., whose eponymous app syncs songs across smartphones to create a "social sound system," has received $8-million (U.S.) in Series A funding, the company announced Thursday morning.
Founder and chief executive Martin-Luc Archambault calls the app "viral by nature," since flooding a room with music across many smartphones requires a crowd to download the app and take part. Now that the company has fine-tuned its synchronization technology to work "95 per cent" of the time, Mr. Archambault says it will focus on making the app more social, such as by generating playlists based on the listening tastes of people using the app together.
The traditional recorded music industry is struggling to adapt to declining sales across both physical and downloaded music, but fresh cash is flowing to companies changing the way music is consumed and produced. Amp Me is the latest in a series of Canadian music-tech startups to get a vote of confidence from investors, following the likes of Landr automated music-mastering services and Viryl Technologies's modern vinyl presses.
Toronto's Relay Ventures is leading this funding round. Managing partner John Albright said in an interview that Relay has regularly turned down music-tech opportunities after a failed song-data investment a few years ago. But he feels Amp Me is different.
"We're taking the point of view that this isn't a music app – that it's a social app," Mr. Albright said. "Every deal we do is very risky. This one's much riskier, but the upside is much higher."
Other participants in this round include Investissement Québec, Slaight Music, OMERS Ventures, Townsgate Media and Real Ventures. Amp Me's funding now totals $12.5-million (Canadian).
Mr. Archambault is a Radio-Canada Dragon, angel investor and serial entrepreneur whose other companies include the social-search engine Wajam Internet Technologies Inc. He recalls a time when he arrived at a friend's new apartment, bottle of champagne in hand and ready for a housewarming party, only to find out there was no stereo set up.
"I put my phone in the middle of the table in a cup" – a common practice to amplify smartphone speakers – "and the sound wasn't loud enough," he says. "We all took our phones out, hit play on Spotify on the same track. But even if you hit play at the same time, they're all off-sync."
That, to him, was a tech idea ripe for the picking: a way for friends to flood a room with sound, together. He released Amp Me last fall, and it's since grown to two million downloads and 10 employees. The company will use the funding to grow its social features and double its staff.
While it previously only let users stream from personal music libraries and SoundCloud, the app will now be compatible with YouTube, widely regarded as the world's top music destination. Mr. Archambault is eager to include Spotify, his streaming service of choice, as well as other services in an update soon.
While cheap wired or bluetooth speakers are commonly available to amplify music from smartphones, Mr. Archambault insists that it will actually make the speaker experience better by allowing consumers to play songs off multiple brands of speakers in a given room.
Amp Me's biggest demographic, he said, is 15- to 24-year-olds– an age bracket likely to have a smartphone but not necessarily a great stereo. It's available for both Android and Apple iOS. Listeners generally use the app for more than 10 minutes at a time, in "parties" that average 3.5 people. The company does not plan on monetizing the app yet – the company wants to scale to at least 10 million users over the next year as it builds out social functionality – but he and his investors believe that the level of engagement Amp Me already has will drive strong ad sales soon.
"Once you reach 10 million users in the United States, you fall into this pool of ad revenue which is significant," Mr. Albright said, who first heard of Amp Me through his three daughters, aged 20 to 24.
Mr. Albright fell in love with the app, just like his daughters. Mr. Archambault, meanwhile, is in love with the fact that he's got homegrown support.
"I'm really happy, both as an investor and a Canadian startup lover, to see we have some VCs [venture capitalists] that want to back consumer products in Canada."