Nearly 12 years ago I was working as an attorney for the US Congress. Boredom does not begin to describe my life back then. I was writing a memo on a health insurance case we were investigating in Japan, when I happened to realize that Arsenal v. Manchester United in the FA Cup was on the BBC online stream. Our rather moronic office policy forbid speakers in the office, but as a lawyer who really didn’t care about bureaucratic rules I brought in some headphones. No one ever challenged me.
Anyway, I was listening to this game…yes–it was the Giggs goal game of 1999, when something annoying happened. My stream from the BBC started to sputter as the computer couldn’t handle my working on a memo in MS Word and running Real Player at the same time. I thought to myself, as I closed the MS Word file :-p “What I really need is a bigger computer.” But then, as lightning bolts off do, it hit me. “No, I don’t need a computer. I need something that just does Internet audio–no PC needed”. And with the pain of listening to that game (Arsenal lost in extra time) was relieved by the thoughts of a really new hot idea.
Internet radio, no pc needed. The PenguinRadio.
The next 12 years have been a roller coaster. I got angel funding, I got VC funding, I got an office and staff, we built prototypes and websites, we tried raising more money in the US and UK and then, 9-11 hit. As you may remember the dot.com days were dying before the World Trade Center was attacked but those incidents put the kibosh on any new VC funding for a few years. I put PenguinRadio on hold and concentrated on some other things.
PenguinRadio was basically brain dead for a bit.
But then I came back to the idea a year or so later. Prices for parts had come down. Everyone was listening to streams. The idea of Internet radio, and more particularly, of .mp3 audio was growing larger and larger. With a new round of funding I launched a few radios, rebuilt the website, and then attracted the interest of some folks in the UK who were thinking much the same as me.
So PenguinRadio was reborn into a new company, that, unfortunately, managed to reach the prototype stage of a really neat player device at basically the same time as Apple introduced the iPhone. This meant that there were suddenly several million devices out there that could do Internet radio without a PC at a cost just about the same as our device, though with the marketing and support of Apple Inc behind them.
Thus PenguinRadio died a second time.
The website stayed up for a few years after this latest adventure, but the new new owners of the domain recently completed the sale of PenguinRadio to another party (hint: they also have Penguin in their name). As I sat on my couch in Hong Kong at 1:00 am in the morning watching, guess what, Arsenal once again (a nil-nil disaster against Newcastle) I went to check the PenguinRadio site and got a DNS error. The transfer of the PenguinRadio domain name had taken place. It was no longer there on the web.
Truth be told the site died a long time ago, but the site was out there as a reminder of my first startup and the great adventure. It’s a tad weird to think it’s no longer there. That the logos and t-shirts and links have all turned to dust. I have other sites, such as PhoneRadio.com that continue to host radio streams, but the closure of the site is like the end of a large chapter of my life.
On to new and more interesting things I guess.
RIP my Penguin.
*PenguinRadio is (now) a registered trademark of Penguin Publishing.