Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, the two European entrepreneurs and angel investors who famously co-founded companies like Kazaa, Skype, Joost and JoltId, have played an instrumental role in setting up and funding a new music startup called Rdio, the NYTimes reported earlier this morning.
Little is known about the ‘secretive’ startup, and its website reveals nothing but the logo at this point. NYT reporter Brad Stone writes that the upstart boasts offices in both Los Angeles and San Francisco and that it’s going to offer a paid subscription-based music consumption and purchasing platform for both PCs and mobile phones, starting early next year.
Like other startups in this field (MOG, Spotify, Deezer and many others), the main challenge for Rdio will be to get the major players from the recording industry on board to supply music to its online catalog without fear of copyright infringement litigation. Needless to say, that’s a hard and expensive nut to crack, and any executive from the labels who hasn’t forgotten and/or forgiven Friis and Zennström for creating Kazaa will be wary before signing any type of agreement with Rdio. Nevertheless, Rdio CEO Drew Larner tells the NYT that talks with music labels are “continuing and confidential”, which an exec at EMI for one confirmed.
A quick Internet search appears to identify Larner as former director at Zoo Entertainment, and before that a Managing Director of Europlay Capital Advisors and Executive VP at Spyglass Entertainment Group. A search on LinkedIn only turns up Malthe Sigurdsson, a London-based designer who used to be creative director at Skype. Another interesting tidbit: they seem to own the domain name rd.io as well.
Friis and Zennström have been keeping busy starting lawsuits lately: first they sued Skype owner eBay over core technology used in the VoIP service that they own, then they filed a copyright suit against eBay and the investor group that is going to buy Skype from them, and then they went on to sue former Joost chairman and CEO Mike Volpi.
You have to wonder where they find the time to set up and back new startups in between.