Martin Varsavsky is not only everybody’s best friend on Twitter, he is also an entrepreneurs’ wet dream. And not only is Varsavsky a hugely successful entrepreneur himself, he also mentors and invests in other entrepreneurs as well as teaching entrepreneurship on Columbia University in New York. And he has four homes (that I know of) and six children (that he knows of)!
Yesterday, he was back in Berlin for the first of a series of global launch parties for his latest venture. Gramofon is an offshoot of his already popular Fon wifi service. It is a wifi router with embedded music services that connects your smartphone or other device with your stereo system.
And he flies his own airplane, which has become a milestone in tech entrepreneurship. I noticed he cringed a little when the moderator spent the first part of the introduction being totally in awe of the private jet status, but Varsavsky calmly explained that it is simply a result of fear of getting lost in airports. That does not happen when you fly your own plane. He also shared his classic, entertaining and intelligent stories about his professor father, the scientist Carlos Varsavsky, who is famous for inventing the six day week.
Before the actual introduction of the new product, Varsavsky also shared some other interesting news. He is about to join the board of Axel Springer, one of the biggest media companies in Germany based in Berlin (not Hamburg, like most of the others). This information obviously lit up the room full of young tech entrepreneurs since the possibility of a pitch session with him would be much more likely as he will now visit Berlin more frequently in the future. Varsavsky also revealed that he is an investor in The Copenhagen Wheel, an electric bike add on for bicycles. You can follow the project on Tumblr here. Incidentally, Martin Varsavsky was also an early investor in Tumblr.
Asked about which companies he prefers to invest in, he mentioned three rules. It has to be a product that he wants to use himself. He has to like the entrepreneur on a personal level. The pricing must be attractive.
The reference to the Copenhagen Wheel was the perfect introduction to the Gramofon unveiling. Martin began by explaining that Gramofon was not intended to be alternative to Sonos. It is not a stereo system. He compared today’s entertainment systems to the television sets and the stereo systems of the eighties. Today, nobody would dream of watching television on a TV from the eighties. But some stereo systems from the eighties are really excellent and a lot of people prefer to listen to their vintage music equipment. Except me, nobody in the room had a clue what he was talking about. They were all born in the eighties.
Gramofon is intended to bridge the old school joy of music with new technology and providing you with wifi at the same time. You log in with Facebook and the system automatically detects your friends on Facebook, too. This enables them not only to play music but also to share your wifi. You will no longer have to answer the annoying question of ‘what is the password to your wifi?’. Gramofon logically presumes that you want to share your wifi with the Facebook friends that you actually invite to tour private home. There is a master setting for the owner of the house and a queue function for collaborative play.
Only rich people can afford a cool DJ at home, but with Gramofon, we can all be cool DJ’s, argues Vasavsky, namedropping Thievery Corporation, and with the hotel bar DJ’s looking on with their CD’s and vinyl records.
The price of the Gramofon unit is low. This is partly because the chip where the music services are embedded on is manufactured by Qualcomm, the huge CPU supplier to the mobile industry famous for their Snapdragon processors. Qualcomm is an investor in Gramofon.
This year, my home entertainment set ups will totally change. There will be a Chromecast HDMI connected to my television set. And there will be a Gramofon Ethernet connected to my stereo system.
Here is an Instagram of the moment before the launch of the new product:
Here is a short clip I recorded from the launch party at the Amano Hotel Bar:
The free bar menu:
The after party dinner at the Korean burger joint next door: