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of information to them, and if they lose their way, they have to go into a safe mode. So we had this safe mode for TiVo, where it would ignore everything and it would phone back to TiVo and say, I m lost. When we contacted it, we would then redownload the software so it could come alive again. Right now it s 4.5, but it has to scale for 10, 20 million. You got them all out there, and it s a massively distributed, incredibly complicated system. So when somebody says, It s just like a VCR, you want to attack them.
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Livingston: When did you first start getting users You raised the first round of
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money in 97 and then homed in on your plan. Then, you raised a lot more money, right
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Ramsay: We raised a lot more money. We were able to get the first round done
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because we had Jeff and Stewart and they were into it and it wasn t a lot of money. The second round was a lot harder, because we wanted an uptick in valuation and we needed to bring in some more investors. That was a very difficult round. I can t remember all the numbers of what we raised, but the combination of the first and second round was probably $10 or $15 million. Not a huge amount of money. For the third round, I believe we got Paul Allen I think it was either the third or fourth round. Paul Allen came in with Vulcan and invested a significant amount of money. After Vulcan came in was another interesting time. That was when the media companies started to get interested in us. We raised a lot of money from major movie studios and content holders prior to our IPO. Then we had an IPO; then we got an investment from AOL $200 million. We did a bunch of other rounds and if you add it all up from then till now, it was about half a billion dollars that we raised. So we were in money-raising mode from day one. Somewhere in that process we hired Dave Courtney as CFO, which I think was one of the most successful hires for us. Dave had not been a CFO; he was an investment banker. I thought, Though the accounting part of a CFO s job is very important, the capital-raising part is so difficult and specialized. Why don t I find somebody who is really good at that So we found Dave, and he joined us. He had a ball raising all that money, and he got us through our IPO. I would say that one of the reasons that TiVo is thriving today is that we were well-capitalized. We were able to power our way through the downturn that early 2000 period when Replay went away. We were capitalized enough that we knew we could ride through it. While we had to make a few adjustments to the company, there was never a question that we were going to survive. We knew we were going to survive.
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Livingston: Tell me about the launch and the first users. Ramsay: We launched at the end of March of 1999. It was the last day of
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March, and we called it the Blue Moon event. It turns out that month was a blue moon. Because it was such a momentous thing our first product shipped we declared it a company holiday. It s still a holiday today.
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Mike Ramsay 199
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We were manufacturing it through a third-party manufacturer in Milpitas, and we took the whole company over there and we all put on little blue jackets and caps and we watched them making TiVos. That celebration was fun. Prior to that, we had been shipping certain selective units. The previous January, 3 months before, we had launched at CES (Consumer Electronics Show), so people knew about us. We were in this hot debate with Replay, who were trying to claim that they were first, and we were first. We actually released the product and shipped first. There were a bunch of beta users prior to that, including Geoff and Stewart, and of course these things broke and didn t record the programs properly and did all sorts of crazy things. They kept rebooting. We were a bit nervous about giving board members TiVos, but we got through that. We had an arrangement with Philips, and they started shipping through their retail distribution system. We were fortunate because the press loved this idea of a young startup company that was screwing up the media industry, and the press loved this idea that we were locked in battle with Replay. We got a huge amount of publicity. People knew what TiVo was long before we ever put the product out. So we started to sell it and it went well. We had to learn a lot. I remember one weekend, we took the entire company, which was about 60 people at the time, and we divvied them up and went to all the Fry s stores in the Bay Area, because they were selling at Fry s. We set up demo stations and the employees were giving demos. It was great because almost everybody had no experience of what it s really like to sell in a retail store. So we started to do all that stuff, and it began to take off. That was the end of March. By August/September, we had sold about 18,000 units and we were going to IPO. It was not a lot of units, and we were just riding the wave of this bubble that was about to burst. We got in in September of 99 and we got our IPO done and we were oversubscribed and the company s valuation went up to billions of dollars and we thought we had died and gone to heaven. During that period, we did a deal with Sony and we did an important deal with DIRECTV. We started to supply DIRECTV with TiVos. That became a big deal for the company and still is today for that matter. So we started to branch out to some different partnerships there, and one thing led to another, and we grew. Everyone complained that we weren t growing fast enough, and, if the thing was so hot, why did it not just take off But we were charging $500 or $600 for this thing, and I was pretty happy with how things were going considering that, starting off, we wanted to do this big server and we had scaled it down to a DVR. I thought we d sell a few thousand, and then we d go on to the real thing. Now this thing has got a life of its own. People love it and we started to get great feedback. It was interesting because the press who reviewed it . . . there were two kinds: the technology press, like Walt Mossberg, who hated it because it wasn t techie enough for them; then there was the consumer press, who loved it because it was nice and simple.
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