With iPod prices as high as $350 before accessories, some users want more from the gadgets than just music. For these folks, there's Mogopop.com, a Culver City-based Web site launched last month, where comedy sketches, games, museum guides, and even an In-N-Out burger locator are available for download on iPods.
It all started in 2004, when Jordan Allen-Dutton bought his first iPod and noticed a "notes" section. Wondering what he might be able to do with it, he hit on the idea of creating an English-to-French translation program, with recordings of English words and authentic pronunciations of the word in French.
"One of the first things I do with new gadgets is I get in there and try to break them," said Allen-Dutton, who says he's always been an inventor because his father is an engineer.
Allen-Dutton asked his friends at a dinner party what they thought about using an iPod as a translator. They looked askance, but he thought he'd try anyway. He built the French translator that night. He later hired someone with more technological expertise and soon got a lawyer, filed patents, incorporated his business, and put in about $30,000 of his own money in April 2004. He expanded his language offerings to 12.
His new company, called Talking Panda LLC, was written up in Time magazine that summer. The business is now called Mogopop Inc.
However, Allen-Dutton soon realized he needed to come up with an additional $35,000 if he wanted his products to be in Apple stores in time for the crucial holiday season. With no connection to venture funding, he had to call on friends and family. "It was like I was in a movie," he said of that time.
It turned out well enough. Talking Panda made about $60,000 in sales on that first shipment.
The following year, 2005, Allen-Dutton developed other software applications for iPods, including iBar, a bartending guide, and iRocker, a guitar tutorial complete with metronome.
Later that year, he partnered with Kara Weber, who came on as vice president of strategic development. Weber had been one of the founders of Tripod.com in the mid-1990s, the first Web site to offer code for consumers to create their own Web sites for free.
With the Apple partnership under way, Weber and Allen-Dutton began consulting with the computer-making giant about what else Talking Panda could do.
Apple suggested Talking Panda sell its installer, the easy-to-use software used to download its content to iPods. Other companies had made iPod content, but downloading it was a headache for the average user.
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