Digital Dealmakers: Dennis Specht

Feb 5, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The player: Dennis Specht, co-founder, president and CEO for Roundbox, a mobile TV broadcast software provider

The play: Roundbox wants to power the menus for mobile phones. As cellular carriers add video to the smallest screen, they also need to help users easily search and discover that content. That’s where Roundbox comes in. The company struck a deal with TV Guide, the leader in television program listings, to power its mobile TV Guide capabilities. Better navigation on cell phones should buoy the ad market for mobile phones. Research firm eMarketer reported that spending on mobile-phone advertising in the U.S. reached $421 million last year and should hit $4.8 billion in 2011. “Advertising dollars aren’t going to happen until you get enough eyeballs. It will happen. It’s a matter of when,” Mr. Specht said.

The pitch: Roundbox’s software works across all types of mobile broadcast networks that carry video, from today’s simpler systems to the pending rollouts of more advanced networks. The Roundbox mobile guide should also feel somewhat familiar to consumers as it’s based on TV-style guides. “We believe the [mobile phone guide] is going to be as important to the phone world as the browser is to the Internet world,” Mr. Specht said.

Pros: Roundbox is banking on its partnership with TV Guide Mobile Entertainment as a springboard into the mobile phone market. The partners have conducted trials of the guide with carriers and expect to introduce it commercially later this year.

Cons: The biggest threat to Roundbox is the spectre of unknown competition. Cellular carriers and content aggregators could opt to develop their own guides and cut middle-men like Roundbox out of the market.

The Backstory: The three Roundbox founders started the company in late 2003, borrowing office space from a friend.

The Money Guys: Roundbox closed its first round of venture funding at the end of 2004 with $6 million from Core Capital and RRE Ventures. It landed a second round in April 2005 for $15 million, led by Polaris Ventures with RRE and Core Capital investing again. Mr. Specht said Roundbox is currently earning revenues but he won’t disclose a time frame for reaching profitability.

Who knew: Mr. Specht, 38, was born and raised in New Jersey. He studied computer science at Monmouth University and earned a master’s in computer science at California State University at Chico. He founded software company Dynamicsoft and worked at Sapient, as well as Lucent Technologies and AT&T, before founding Roundbox. A Division 1 soccer goalie in college, Mr. Specht is married with two kids.