|University of California, San Diego (UCSD), BA||1990|
In his 18-year career, high-tech entrepreneur Michael Robertson has spearheaded a cache of diverse, high-profile companies ranging from digital music to operating systems to VoIP to entertainment. Not one to shy from controversy, his quest to offer competing products and innovative technologies has brought him face to face with corporate giants â€“ and corporate lawsuits. But his madness always has a method â€“ producing relevant technology and products that bring choice and freedom back to the consumer. Be it MP3, Linux, software, or hardware, Michael has built his career on supporting open standards that empower consumers. With companies like Linspire, SIPphone, and MP3tunes, Michael has entered industries that traditionally had only one or two dominant players. But with each industry he tackles, Michael’s end goal is trying to bring competition and freedom of choice back to the marketplace. And restoring that freedom is the undercurrent of every venture he helms.
Michael’s high-profile startups include MP3.com, where he established the largest collection of digital music in the world, amassing more than 1 million downloadable MP3 files. Robertson also spearheaded change in corporate business music services and put the power of CD creation in artists’ hands by offering a host of support technologies and services. Vivendi Universal purchased the profitable company in 2001 for $372 million in stock and cash.
Michael’s next project was to produce an easy-to-use product that could handily compete with operating systems like Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Having used Linux at MP3.com, Michael decided to start Linspire, Inc., a company that produces an affordable, license-free desktop Linux operating system that quickly gained market share on Microsoft Windows. Four years after its founding, the Linspire operating system made inroads in North America, Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Rim as the easiest Linux distribution available.
In 2003, Robertson founded SIPphone.com (renamed Gizmo5), a company that harnesses the power of the Internet to allow customers to make free long distance phone calls. SIPphone was founded to build a VoIP platform and directory on which any hardware or software developer could offer free VoIP service. Since then the company has partnered with Web communities, universities, telcos and hardware manufacturers around the world to extend and strengthen its VoIP platform. Today Gizmo5’s service incorporates all the key elements of VoIP service.
In 2005, Michael reentered the MP3 business with MP3tunes, a Music Service Provider (MSP). MP3tunes is the home of MP3tunes Locker, the only secure, online music space to feature unlimited listening. With just a couple clicks, Locker users sync up their own music collections to enjoy through any web browser and a growing number of home entertainment and mobile devices.
An active supporter of higher education, Michael launched REEF (Robertson Educational Empowerment Foundation) in the fall of 2002 at the University of California, San Diego. REEF is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting new and innovative programs of investment in education.
Prior to establishing MP3.com as a major portal of music distribution, Michael operated several web sites from 1995 to March 1998 that focused on merging search technologies with commerce. Michael received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 1990.