Timbaland invests in Austin music software company Open Labs

Timbaland is making a bet on Austin music software company Open Labs.

The well-known artist and music producer — whose real name is Timothy Mosley — is the lead investor in a $500,000 investment in the company, whose app lets people easily create music using a standard PC.

The Windows-based app, called StageLight, was released in November and costs $9.99. It requires no special keyboard or equipment and uses a simple touch-screen interface. Users are guided through the process of creating a drum track, adding a baseline and melody, and can record a guitar or vocal track.

“I have been involved with Open Labs for years,” Timbaland said in a written statement. “I decided to invest in the company now because of their push into software and their success in bringing music to the masses. StageLight brings the ability to make music to anyone. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s fun. And that’s how making music should be.”

Over the years, Timbaland has collaborated with musicians including Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Nelly Furtado and Madonna. He has won numerous awards across the music industry, including People’s Choice, BET Hip Hop Awards and multiple Grammy awards.

Open Labs was founded in 2002 and initially made a name in the music industry by selling high-end electronic instruments that combined the power of a 64-bit computer with a keyboard and synthesizer.

Its products, which ranged in price from $5,000 to $16,000, used a variety of Windows-compatible software to mimic instruments and create sound effects and mix and master multitrack audio recordings. The systems have been used by bands including Maroon 5 and the Black Keys and Timbaland, as well as to produce shows including the Grammys and Oscars.

But despite building a following of professional musicians, sound engineers, producers and turntable disc jockeys, the company never reached a broader market and filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Cliff Mountain, who was then an Open Labs board member, said he saw promise in the company’s software and bought its assets for an undisclosed price two years ago.

The company’s 12-person team, which has offices off Burleson Road in Southeast Austin, developed StageLight, which Mountain said has been downloaded more than 50,000 times.

“Our focus as a company is to make music creation accessible to all people,” said Mountain, who is a former Dell Inc. executive and venture capitalist. “The greatest obstacles have been price and the amount of time to become proficient on music software. With StageLight we have overcome both challenges with an inexpensive, easy-to-use app.”

The goal is for users to be able to create music in 10 minutes or less, said Mountain, who said he sees StageLight as a Windows alternative to Apple’s GarageBand. “For most folks, Apple is an aspirational product because it’s so expensive. Most people get started on a PC.”

Open Labs, which was previously self-funded by Mountain, will use the new money to expand product development and ramp up marketing and business development. The company is hiring in those areas and plans to double its workforce in the next year.

Three major PC makers, whose names Open Labs hasn’t disclosed, bundle or preload StageLight with their systems, and the company has gotten interest from mobile phone makers about expanding into mobile and onto the Android platform, Mountain said.

Timbaland’s backing provides a boost to the company’s expansion efforts, Mountain said.

“The whole idea that he’s putting his money in provides a lot of credibility and value,” he said. “When you have the financial backing of a world-class musician, it just gives a lot more comfort to anybody else looking at the company as far as future investments or business partnerships.”

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