On Monday we reported a possible sale of Swell Radio to Apple for $30-million dollars, citing unnamed sources talking to Re/code. That rumor has been substantiated now by today’s shutdown of the Swell site. The iOS app fails to connect to Swell servers, except for a brief audio message thanking listeners for using Swell.
An email to Ram Ramkumar, Swell founder, who was featured at our RAIN Summit West conference in April, received a gracious reply, but without confirmation or information.
Assuming the Apple acquisition (unconfirmed by Apple), the shutdown of Swell is a disappointing consequence. In our view Swell was a gorgeous, enjoyable, smart app that delivered spoken-word audio content based on what it learned about the user over time. We found the discovery experience equal to the finest music services.
Large companies acquire smaller ones for many reasons. The aftermath of a purchase can hint at the acquisition’s purpose. In this case, it appears that Apple is not interested in developing the Swell brand and operating it autonomously. Apple owns a podcast app of its own which has endured harsh criticism, and one easy guess is that Swell’s technology will be imported to a new Apple-branded “podcatcher.”
Swell launched in July, 2013, with seed funding of 1.8-million dollars. A month later the project raised an additional $5.4-million. The rumored price of $30-million paid by Apple buys Swell at a rough multiple of four times its capital inflow.