- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

Ring tones meet YouTube.

That”s how Bryan Antler and Scott Garber describe FriendTones, a new application that lets users create ring tones for their cell phones, send them to friends’ phones and upload them to a public library of free ring tones.

The pair, both recent graduates of the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, have so much confidence in their product — which debuted last week as a Facebook application — that they have personally invested thousands of dollars. Mr. Antler even quit his job at Marriott International.

“The cell phones that are out there can do so much more,” said Mr. Antler, 24. “Consumers want to be able to do more. And they don’t want to pay for it.”

Mr. Antler said he came up with the idea for FriendTones about a month ago after realizing that there hasn’t been any widespread development in mobile ring tone technology other than the ability for cell-phone users to purchase song clips and record their own ring tones with their handsets. He later brought Mr. Garber, 22, on board as an investor. Along with some friends, they have invested about $50,000 in the venture.

While the concept of free ring tones isn’t entirely new — other Facebook applications and Web sites give users access to free ring tones — Mr. Antler said FriendTones has more features, is easier to use and has a better business plan.

Phonezoo.com lets users create and upload free ring tones, but Mr. Antler said its stand-alone Web site without an established user base is a “barrier to entry.”

Likewise, a Facebook application called MyxerTones requires users to sign up for an account.

“It’s 2007; no one wants to do that anymore,” Mr. Antler said.

With FriendTones, users turn their audio clips into ring tones using sound-editing software. They have the option of uploading those ring tones into a public ring-tone library where they can comment on and rate other users’ ring tones. But the real innovation, says Mr. Antler, is a function that allows FriendTone users to send a free ring tone to a friend”s mobile phone.

“No one else is doing that,” Mr. Antler said, demonstrating the software with his cell phone. He enters his phone number, and several seconds later, an automatically generated text message informs him that his phone has received the new tune.

Mr. Antler and Mr. Garber are the latest examples of aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to piggyback off the popularity of Facebook — which has more than 40 million active users — to vault their company to financial success. Nearly 4,000 programs popped up on Facebook after the site started letting users create their own software applications for free in May.

Mr. Antler and Mr. Garber have retained a lawyer to advise them on intellectual-property issues. They have also lined up several venture capitalists, Mr. Antler said.

The two are confident they can cash in with banner advertising on their Facebook application as well as mobile ads embedded in the text messages accompanying ring tones. In addition, Mr. Antler predicted partnerships with bands seeking promotion or even news outlets.

“Every morning, your ring tone doesn”t have to be the same,” he said. “It’s a brave new world, and it”s all happening.”

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