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David Samuel '94

Internet radio pioneer takes on the high-tech toilet.

David Samuel ‘94 arrived at MIT with six years’ experience running his own DJ business. So naturally he signed up for an acoustics class taught by Amar G. Bose ‘51, SM ‘52, ScD ‘56, the founder of the audio-equipment company that bears his name. To his surprise, he wound up learning about a lot more than the physics of sound.

David Samuel’s next big idea – the electronic toilet. (Courtesy of the Alumni Association.)

“Most of Professor Bose’s class was geared toward acoustics, but when we toured Bose headquarters, we got to see more of his entrepreneurial drive,” says Samuel. “He had numerous projects going on, some very unrelated to speakers.” That day Samuel learned to follow his entrepreneurial instincts, even when they veer into wildly unfamiliar territory. “When I see a product and a market that I like and I believe in, I want to go after it,” he says.

Samuel, who now lives in Larkspur, CA, with his wife and one- and three-year-old children, earned his SB in electrical engineering and went to work at Oracle in 1994 as a technical-support engineer and application developer. In 1996, he melded his love of music with his technical expertise to found Spinner Networks, an Internet radio pioneer. Three years later, he sold the company to AOL for $320 million.

During an international trip four years ago, Samuel was impressed to learn that 60 percent of Japanese households have electronic toilets, which function like high-tech bidets. His earlier work having helped change the way the public listens to music, Samuel was ready to cause a similar shift in American bathrooms. Brondell, a company he cofounded in 2003, produces and markets touchpad-operated electronic toilets with a heated seat plus a sprayer and dryer. While he serves as Brondell’s chairman, he is also cofounder and president of another new venture, Grouper Networks, an Internet video-sharing company.

Samuel’s seemingly unrelated businesses nicely illustrate another lesson he learned at MIT-live a balanced life. He accomplished this at MIT by living at Beta Theta Pi and serving as the fraternity’s social chair for four years. He got the job because of his DJ experience, his business acumen, and his 1985 Chevy Suburban.

“I had the truck that could haul all of the party favorites,” he says. “That was definitely one of the requirements for the job.”

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