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How Three Friends Launch SOUNDBOKS – The World’s First Bluetooth Performance Speaker

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Below is our recent interview with Jesper Thiel Thomsen, CEO & Co-Founder at SOUNDBOKS:

Q: Tell how SOUNDBOKS got started. Any challenges you faced in going from idea to shelf?

A: I started building my first speaker in 2011, but as you read from the previous question, I wasn’t really that good at it. However, in the next few years, I teamed up with people who had expertise in areas I didn’t, and we built a ton of speakers together. Eventually, we got pretty good at it, and a friend reached out to us and asked us if we could build a speaker for her camp. We thought sure, we could use some extra cash, but if were building one, we might as well build a few – so we put up the ad on the Danish version of Craigslist. We thought we’d sell like two, maybe three if we were lucky – but in the next four weeks, we got more than 200 phone calls from people who all wanted to buy. We couldn’t build 500 as we were taking our exams, but we sold five – and seeing how happy the five people were, and how much the other 195 people wanted one, we decided that we needed to give a go at building a business from it.

The next 6 months we worked regular full-time jobs saving up money. In January 2015 we started buying home parts, and in the coming months we built a ton of prototypes. Come March 2015, we launched, a simple web shop, and marketed it through events and facebook ads. We built all the speakers by hand from stock parts in a garage north of Copenhagen, and only built 400 the first year – so it was literally humble beginnings, unscaleable processes – just as a startup should be.

Q: What’s one mistake you’ve learned from in starting SOUNDBOKS?

A: A year into the business, we wanted to buy a big ‘bike’ that we could mount speakers on and drive around Copenhagen and throw events. We found a Dutch company that specialized in this, and had them build this massive bike that we spent $14,000 USD on. Upon it arriving to Denmark, we find out that Denmark has different laws than Netherlands, and that in Denmark this bike is neither characterized as a bike nor a car – and therefore is completely illegal to use on roads in Denmark! Absolutely ridiculous – but at least we learned to do a bit more research before committing big expenses…

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Q: Walk us through how SOUNDBOKS has grown over the years. How did you overcome any scaling challenges?

A: We made a ton of mistakes. Especially as the business started to scale, we were not in control of what was going on – and almost killed the business. I believe the tipping point was when we recognized that we needed more experience on the team, and hired our first experienced finance-person, who could help us build processes and take control of the forecasting and budgeting processes. That completely changed our business and I recommend all founders to hire a finance-person after their first significant funding round now.

Q: What are some key learnings you wish you knew before launching SOUNDBOKS?

  1. A: Educate your users. The SOUNDBOKS is a loud speaker and that can be misused – and we could’ve taken bigger steps towards educating our users in considerate use of the product at an earlier stage.
  2. Festivals are not the same everywhere. The SOUNDBOKS was invented as the perfect speaker for Roskilde Festival, and when we first tried to enter the US Market we thought it’d be a festival speaker there as well – but US festivals are so different, that festivals proved to not be the major market for us in the US – and we wasted a lot of money and resources on pursuing that market.

Q: As you may already know, audio tech is a very competitive landscape. What differentiates SOUNDBOKS from other speakers on the market?

A: SOUNDBOKS is quite simply the most worry-free and versatile speaker on the market. You don’t have to worry about if it’s loud enough, if the battery will run out or if it will break – it’s built to outlast your every move.

Q: Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

A: I think they should try to define an MVP – a minimum viable product. Remove everything that is not absolutely essential – the first versions of the SOUNDBOKS didn’t have an app – nor did it even have Bluetooth – but it solved the core problem of a loud, battery-powered durable speaker – and therefore it was good enough to bring to market!

After defining the MVP, start building and selling prototypes – upon selling them, talk to the users about if it solves their problems – and if not, iterate and build and sell more prototypes. Rinse and repeat until you have product-market-fit and then start selling for real.

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Q: What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

A: Definitely push the funding for as long as you can, so you can retain as much of your equity as possible. Also, know that if you take in Venture Capital, you’re basically committing to one day performing an exit – whether it’s through a sale or IPO – the investors will want return on their money.

Q: Final question – how have you used your success to make the world a better place?

A: We’ve done multiple social initiatives – from donating to children’s homes in Africa, to most recently launching a larger collaboration with Red Cross in Denmark. I also sit on the board of Children’s Rights in Denmark, an NGO using

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