Built Oregon -Oregon's Entrepreneurial Digital Magazine

Tag - Kickstarter

Sounding like a great idea: Q&A with Audibility

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Portland startup Audibility is closing in on the end of a successful campaign on Kickstarter, designed to help fund the first production run of their personalized headphones. The company is also part of the current cohort of the Portland Development Commission’s Startup PDX Challenge, a program designed to help early stage founders from communities of color. We took a few minutes to sit down with Audibility cofounder and chief operating officer Gilbert Resendez to hear more—ahem—about this young Oregon company.

What was the genesis of Audibility?
Long story short, we worked together on projects for our respective programs at the University of Portland. We wanted to develop a business model that worked to address a lack of access to hearing aids for those with hearing loss. With this in mind, Audibility was born as a consumer headphone company that aims to improve everyone’s listening experience through well designed custom fit headphones for everyday listeners, and access to hearing aids through our partner foundation.

How did you go from just an idea to where you are today?
We started with form in this concept while we were students at the University of Portland in our respective academic programs. From there, we applied for and received the Dean’s Innovation Challenge award at UP. This allowed us to begin working on product development. And after winning a spot in the Startup PDX Challenge, we began to receive the resources to carry out our vision for Audibility. Because of all of that combined support, we’re happy to see our Kickstarter campaign meeting our goal.

The headphone market seems like one that is extremely crowded. How is your product different? Who are you initial target customers?
Everyone’s ear is different. Just like a fingerprint. But the majority of earphones and headphones are not made to fit a generic ear shape.

At Audibility, we recognize the need to customize headphones to ensure comfort and quality. While other custom-fit options do exist, they often require excessive time and money as they require users to visit an audiologist for fitting, or to send images of their ears. Audibility headphones are a “one-stop” solution to achieving an affordable and custom fit.

audibility-boxingTalk a bit about the concept and design of the earphones. Was there a lot of trial and error around the engineering?
Our earphones are uniquely designed to accommodate our custom molding material. The molding material is a silicon-based putty that comes in two parts. Upon mixing the molds, the user will have approximately ten minutes to secure the mold to our earbuds before the material cures into a flexible rubber that maintains the contours of the users EarPrint. In our development process, it was fairly easy to find the right molding material, considering that material very similar to ours is used regularly in audiology for fitting ear-molds for hearing aids. Our cofounder Brian Carter wears hearing aids and was very familiar with this process. The challenges in development came in our industrial design of the earbuds. Our earbuds are designed with gaps in the casing that allow the custom molding material to form in and around the earbud to secure the earbud and become one unit. We used 3-D printing, amongst other rapid-prototyping tools, to iterate several designs and find the best, most fool-proof design possible for our Audibility Customs.

I assume human error is built into the model. People will mess up the fitting. Will you send replacement material if they reach out and say that it doesn’t fit exactly right?
Yes we will! We also provide enough molding material in our initial package for the user to do their fitting again if needed. In the coming months we will also provide instructional videos on our website to assist this process.

Talk a bit about the commitment to give back to the Hear the World Foundation.
For every product that we sell, we’ll give 10% of our revenue to Hear the World Foundation. From the beginning we’ve been strong believers in making sure people have access to hearing aids. Again, with Brian wearing hearing aids, we feel like we have a personal connection to that cause. This is our way of supporting that mission of giving hearing aid access around the world.

Where do you see the company in one year? Three to five years?
In a year we want to develop our online sales strategy and develop our ecommerce platform. In three years, we want to have multiple products surrounded by this idea of having a custom audio experience. By five years, we hope to have been acquired or developed some kind of larger partnership that allows us to eventually exit.

For more information, visit Audibility, follow Audibility on Twitter, or like Audibility on Facebook.

A Year of Building

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That’s right folks, it’s been a year since we launched the Kickstarter campaign that set Built Oregon in motion.

A year. Wow.

Our simple pitch to the community last year was this:

We’re doing this because we believe in Oregon entrepreneurs. And we’re hoping you’ll join us.

What we have seen over the past year is not only an incredible amount of support from the community, but also the realization that there is a lot more that can be done. So let’s dive in an talk about where we’ve been, and some thoughts on where we are going.

Bringing awareness through stories

Over the past year, we have told 45 stories of entrepreneurship and innovation. Company stories that have ranged from Dutch Bros. and Bob’s Red Mill to Wild Carrot Herbals, Local Ocean and Snoplanks.We expanded the discussion to include stories on groups and organizations like Fertilab Thinkubator and Bend Outdoor Worx who are working to change perceptions and increase entrepreneurial opportunities in areas around the state.

All of these stories were crafted to provide a snapshot of what’s happening around the state of Oregon, focused on the founder’s journey, and an editorial slant tailored towards bringing awareness to new companies and insights into some of the well known ones.

So how’d we do?

Our stories have been read primarily in the more urban areas like Portland-Metro, Eugene – Corvallis and Bend,which is understandable,  but looking at it a bit deeper shows that the awareness and engagement truly is statewide — with 1 session in Fossil, 3 sessions in Nyssa, 30 sessions in Coos Bay, and Elgin is blowing up with 143 total sessions as examples. This is something we are very proud of at Built.

Built Oregon Website Sessions

Built Oregon Website Sessions

With the vast majority of our members and network here in Oregon, we wondered — would Built Oregon resonate across the nation? The answer over the past year has been a resounding yes. Built Oregon has been read in every state in the united States with the most active being on the West Coast.

Nationwide Sessions

Nationwide Sessions

 

However, sometimes just looking solely at the number of sessions doesn’t paint the entire picture. If we drill down and and look at the states from a number of pages per session, the map starts to show a different picture. The folks in Utah average 3 pages viewed every time they visit Built Oregon, Mississippi is around 2.75 and little ol’ Vermont is diving into more than 2.3 pages per visit.

Average Pages/Session

Average Pages/Session

Now, we realize that analytics are usually taken with a grain of salt. Have we increased the awareness of 45 companies here in Oregon and the United States? We truly believe we have, and when we received the following note from Jody Berry, the founder of Wild Carrot Herbals, that belief and the reasons why we will keep doing this just hit home.

52244_445747954334_1770196_o“When the article came out in Built Oregon we had a flurry of activity!  We received many new orders on our website and many more new followers on Twitter and Facebook – within Oregon and all over the country. We are grateful for the thoughtful article that was written and we loved how our story was released along with stories of other entrepreneurs. Not only did we enjoy reading about them, but that association with those other fine businesses also broadened our community. Being in a remote corner of NE Oregon, we really appreciate that connection.” 

 

Making the connections stronger

The three of us always knew that bringing awareness begins a lot of conversations and provides an invaluable service, but engaging in-person really elevates the connections and ability to collaborate. To that end, we organized 4 events up to this point in 2015 — all with a different focus, but similar core mission.

The first event we did was during Startup Week PDX and was titled, Startup Week is Every Week and Not Just in Portland. We had over 120ppl attend the event and a diverse panel led by Vince Porter as moderator discussed opportunities, challenges, acceleration, and collaboration from a statewide perspective.
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The next event was titled Building a Community around Storytelling. It was a fireside chat (ok, maybe just a meeting space at CENTRL) where the three of us discussed the opportunities and challenges of changing the economic discussion through storytelling.

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We circled back around on the third discussion to put it squarely on the makers by teaming up with MadeHere PDX for an engaging panel discussion — The Built Oregon & MadeHere PDX PEP Talk. The maker economy goes beyond just passion projects, and is in fact a huge economic driver throughout the state. The panelists and audience dived into what it means to be a maker and focused on topics like product development, scaling, shipping, raising capital, and the collaborative community here in Portland.

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Our most recent event was titled For Profit and For Good — How B Corp Companies Impact Through Good Business. With terms like beneficial and B Corp being thrown around these days, this event wanted to dive into what it means to be a B Corp and how that designation has helped to shape their respective brands, marketing, purpose, and growth.

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Building and evolving

We had 318 members back our vision on Kickstarter — for which we are so grateful. It has allowed us to do everything you have read to this point (which, come to think of it…if you have actually read this far ping us on twitter with a note that says ‘read it’) and we have continued to see the member base increase throughout the year. So again, thank you.

But we are not content with what we have done. We want to deliver more for our members through continued storytelling, purposeful events throughout the state, and being a central point of collaboration in Oregon. And we want to hear from you — current Built Oregon member or not — about what we could be doing better. So, let us know what you think about Built Oregon.

We are going to expand the storytelling to include more podcasts and video, while delivering the content on new platforms.

We are going to engage organizations throughout the state and be a conduit of ideas and connections.

We will continue to have all events free to our members.

But I think most importantly we will not veer from our core purpose. We are doing this because we believe in Oregon entrepreneurs.

 

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