ThrottleUp! Finalist: LineShark helping musicians use power of mobile devices
By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last in a series of five articles describing the companies that will make pitches during Tech 20/20’s “Entrepreneurial Imperative 2012” conference November 12 and 13 at the Knoxville Marriott.)
Two childhood friends with a passion for music have teamed-up to found a local start-up focused on helping musicians unleash the power of their mobile devices and disrupt the traditional thinking in the industry.
The two founders of LineShark Audio – Jed Eaton and Jonathan Mayer – grew-up in Carrolton, GA. They will be presenting their concept at next week’s “Entrepreneurial Imperative 2012” (ei2012!) conference at the Knoxville Marriott.
In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, Eaton described how two guys growing-up in a West Georgia county that borders Alabama found themselves years later founding a technology company in East Tennessee.
Eaton earned his B.S. degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech and has been working in the industry in Oak Ridge for about 10 years, in ventures ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies. He describes himself as the “electronics guy” at LineShark, while Mayer, Vice President of Sales for a local company with a degrees in music and political science, is the marketing and business strategy side of the team.
“We wanted to own our own company,” Eaton explained, adding that they saw a way to turn their passion for music into that opportunity. In the case of LineShark, the business plan is about utilizing features that many individuals might not realize even exist on their iPhone, iPad or Android-powered device in a way that adds value to the musician’s performance while also saving money.
“Most people don’t see a phone as a musical instrument,” Eaton said, but he quickly dismissed that notion by pulling-up the popular GarageBand App on his iPhone. With a few taps, he had a several pre-recorded instruments playing, ready to record a new instrument on top.
“Most people assume that the phone is an end stop in the musical chain,” Eaton said, meaning you can only record into it and playback from it. “With the LineShark my phone is a mid-point (that) becomes more integrated into my performance.”
Eaton is a guitarist, and he explained that other guitarists regularly want to create certain effects, maybe a delay or distortion. To achieve their goal, they have to purchase a guitar pedal that costs about $100 for each effect they want to create. That can become fairly expensive for a person who plays for fun or is a struggling professional guitarist trying to make the big break.
LineShark’s concept is to provide a more cost effective alternative – using the power of the mobile phone by downloading 10 “app-based pedals” for $5 versus buying 10 traditional pedals for $1,000.
Apps like these can be downloaded by anyone, so LineShark’s proverbial “secret sauce” is its proprietary box that takes input from multiple sources, like the musical instrument and the mobile device, in one end of the box and literally pushes the total musical package out the other end through a connection to a venue’s sound system.
“We have a prototype circuit board and box . . . we’ve proven it works,” Eaton said, adding that it is a “seamless interface.”
LineShark’s uniqueness is also a bit of a challenge.
“We are a disruptive technology,” Eaton explains. “Everyone thinks they need pedals. You really don’t. You just need our box and a mobile device.”
What is challenging is changing perceptions or, as Eaton says, “shifting the paradigm.”
“I see this (using app-based pedals) coming but, when I talk to musicians, they say that they don’t see it,” he explains, adding that the start-up’s market focus is on the 10-, 11- and 12-year olds who are much more knowledgeable about the power of their mobile devices. As they grow-up, so will the size of LineShark’s market.
Over the next few months, Eaton says the start-up plans to make five to 10 of the prototype boxes and give them to local musicians to test. Their feedback will help to further improve the product.
Thus far, the start-up costs have been borne by Eaton and Mayer, but they are considering a Kickstarter pitch.
Eaton describes the product simply as “inputs for connecting any instrument to any mobile device with outputs for any stage” Combining the power of mobile devices in a cost-effective way is just the launching pad for other ideas that Eaton and Mayer have in their sights as LineShark evolves.