By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
One of the frequent recommendations that most entrepreneurs hear is to move fast before the market catches-up with you and your technology. Yet, that is not exactly the approach that Jed Eaton of LineShark Audio has taken with a company that he co-founded with Jonathan Mayer in 2012.
When we sat down recently with Eaton to get an update on the company, we left the interview recalling a famous Frank Sinatra song covered later by Elvis Presley. For those old enough to remember, the song was “My Way.”
Now, a few years after the original launch and a series of challenges that he has overcome, the company that brings the power of smartphones to musicians is moving forward with a more aggressive marketing plan.
Eaton and Mayer launched LineShark Audio after becoming frustrated with the lack of available devices that allowed musicians to use mobile devices in live performances. Early on, they were moving fairly fast, being selected as a finalist in the 2012 edition of “What’s the Big Idea?” and capturing one of the two top prizes at the end of the year in the “ThrottleUp!” competition.
Those early successes led to developing an initial product concept and launching a Kickstarter campaign in early 2014. The goal was $60,000, but LineShark Audio raised only $10,000, meaning it received none of the pledges because it failed to reach the goal.
It was a defining moment in the start-up’s life, one that set in motion Eaton’s more tempered approach to address and solve each challenge before tackling the next. After all, it was a matter of balance. Eaton was holding down a full-time job at Cisco Systems’ local operation while also being a parent and husband.
Those challenges included everything from the technology itself to the marketing strategy.
“One of the reasons we did not reach the Kickstarter goal was our start-up costs,” he said. “The cost of the tooling related to the original housing solution was over $20,000 and a contributing factor that led to our Kickstarter goal being too high.”
LineShark Audio scrapped its original plans to use a plastic molded solution and switched to a machined metal housing solution, something that Eaton says “dramatically reduced the start-up costs.” The new solution is produced by a U.S.-based manufacturer that utilizes an automated in-house solution to drill and paint the housing.
“This approach increased per unit cost, but held down the start-up costs,” Eaton says.
The company also modified the original product concept, shifting from analog with a headphone jack to digital with a USB connection.
“My customers saw the original analog approach as being cheap in a qualitative sense, where we were trying to save them money by doing it this way,” Eaton explained. “We needed to be digital to overcome this market perception.”
A third challenge was communicating the solution effectively.
“Our customers did not understand our product,” Eaton explained. “People did not get all that you can do on your phone. A majority of musicians are not familiar with how many tools live in their phones and the power of them.”
The solution was a form factor more familiar to them – a traditional guitar pedal.
“It’s a pedal interfacing with a computer,” Eaton says in describing the LineShark device. “It’s a fundamentally different product from our original offering . . . solving the same problem, but in a more familiar way.”
With a patent filing under his belt and the technology finalized, the Co-Founder says LineShark Audio is “transitioning from creating into getting the word out.” The product is available for sale on the webpage for $249 each, and Eaton is also looking for strategic partners.
“Now, we are at breakeven in quantities of one and profitable after that,” he proudly says. That’s pretty special for him, having taken his time to get the product right and self-funding the development without any additional external investment other than the “ThrottleUp!” prize money.
Eaton clearly did it his way and is now ready to see LineShark Audio reap the benefits.