By Ariana LaBarrie
Three Northwestern University students are taking their love of music and technology to the next level with their audio speaker start-up called Audiovert.
Instead of the usual black box speakers, Audiovert offers as much personality as the music people play . Customers can customize the basic hexagon-shaped speakers by deciding how many panels or sides they want and they can stylize the design with artwork on the speakers.
Audiovert – launched by Northwestern undergraduate students Ahren Alexander (CEO and Chief Engineer),Chris Beauchene (Chief Web Developer) and Justin Fleischmann (Chief Marketing Analyst) – demonstrates a trend in how students are starting businesses before donning that cap and gown.
Alexander came up with the idea of Audiovert when he noticed that the basic shape and form of speakers had remained relatively the same for decades.
“Most speakers can be lumped into the category of a box that sits on your desk,” Alexander said. “No speaker has escaped this form factor. Why don’t the speakers reflect the intrinsic personality and energy of music?”
Alexander explored this business idea in a spring 2014 class, Principles of Entrepreneurship. Fleischmann came on the team early this year when he met Alexander through their fraternity. Beauchene joined during the summer when the speaker business needed a coder.
The Audiovert team has found success early, presenting at the CTIA Super Mobility conference in Las Vegas. The team also appearing at this summer’s Techweek Chicago and Channel Con 2015. This fall, they launched a campaign on Indiegogo, a crowd funding site where the team made 120 percent of their goal, raking in $3,980 in pledges.
Perks for people who donated included speakers with various numbers of panels, starting with pledges of $120. Other perks for people who wanted to make smaller pledges included coasters in the hexagon shape, the same shape of the speaker panels, and having their names etched in the back of the hexagon speakers.
“We hit exactly what we wanted,” said Alexander about the Indiegogo campaign. “It gave us the opportunity to consolidate who we want to be, how we want to go forward, and really kind of get ourselves out there for the first time.”
The Audiovert team thinks it is a great time to enter the speaker business.
“I do think [what] a brand like Beats has been doing, with making headphones more of a fashion statement, does make it a really exciting time [to get in to speakers],” said Fleischmann “We understand [the consumer], with music being expressive and people wanting to express themselves through how they listen to music.”
That still requires marketing, of course.
“Right now, it is very organic” said Fleischmann of their marketing plan “We are not doing big pushes. It’s not ready for mass market. The goal of Indiegogo was to sell enough preorders to get validation for our idea, to get feedback on our product, to improve the speaker so that when we are ready we can really push and make it this much bigger and get it out to a ton of people.”