It looks like a smart watch, but it’s not tracking your steps or heart rate. Soundbrenner is a metronome that takes the material form of a sleek wearable.
This is a much-needed technological shake up for the 200-year-old metronome, a tool used by musicians to maintain metrical rhythm.
Soundbrenner can be strapped onto the wearer’s wrist, arm or ankle and pulses the rhythm of music through haptic feedback. Meaning, the watch produces small vibrations that helps the wearer keep a sense of rhythm, without that invasive tick-tocking sound emitted from metronomes.
The idea formed during Startup Weekend Berlin in the summer of 2014, when CEO and Co-Founder Florian Simmendinger heard the idea from Vini Tiet who pitched it to the audience. They immediately partnered together, winning the competition.
Florian decided to pursue the idea further and realised that for the hardware, the crew would need to relocate to Asia.
Timing was in sync. Brinc, an IoT accelerator located at Hong Kong’s PMQ (the world’s first end-to-end IoT platform) discovered Soundbrenner at a tech event. Brinc approached Florian and suggested Soundbrenner join the acceleration program, starting in November 2014.
“Hong Kong is the best place in the world to start an IoT company given its access to resources, hard and software.”
Within a few months, the team was working out the hardware and software. Soundbrenner licenses a patented haptic driver to control an eccentric rotating mass vibration motor that has an amplitude of 6G. To put this in perspective, most smartphones have a vibration motor of 1G.
The team also worked out the device’s unique BPM (beats per minute) tap feature that enables musicians to tap the face of the device to set the desired tempo. The wheel of the device can then be turned, to increase or decrease rhythm.
The team debuted the product on Indiegogo May 2015, raising $170k USD.
We caught up with Florian to ask him about the team’s plans for the future, after they were most recently chosen as “Pitch Runner up 2015” at RISE in Hong Kong.
Your team raised $170k USD from Indiegogo in May. What does this amount mean in terms of manufacturing and going forward?
Typically, this amount is not enough to bring a product to life, so you will need to supplement that with money from investors. But this amount catalyses and generates interests from investors.
At the moment, we are actively fundraising. Our goal is to hit US$500k. We’re at the 50 per cent mark, and there’s still a few weeks left to reach out to us and invest.
One function is that musicians can wear Soundbrenner and sync their rhythms together. What other software will Soundbrenner feature?
We can provide performing feedback on rhythm for a group. Another software would be practice reminders, achievements, all of that would be saved on a user profile. These elements will be phased.
Do you see other wearables in the market, like the Apple Watch, as competition? How did you price your product?
In the beginning, we were afraid that Apple watch would be a big competitor. But they have hardware limitation. You can’t feel the vibration as much. There’s no one else (as far as we know) working on this technology.
In terms of price, the mechanical wooden metronomes usually sell on the market for US$40, where as a digital metronome would average higher. Our retail rate is US$149, and on our Indiegogo campaign, we priced ours around US$99.
Would you recommend joining an accelerator program?
If you’ve never started a company before, it’s a fantastic way to get mentorship and help. Often times, in the hardware world, it might take up to four years to take a product to a market, We’ve only been working on this idea for one year, and we’ve been able to execute a lot.
You’re well-seasoned at pitching (Soundbrenner was a runner-up at Rise’s pitch session). What advice can you give to those taking the stage for the first time?
The most fundamental mistake people make when pitching is that they don’t think from the perspective of their audience. If you’ve been working on something non-stop for a year, certain things might seem intuitive. But the audience is just learning about it, so you need to approach it from their perspective.
Most obviously, I would just say, practice practice practice. I was rehearsing the night before RISE!