We previously featured an article, 'Spotlight on a Startup', which gave an inside view of BoomBotix Inc., a creator of mobile audio For Sounding Great On The Go™. The company was founded in 2009 with roots in San Francisco’s urban art scene and the Tahoe action sports arena. In 2010, BoomBotix splashed into the portable electronics scene with the worlds loudest portable speaker tailored to the transient lifestyles of surf, skate, and snow culture.
Startups that survive go through a series of funding stages, usually starting out with investments from friends, family, and credit cards. The next step is funding from angels, wealthy individuals who are willing to put up money for high risk investments in return for the potential of very high returns. Also known as accredited investors, they are always looking to get in on the ground floor of another Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL), or LinkedIn (LNKD).
The third stage is venture capital. VC companies are willing to invest funds in early stage companies with proven sales and traction. There may be several stages of funding at this point. The final stage in the process is going public through an IPO (Initial Public Offering) or being taken over by a much larger company.
BoomBotix has seen rapid growth; it boasts distributors in over 20 countries with more than 140 retailers domestically including Best Buy, Backcountry.com, and Amazon, though it began with a virtually non-existent marketing budget. Because of the company's success, it has reached its third stage of funding, closing its first venture capital round. Walden Venture Capital has lead a Series A round in Boombotix.
Walden Venture Capital is a 'Sprout Stage™' investor based in San Francisco that focuses on Digital Media and Cloud Services companies. With investments including Pandora, SoundHound, The Clymb and Glam among others, they have a track record of helping companies attain mass-market adoption. 'Lief Storer and his team are incredible at design and technology while having a real passion for the consumer', said Larry Marcus, Managing Director of Walden Venture Capital, 'We are looking forward to helping take the Boombotix brand and product line to the next level. The company that is young, hungry and dedicated to serving its users with better sound, design and functionality.'
Boombotix CEO Lief Storer commented, 'The Boombot speaker line is constantly expanding, and the team is eager to develop new products and continually improve the products already in our portfolio. This round is just going to help us lay down the real foundation that we need to take things to the next level.'
No investment recommendation nor any investment promotion is expressed or implied by either the publisher or BoomBotix Inc.
To check out the auction, go to Sedo.com.
In a continuation of our series on startups, we decided to interview Bob Berger co-founder of Nutricula Magazine. Nutricula: The Science of Longevity Journal is an online magazine that was founded from scratch two years ago, with no venture capital funding. This extremely successful online publication now receives 3.5 million page views a month from readers all over the world.
Let's start by having you describe your online magazine.
Nutricula Magazine was created two years ago. Nutricula is the science of longevity, living as long and as healthy as possible. The name comes from turritopsis nutricula, a jellyfish that has the ability to live forever. It starts out as a polyp, becomes a jellyfish, and eventually reverts to a new polyp colony. We actually have Nutricula as a registered trademark. The magazine is published monthly, and appears as a flip magazine; however, we have discovered that most people end up reading the articles on blogs.
How did you happen to come up with the idea for the magazine?
We have an organic health factory farm, and we were looking for ways to market it. We were considering creating a magazine for a long time. It is an online magazine, however, we did print 200 issues for the first month. We publish scientific views and commentary by qualified individuals, doctors, scientists, clinicians, nutritionists, even veterinarians, as we feature articles on pet health also, and are planning a pet magazine. We have now advanced to videos for the magazine, which we call rich media, which includes audio, video, and 3D technology. We're not just looking at the present, but at future health issues; the future of health, living, and longevity. We also want to be able to answer readers' individual questions, not just providing general articles.
Who do you consider your direct competitors?
Everyone is our competitor but because we have superior content and do not have 'pop-ups', annoyances and distractions like many sites do, many people prefer to visit and read information on our site over those sites that do not have our content and have those pop-up's and distractions.
How do you go about marketing your magazine?
We strive to create the best content as possible. We do that by getting writers from all over the United States and even all over the world. They mention their article on Facebook (FB) and Twitter, and to their friends and associates, then their friends and associates mention it on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. We choose our articles based on what people are looking for on the Internet.
If you had Googled "nutricula" a year ago, it would come up with results about the jellyfish for the first couple pages. Now if you Google it, Nutricula Magazine comes up as number two on the list. When people are looking for something organically, such as diabetes or breast cancer, Nutricula articles will come up very high in the search engine rankings.
Two years ago, we didn't have any ranking at all. Last year, according to Alexa, we were in the top 500,000 in the world and the top 200,000 in the United States. Now we are between 40,000 and 50,000 in the world and in the top 7,500 in the US. Having unique content helps. Also, we are careful about the ads we have; so no pop-ups as that can affect our rankings.
What is your current staffing level like? Do you have a lot of people working for you besides your authors?
No. It's just me and Dalmo Accorsini, the other co-founder of Nutricula. Just the two of us. But another way to look at it is we have a huge staff, which is made up of our authors around the world who are willing to contribute to our magazine.
Can you give us an idea of what the growth of your online magazine has been?
Obviously, we started out at zero two years ago. Now we get 3.5 million page views a month. Our goal for next year is to get 10 million views a month, and we expect to get a lot of that through Apple (AAPL) iPhones, iPads, and Kindles.
How did you get your original funding for the company? Any venture capital investments?
It is all self-funded. It is just the two of us that post the content and do the work. If we did have venture capital funding at the beginning, I'm not sure that we would have had the same quality that we have now.
How do you generate income for your magazine? Through advertising; however, we are very selective on who advertises with us. We did have to turn down a few companies. We don't want to compromise the quality of the magazine with an advertiser that may have issues.
What do you consider your biggest challenges relating to running your business?
Time. We've run a number of issues meeting a monthly deadline. The other issue is keeping up with demand for additional information. But the big thing is having the time to coordinate everything and putting everything together.
Can you let us in on any new magazines or other businesses on the horizon?
We are revamping our Petological Magazine, our pet magazine, since pets are a huge business. Our Nutricula Magazine is going to be more interactive with more rich media.
What is your long-term goal for the company?
We're seeing where it's going. The more the magazine is recognized, the better.
Any suggestions for someone that wants to start their own online magazine or other type of business?
Stay the course. When someone starts a business, and they don't see a lot of growth at first, they give up after a few months. They should find a field that's important to them.
Thank you for your time and insight.
Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed.
Readers can view the magazine at NutriculaMagazine.com.
Dr. Bob Berger holds Doctorates in Nutritional Biochemistry, (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tn.), and in Bio-Pharmacology, (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.), as well as a Master of Veterinary Science, (MVSc), and an MS in Nutrition and Human Physiology, (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC). He is the Editor-In-Chief and President of Nutricula Dr. Berger is also a Co-Founder of THFF and Nutricula.
No investment recommendation nor any investment promotion is expressed or implied by either Stockerblog.com, the interviewer, Nutricula, or the interviewee.
Many crowdfunding service companies are available. Here are a few.
Since the JOBS Act of 2012 has been signed, companies will shortly be allowed to give stock in return for donations/funding.
"For me success was always going to be a Lamborghini. But now I've got it, it just sits on my drive." ~ Curtis Jackson [50 Cent], American Rapper
"Failure makes success so much sweeter, and allows you to thumb your nose at the crowds." ~ Wilbur Smith
"One never rises so high as when one does not know where one is going." ~ Oliver Cromwell
"Edison has done more toward abolishing poverty than all the reformers and statesmen." ~ Henry Ford
"Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence." ~ Colin Powell
"I never hired anybody who wasn't smarter than me." ~ Don Hewett, 60 Minutes Producer
"Attain the unattainable." ~ Alfred Tennyson
Let's start by having you describe your current product line. What is it that you are selling?
BoomBotix makes portable speakers designed for life in motion. Our current product offering is the Boombot line which is a skull shaped speaker inspired from Japanese Urban vinyl toy design. We’ve fused together modern audio technologies with a fun aesthetic that we thought would really resonate with our target demographic.
How did you happen to come up with the idea for the product?
I was an engineer by day and artist by night. I painted skate decks, canvas, and sneakers typically going for an urban-surrealist style. My company flew me out to Taiwan to work on programming LED illuminators. I was at this place called the Dream Mall when I discovered all these blank Do-it-yourself toys and that’s when I started working on this toy as a new medium.
I blew out my knee skiing and I started to ride my bike to work to rehab. During my healing, I was painting a lot and I discovered this toy called the Skully that was basically a tennis ball sized skull with asymmetrical eyes. In looking for an alternative to my DJ headphones for riding, I thought I’d hack together my own hand-made speaker using an iHome audio portable speaker and a Motorola walkie-talkie belt clip. I made my first prototype as a weekend project and my life went on another adventure from there.
Who is your target consumer?
I think our product line will do great in mass market, BUT our core market is 12-28 years of age with an active lifestyle, a passion for music and technology. Smartphone users are getting younger and few companies are really addressing accessories that hit home with this market. We are not just addressing the way a product looks, but adapting our products to the lifestyle of this market. To really understand it, you have to really get in their shoes and understand what their day-to-day life consists of.
Any direct competitors?
It really depends on how you look at it. On one side of the spectrum, there are a number of brands that are offering mobile audio solutions whether it is headphones or speakers. Most notably, we would say Skullcandy and Jawbone are major competitors to us in the space. We’re trying to distinguish ourselves with software AND hardware solutions that have substantial barriers to entry supplemented by a close tie to our core community.
How do you go about marketing your product?
With very few resources, we have relied on social media and grassroots marketing. Major tradeshows like CES, Interbike, and Surf Expo have been good for us as well, but they are also tough on cash flow when there is no marketing budget. Our key to success has been to really pursue relationships where people are just happy to use our product and promote it knowing that we can’t offer them much more than that. The bike market has been great for finding customers that truly love the experience that Boombotix offers.
When did you first start your company and was it hard to get started?
I came up with the idea in 2009 and I spent about a year designing and sourcing a good vendor in China. It was REALLY hard to get started. It's really intimidating to raise cash when you’ve never done it before. I funded the company to get to the point of having our first production quality prototype. Once I had a piece that looked and sounded as amazing as I envisioned, raising investment got easier, but it is still hard as hell in today’s economic climate!
Tell us a little about your background, such as where you went to college, previous jobs, etc.
I went to UC Davis for Optical Engineering. It was a unique program that let you bounce around a lot of different departments. Out of college, I was the lead engineer in a new LED Lighting division at DiCon Fiberoptics. That job taught me so much about product design and marketing. It was essentially a startup division that had the backing of the parent company. A lot of the skillsets I learned there, I transferred right over to BoomBotix and was able to spec and design my own product. I pride myself in my eye for design and I think my artistic side has really allowed me to share my vision with everyone around me much better. It’s really important as an entrepreneur because if nobody GETS your vision, there is no way you can expect them to help execute it.
How did you happen to locate it in San Francisco?
I was running the business out of my parent’s garage until March 2010. My CFO had me go into the office of another tech-toy startup where I met Mike North. He was a super cool guy with a lot of amazing projects under his belt and he offered me some studio space. As soon as I got in there, I brought more hands on deck and it made sales skyrocket. We quickly outgrew the spot and I found a sweet studio on 23rd and Mission that I thought would be the ultimate headquarters for a startup like ours.
What is your current staffing level like?
We have six people in the office every day and we’re always churning in interns to help us with social media and PR. We like to keep a small team of really talented individuals that understand the scrappy startup life and just love getting their hands dirty. After all, even the CEO takes out the garbage.
Can you give us an idea of what your growth has been in terms of products sold and revenues?
Just to give you a ROUGH idea, at our 18-month mark, we hit the half-million in trailing revenue milestone. In one year, we had 127% growth in sales and we are currently on pace to shatter last year. Our goal isn’t to spike it and burn out but rather sustain year after year of triple figure growth and continue fostering relationships that we have.
How did you get your original funding for the company?
By clawing and scratching at friends and family and taking out loans. I’m so thankful to have the support of everyone around me.
What do you consider your biggest challenges relating to running a start-up?
Being a boss. Before this job, I had absolutely no management experience and human capital is by far the biggest variable. I’ve always been strong with interpersonal relationships, but managing people was completely new. Every time that I’m not happy with someone’s performance, I try to always ask myself, “Is it their fault, or can I do something better as a manager to help make them better at it?”
Every day, your mood dictates your organization. If you’re down about something, your entire team will be too. Be stoked, be inspiring, and sell the future.
Can you let us in on any new products on the horizon?
I’m very excited for the waterproof watch we’re making for the iPod nano. I get tons of compliments on the prototype, but it’s got some work to get the bugs out. We’re also just starting to get into advancing our software to allow audio networks to be created on the fly and that is the technology that I think is going to set our sound systems apart from the rest.
Are you still looking for more funding?
We’re looking to raise $1.5 million to float us through 2013. Most of the funding will be used to finance inventory production and keeping our team fed. We’re fortunate enough to have a good amount of investors hovering around so now we get to be a little more selective about whom we bring on to our team. We really are looking for investors that have more to offer than just cash.
What is your long-term goal for the company?
First and foremost, we want to make key innovations in mobile audio technology. We think there are a lot of shortcomings of current hardware/software products and we would like to fill the voids and really define our niche in the space. Beyond that, we also want to create a lifestyle around our products and ultimately have a big impact on culture. We are not really thinking of exit strategies, but selling to a conglomerate or going public are viable ways to cash out for our investors.
Anything else you would like to add?
Yes. If you are trying to pronounce our name, its Boom-bah-tics. The name is derived from creating a field of science around the mobile audio.
Thank you for your time and enlightening us.
No investment recommendation nor any investment promotion is expressed or implied by either the publisher, the interviewer, BoomBotix Inc., or the interviewee.