This week’s “Member Of The Week” is Soundbrenner. A company that develops and distributes music tools and solutions for musicians improvement. Their current main product is the Soundbrenner Pulse, a vibrating metronome that allows musicians to feel the beat. It works hand in hand with your metronome app (mobile and desktop) as well a body strap for positioning Soundbrenner Pulse on other parts of the body, e.g. on the chest of the musician.
We asked one of its founders Julian Vogels a few questions about his journey with Soundbrenner so far.
Why have you had the idea for this tool? Are you musician by yourself? And what’s the special reason or story behind for developing a vibrating metronome?
At Soundbrenner, we combine technology and great design to make practicing easier and more fun. Our first product is a smart, wearable, vibrating metronome. Many musicians have trouble practicing with the traditional metronome – we know this because we’re all musicians ourselves. Removing the annoying audible click and replacing it with vibration just made a lot of sense. Now, you can focus on what’s most important: the music.
I myself am a drummer since I was 8, but I have always neglected metronome practice because I couldn’t focus on the audible click. I knew that this was a real pain point worth solving. I studied Music Technology at McGill in Montréal and specialized in the design of musical instruments. I was lucky that haptic feedback and tactile responses of musical instruments were one of the major areas of research. Back in Berlin, one and one came together.
So could you please explain the functioning of Soundbrenner Pulse?
The Soundbrenner Pulse is a smart, wearable metronome, which can be worn on the wrist, upper arm, ankle, or chest. It helps you to stay on the beat. Rhythm is one of the fundamental properties of music, and all professional musicians agree that rhythm practice is a cornerstone of their career.
With our companion app The Metronome by Soundbrenner, you can create and save complex rhythms with accents and subdivisions and synchronize with up to 5 Pulse devices over Bluetooth. You can customize different vibrations and LED light colors as well, and we even support Ableton Link to synchronize multiple phones over Wifi.
What’s next for Soundbrenner? Do you plan to expand with more products?
We are about to launch our second wearable, the Soundbrenner Core! This is a really exciting time for us. We’ve worked on it for almost two years now, it’s the culmination of our design and engineering efforts and a real companion for any musician. Recently we’ve passed 1 million € in pre-orders; it seems like we’ve hit a nerve.
The Core is a 4-in-1 smartwatch for musicians, including the vibrating metronome, a contact tuner, a decibel meter with volume alarm, and smart watch features. A technically complex and well designed device, which comes in polycarbonate and stainless steel versions with accessories.
Soundbrenner was incorporated in 2016 in Hong Kong and has offices in Hong Kong and Berlin. Why you’ve decided to start your business in Hong Kong? What were the added values to start there?
Hong Kong is a gateway to Asia. Its rich history and European past make it an ideal place to enter China. For us, it means we can attract international talent and be close to China’s major manufacturing hub Shenzhen, which is just half an hour away from Hong Kong.
We wanted to build an international company from the start, and it worked out. We now distribute our products in almost 30 countries, and people of 12 different countries work together efficiently and toward one goal: To build the best, most modern tools for musicians.
Have you been affected by the wake of the political crisis in Hong Kong? And what impact does this have on Soundbrenner? Will be the office in Hong Kong remaining, even if the situation is further deteriorating?
We have been affected by the protests, since logistics of all kinds of goods in and out of Hong Kong was interrupted. We’ve also lost employees who decided to leave the city.
However, our headquarters are in Hong Kong, and we have strong ties to this beautiful city and its inhabitants. We have no plans to move anywhere else.
Soundbrenner was also very sucessful on crowdfunding. In 2015 you’ve successfully brought to life Soundbrenner Pulse and you used the power of crowdfunding again in 2018 for the Soundbrenner Core. From the idea to the start, what have been the biggest challenges so far on both campaigns and how did you managed this situations?
Crowdfunding can be a great tool for startup companies, since building hardware products requires a lot of up-front capital and is risky. Somehow we have managed to gain the trust of a lot of fans who believe in us and our ability to build great music tools. We’re now officially the biggest crowdfunding success in Hong Kong history.
We’ve had many challenges on the way, but to me, crowdfunding is a tool to solve them: To find the right price, to validate the marketing strategy, to receive valuable feedback and feature suggestions from our customers, to create the pressure to really get it done.
Do you have a music recommendation (listening tip) or a favorite podcast about music-tech (Song, Video, great podcast) for our community?
Get a ticket for Фузион Festival. We went with the entire office. Best show: Our own Karl Pannek with Pulsar Collective.
What 3 tools, resources, other apps etc. do you use daily?
JIRA / Confluence for Agile Development.
Slack, Zoom video conferencing.
WeChat for communication with China.
VS Code is hands down the best source code editor.
As a startup founder with a proven track record, what’s your tip for our community to motivate them to found their own venture? And which advice would you share with young company founders?
Founding your own venture is a lot of work. You need to like that. Classical tech and business co-founder duos work best. You’re going to spend a lot of time with that person. You have to have a bigger goal than just the money – there’s a good chance you will earn less than in a normal job for many years.
A good idea is good. But execution is everything. Try out things quickly until you find something that sticks. Then build a great team, treat them like the amazing people they are and gain their trust.
Get inspired by others – for example the many great members of MusicTech Germany.