In an era of small, sleek electronic devices, professional audio equipment is starting to look rather retro. And it’s not just the look that needs to be reinvented—the underlying technology is equally old-fashioned.
According to Ed Arrington, CEO of Arria Live, professional audio equipment desperately needs to be brought into the 21st century. Since no one was else was doing it, he decided to step up to the plate.
Here’s more from Ed:
The spark that inspired the birth of Arria Live: I worked at Intel for 20 years with the most cutting-edge technologies. I also ran a professional audio service business for more than 10 years. The contrast between the two caught my attention. I was working on such great technology at Intel all the time, but in the pro audio space, the technology is ancient. It’s big and clunky. It’s based on old analog connectivity. I wanted to find a way to use technology to make it easier to use audio in productions, whether in an elementary school or in a major production.
Specific problem that Arriva Live solves: Currently, the world is digital, but the professional audio industry is heavily analog-oriented. Analog is ok, it works pretty well, but it only moves audio and doesn’t tell you anything about what’s at the other end of the cable. It might be a microphone, it might be an instrument, it could even be a speaker, you don’t even know. Traditional, relatively dumb connections make it difficult to set these things up. Not only do you need a solution that’s more digital but you need control aspects of it, like metadata about the end points.
Find good people to help. It’s a huge, huge thing to have good people to help. (Tweet this.)
Your competition: While we don’t currently have any direct competitors, we have a whole market of people buying alternatives. For that reason, we need to be more disruptive in nature, we need a completely different way of looking at the market. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how difficult this market is, but I’m not aware of anyone solving the problem quite like we are.
At low end of market, we’re a little more expensive than the traditional alternatives, but after you get to eight channels of input, we become cheaper and scale much better than the competition. If you wanted a big 64-channel digital mixer, you could spend upwards of $200,000, whereas the same solution for our product would cost $4,000. So we’re dramatically cheaper at the high end.
Biggest success to date: Customer response. We’ve done dozens of customer visits demonstrating the technology and 86% of them said they would buy our product. That’s a really good response. We’ve been really pleased with that.
Biggest challenges: We have to convince people that analog is part of the problem. Sometimes we visit people and they say analog is what they want. We visited a microphone company that prides itself on having these great analog microphones, and they didn’t see any benefit to digitizing that signal coming out of the microphone. Hey, there are still people who prefer vinyl records over CDs.
On the funding front, I’ve found its hard to fund a company in the professional media space. It’s not as sexy as consumer media, and unless you’ve been in the business as a musician or a sound guy, people don’t understand it. People tend to invest in things they understand. The only investors we’ve gained traction with are those who have been performers or maybe run a recording studio. Generally speaking it’s a small segment of the market that’s interested in our technology.
Ed Arrington presented at OEN’s Angel Oregon 2014 Showcase. Here’s Arria Live in five minutes:
Advice for a budding entrepreneur: I can tell you how much time it’s going to take, but you don’t know until you do it. I work from 7:30 in the morning to 11:00 at night, breaking away occasionally for family events and such, but every minute you have, you focus on your company. It takes a huge amount of time. Also, find good people to help. It’s a huge, huge thing to have good people to help.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: I don’t know that I had a specific idea in this technology or knew exactly where I would be, but I was always interested in media technologies and entrepreneurship and creating value from a business perspective.
When I went to college, I started out in engineering, and I learned pretty quickly that I wasn’t very good at that, so I tried to computer science and eventually I ended up taking a business class. It was like the light went on. I got my undergraduate in finance, and eventually got an MBA, graduating at the top of my class. The business aspect is so much more fascinating to me than the technology itself.
What’s on Arria Live’s horizon: We’re working on getting to a beta product. Then we’re hoping to put on a concert in July or early August, so we can demonstrate the technology for friends and family.
Benefits and challenges of starting a business in Oregon: I actually thought about going elsewhere, but I’ve found that Oregon is a great place for business because the business community is not overdone like Silicon Valley. Getting investment is tougher here, but it’s also a more disciplined and thorough process, and I think that’s good. We’re well-situated between Seattle and the Bay Area, but we’re more of a small-town community. Any meeting I go to, I know two or three people who are there. I like that about Oregon.