Interview with Hjalte Emilio Wieth
is on a mission to break through the noise of normalcy by empowering people to have real experiences with real people. Soundboks began with three high school friends in Denmark that wanted break through the noise of Roskilde Festival with the loudest music and the best parties. Today, there are over 25,000 Soundboks speakers in over 40 countries.
What is the most useful tip that you have ever received since starting this company?
The most useful tip that I've ever received, since starting Soundbok, was when we sat in Y Combinator and we had Michael Seibel as our group partner and we came and we proposed to him if we should choose solution A B or C to a specific problem. He looked at us and was silent for 10 seconds and he looked at us very intensely in the eyes and he said, "I don't know. It's your business." Here is a guy who sold his business for 900 million dollars telling us that we know better than him what to do. His whole point was that in the end, you need to follow your gut feeling, you are making the right choice because that's what you're going to follow through with. There is an endless amount of choices but the one that's the right one is the one that you believe in. That made a lot of sense to me.
According to one interview, your company doesn’t like to sell – you prefer to attract people instead. In your opinion, which factors define a brand or product’s ability to attract customers?
The balance between attracting and selling for us is that, so much of our success has been coming from investing in our current community and giving them an amazing support experience, going beyond expectations when something goes wrong or when something goes well. If someone tries to reach out and ask for help with something, we've always had a team ready to support them. We've looked at it as since our product is owned by people that throw events, then what happens if we see the whole community as potentially Soundbok's employees that throw events. What happens when we empower 40,000 customers to run an event, one event every month, rather than us spending a lot of time on building one event every month ourselves. In that way, I think we have created a strong community, a sense of belonging where people want to be a part of it and they want to support it. I think that is the definition of how you attract people rather than sell. We've basically just been out there doing our thing and it is so appealing that new people recognise they want to be a part of that. That is what I mean when I say attract.
Hi Hjalte! Let’s talk acoustics. How does the Soundboks 2 sound? What’s in the cab?
Let's talk about the Soundbok and how it sounds. It is a big black box and it is made to withstand any possible event, any party or crazy adventure you take it too. It has a handle and you can take it anywhere. It has an outdoor and an indoor mode. It has a volume note that goes up to 11, we know how loud a speaker needs to be for party because we have thrown a lot of parties ourselves. It has two woofers, a tweeter and a base board that is strong and allows you to jump on it or throw anything at it. On the side, it has another battery, so if you run out of juice you can swap it out with one of the other batteries that you've brought along with you and it also means that you can charge one while using the speaker, so you never have to end the party. In regards to the sound quality, it's all optimised for music that makes you move, that's the easiest way to say it. It is loud, crisp and clear. We made this product for ourselves, because there was no premium solution for throwing outdoor parties. We are Danish kids from a generation that likes to go to festivals and throw garden parties. I'm not here to try and convince you but if you ever get the chance to turn it up to volume eleven, you'll be happy.
Can you tell us about some of the most exciting adventures you’ve taken a Soundboks on? What tunes did you play?
I have one very clear memory of the best Soundbok experience I've ever had. It was with one of our community members Max, who has his own company called the Adventure Factory where he arranges trips to Morocco as an example. We went with a group of 40 people on New Year's Eve to go and celebrate New Year's Eve in the middle of the Sahara Desert. We had two Soundboks, we had a DJ and we had this camp where we were four hours away from everyone else and that was our spot for our New Year's Eve party. The tunes were amazing, groovy 80s, 90s hip hop. It was just an epic party. I think it was the combination of the music, the setting, the effort that we had put into to get there on New Year's Eve, and obviously the remoteness and the easiness of setting up this whole party just two Soundboks, a DJ and a mixer. We had the best times of our lives.
How did you go about turning Soundboks from a great idea into a business? What was the biggest challenge you overcame?
When I look back, the biggest challenge that we overcame was definitely the first six months of building the product, testing it out, getting it on the market and out to the first 500 customers. That was the foundation that we laid. We knew that the product would work because we are our own customers. We built something that we loved ourselves. We had made a proof of the concept two years earlier and 200 people contacted us on an ad on something similar to Craigslist, all wanting to buy this wooden box for 1000 dollars. We then figured out some smart solutions with the battery that was completely revolutionary. At that point, we knew that our target demographic would be very excited if this went to the market. I think the biggest challenge was to find the right people, build the product in the right way, and deliver the best customer support. Everything that happens in the first six to twelve months of going from an idea to a real company. It was hard work and we had help from some great people. We used great teamwork and had so much amazing support from the Danish startup environment.