SHANNON BECKER: Describe your background (e.g., where you grew up and your education).
JASON LUCASH: I’ve always been an “entrepreneur at heart.” I’ve always had a knack for being a self-starter. I started my own candy stand when I was in the second grade. My family would buy candy in bulk from stores such as Vons and Safeway, and then I would race home from school to put my candy stand out in the path of students as soon as school was over. My buddies and I would hang out, eat candy, and sell it, making about $30 dollars a day.
MIKE SZYMCZAK: I’ve always had a wondering mind. I liked to tinker and be different from the crowd. From a young age my father, Jimbo, would bring me to the science store to explore and learn how things worked scientifically and mechanically. He also encouraged me to try and experience as much in my life and career as possible. I took this advice to heart. I held more than 20 jobs, all before I turned 25, and I visited more than 20 countries and 48/50 states. Always one for a new adventure and a new challenge, I decided to start my own business. This entrepreneurial spirit, a passion for music, and zest for travel helped to forge OrigAudio.
SHANNON: What sparked your interest in audio?
JASON/MIKE: Both of us are marketing guys who recognized the need for a light, ultra-portable speaker.
SHANNON: How did the two of you meet? And what made you decide to go into business together?
JASON/MIKE: We met on the job, which required a lot of travel. This is how we came up with our “million dollar idea” for cool, portable speakers.
SHANNON: Tell us about OrigAudio (www.origaudio.com). Where did you get the idea for the company?
JASON: Our first product, the Fold and Play speakers, uses the principles of origami to come flat and fold up into a speaker. This inspired the name OrigAudio—the Origami of Audio.
MIKE: It was out of need from our travel heavy jobs. We just wanted to create a better way that saved space, didn’t require batteries, and was ECO Friendly.
SHANNON: Tell us more about the Fold and Play portable paper speaker. What was the inspiration behind it?
JASON: Tired of lugging bulky audio players around on business trips while working for JanSport, Mike and I started futzing with the idea of putting speakers into Chinese-food takeout boxes. The box starts flat, and whenever you want to use it, you pop it up. Our idea sounded good. The product? Not so much. We moved on to putting a very old idea—origami—to work. In 2009, with $10,000 in seed money from my mom, we launched OrigAudio (origami + audio) with one product: speakers, which are made entirely from recycled materials that start out flat and fold together. The Chinese takeout box concept inspired us, but origami is what powered us.
MIKE: We were still working our “day jobs” and selling 15 pairs of speakers a day through our website when the US Marines placed a whopping order for 50,000 (launching OrigAudio’s corporate gift division). Shortly after, Time magazine waved its magic “best” wand. [OrigAudio was named to Time magazine’s “50 Best Inventions of 2009” list and appeared on ABC’s hit start-up business show, Shark Tank.] With the holidays coming on fast, the company quickly sold out of its 25,000-unit stock. That’s when we gave our two-week notice to JanSport.
SHANNON: Can you share some of the challenges involved with the designs?
JASON: The first version of our Fold and Play speakers were kind of a huge flop. I couldn’t even get my mother to take them seriously. They were literally just a Chinese take-out box with a speaker attached and could barely even stand on their own. So we went back to the drawing board, ditched the take-out box, and adopted the principles of origami to create our first successful product.
SHANNON: What other products have you developed?
JASON: OrigAudio’s top-selling product is the Rock-It, which makes a speaker out of pretty much any hollow object you stick it to. It’s another example of the old-made-new strategy. The really cool technology had been around for 60 years, but we always saw these big applications. So we thought, “This thing would be sweet if you could make it portable.”
MIKE: We also came out with the world’s first ever fully customizable speakers. These products give consumers the opportunity design and personalize their very own speakers. More images of the Doodle, Cubicool, Epishock, and Headphones are available on our website.
SHANNON: To what do you attribute your company’s continuing success?
JASON: I think people love being able to customize their gear. I personally don’t want headphones that only have a brand name on the side of them. I want headphones that reflect my personal taste. For instance, I love robots and have them all around my office. Therefore, I want headphones that have robots on them, too. I prefer to buy products that are an extension of my personal taste and preferences.
MIKE: We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we do take our business seriously. People like working with us and they love our unique products.
SHANNON: What’s next for your company?
JASON/MIKE: On demand customized products are not only the future of our company, but the future of business. Not only is customization great for our customers, it’s also incredibly effective for businesses. Twenty years from now, retailers won’t need to stock physical products in distribution centers (with the exception of food and canned goods). A customer will be able to order a watch from Amazon and have it made exactly how they want it to look and feel on demand. Even though customization has been around for a long time, more and more business owners are focusing their businesses on this fast-growing trend.
SHANNON: What do you see as some of the greatest audio innovations of your time?
JASON: Noise-cancelling technology. It completely changes your listening experience.
MIKE: The iPod/MP3 player. The ability to transport an entire library and hundreds of CDs/records/cassettes in the palm of your hand is unreal.
SHANNON: Do you have any advice for our audioXpress readers who may want to build their own sound systems?
JASON: You should always be a step ahead, especially in technology. In technology, you should probably be two steps ahead because the technology is always changing.
MIKE: Explore the unexplored…meaning basically create something entirely new do not reinvent the old.