Who remembers when the bigger the audio speakers, the bigger the sound? I’m sure a few of our VisionTech Angels members remember those days. Today; however, small is better, but surprising, sound quality has not kept pace with shrinking sizes – until now. That’s the case Brian Youngil Cho, CEO of Resonado, will make when he presents during our Virtual Pitch Events on Tuesday, June 23 at 6 pm and Thursday, June 25 at 6 pm. Brian and co-founders Peter Moeckel and Erikc Perez-Perez started the speaker technology company while undergrads at the University of Notre Dame. With two major licensing deals of their Flat Core Speaker™ technology under their belt and three national product launches set for 2020, Resonado is not only redefining the shape of sound, they are poised to be a major disrupter in consumer electronics and vehicle audio markets. I hope you enjoy this sneak preview!
BP: Brian, I have to admit, we haven’t seen too many pitch companies out of Notre Dame. What’s your story?
BYC: I had no intention of becoming an entrepreneur until I was a student at Notre Dame and entered the IDEA Center’s McCloskey New Venture Competition in 2017 with my friend Peter Moeckel (Resonado co-founder). We didn’t win, but we fell in love with being entrepreneurs. Instead of giving up, we began working on our now patented Flat Core Speaker™ (FCS™) technology, a project I shared with my father while a teenager in South Korea. It had never been commercialized, in part because of a lack of market demand, but with the advent of flat-screen TVs and smart phones, tablets and other speaker-enabled micro devices, the time was right. Peter and I recruited two more Notre Dame students, Erikc Perez-Perez and Christian Femrite, and my father as chief technology officer to our team. Resonado was born.
We competed in the 2018 McCloskey Competition and came up short. Our breakthrough came the next year when we took second place in the Rice University Business Plan Competition, the world’s largest student startup competition, and tied for first in Notre Dame’s McCloskey Competition. The publicity from these wins and from announcing our brand as the Official Sound Partner of Notre Dame Athletics fueled our first pre-seed, $1 million investment round that closed in 2019. Since then we’ve all graduated and are investing 100 percent of ourselves in Resonado.
BP: Explain your Flat Core Speaker™ technology and the problem it solves for potential customers?
BYC: Let me start with the problem. Conical speakers have been the audio industry standard for more than a century. Speaker technology hasn’t kept pace with modern devices that are smaller, flatter or both, and audio quality has suffered as a result. It’s a significant issue across a wide swath of industries, from consumer electronics and home theater to automotive and recreational vehicles and even aerospace.
What Resonado has done is re-think the core mechanism in audio speakers to ensure superior audio from today’s devices. The result is our FCS™ technology, a patented electrodynamic speaker transducer designed with dual parallel bar magnets and a planar voice coil mounted perpendicularly to a flat “racetrack” diaphragm. The speaker transducer’s lightweight, thin structure enables unprecedented design innovation with exceptional sound quality. The flexibility of our flat speaker structure is unleashing creativity among product designers and engineers who have been held back by the limitations of the conventional cone speaker structure.
BP: Who are your ideal customers and what is the market size?
BYC: We provide speaker transducer technology to both brands and manufacturers; essentially any company that produces products with speakers. Wireless audio devices, including wearables and home audio, is the leading sector, with a market value estimated to reach $134.2 billion by 2025. The automotive sound system market is expected to be $7 billion by 2026 and that doesn’t include recreational vehicles (RVs) and boats. There are many other commercial and military applications we can tap into in the future.
BP: What is your business model?
BYC: Licensing the technology to manufacturers and brands and selling FCS-based products. We currently have one commercially available product, our flagship Resonado Driver, the Neo Mid 5. A 5″ x 1.5″ x 1” mid-range driver designed with premium advanced materials, it’s the embodiment of our FCS technology. We also have two more products that we’ve begun to demo to prospective clients that will soon be available. The first is our first Resonado Subwoofer, the Neo Sub 8, which implements our FCS DualCore™ technology. The second is our first Resonado Microspeaker, the Intra 60, designed with FCS Micro™ technology. Brands and manufacturers can either buy these speaker drivers outright, or license the technology we’ve developed to make them possible.
BP: What is your current traction?
BYC: Strong and getting stronger. We’ve just signed our biggest licensing agreement to date with a major player in the global audio industry. We also have three products scheduled to launch by the end of the year. The first is with a leading RV company. We’ve designed custom Resonado speakers from the ground up for a specific model that will later come standard in future models. The deal will be formally announced next quarter. We’re currently prototyping a home speaker product that’s only possible with FCS technology. It’s on track to launch at Costco for the Christmas season. The third is a soundbar product that is also on track to launch during the Christmas holidays at Best Buy.
BP: Do you have any competitors?
BYC: Although we’re not the first company to introduce thin speakers using an alternative structure to conventional conical speakers, we do believe that we are the first company to introduce thin speakers that are fully scalable both structurally and financially, without compromising sound quality. We compete against other speaker companies, but with Resonado as the sole owner of our patented FCS technology, our product is thoroughly differentiated from competitors in the space.
BP: What kind of IP protection do you have?
BYC: IP protection is a critical part of our strategy. We currently have two global patents issued and five pending. Our patent portfolio is managed by DLA Piper, a firm with international recognition in IP practice. Kudos also go to my father and Resonado’s Chief Technology Officer, LT Cho. He’s a former engineering executive at LG and has led successful startup exits, including an IPO, in South Korea. His expertise has directed our IP protection efforts.
BP: How big is this investment round and how will funds be used?
BYC: We opened a $500,000 investment round early in 2020 and have now raised over $700,000. While we’re oversubscribed, we’re continuing the raise for two reasons. We have an SBIR-II in play and the government will match what we raise through private investors. Also, having money in the bank is extremely helping at this early stage. We have other investors interested in this round, which we expect to close with our pitch to VisionTech Angels as the last round invitation. The funds will be used to address customer demands, continue to strengthen our IP protection, and support R&D, market readiness and manufacturing. We also have a new application of the FCS technology in the pipeline and have customers lining up for a 2021 launch.
BP: You’ve recently expanded your leadership team. Who did you add?
BYC: Earlier this year we hired Daniel F. Bodine as Resonado’s vice president of business development. Dan has more than 25 years of experience as an executive, mostly in consumer electronics. He’s previously handled accounts such as BMW, Intel, Amazon, and Sony. His addition to the team had an immediate impact to our entire business; we’re looking forward to a bright future with Dan in charge of sales.
BP: Why should VisionTech Angels invest in your company?
BYC: People in the audio industry are surprised at how quickly we’ve come in such a short time and with a small team; that’s a testament not only to our passion and work ethic, but to our technology, which is truly disruptive. Beyond that, after spending several months in Silicon Valley, we explicitly made the decision to remain headquartered to Indiana after graduating from Notre Dame with the hopes of becoming the Midwest’s first unicorn in our industry. The talent is here, and the region welcomes entrepreneurs and is willing to open doors for us. We’re honored that VisionTech Angels has invited us to pitch.
Second, we aspire to build on our relationship with our alma mater. Partnerships between corporations and universities have proven to be valuable in many ways by sharing resources, technologies and talent, which tend to result in benefits not only for the institution and corporation, but also for the community. In our industry specifically, Bose’s relationship with MIT, where founder Amir Bose was a professor, has set a standard for what such a relationship could produce.
To learn more about Resonado, visit their website. VisionTech Angels’ June Virtual Pitch Events are open to our members and accredited investors interested in joining our group. To reserve your spot, email Ben Pidgeon at firstname.lastname@example.org.