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Boombot REX Now Available on Apple.com

Apple-Portable-Speaker

how a couple dudes in a garage got into apple retail

When I first came up with the concept of the Boombot portable speaker in 2009, I never envisioned it being something that would fit in the pristine world of Apple retail. It was an edgy, underground, character based urban design. Apple has always been about minimal design. My investors always wanted to me to make a push at Apple retail. Understandably, an ungodly amount of cash circulates through each Apple store every day. I told them we weren’t ready for it and that we didn’t have the product. Over the next couple years, we pivoted our company and made it into Apple and this is how.

Two years later, Chris approached me with an idea to drastically change the industrial design of the Boombot. It wasn’t to say that we were abandoning our “Skully” design. He had just been collecting feedback from customers and there seemed to be a general hesitance to embrace the skull-shaped aesthetic. He suggested that if we offer similar functionality of our original Boombot, but revamped our design with a more stealthy form factor, we could address a significantly wider market. We could maintain our brand while becoming slightly more mass appealing.

I was hesitant at first. The idea was really far from what I had originally envisioned. My first plans were to take the Skully character and revamp it into a variety of products including headphones, larger speakers, and perhaps even watches. Some of the sketches Chris showed me were so far from the industrial design of the brand that I wasn’t sure it was all going to work. We worried that it might be deviating too much from the original plan. In any case, Chris wanted to plunk his own cash down on prototyping which really meant a lot to seeing that he was committed to seeing this through. I agreed to help consult on the project to see where it went.

6 MONTHS LATER

There were times where I just thought the Boombot REX doesn’t even belong in this line. As expected, the prototypes were buggy and even the audio on the first prototypes was pretty disappointing. I’m not really sure what kept me driven on the project; It was probably just the stunning good looks of the product. What can I say? I’m superficial. I also started hearing a lot of buyers with the same story of, “I like the concept, but I don’t know about the design,” in reference to the original Boombots.

We launched our Kickstarter in December of 2012 and that was the tipping point. I knew that if our Kickstarter was a failure, I could take that as a clear sign of market rejection. In 45 days we raised $129k on the site and we had thousands of units pre-ordered. In January we went to CES and two of the buyers from Apple came by our booth. I told them about our story and they invited us to come pitch them at their Cupertino office. This was getting interesting.

Apple Headquarters

the apple pitch

Chris and I were jumping out of our shoes when we got the the headquarters. They had a waiting room without a receptionists. We thought that was strange. We checked in on an iMac that had our appointments pre-programmed. Our buyer came out and escorted us to a conference room. For our demo, we played a song by Empire of the Sun. We are always strategizing around song selection for demos. It’s a delicate mix of having a piece that has a full range of acoustics while also being recognizable enough. At the same time, we try to get something that’s 2nd degree indie just for cool points; But there’s always MJ on backup if that fails. Initially, the pitch wasn’t going that well.

Apple already had a ton of speakers in their assortment and the buyer was having a tough time understanding why he should give the Boombot REX a chance. He critiqued the button location and the dramatic volume changes. There was concern over the icons we used on our package and whether or not we needed to pass MFI certification. We were starting to sweat and beginning to regret showing our product prematurely.

Tables turned when he picked the unit up and examined the clip on the rear. It was as though a light bulb was infused with a 1000 watts in his head. He started envisioning his friends using this product biking with it, and in several minutes, he went from naysayer to advocate.

We were still a couple months from launching, but we promised them our first born child (this is referred to as the golden unit). We arranged to have a follow up meeting after they receive their first production packaged sample.

the good old buyer swap

If you’re in sales, this is also known as the runaround. Moose and I went down to our second meeting thinking we were going to be talking dates, times and quantities. Not so much. Our buyer came into our conference room and said, “Hey guys, I’m not doing this category anymore but here is your new buyer.”

We were stunned. We realized that we now has to pitch the product and vision from scratch. This time, we had some difficulty connecting to the buyer’s phone and the new buyer seemed hesitant as to whether we were “ready” for Apple. He loved our story and thought the product was cool, but he certainly wasn’t begging for the line. He was heading to Reno for some NCAA March Madness after the meeting and he wanted the weekend to noodle on it.

Moose and I followed up with an email thanking him for taking the time to see us. We also sent him two videos to show him some of our marketing prowess. Moose and I were debating on which pieces to shoot their way. One video was our clean and polished “made for Apple” piece. That was the no brainer. The other was a viral video of a couple using our product to give a wireless orgasm. That was a controversial one. In the end, we figured we had little to lose and we at least wanted to get a reaction to stand out from the sea of products. “SHIP THE ORGASM!!!”

It backfired badly. Our new buyer got back to us with a stern email saying that we would not be able to do business with Apple if we have that video circulating. He gave us some pointers on brand management and left it at that. At first, we put our heads down in shame, but maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. We pulled the video down, but we succeeded in getting a reaction. The fact that our buyer actually cared about our brand meant something.

The next week he got back to us and said he would like to carry our line for the summer. This was the nod we were looking for. All systems are GO. He pointed us to get set up with their distributors. If you ever sell into larger retailers, as a small brand you have to go through a distributor. In the case of Apple, you can go through Navarre or IngramMicro. We spent the next two months getting our product SKU’d up with Navarre and providing content for merchandising in Apple.There were pages after pages of contracts and a number of bureaucratic hoops to jump through.

That aside, building a product and convincing an Apple buyer to take a gamble on a couple of dudes working out of a garage was by far one of the hardest feats ever. You can now find the Boombot REX sold at Apple and me and my team can now check off that box of life accomplishments.

The journey to making it in-store is going to be daunting as well. We will have to prove that our product sells online well in order to convince them to get us in Apple stores. With 120+ speakers in the category, we’re going to need to continue to jump through rings of fire. Welcome to the entrepreneurial circus. Would you like to ride?

Portable Speakers in Apple

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 comments on “Boombot REX Now Available on Apple.com

  1. I love this story. Great piece on your saga with Apple. I also love your product. I bought the Boombotix Rex after reading a great review and I have to say I’m stoked about how it has changed the way I use my phone for way more music and calls.

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