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Startup Feature: Keeling Technologies

Keeling Technologies Inc. is a participating startup in Batch #2 of The Accelerator, bringing the holy grail of sound to musicians, performers and recording studios worldwide. 

An interview with Adam Keeling, CEO at Keeling

The strongest entrepreneurs are driven by passion and can step outside of their original vision. After switching from chasing opportunity, to chasing passion, Keeling is developing the world’s first luxury, the world's first wireless, and the world's first intelligent in-ear monitor that can calibrate to your ear biology to give you the absolute perfect reference sound.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Keeling came to be. 

I have a Masters in Electrical Engineering and have worked in the industry for over 10 years. The time came when I could take a severance package to bootstrap and start my company, which started with a focus on hearing aids.

It frustrated me that a hearing device that costs only $5-10 to build was costing consumers several thousands of dollars. We wanted to provide a more cost-effective hearing aid, but there was still a very negative stigma around hearing devices that made it difficult to expand.

We later realized that hunters were our heaviest users. Unfortunately, the product itself wasn’t intended for hunting and could have caused significant damage if it wasn’t turned off before pulling the trigger. Although it seemed like a good fit, it was hard to fundraise for this market because no matter how advanced or opportunistic it was, investors weren’t interested.

I also realized that my heart wasn’t in it. I was chasing the opportunity without any interest or experience in the industry and I knew that the business wouldn’t survive without passion. 

The hard days are even harder when you aren’t passionate. I’ve heard many investors say to chase to passion and not the opportunity and I never realized how right they were.

Taking a moment to be introspective, I’ve always been quite the audiophile - I love music and am always buying stereo equipment. I decided that I should develop my own product using hearing aid technology with enhanced hearing and biometrics. I’ve always wanted to work with LucasFilm’s THX because, when it comes to audio quality, they are the best of the best. I realized there was something there when musicians began approaching me about our product. At first, I ignored it because I didn’t want to do another pivot but, after 11 musicians approached me, I knew I should consider this market.

Randy Thompson always says that investors look for entrepreneurs who can be open and flexible. Whatever your original idea was, you can guarantee that it won’t be exactly where you end up. I’m the walking poster boy for that.

What problem does Keeling solve?  

The devices that top tier musicians currently use cost around $4,000 USD. After trying these in-ear monitors, I was shocked. I honestly wouldn’t use them to listen to music on my iPhone, yet top tier musicians use them to create music. During our market assessment, we were introduced to Lanny Williamson, CEO of The Beach Advanced Audio Studios which is the second largest production studio in Canada with 57 years of experience in audio production. We didn’t have a working prototype yet, but he was so impressed by our technology and the impact it could have on the audio industry, he became an investor and member of our team. That’s when we finished our proof of concept and working prototype.

When I tried it on the first time I had no idea it would sound as good as it did. It was that different. You honestly have to hear it to believe it. Everybody knows a musician and everybody loves music so it took off so fast after that. Nobody will question your quality if Beyonce or AC DC are using it. By starting there, it will be easy for us to enter other verticals and options for exit are immense. 

How do you solve that problem?

The original device we were using in the hunting market was way more complex. When we made our pivot into the music industry we focused on calibrating to each individual’s ear biology. What most people don’t realize is that your ear biology is completely different from person to person, and ear to ear. It’s as unique as your fingerprint. The rest of industry is using a one size fits all approach. With just a simple 5-minute calibration using our prototype, you can immediately hear the difference. 

How has your experience been at The Accelerator?

The mentors have been great! One of my mentors, Stephanie Yong, can see that I am in desperate need of more hands on deck. I have to push important stuff to the back burner because I have no time. Stephanie offered to come and help me formulate my team and assist with the hiring process.

I will also be working with Kip Fyfe who has an extensive hardware background. He has mentioned hardware components that the average person hasn’t heard about yet. I need to be on that cutting edge, so I can’t wait to get to know him better. 

Tell us about some of your major accomplishments in 2017.

We’ve completely finished our proof of concept and have a working prototype. Right now I am spending about 95% or more of my time on fundraising. I am just over 3 weeks into funding and have closed $0.5M, with $1.5M under due diligence. 

What's next for Keeling?

We are trying to close our funding round and I mistakenly thought I could continue to develop my product at the same time. I started lining up team members and had to put everything on hold because I didn’t realize funding would be so time consuming.

Our next steps are expanding our team, developing our product and market launch. The marketing of this product will be very unique because it is an ultra-exclusive luxury product starting at $50,000. The buying experience will be the equivalent of owning a Rolls Royce or custom crafted jewelry. There will be an application process to own this product, but we will eventually come out with a pro-version for studios and audio engineers that will be much more reasonably priced. Stay tuned! 

Support Keeling and other local tech startups at The Accelerator Demo Day: Batch #2

Demo Day will showcase local tech companies in front of accredited investors and celebrate all they have accomplished during the 5-month program at The Accelerator. Early bird tickets on sale for $25.