How SOUNDBOKS went from DIY speakers to a $43 million business

In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there fighting business battles every day. (Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Who are you and what is your business?

My name is Jesper Thomsen and I am the co-founder and CEO of SOUNDBOKS (pronounced “sound-box”), a Bluetooth speaker company based in Scandinavia. Our speakers are portable, durable and loud!

What inspired you to create this business? What was your “aha moment”?

SOUNDBOKS began with the desire of three high school friends to create the best party and camp at Roskilde Festival, Northern Europe’s oldest and largest music and arts festival. Think of it as Burning Man meets Coachella, complete with DIY campouts, all-night parties and a diverse mix of global bands and musicians. Long story short, I started hand-building speakers for Roskilde in 2011. (My first speaker lasted about 20 minutes before someone spilled a beer on it). From there, I teamed up with classmates (some eventually became co-founders of SOUNDBOKS) to spend our summers building the most powerful and durable speakers possible. Let’s just say people started to take notice. In 2014, over 200 people were willing to pay $800 for our hand-built speakers. That’s when we knew we were doing something special. We officially launched in 2015 and have been on a crazy roller coaster ever since. We have sold over 300,000 speakers worldwide.

Credit: Soundbook

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

I would say our biggest challenge was growing to become the leaders our company needed us to be as we grew into adults. It’s hard to figure out who you are as a leader when you’re still trying to figure out who you are as a person. Surrounding ourselves with supportive board members, a strong leadership coach, and employees who are smarter than us has helped us tremendously in this matter.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking for funding?

There’s an old Y-Combinator saying that goes, “If you want advice, ask for money.” If you want money, ask for advice.” I really believe this is true when it comes to early stage funding. Our first funding came from investors who we initially approached for advice – and then when they saw that we accepted following their advice and continually applying it to improve the business, they wanted to invest.

Related: They started in a garage with a damaged $100 bathtub. Now these founders run a $100 million cold plunge business.

What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?

In short, I believe it is someone who solves a problem or a need. And if you’re good, you’re relentlessly resourceful in trying to solve it.

What’s something that many aspiring entrepreneurs think they need that they actually don’t?

Risk financing. I think in the venture capital boom that we’ve had over the last fifteen years, many companies that were in no way built for the growth needed to support the venture capital economy have gone ahead and raised venture capital. It ended up diluting them, forcing them to grow their company faster than was useful. Ultimately, this may have driven them into bankruptcy in pursuit of a huge upside, when it would have been much better for them to simply grow their business a little slower and then manage the downside.

Related: After She Was Diagnosed With Cancer, She Created A Cookie That Would Help Her Eat Cleanly And Satisfy Her Sweet Tooth. Now her products are sold in 25,000 stores.

Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?

Leonard Cohen once said, “Act the way you wish you were and soon you will be the way you act.” I think that’s a really great and reductive way to interrupt self-improvement. He even once said that success is survival, which I think is a healthy way to look at life as a hardware founder in an economic downturn.

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