Graz University of Technology graduates Baumgartner, Sciri and Wankhammer founded sonible in 2013. The goal: to develop and successfully market innovative audio software and hardware. The journey: a steep learning curve.
First off, if we had unlimited resources at sonible, we would implement all the ideas we have. Simply because we have incredible fun developing new things. But reality showed us quite quickly that as an entrepreneur you sometimes need something urgently: focus.
We – that is, Ralf Baumgartner, Peter Sciri and I, Alexander Wankhammer – are founders of the start-up sonible and graduates of the inter-university course of study Electrical Engineering and Audio Engineering, which is offered jointly by Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) and the University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz. Even during our studies we worked together on a wide variety of projects. So at some point the idea of founding a company together was born. The goal was to combine our practical experience and theoretical knowledge in the field of audio production and to develop products that make our work in the recording studio and live gigs easier. So in principle we have developed (audio) products for ourselves. This has certain advantages, because you know exactly what you want. However, as it quickly became clear, from a business point of view this is not always the best product strategy.
Too many product ideas, but focus does the trick
The sonible project started with the development of a software product to improve reverberation in recordings. While we were working on it, we started parallel to this with the development of the hardware product ml:1 – a very robust plug & play audio interface – which we launched on the market first. More than a year later the frei:raum software (a so-called audio plug-in) was finally ready for the market. So we did not pursue a strict product strategy at the beginning, but used every opportunity to develop exciting things – with the result that our product portfolio quickly became untypically broad. But, when it comes to marketing, a small company is overburdened with this.
"One of our mentors once said: ‘Cobbler, stick to your last and focus!’ Good advice."
It is very tempting to want to implement all your ideas, but in the end, none of them can be pursued 100 percent. To be successful in a competitive market environment worldwide, you need excellent products AND perfect marketing. Founders can only succeed in this if they focus on one product or product group. For three years now, sonible has been concentrating increasingly on software. This does not mean, however, that we no longer think big – quite the opposite. sonible is now one of the international pioneers in the development of AI-supported technologies for the production process of audio material.
From product to personal development
The technical complexity of a product was usually quite easy for us to assess, but everything that followed was initially underestimated. We had to cover all areas – marketing, sales, accounting – ourselves. We had to get used to the fact that at some point we were no longer "allowed" to just do development, but also had to take care of the website, the liquidity plan and much more. Looking back, I can say that our biggest hurdles have always been outside the technological aspect.
Agile mindset brings start-ups to success
Part of our learning curve was also to develop a sense of where it's better to pull the ripcord on a project and accept that the path doesn't lead to the goal. An agile mindset has helped us a lot in all areas of sonible. What does this mean for founders?
- You face a challenge;
- try an initial solution;
- look at the result;
- learn from it and move on.
"Today we approach projects much more realistically, strategically and less emotionally than in the beginning."
Today we approach projects much more realistically, strategically and less emotionally than in the beginning. With this attitude, which also had to manifest itself in our minds, we never ended up in a dead end. sonible has been around for six years now. Thanks to our companions and employees, we have successfully established an international reputation as a pioneer in AI-supported technologies in the production process of audio material. The task now is to maintain what has been achieved and to expand it further in the future.
Flat hierarchies, mutual appreciation and enthusiasm for the development of exciting products characterize the team of the start-up "sonible", which consists of 17 employees.
Start-up aid through financial support
In Austria, technology start-ups have access to good funding opportunities and subsidies from a wide variety of programmes. The following organizations have supported us immensely on our journey:
- aws impulse XL – Austria Wirtschaftsservice
- Venture Capital Programm – Styrian Business Promotion Agency (SFG)
- Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG)