[Accelerator Interview] Immersive stereo system ‘FLEXOUND’

2021.2.24

1. Please explain and introduce the company in detail.

Flexound Augmented AudioTM brings natural sound and vibration to soft surfaces that make contact with the body. People don’t just hear sounds; they feel them as well. Before Flexound, may different loudspeakers at high volume levels were needed to create full range audio that is both heard and felt. Flexound’s technology delivers a better integrated experience using less material, lower wattage, and at volume levels that don’t encourage hearing loss.   

Flexound is a team of seasoned professionals who work with partners to enable seats, mattresses, and pillows to make wide frequency range, profound audio experiences. Our business is primarily focused on Seated Entertainment (Cinemas, Auditoriums and Arenas) and Mobility (Automotive, and Aerospace). We also have Devices for personal entertainment (HUMUTM smart cushion) and sound therapy (TaikofonTM).

 

2. Tell me about the background of your start-up.

Flexound started as a challenge to make a better vibro-acoustic therapy tool. Vibro-acoustic therapy is used to engage patients in the world around them as well as supporting the ability to deepen focus and direct consciousness. One of our founders’ spouse works with autistic children and wanted a more versatile solution than what was on the market at the time. Jukka Linjama drew on his background working with user experience and vibration to rethink the physics of sound. After some experimentation he created the Taikofon therapy cushion. Named after the sonorous Taiko drums from Japan, the Taikofon cushion delivered amazing audio that was felt as well as heard. Tommi Immonen turned the prototype into a product and expand the underlying physics. The third found Mervi Heinaro added experience growing and running international companies. Together they set the direction for Flexound. 

 

3. Please introduce your differentiation and strengths from other companies.

The underlying physics is novel and patented. Conventional wisdom says that foam is used to damp sound and is not a good transmission medium. Flexound’s approach shifts this thinking by looking at the nature of foam. From here, Flexound has developed several patents and has expanded our understanding of the physical properties to give us the leadership position in providing engineering services to create sound in foams. 

 

4. Please tell me if you have any memorable events while running this business.

Flexound Augmented Audio is something that needs to be experienced. It’s hard to describe the sensation of hearing and feeling the sound loud and clear and then standing up and realizing it’s only a soft buzz when you get a meter away. When we are demonstrating the technology, we always look for the “smile”. Almost every time people experience Flexound for the first time, they can’t help but smile. There is a primal reaction that is similar to deep relaxation when the sound is experienced the same way as in real life. When you see someone’s face light up in a broad smile, you know you are doing something worthwhile.

 

5. Please let me know if you have any business results so far.

Flexound has sales from therapy as mentioned above, consumer goods with the HUMUTM smart cushion and broke out in Cinemas in 2019. In one-year Flexound deployed hundreds of seats in four cinemas in three countries on two continents. Covid-19 has severely dampened the cinema business in 2020 but it has also been a gift. Flexound has been busy developing several Cinema industry firsts that will be announced during 2021. The Mobility business is still in the incubation stage but has generated significant customer engagement expected to result in the first products launching in 2021.

 

6. Tell me what inspires you as you run this business.

Some companies use the term technology evangelism. Flexound feels like evangelism. Trying to explain to someone what they could have in their life or better yet showing them. From there it’s a question of How and When and Where the technology be found. It’s not sales or at least not a hard sell. Our roots are in connecting children with autism to the world around them. And basically, that’s what we are trying to do for everyone. Make their interaction with sound and vibration feel natural again.

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7. Please give us a word of advice for those who are preparing to start a startup in the future.

 You need to have a product or technology you believe in. The idea can be used to find like minded people. This should be the source of the company’s energy. After that, all start-ups need “sisu”. Sisu is a Finnish word that doesn’t have very good direct translations. It’s the grit to push on after most people would have called it quits. It’s the determination to see your dreams brought to life. Almost no company achieves their first vision; but with good team that has enough energy and sisu, start-ups can push through the challenges and find a path to success.

8. Please tell us about your future business plan and vision, and how you feel about being with ZER01NE.

Flexound is focused on technology licensing and being an ingredient brand. Intel inside, Gore tex membranes and Hyundai N are all great ingredient brands. We will make Boosted by Flexound a sought-after ingredient brand for any seated experience.

ZER01NE has opened several doors to working with, the growing and admired brands of; Hyundai, Kia, Genesis and Ioniq. We have had the pleasure of working with different teams from the US, Europe and Korea during the preparation for the IO Lounge event. They have all be well coordinated, efficient and very supportive in helping us showcase our technology to the core of their development teams. We have participated in a handful of other OEM’s start up processes and this has been the best by far.

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