Another Monday, another Event Tech Podcast, today we are telling the story of Crowd Mics for events! Everyone can relate to the annoyances of sound during a live event. Whether it’s the speaker, the audience, or the AV company, these little glitches affect everyone. Ultimately, they affect the success of an otherwise awesome event, and no one wants that.
How often have you asked yourself: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could just turn my phone into a mic?”. Well, you’ve probably wondered about this in several situations of your life. But with events, in particular, imagine just how much this small tweak could be a game changer. No more mic runners for anyone! If an attendee wants to ask a question, he could just turn his phone into a wireless microphone. Almost sounds like magic, right? Well, it’s not – it’s actually Crowd Mics for events!
Back in 2013, two brothers conceived this idea. The following year, the product was launched, and our host Brandt Krueger got to sit down with them for the first time. And today, five years later, Brandt and Will Curran welcome brothers Tim and Sean Holladay. For this week’s Event Tech Podcast, the four reminisce about the rollercoaster past, what’s new in the present, and what the future might bring. Amp up your speakers, because this week is all about the journey of Crowd Mics for events!
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Crowd Mics For Events: The Beginning
Everything Starts With An Idea!
Tim and Sean’s lives took a very interesting turn. None of them was quite on the track to become an entrepreneur – Sean was actually in nursing school. But once an idea hits, you have to embrace it!
“Tim and I were actually sitting at a meeting together and we couldn’t hear what somebody was saying just a couple seats from us”, Sean recalls. “I leaned over and I said, “Man, Tim, what if there was some way you could turn your phone into a microphone? Like, I don’t know how. I don’t know what the technology,” I had no clue, “But what if you could just pull out your phone out of your pocket, talk into it, and everybody hear you over the sound system?” And he was like, “Wow, I don’t know.”
From then on, the rest was history. The two embarked on a journey to introduce the product to the world. In 2014, they had their first product launch, and the event industry went crazy!
All This Buzz For What?
“Twitter kind of just exploded and every event person that I knew was like, “Have you seen this thing? Oh, my God. You can just talk into your phone and it solves the whole issue”, says Brandt. The buzz got them $1 million in investment. All the way from Arizona, the two made their way to Salesforce’s event, Dream Force.
They got up on stage. “Hey, what’s up, everybody? I’m Tim Holladay from Crowd Mics”, Tim began. “So, we want you to download an app. Everybody’s gotta download this app. We’re gonna be giving a gift card away whoever download’s the app first.” And so, people started downloading and we’d start to get them on board, and we’re using all of this footage to capture so we could show investors and we could show other event planners and that we could show people it works. There were 200 people in a room, they were talking into their phone, and you could hear it and it could work”, recalls Sean.
They got their product out into the world, with proven value. The first couple of events were free, and the issue of pricing eventually came up. “I mean, this is a product that did not exist on the planet. So, we’re pricing this thing and having a hard time. Is this an event app? Which has a kind of a pricing model. Is this a microphone? Which has a pricing model. Yes, do both. And so, we finally kinda settled in on a per event cut fee and just started charging and people started paying. And we just started running events”, says Tim.
Starting your own company seems like all fun and games, right? Actually, it’s more like hustle and…more hustle. There are more barriers than finish lines, and brothers Tim and Sean know all about it.
“Like, you gotta realize this is a brand new product that we’re taking to market. So, a lot of time it was educating why it’s important to have audience interaction and why it’s important to be able to capture that audio for recordings and why it’s important to let people express themselves and that’s why they came here. And so, a lot of it was educating and trying to get people to understand why we thought and why it was important in the market”, says Sean.
Tim compliments Sean’s point of view with the issue of market value: “From both event planner and technical side of things, this is a new product you have never seen before, you have 200 executives from your company that has hired you to pull off an incredible event, you’ve got everything dialed in, you’ve been working on this for a year, and then you bring in these two brothers with some sketchy-looking tech that sounds awesome, but is sketch.”
“I mean, you can see how that would be a little bit like, “Ah,” and in a lot of ways, it was. Meaning, there are a couple of technical X factors that were always a challenge for us to overcome. And so, we had to kinda take everything on a case by case basis in the early days.”
Another Event App?
Will touches upon the matter of people having to download yet another app. How can this issue be tackled?
“It’s kind of like how bad do you want it to work? How bad do you want the tech? How bad do you wanna use it? And in some cases, they say, “Not that bad. Not bad enough to do that. So, can we use your texting? Can we use your polling?” And we would lead them that way, and we did a number of events where all they used was our text feature, all they used was the polling feature, and that was fine”, explains Tim.
The Next Big Leap
“If I were to look back at one of the biggest challenges that we had with Crowd Mics was that we probably pushed too far too fast, right? Too many markets, too many opportunities, too many just big wide eyes, and didn’t focus as much as we could have. We did the best we could with what we had, but that kind of wanting to explore other markets really spread us very thin quickly, and we ended up into a situation where we were not profitable”, recalls Tim.
What to do in such a situation? “So, the options are either raise more money, figure out how to charge more and get more revenue coming in, or just shut her down. I mean, we literally got to that decision point”, Tim continues.
Sean remembers that period quite well, and what it came down to: “To give it a shot, we cut back and I just made the hard decision to go and find something else to do to give the startup life, to give it a chance to go. So, yeah, that was a tough decision and sucked to fire yourself from your own company that you founded and dreamt of, but it was the reality to make it work and to give it a chance. Which now, in hindsight, was the best decision that we made, but it was a tough one in the moment, for sure.”
Tim was the one who stayed. “Sean connected with a friend of his, Shaun McBride, known as Shonduras on the interwebs, and started to do some work up in Utah. So, Sean uproots his family, his little kids, little twins, and literally on a cold December night, moves to Utah. And I’m left here with our developer to keep Crowd Mics moving”.
The Biamp Connection
“So, Biamp, for those that don’t know, they’re a really, a kind of audiovisual provider, a manufacturer based in Beaverton, Oregon up near Portland”, Tim explains.
“They saw us at Info Com, thought it was cool, kept in touch a little bit, and then one day, Sean’s long gone in Utah, I’m keeping things kind of buzzing along, and they came along and said, “Man, this is really interesting. We like what we see. Are you interested in selling Crowd Mics?” Out of nowhere. Completely out of the blue. And the timing, guys, was just-it was the right timing. It was the right timing, it was the right situation. I would either have to raise more capital or figure out a different way and when they came along, it was the right thing to do”, he recalls.
They officially announced it a month ago, but the transaction actually took place in 2018. Ever since, the two brothers have been up to other exciting projects.
Fast Forward To Today
“We work with some of the biggest talent from Peter McKinnon to Tanner Fox to the Ace Family, Chris Ramsay. So, some huge talent on YouTube and Instagram where we go out and work with brands, both to just get paid promotion, basically, to spread the word on what they’re doing”, says Sean.
Tim is still up to some Crowd Mic business: “Biamp, when they bought Crowd Mics, the idea was to do something with it, but at the time, they just saw the opportunity to grab it, but really hadn’t had a formulated plan on what to do with it. So, they grabbed it and kind of sat on it for a little bit. I shouldn’t say sat on it, but they just didn’t really actively pursue doing much with it. So, I kind of just did some consulting work with them and with some other people doing some consulting with a couple local companies, and just recently, they said, “You know what, Tim? We’re gonna launch this sucker. Let’s just-let’s do it. We’d love to have you involved. Let’s launch Crowd Mics. Let’s re-launch Crowd Mics.”
He’s also aiming for some higher flights: “So, right now, I’m doing consulting work with Biamp and I thought, “Man, I’m just such a nerd. What could I do to exploit my nerdiness?” So, I’m a speaker. I’m a future speaker. You go to timholladay.com, I’m just now starting, just getting warmed up where I will do keynote and breakout session type speaking all about looking 5 to 15 years into the future and understanding how, as corporations, as organizations, and just as people, how we can best watch out for the pitfalls and then take advantage of incredible opportunities in the future”.
Some Good Advice
What could these ingenious brothers have to offer in terms of advice to future entrepreneurs?
On Sean’s part, it’s all about who you surround yourself with: “You’ve gotta surround yourself and find people that are genuine and will give you real feedback and thoughts and input. And make the connection when they say they can make the connection and introduce you to people that are gonna benefit and help you”.
Tim’s an advocate for the “you only live once philosophy” – knowing very well what that might mean: “Now that you’ve got yourself surrounded by good people, is just to freaking go for it. Like, really. Life is just way too short to not just do it. Meaning, what I found is all of us truly do have just this 24 hour-it’s super cliché, but we literally all have the same amount of time, and it does require giving up some things. You might need to back off on the Insta kind of trolling, you might need to back off on that latest Netflix series, you might need to make some hard decisions, you might need to put some cash in, you might need to sell your house and rent”, he says.
Overall, it comes down to hard work. “Those who hustle, those who grind, those who can just work, they’re gonna be able to make money. Might as well just do what you wanna do, even if it ends up bombing in a flaming ball of fire, it is worth the journey. Because the next one won’t bomb as bad, and then the third might hit, and then the fourth will change your life”.
So, that was a brief overview of this amazing journey with Crowd Mics for events. Let us know what you think about the technology, and of Tim and Sean’s incredible story, in the comment section below!