In a world of increasing home electronics that often add unnecessary complexity, VSSL offers multi-room streaming audio products that improve quality of life through simplification.
Name: VSSL (pronounced “vessel”)
Location: Hurricane, UT
Product/Service Offering: Home Audio Streaming Devices
Co-founder Interviewed: Dan Allen
Other Key Management Team Members: Devin Davies
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight Series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself and what motivates you?
I have been an early adopter of all the smart home products. I love integrating technology into my everyday life, especially if it saves me time. Over the years I have found that a lot of the smart home technology is overly complex and priced. I am motivated to change this. It is my goal to bring our product into the homes of everyone so they can enjoy the simplest way to listen to their favorite audio throughout their home.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
In a world of increasing home electronics that often add unnecessary complexity, VSSL was founded in 2015 to offer multi-room streaming audio products that improve quality of life through simplification. To this day, we believe nothing should stand between you and your music. No other apps, complicated pairing mechanisms, limited music services, shared accounts, etc. Furthermore, we wanted to offer a product that was simple to use so everyone, DIY homeowners and professional installers alike, could install and enjoy our product.
What needs does your company seek to fill for your customers?
Our customers love to listen and share their favorite audio with their friends and family. Our company provides its customers a means to set their music free. With VSSL and wired in-home speakers, anybody can use any device to play any music, within any app, in any room of their home.
What sets your company apart from its competitors?
VSSL gives users the ultimate simplicity in enjoying music as the first product of its kind to combine AirPlay, Chromecast built-in, and Spotify Connect into every zone of a multi-room architectural speaker solution. Users connect and control VSSL directly from their native music app on iOS, Android, PC, or Mac, without the need to use a 3rd party app to play your audio. VSSL is also fully compatible with the Google Home speaker powered by the Google Assistant. With Google Home and VSSL, just say “Ok Google, play music in the kitchen” or “Ok Google, turn up the volume” to control your speakers. Simply put, there is no other product out there that is as simple to use or compatible with this many apps at its price point.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while establishing your company, and how did you overcome it?
Our biggest challenge faced thus far has been ramping up and scaling our demand. We know we have a great product from the feedback we are receiving from our end users. In fact, we have a great rapport with end users. However, growing our channel on limited funds and personnel is challenging. We also have to sift through the weeds, as it were, to find good channel partners. To overcome this, we are working with and finding committed contracted sales reps and distributors. We are also slowly ramping up more marketing efforts, especially through video, to show end users the magic of VSSL.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find useful?
The three most useful resources I have utilized to help keep our business running are MailChimp, Invoice Sherpa, and SalesRabbit. MailChimp allows us to manage our email database and marketing all within one platform. It’s easy to schedule email and marketing materials to be sent out to our customers (both current and prospective). InvoiceSherpa helps me manage our accounts receivable and cash flow. It allows us to set up customized invoice reminders for each customer and can then seamlessly accept Credit Cards and ACH payments directly from those email reminders. It makes collecting money a breeze. SalesRabbit is the best door-to-door and field sales tracking system out there. We can assign and organize sales territories and even track the success of each interaction. These tools are among our favorite and from our perspective should be considered by any and all startups.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
Our company was originally supported financially by a single angel investor and through the contacts, manufacturing and sales channels of a sister company. We are currently in the process of exploring the possibility of bringing on more investors to help launch VSSL to the next level.
Have there been any questions you’ve had as an entrepreneur of a startup that you had a hard time finding the answers to?
Finding the right answers to fundraising questions is always difficult. There isn’t a cut and dry blueprint to determine the value of your company, how much to ask for, or even how to connect with investors. Most of these problems are specific to your industry or even your company.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
The biggest challenge we are currently grappling with is trying to juggle our growth on limited resources. Everyone on our team wears multiple hats, particularly with international sales. Our international business is growing swiftly and our team has had to learn a lot about exporting goods to other countries. We are trying to find a smooth process. Also, having cost-effective business systems is a big challenge. You can easily spend $10k a year on NetSuite for the entry-level business ERP system ‘designed for startups’. To save money, we have had to piecemeal our systems together (WooCommerce, WordPress, QuickBooks, Shipstation, etc) with custom plugins and our own code. It seems like it should be so simple, but it just isn’t when you’re on a budget.
What is the most helpful tip you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
The most helpful tip I have ever been given is the saying: “Begin with the end in mind.” This rings true for anything you do in life, but especially when you are running a startup. In the startup world, every decision is crucial. Money is tight and the wrong move could spell the end of your business. Spend the time up front to understand where it is you want to end up. Don’t overanalyze every decision. Pay careful attention to the outcome of that decision and how it aligns with your goals.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Currently, our products only work in dwellings with pre-wired architectural speakers. In the future, we hope to develop a wireless speaker solution so everyone can enjoy the freedom and simplicity of VSSL. Stay tuned!
Are you familiar with other startups you believe should be spotlighted? If so, we would like to hear from you. Tell us about them, sharing in your comments below!