“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…”
– Henry V
You’ve probably heard the recent announcement that SpeakerCraft’s ex-CEO, Jeremy “Burkhardt Looks to Reinvent Architectural Speaker Category with Origins Acoustics.” And, if you hadn’t heard, well, he is. His new company, Origin Acoustics, has some “killer” intellectual property and multiple patents in the works, and looks to “reinvent” the architectural speaker category.
In a way, Burkhardt’s move reminds me of how Sandy Gross went about re-establishing his new company, GoldenEar Technologies, a few years ago. Sandy started by bringing in his long-time design partner, Don Givogue, along with Jack Shafton and Dave Kakenmaster to handle sales and marketing chores. And by “in a way,” I mean in *exactly* the same way. Burkhardt also seems to be looking to put the old band back together by gathering trusted compadres from SpeakerCraft, including co-founder/engineer Ed Haase and Dave Donald to handle sales and marketing.
And, why not? If you’re in a position to start a new company where you can cherry pick your team, why not work with your friends and those who share the same goals and philosophies and helped you to make it in the first place?
“By the time they figure out what went wrong, we'll be sitting on a beach, earning twenty percent.”
– Die Hard
When SpeakerCraft sold to Nortek in 2004, Jeremy got a check. A big one. When I heard about Jeremy coming out of retirement (forced or otherwise), I thought the same thing I did when I heard that Gross was coming back: Why not take that money and enjoy the easy life? Travel with the family. Buy the Ferrari. Sit on a beach, feel the sand between your toes, sipping a Pina Colada and listening to music through the latest brand of high-end headphones that industry friends are only too happy to send you… (That’s how I like to picture Sam Runco these days; enjoying the Planar moneys to the extreme. Except, of course, he’s throwing back Patron Platinum tequila shots instead of Pina Coladas. And, knowing Sam, there’s a pool cue nearby.)
I guess it’s because that’s my dream; the cash out and enjoy the easy life away from the hassles and stresses of this industry. No more customers calling to complain about their cable box not changing channels. No more, “Why isn’t my Netflix working?!” No more, “I’m having the most important party in the history of time tomorrow and you *must* be here to fix the problem I’ve known about for weeks but only just now decided to inform you of!” Perhaps just working a part-time job at Starbucks, pulling lattes and cappuccinos for people where the biggest gripe I’ll have to deal with is, “This is too hot/cold!” or “I need more whipped!”
Back in 2010 when I asked Sandy why he wasn’t up in his Manhattan penthouse sipping fabulous red wines all day, sitting back and enjoying life and not, dear God, starting another speaker line and going through all the headaches and hassles, his answer was incredibly honest. He said he wasn’t ready to be done with this industry yet. “I love this business and I’m not ready to retire,” Sandy told me. Even now, Sandy is far from done. When I asked him if his recently launched Triton One speakers would be his swan song, he laughed and said, “Oh no. Definitely not!”
"The men have found their captain, they will follow you into battle, even to death. You have given us hope."
– Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
I have to imagine Burkhardt feels the same way. This industry is in his blood. It���s what he knows and what he loves. And I’ve no doubt that he misses the rush of “the show,” holding court at dealer meetings and summits and being a rock star voice and personality helping to shape our industry.
For dealers, there can certainly be risks in following a new company. It takes a lot of investment both in money and faith to jump in with a new brand. I think back to all of those people that jumped on the Life|ware bandwagon several years ago, where it seemed like you couldn’t take a step at a CEDIA or CES without bumping into something with the Exceptional Innovation logo on it. (Life|ware remains the greatest case study of how PR and marketing can create overnight industry buzz and awareness, in my opinion, but that’s another story.) Those dealers invested in a new company that seemed to offer and promise the future, but soon after went out of business and left a string of disenfranchised systems in its wake.
Certainly, there is less risk going with a “new” speaker company. Even if Origin Acoustics should flame out in a few years, the speakers left behind will likely still work and could be easily replaced with others if they should prove to be unrepairable. I mean, I’m assuming they could be easily replaced; it’s possible that Jeremy will decide the future of architectural audio is triangle or octagon shaped…
“Oh, captain, my captain!”
– Dead Poets Society
Jeremy is one of those polarizing figures in our industry that people either got, dug and respected, or intimidated, confused and avoided at all costs. For current or ex-SpeakerCraft dealers, I think this new venture will be too enticing an opportunity to pass up.
I imagine it in some ways as if Steve Jobs had left Apple and decided to start a new company. If El Jobs had said he was going to reinvent computing and had rethought “everything accepted as the norm” to make it easier and smaller and better, wouldn’t you at least have to take a look…?
“I would rather gamble on our vision than make a ‘me, too’ product.”
– Steve Jobs
Also, Jeremy comes back with something to prove. Why start a new company to continue churning out the status quo? He is going to know that Origin Acoustics’ products and performance will be scrutinized under a microscope, and he’ll need to win back dealers who have moved on to other products. If he continues following in Sandy’s footsteps, this could produce some of the most kick-ass designs of his career.
Fortunately, we’ll only have to wait until CEDIA this September to find out. And if attending any of Jeremy’s past events has taught me anything, it will be an interesting ride if nothing else.
So, do you plan on following Burkhardt on his next adventure…?
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.