Picture this (or more accurately, listen in). You pop a pair of noise-cancelling headphones on your head and in addition to blocking out all that unwanted background noise it starts to test your hearing with a series of notes played in each ear.
You respond to the test using your smartphone, adjusting sounds accordingly until it spits out a result and then feeds its findings back to the headphones, which are calibrated to your hearing.
Long story short your headphones are now truly yours, ensuring you get to listen to your music library exactly how your favourite artists intended.
Brisbane startup Audeara has done just that, and it turns out the world is all ears.
Founders Dr Chris Jeffery and Dr James Fielding launched a fundraising campaign for Audeara on KickStarter in early 2017 and hit their fundraising goal of $100,000 within 15 hours of going live, an incredible feat.
Chris says pairing musical enjoyment with hearing health has amplified Audeara’s success.
“Noise-induced hearing loss has become a significant issue occurring far younger than it used to, and Audeara wants to be part of the solution,” he says.
“Our headphones improve the user’s enjoyment of music while teaching them a little about their hearing health, and by giving them a tool to monitor and protect their hearing.”
Chris and James’ journey started in 2014, fine tuning the product until the KickStarter launch this year.
“We’ve taken a very grassroots approach to growing Audeara. We have a strong base of supporters, backers and investors here in Brisbane that have advised, guided and shaped our progress,” James says.
The first prototype of Audeara was developed at The University of Queensland’s iLab Accelerator, where the pair say the product changed from a purely diagnostic medical device to a consumer device.
They also used the KickStarter campaign to collect customer feedback and pivot the product further.
James says: “Using KickStarter as a product launch enabled us to shape our message and define our brand. It also opened our ears to a number of different features and functions people wanted to enhance their experience.”
When it came to scaling, Chris says the company had the usual staffing teething issues, and balancing working in the hospital with building a company was a real challenge.
But after stepping away from medicine they hit the ground running.
“The learning curve of manufacturing a product for commercial release is certainly very steep but we’ve been lucky to find experts to help us along the way,” Chris says.
“Neil Davidson and the team at Clandestine Design Group (industrial designers) have become part of the family and ensured we didn’t go too far astray.”
Some of the team’s key milestones (besides hitting their KickStarter goal) were getting their first pair of Audeara prototypes and seeing people outside of their company try and test them (and love them).
The pair has since taken Audeara to Japan, the United States, China and the UK to introduce different markets to the technology.
They’ve also taken their product to the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, and showcased their technology at the World Science Festival and at Myriad Festival in Brisbane this year.
“We’re looking forward to delivering our very first run of headphones in July,” Chris says.
“We’ve had some great interest from retail partners in Australia, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, China and Japan. There’s a lot going on but the focus remains on getting the first run of Audeara headphones to our initial supporters.”
But the biggest supporters, the pair confirms, are their connections in Brisbane.
“We’re true believers that Brisbane has every opportunity a company needs to be successful,” James says.
“The open and endless support we’ve received is proof of that. We grew up here, were educated here, made the crazy leap from being doctors to making headphones here, and the explosion of the startup community has been a true honour to be part of.”
Learn more about Audeara technology.