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PSNEurope’s review of 2015 – part four: Smart money

Was 2015 more than just another chapter in the unstoppable rise of Ulrich Bernhard Behringer? Jon Chapple thinks so

Epitomised by Flare Audio’s remarkable success on Kickstarter in June – 1,260 backers pledged over £177,000 towards the company’s Reference R2 consumer headphones – 2015 was the year when the crowdfunding revolution finally came to the world of professional sound.

Other crowdfunding successes this year included Kickstarter campaigns by boutique British manufacturer Crookwood, known for its mastering and recording equipment, which raised over £12,500 for its SoundBucket prosumer portable speaker/monitor (pictured with Flare’s R2s), and New York headphone brand Adv.Sound, which raked in $56,654 from 1,072 backers for its M4 range of in-ear monitors.

Less successful, however, were Latvian speaker-maker Square Audio, which failed to raise the US$38,500 it needed for its Square Root nearfield monitor, despite being a Kickstarter ‘staff pick’ (the campaign closed at $24,938 on 19 June), and Indiana-based start-up Emanate Audio, which received just $9,556 in pledges for its Cerberus 500-series analogue/digital rack against a $40,000 target.

According to Crookwood’s managing director, Crispin Herrod-Taylor, the company chose Kickstarter partly to “bypass the need to access bank funds, which are always a problem for small companies”.

But crowdfunding isn’t the only option for audio start-ups in need of capital: 3D monitoring specialist Klang Technologies, founded in 2013 but hitting its stride (with distribution deals and column inches aplenty) this year, was funded with a one-year start-up scholarship from founder Pascal Dietrich’s alma mater, while ‘pro-audio LinkedIn’ SoundBetter this year benefitted from an injection of funding from number of Silicon Valley tech investors.

Meanwhile, fledgling loudspeaker manufacturers Aimline and Idea Pro Audio (launched at ISE 2015 and PL+S 2014, respectively) demonstrated the importance of new companies’ building relationships with established industry players – Idea works closely with Swiss ‘loudspeaker laboratory’ Speaklab and shares R&D resources with Acustica Beyma, and Aimline is led by a team of ex-Tannoy, Turbosound and Tascam veterans – while Turkey’s Apia (a PL+S 2015 debutante) has won backing from one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, Mehmet Naci Topsakal.