Startup Crowd Mics turns your smartphone into a wireless mic
Brothers Sean and Tim Holladay were sitting in a meeting with about 150 people, and while the presenter was interacting with the crowd “…we just couldn’t hear what the other people were saying,” Tim said. “Sean pulled out his phone and said ‘I could FaceTime someone across the world and hear them perfectly, but I can’t hear the question someone is asking in the room…there has to be a better way.’” And Crowd Mics was born.
Crowd Mics is an app that turns smartphones and tablets into microphones so the audience can be heard through the room’s sound system-the technology works via WiFi or Bluetooth receiver. The app also offers a text comment and dead simple polling feature to enhance crowd interaction with presenters.
While in use, the presenter has several options of how he or she allows audience members interact, including selecting a particular participant, an “Open Mic” option and the ability to mute everyone.
Tim indicated that revenue would come from companies purchasing a set amount of audience responses on a monthly plan or single event-it’s free for audience members. Currently Crowd Mics offers their service for free up to 20 people at an event.
The brothers recently released their product at the LAUNCH conference in San Francisco to a panel of tech noteables moderated by Jason Calacanis (LAUNCH media): Josh Stein (DFJ), Sarah Lacy (Pando Daily), Rahul Sood (MS Ventures), Tim Sullivan (MicroVentures), Brendon Kim (Samsung). As you’ll see in their pitch video, they received positive feedback from the panel.
“Afterward we had professors, lecturers and event professionals approach us…we were really excited about it,” Tim said.
Starting a business isn’t unfamiliar to these brothers as they learned to be entrepreneurs through their parents. “We grew up in Show Low and our parents owned the local Dairy Queen (that is still there today), and had it for 26 years-we grew up working there,” Tim said. They learned first-hand what it meant to run a business, dipped ice cream cones and all.
When they came up with the idea for Crowd Mics, neither brother had experience with developing mobile apps. Tim has an industrial engineering background and worked in the AV industry, and Sean is completing his nursing degree. What made them want to get into the mobile app business?
“We took two months to research the event industry, audio market and using your phone’s microphone as a device. We really determined that no one is tackling that problem and decided to be the ones to do it,” Tim said.
Development didn’t come without its pain points. They ultimately decided to hire a web and mobile app firm Techery.io and put their vision to work. After eight months of building out the iOS app and running it through private Beta testers, all of the feedback said to build out an Android version, and by the way, figure out how to make it all work together.
“Development is really hard,” Tim said. “It’s tough to make sure that what you have in your mind is translated into the actual code. We ran into a few situations when we had to figure out how to bridge the iOS and Android systems together and get them to talk to each other. We used technology that people didn’t think that would come together, and it did.”
In October of 2013, the brothers pitched their idea to Jason Calacanis, Ceo and founder of Weblogs, former “Entrepreneur in Action” at Sequoia Capital and currently hosts LAUNCH media. Calacanis suggested for them to release Crowd Mics at his conference in San Francisco. “We decided to double down, get the Android app developed in two months and get everything ready for LAUNCH,” Tim said.
Fortunately their app was approved in the Apple store just days before the conference. “We were on stage Tuesday, and the app approved at the end of the day the Friday prior. We were sweating bullets that this app would get approved in time,” Tim shared.
Crowd Mics is being adopted by local events and the founders are in talks with larger event management companies. At this time they are not taking any funding and “…feel we can bootstrap for a while longer,” Sean said.
Tim told me that he’s giving up his day job to focus on Crowd Mics, “We’re going for this thing…we want to get people using it now and discover what they can do,” Tim said, “we want everyone to have a microphone in their hand.”
When asked if they planned to stay in AZ to build their business, Tim said confidently, “We are Arizona boys through and through–we are deep rooted in Arizona. It’s an amazing place for events and live events…Scottsdale is ranked within the top five for conference locations. We are exactly where we need to be. “