Jeremy Burkhardt Buys Soundcast, Unfazed by Nortek Non-compete
Former SpeakerCraft owner and president Jeremy Burkhardt acquires SoundCast, maker of the OutCast and Outcast Jr. wireless powered outdoor speakers.
Burkhardt had sued Nortek in January of this year, alleging that the parent company threatens to enforce a non-compete that Burkhardt says is invalid.
Joining CEO Burkhardt is longtime sidekick Jeff Francisco, who takes on the role of CTO, the same position he held at SpeakerCraft for about 24 years.
Soundcast is both a sleeper and a leader in the speaker business – it is one of the few purveyors in the niche category of wireless outdoor speakers, and the products are generally considered to be excellent (I have a unit and I concur).
At the same time, the company seems to have stalled in both product development and sales momentum.
“There’s been a lot of confusion about who they are, and what they are,” Burkhardt says in an exclusive interview with CE Pro. “With me at the helm, there won’t be confusion.”
Soundcast Then and Now
The flagship OutCast (reviewed here) is a weather-resistant speaker with one downward-firing woofer and four 3-inch high-frequency drivers in an omni-directional array. A 100-watt amplifier is built in, as is a rechargeable NiMH battery pack that operates for up to 10 hours. It transmits over the 2.4 GHz band for up to 300 feet outdoors.
The OutCast Jr. (reviewed here) is a smaller version.
Other than that, Soundcast offers a couple models of amplified SurroundCast transceivers and a UAT (Universal AudioCast Transmitter) DAC, but not much else.
Last year, Soundcast introduced skinnable speakers. You know this one is coming soon.
Burkhardt notes (rightly), “There hasn’t been a leader or a customer-service company in wireless audio. We’re going to be that company. We’re going to make the world’s coolest wireless multipurpose speakers – speakers that you can use everywhere.”
He adds, “You’ll see us using DSP and amplifiers and wireless all in one speaker in many different models.”
Indeed, Burkhardt and Francisco are a formidable team. Burkhardt has the personality and the vicious customer-service ethic, and Francisco is a top-notch audio engineer and product designer.
“When you put their [Soundcast’s] wireless together with what we can do with speakers, we’re going to kick a**,” he says.
Plus, the duo can put into action “what we’ve learned about control over the last four years spending money that wasn’t ours.”
Burkhardt says he’ll bring the same personality to the new Soundcast that made him famous (and infamous) and successful at SpeakerCraft.’
“Bring on the half-naked ladies,” he says, referring to some of the publicity-generating tradeshow stunts he’s pulled in the past.
Burkhardt’s reign begins Monday, Feb. 25, and we can expect some of the old SpeakerCraft team to join him.
“You’ll see me surround myself with a really cool team,” he says.
The current batch of Soundcast salespeople better watch out.
“We’re going to have the best sales team we can create,” Burkhardt says. “If you’re on the sales force now, you better deliver or we’ll fire you’re a** … and you can quote me on that.”
Quick Word on Non-compete
Burkhardt says he has not settled his lawsuit against Nortek and will “just ignore it, but if they decide to sue us, we’ll fight it.”
Francisco also had filed a preemptive suit so that he could potentially compete with Nortek groups – particularly the audio companies in the Core Brands group, including SpeakerCraft, Proficient and Sunfire.
Burkhardt would not comment on the disposition of that case.
In any case, the non-compete—if it is even valid—doesn’t apply because “we don’t compete with anything that Nortek has,” Burkhardt says.
Both SpeakerCraft and Proficient have shipped first-generation amplified wireless transceivers in the past, and both demonstrated second-generation products – SpeakerCraft Synergi and Proficient Zero—at CEDIA 2012, but neither has shipped, says Burkhardt.
CE Pro has confirmed that fact.
“We have real product that’s shipping,” Burkhardt says.
UPDATE: How the Industry Reacts
Since CE Pro broke the news on this acquisition Friday night, we have seen dozens of reactions from the CE Pro community via CEPro.com, RemoteCentral.com and social networks. Here’s what they’re saying (edited for grammar, clarity).
On Burkhardt’s personality:
Welcome back to the Monkey House. The fun level is up already. We can’t do things the same old way and Jeremy likes to be disruptive.
Bravo! You can like Jeremy or you can hate him, but you can’t deny he advanced the CE industry. Look for more disruptions soon.
Personally, I am looking for some more excitement in the business, and we all know this is coming soon.
How apropos is it that Jeremy would buy a company whose primary product is named Outcast!
Welcome back, hope you bring that level of innovation and fun to a brand that has already stood out on its own.
What a match up! Soundcast is a great product. Jeremy is undoubtedly an innovative S.O.B.
On Soundcast OutCast industrial design
First order of business…..Let’s make those things look like something other than pool pump equipment!
I do agree with the pool pump comment earlier; make it sexier, PLEASE!!!!
[Response from “I’m a PoolPump”] What’s all this hating on me about? I’ve never done anything to you people…. Sniff
Just bring on Airplay and Bluetooth to Soundcast and it will rock. And some nice design—it looks like a dustbin.
I had a customer tell me it looks like a Diaper Genie.
They are like the Steve Buscemi of Speakers. Probably really good at what they do, but they’re hard to look at.
On dealer enthusiasm
I’ll take a dealer app now please!
This is great. Love this product.
Great news for our industry. It’ll be interesting to see what Jeremy does with the brand. Like the idea of one of our own taking wireless audio to a premium level. We custom folk must embrace solutions that best serve both our desire for high-performance product AND our customers’ needs.