Dance to your own beat, throw a party and never get a noise complaint. Ever. Again. (Your neighbours will love you!)
To transform urban living, founder of Sound Off & Sound Off Experience Castel Valere-Couturier presents the wireless headphone that lets you connect to and select between multiple live DJs. It’s like hopping between dance clubs, minus the covers or taxi fares.
“My job is to inspire those around me to do great things with our technology”
Born and raised in New York City, a graduate of the University of Denver in Finance and Marketing and a true music lover, Castel has always had his eye on business. His first entrepreneurial venture was promoting and organizing university events. After graduating, he worked with CRUNK!!! Energy for three years as Brand Manager followed by Paul Frank eyewear for a year and a half until he decided it was time to do his own thing.
In June 2010, Castel founded a private consulting company to help luxury brands gain distribution in the USA. Being the workaholic that he is, Castel had not taken a day off work since college. Then he saw something that changed his mind: a man passed away tragically from a heart attack before his eyes at a trade show event. That made him realize two things—life is short, and you can’t spend it all working. So he decided to take a trip.
Transformation in Tel Aviv
Like most of the entrepreneurs featured in RADICHE, Castel’s inspiration to generate this business idea was an outcome of traveling. (Lesson: take a trip TOMORROW!) Known for its vibrant nightlife, Tel Aviv was his chosen destination haven. Here, Castel witnessed the concept of the silent-disco for the first time. “I reluctantly tried it, but then got lost in the music for two hours. Those headphones completely transformed my experience. I came back to the States simply dreaming about this product, thinking how can I do this again, and I couldn't find anything like it.”
After sourcing a factory to produce the headphones for him, Castel’s first focus group was his friends. “My friends all left saying, ‘When can I do this again?’ That was a very powerful moment for me because it is seldom in life that you find that moment with people that is so transformative that they go from being a total non-believer to being on board 100%.”
As a one-man-show, the hardest challenge was launching Sound Off without much labor. “I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of interesting and intelligent friends. It’s also been great talking to different entrepreneurs, even if they are in different spheres, to get little tidbits. I am always asking questions and being proactive.”
Brand = Experience + Product
In the beginning, like most businesses, Castel struggled with designing his business model, defining his target market and finding ways to scale his business. When renting out the equipment to clients, no one knew how to work the system so Castel learnt very quickly that Sound Off is more than just a product. It is a brand associated with an experience. In fact, the comeback and popularity of the silent disco is a perfect example of how Millennials value experiences over tangible goods. So the experience has to be good. To make sure it was, Castel created a sub brand called Sound Off Experience to manage the technology at events versus Sound Off to sell the technology itself.
“I’ve always been in different places at different times. When people started finding out what we were doing, I was getting requests from all over the world. We just kept putting headphones on more people and seeing the same reaction over and over again.”
Point being: at first the founder, is, the entire company. Despite having an awesome product, people want to partner or work with YOU for your interpersonal skills and, sometimes, your charming smile.
While still managing his private consulting business, Sound Off started to grow through word of mouth marketing. Their first sale, unconventionally enough, was to the Denver Zoo, whose event coordinators wanted to host a dance party without disturbing the animals. (Technology these days is wild, isn’t it?) Shortly after, Sound Off launched their first event in partnership with Kush Con Expo 2010. For you smokers out there, this was the first initiative to legalize marijuana in Colorado, back in the day. But the real game changer was in October 2014, when Sound Off challenged the status quo by partnering with a yoga event in Hong Kong.
From warehouse parties to yoga retreats, and everywhere in between
Imagine you’re on a helipad in the middle of Manhattan city, doing yoga and wearing headphones. Despite that, you can still hear your yoga instructor’s voice down to a whisper and even control the volume of soothing music. This is a great example of how Sound Off has shifted its focus from solely party environments to providing out-of-the-club experiences.
“The interesting thing about silent-disco is that it has been around for a very long time. The concept started 19 years ago in the UK, but it was always a subculture that you found in warehouse parties and outdoor raves in the woods, but it was never a commercial product.” Of course, Castel is looking to commercialize silent-discos, but instead of limiting these headphones to commercial parties, he is venturing out to diverse spaces such as yoga, hospitality, nutrition, outdoor movie screenings, bike tours, translation services and wedding after-parties. As for fitness and wellness, Sound Off is the only company in the world threading these two verticals in with a long-lived subculture. Why shouldn’t yoga be more like a warehouse party? (The whole world might get healthier if it does.)
Want to own a pair? This spring, you will be able to bring the party home with Sound Off's new consumer-based headphone model for $199. However, if you're interested in getting social at a Sound Off event, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to join us in revolutionizing noise pollution.