Gramovox is an American nostalgia lifestyle brand born, based, and built in Chicago, Illinois, that reimagines vintage design with modern technology. Their debut product is the wireless Bluetooth Gramophone. Its bold design and vintage sound are inspired by the 1920s Magnavox R3 Horn Speaker, and its form and function are a marriage of vintage and modern aesthetics — producing a timeless piece that allows you to stream nostalgia. We caught up with CEO Pavan Bapu as he launches his latest vintage audio reinvention, the Floating Record Vertical Turntable.
Notable endorsers include: Gramovox showed up to the Grammys with their bluetooth gramphone in hand two years ago and received high praise from LL Cool J, Lorde, Stephen Tyler, and others.
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So, Pavan, what is the overall mission of Gramovox?
Gramovox reimagines vintage audio design with modern technology. So far we’ve reimagined the gramophone and turntable.
Did you face challenges with introducing a totally new type of product as a young company?
The main challenge was understanding if there’s a market for our products. We don’t create things for a quick buck. We’re not interested in the status quo. We strive for thought-provoking design and engineering. To date we’ve been humbled by the outpouring positive response from our customers. They like the one-of-a-kind experiences our products produce.
How has the city of Chicago helped to define your identity, and act as a security blanket?
We’re part of Chicago’s iconic 1871 tech community. We’re fortunate to have been accepted and are grateful for all the support we’ve received. At 1871 we were provided a home, mentorship, and the network that helped us find our investors.
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Congrats on the Kickstarter for the Floating Record, the design is spectacular. Where did the idea come from to flip flop the age-old gravitationally-friendly version?
The record is as much art as it is a medium to produce analog sound. However, traditional turntables don’t do vinyl justice. So, we conceived of a vertical turntable that produced the illusion that it is “floating” in air. We isolated the record to let its design shine without compromising performance.
There’s sort of a retro-futuristic feeling to the Floating Turntable, were there influences on the design that had a real impact on the concept and how did those influences compare with the design process for the Bluetooth Gramophone?
Gramovox’s designs reimagine the past with the present. In that respect there’s a theme of retro-futurism present in our work. For the Floating Record we were inspired by vintage turntables from the 70s that were made of premium wood and metal materials. With the Bluetooth Gramophone we were inspired by the 1920s’ steel horn speakers. Both products display continuity of a distinct design aesthetic that marry the past with the present while using premium wood and metal components. You’ll see this continue with future products.
What is the essential problem that you have set out to solve, and for whom?
The world of audio technology is full of uninspiring, homogenous, injection-molded plastic. It’s soulless. We’re on a mission to create audio products that produce inspiring, multi-sensory experiences that’s accessible to anyone and everyone.
Financially, was Kickstarter the only outside funding that Gramovox received to start the company?
We received seed funding from a venture capital firm in Chicago.
Switching gears here, what is your professional background and how did you (and the other founding team members) get to the point of starting this venture?
I worked as a creative technologist in advertising — producing non-traditional experiences that utilized innovative hardware and software integrations. I’m the product and marketing guy (right brain). My co-founder Jeff LaBelle handles operations, supply chain, and finances (left brain). We officially launched our venture after the success of our first Kickstarter campaign for the Bluetooth Gramophone. That proved the market was ready for what we wanted to offer.
You use your blog as a platform for announcements about the company, but also to talk about other innovators that, seemingly, share the lifestyle qualities of your brand. Can you talk about that sort of community aspect of your vision?
Community is at the core of our company. For us, success isn’t just measured by how many units we sell. It’s also by how we’ve helped the maker community grow. We’re all trying to build cool products and share them with the world. It’s important that we fuel an ecosystem of imaginative experiences that make the world a better place. If we only selfishly promote ourselves, we’re depriving the world of a series of these unique experiences.
Check out more innovative initiatives in music in the full Entrepreneurship in Music series!