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Thinking Outside the Box: Resonado

Written by: Leslie Lestinsky

How would you like to have a speaker the size of an iPhone but with the power and fidelity of a premium Bose™ speaker? Department of Electrical Engineering junior Christian Femrite is member of a team that is working to make that happen. The team’s company, Resonado, recently reached the final round in the McCloskey New Venture Competition with a speaker driver product that, according to Femrite, “introduces a fundamentally different type of speaker driver to the U.S. market.”

The new technology — Flat Magnetic Speaker Technology — employs speakers comprised of bar magnets with alternating polarities. They have suspended the voice coil; it is flattened and perpendicular to the diaphragm which makes it more conducive to driving sound. The result is a more efficient speaker that can be manufactured at lower cost while achieving quality improvement, smaller size and lower weight. They have designed various models in the 3-30-watt range. With a cutoff frequency of 260 hertz, the product is designed to be a mid-range speaker.

“This gets power and size right. The sound of this speaker is going to pack a punch, similar to a Beats Pill ™, but small enough to be in your pocket,” explained Femrite. “The technology is different from traditional speaker technology in that it’s very malleable, whereas a traditional, cone-shaped speaker has to be put in a box and has to be a 3D shape. Resonado’s technology can be arranged in a lattice or an array. The design capabilities are endless. Also, when you want more sound pressure output (louder sound), you only have to expand in two dimensions.” Resonado currently has two fully registered patents and is working with a partner company, HMLink, to file a new modification patent. The team is striving to build a product and business that can be a quality supplier, delivering first-rate speakers. “Our competitive advantage is in the hardware,” says Femrite, “We have a 30% cost advantage.”

EE Femrite is the sole engineering major on the team; other members include Erikc Perez-Perez (Marketing), Brian Cho (Finance and Applied Computational Mathematics & Statistics), Peter Moeckel (Finance), Lindsey Meyers (Design), and Katie Smith (Marketing).

The team made it to the final round of the McCloskey competition, a four-round business competition sponsored by the IDEA center. They were one of just six finalists (out of 160 applicants) to present in front of a panel of judges that included Shark Tank star Daymond John and Matt Rogers, inventor of the Nest thermostat. Resonado was the only group comprised solely of undergraduate students to make it to the final round.

The group received four prizes. The first was the Startup Showcase Award, a $750 cash prize for receiving the most simulated investment dollars from spectators. The second was the IrishAngels Award, an invitation to pitch their concept and product to the venture capital firm, IrishAngels, a firm comprised of University of Notre Dame alumni and other friends of the university. The third prize was an opportunity to pitch at the INX Entrepreneurial Celebration event in Indianapolis.

The final prize was the ABC Silicon Valley Accelerator Prize. By winning this, the team has secured a spot in the sponsor’s Summer Accelerator program, which is tailored to enhance and accelerate the business knowledge of start-up companies by providing resources such as lab equipment, data analytics and connections with suppliers, business partners and mentors. The goal of the program is to develop the team’s business concept in order for partners to eventually have the opportunity to invest in it for equity. The Resonado team will be participating in the program this summer.

“It has all been surreal. To think we have the opportunity to potentially start and run a company and be doing what we love right after graduation is very cool. The dream is to be able to continue working on this together for the next three to five years,” said Femrite. He praised the IDEA center for their assistance and expertise. “The staff is amazing, they’ve been a huge asset to us”, says Femrite, “Karen Slaggert, Matt Gardner and Mitchell Kokko have provided feedback on obtaining software analytics, customer reviews, marketing tips, expert advice, printing, office space, the list goes on and on of ways they’ve been assisting us in our efforts.”

So how did a group of Notre Dame juniors come together to form this business? “I was in the right place at the right time with the right skills,” Femrite recalls. Erikc was a mutual friend of his roommate. He mentioned the group needed an engineer. At first, Femrite was hesitant; he was too busy to take on a project. But as soon as he learned about the technology and what they were trying to do, he decided it was a rare opportunity well worth his time. He interviewed for the position and won out over several candidates. “Opportunities like this don’t come around very often. I am fortunate to be part of it,” said Femrite. His role is to refine the current product and develop new ones, as well as start to build and manage an engineering design team.

Development of the speaker came naturally to Femrite as he’s been a musician for eight years and is currently a member of the University of Notre Dame Marching Band. Femrite and crew have been working with students from other universities to recruit brand ambassadors to test different markets. You can shop for some of Resonado’s products on Amazon, such as the “Mini-o” for $64.99 which is a 12-watt bluetooth speaker (sold in pairs).

The team looks forward to their time in Silicon Valley this summer as well as working to raise their seed funds.