Dutch newcomer punQtum believes in the power of community. The company, which focuses on networked audio tools for live sound and broadcast, launched earlier this year with a scalable digital intercom system based on IP-network and AES67 technology.
But punQtum is network-based in more ways than one. The company says it “believes in listening to pros as the true source of innovation” and aims to build its business on taking a very active role in the pro audio community. To that end, it’s assembling a community of “experts” who will engage their networks and share knowledge; in return, the experts earn a share of business that comes out of those interactions—in some cases, up to 25 percent. Products are sold directly online, with expert partners serving as points of contact for potential customers.
punQtum says the model is a win-win: The community directly influences product development, and the company benefits from the expertise and experience of its network.
I sat down with punQtum founder Arie van den Broek to learn more about the company’s innovative approach to bringing products to market.
What led to the idea of engaging the community as the centerpiece of your business model?
Most of us like to talk about what we are doing. That is an excellent starting point. More specifically, having been part of the professional audio industry ourselves for many years, we know that people love to talk gear and technology. We are also creatures of habit, and often follow the same routines when we arrive at the venue of an event, a production, or a gig. Once we’ve found our way around, the first thing we do is grab a coffee and start chatting with our colleagues to compare notes on gear and technology and to share experiences. This is an essential element that ensures the best possible collaboration with the staff in charge. It’s the basis of trustful coworking and the starting point of establishing team communication.
With this in mind, we concluded that a direct sales system would be the best way to respond to these habits, needs, and preferences of the professional audio community. Plus, sharing the revenue—in relation to specific personal contribution—also offers a new opportunity for a small side business. For many freelancers and small businesses, this might be an exciting opportunity to even out the peaks and troughs of typical seasonal bookings. And last but not least, this is a perfect way for us to contribute to the community on the one hand and get the necessary qualified feedback from the community on the other hand. Mutually beneficial, you could say.
What makes the pro audio industry ideal for this model?
First of all, it seems to be a common denominator of all technology-heavy industries that people talk about gear and recommend their preferred tools and equipment. A peer-to-peer marketing approach seems to make sense, particularly in our very niche line of business. We also looked at the public (or semi-public) conversations in forums and conferences. The findings corroborated our plan to establish a pro-to-pro sales organization. Plus, we know that the pro audio business has its ups and downs. Talking to many of our peers within the community convinced us that there was a substantial group of people interested in establishing a little side business based on their role as a punQtum Expert.
What are some ways engaging the community this way has led to better product development?
User feedback is vital in any industry. People may buy what is recommended, but they only use what responds to their preferences, habits, and needs. These are two sides of the same coin: We listen to the desires of the market, and the users get what they have asked for. There are a lot of small details that have paid into this bucket. Take exterior product design as one example: We have changed the angle of the display and operating buttons as a consequence of listening to the community. The same goes for the overall weight—and even the design of the belt clip.
However, this goes far beyond product design. It also contributes to technology development and the use of open technology standards. Once we shift focus from our actual intercom solution, we will come up with a new offer that reflects on the needs of the users, maybe in a completely different area. We believe that this is the best way to go forward and establish a company that makes a difference.