Cornell eLab Alum Specdrums Acquired by National Robotics Firm
Specdrums, an innovative music technology company and alum of both Rev: Ithaca Startup Work’s Summer Hardware Accelerator program and Cornell University’s eLab program, announced on June 22, 2018 that it has been acquired by Sphero, a national robotics firm based in Boulder, CO.
Specdrums makes “smart rings” – app connected wireless rings that turn colors into sounds. A user of Specdrums can make music by tapping onto any surface, after assigning various sounds to different colors on their mobile device.
The company was founded in May 2014 by Steven Dourmashkin and Matthew Skeels, then Junior Mechanical Engineering majors at Cornell. The idea came to Dourmashkin, who plays the drums, when he became frustrated by the lack of affordability and portability inherent in playing a full drum kit.
“The idea was to make something that anybody could use to make beats,” he said. “And over time, by talking to customers, the idea evolved into something that anybody could make sounds with. Less for pro drummers, and more something that a kid could use for educational purposes, and just have fun.”
Soon after joining forces, the pair participated in eLab, a formative business experience offered to select budding entrepreneurs at Cornell University. During the program, they learned best practices for launching a startup. The eLab curriculum, which places a major emphasis on speaking with customers and identifying the right market fit, also helped the company improve its product and business plan.
“Steven Gal, an eLab instructor, really guided us through how to make a business out of this, including on the legal side of things,” said Dourmashkin, Specdrum’s chief executive officer. “Before eLab, Specdrums was more of a side project or invention. eLab helped us get things set up and gave us insight into how to hire and how to talk to customers. I’d never really taken a business course, and having a hands-on experience, where I learned about how to do things like accounting and assign shares to employees, was very valuable. Without it, I wouldn’t have known how to get started.”
After several years of tinkering with their prototype, including much time spent in the Rev Prototyping Lab, Specdrums launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall for customers interested in trying out the product. The Kickstarter campaign was viewed by the company as a massive commercial success and helped the company catch the eye of Sphero and other potential buyers.
“Ken Rother, [managing director of eLab and director of hardware entrepreneurship at Rev], was a huge help on the hardware side of things,” said Dourmashkin. “He was able to get us access to resources at Rev, like the lab, and provide input on the design.”
With support from Sphero, which has products in twenty thousand schools around the country, Specdrums hopes to expand its offering in the education sector, supplying students with new and exciting methods for studying music.
“It’s wonderful to see how Specdrums and Steven [Dourmaskin] have grown and evolved,” said Rother. “eLab and the Rev Hardware Accelerator can help an individual, with no prior business experience, take their idea or passion and evolve it into a successful company – Specdrums is a perfect example of making it all work.”