Montreal: North America’s hub for next-gen earphones?


Already known as a growing tech hub and even a wearable tech hotspot, Montreal could next be known as the continent’s hub for earphones.

California boasts Apple’s Beats (Culver City) and Massachusetts lays claim to Bose Electronics (Framingham) among the giants of music-listening technology, but one Canadian city could be carving out a niche for itself in unique plays on earphones (also commonly called earbuds).

In the last few weeks, two different companies creating new, innovative takes on earphones have completely smashed their crowdfunding targets, and even Canadian records.

Canada’s new crowdfunding champion is now Revols, as the the Globe and Mail’s Tracy Lindeman reported. The Montreal-based startup makes Bluetooth earphones that mold to the contours of a person’s ears, and raised $2.5 million on Kickstarter in two months.

Revols says their product is the world’s first Quick Custom-Fit Wireless Earphones that mold to the shape of the ears in exactly 60 seconds. The entire molding process is controlled by the user, along with the Revols companion app.

Cofounders Daniel Blumer and Navi Cohen have yet to ship the product, but have marketed the product endlessly through several top media outlets and blogs. Revols “received an astronomical amount of attention during its crowdfunding campaign and had impressive startup brand recognition at CES,” wrote the Globe and Mail.

The company also has decent street credit in the startup world, having attended both Shenzhen, China’s Hax accelerator and Concordia University’s District 3 accelerator.

“It’s through Hax that the entrepreneurs met Onkyo, the makers of Pioneer and other audio systems, which worked with the startup to ensure high-quality sound. The young pair also met their manufacturer there, and observed the Chinese production facility’s working conditions,” wrote the Globe and Mail.

Revols’ early-bird special on Kickstarter was $205 USD. Check out another great profile on Revols by Postmedia’s Lindeman in this Montreal Gazette piece.

But we shouldn’t forget about Phazon, another Montreal startup that earned big money through crowdfunding. On Monday, Phazon’s highly successful $1,474,014 USD campaign with Indiegogo ended.

Instead of selling users on a unique-to-person fit, Phazon earbuds are one-size-fits-all, wireless earbuds that are “guaranteed not to fail.”

Founded by Chris Houle, these earbuds were designed with the inconvenience from the headphone wires, especially during sports activities, in mind. Users can play any number of sports with the earbuds in place, and even swim, according to Phazon. They’re charged with a charger, which gives the earbuds an 80 per cent charge in 20 minutes, and they run on a bluetooth connection, much like Revols. Moreover, Phazons are compatible with smartwatches.

The early-bird price on Indiegogo for these earbuds was $159 USD.

So is Montreal becoming a hub for next-generation, unique earphones? It’s hard to argue that something isn’t starting to happen after two companies, each with its own unique value-proposition for the user, raised just under a combined $4 million USD from backers.

If money talks, then perhaps we should be listening.

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