Martin Buduis, left, and Dimitri O are childhood friends and founders of Loop Earplugs.
Source: Circle earplugs
If you’ve attended a concert this year — like Taylor Swift or Beyoncé’s record-breaking tour show — you may have noticed an exciting new accessory in the crowd: earplugs that are also on trend.
They were likely made by Loop Earplugs, a Belgian startup that launched in 2016. The company’s earplugs, designed to look like jewelry, have a distinctive circular design — a loop — in colors and finishes from solid black and shiny silver to orange and pink. Or purple.
The company exists specifically to contradict your view on earplugs: Traditional ones usually conjure images of “ugly Christmas trees that stick out your ears, or that ugly foam,” Loop co-founder Martin Budhuis tells CNBC Make It.
“You had people wearing Beats headphones around their necks” as a fashion statement, Budewis says. “But earplugs and hearing protection were still kind of boring.”
Loop’s sales have skyrocketed over the past two years or so $44.1 million in US dollars in 2022, an increase of 350% year-over-year, according to documents reviewed by Make It – as pandemic-era restrictions on large gatherings are lifted. Budweis says that the startup is on track to triple this number this year.
The earplugs range in price from $24.95 to $44.95, and because of their relatively low production costs, Loop has been profitable every year since 2020, Bodewes says. Enthusiastic reviews help: Wired He said the earplugs were “affordable and stylish,” and Wirecutter called them one of the “best things we’ve bought.” Since 2019.
Here’s how Bodewes and co-founder Dimitri O turned a two-year side project into a profitable startup that brings in millions annually.
Bodewes and O, both 38, are long-time friends with a love of nightlife and backgrounds in commercial and civil engineering, respectively. In their late 20s, they noticed a ringing in their ears after loud concerts that could last for several days, a common tinnitus symptom.
“We asked ourselves: Why don’t more people wear earplugs or hearing protection?” Budweis says.
Most products on the market were ugly, ineffective, or uncomfortable. Poor acoustics hampered your enjoyment of music, Buddos says. Custom earplugs were great, but can cost a few hundred dollars per person.
At the time, Bodewes was an account manager at Microsoft. He was running a startup he founded called TariefChecker, which analyzes energy prices. For about two years, they spent their free time researching earplug acoustics and designs, testing prototypes on electronic dummies in rented echo-free rooms.
We were accepted on Friday, and I think I quit my job on Monday.
Co-Founder of Loop Earplugs
Each co-founder spent about $40,000 to start Loop, “as much as I can spend my money,” Budhuis says.
“[We] “We printed different prototypes, different shapes, different channel lengths, audio inputs, and different filters that we tested using 3D printing,” he adds. The duo placed the earplugs “on small toothpicks, sprayed them in our backyard and then tested them on friends and family.”
“Food-grade” silicone rubber helped O and Bodewes find a middle ground between cheap foam earplugs and expensive custom designs. In 2016, their prototypes received Loop acceptance Start @KBCa startup accelerator in Brussels.
“We were accepted on a Friday, and I think I quit my job on Monday,” Budweis says.
Backed by loans and “small funding rounds” from angel investors, Loop’s earplugs hit the market in 2018. Decline in retail chains Such as CVS in the US and Saturn in Europe.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, monthly sales dropped from about $100,000 to less than $20,000, Buddos says: At one point, Loop was “two weeks away from not having any money.”
To survive, Loop shifted to a direct-to-consumer business model and cut packaging and shipping costs, replacing bulky plastic boxes with simple envelopes. The company began marketing the earplugs as everyday products for concentration while working or eliminating loud noises for relaxation or sleep.
The startup took in and raised $1.2 million in revenue in 2020 $1 million in seed funding That year, it was led by Belgian investment firm Achilles. This strategy has proven temporary: Loop is still selling earplug models intended for everyday use, but the resumption of the world’s nightlife is largely responsible for its post-Covid revenue.
“The nightlife segment is still driving a lot of our sales,” Budweis says. “And that’s still where a lot of our hearts lie for me.”
Loop makes stylish earplugs in a variety of colors and finishes.
Source: Circle earplugs
Today, the company employs 200 people, with its headquarters in Antwerp and offices in Amsterdam, New York and Shanghai. Next year, Loop will allocate $26.5 million to its research and development team, Bodewes says, in an effort to stay ahead of American rivals like Eargasm and European rivals like Vibes.
The company intends to continue studying acoustics, and Budweis says he wants to make the earplugs even more advanced in technology. On Tuesday, the company unveiled a new product, Loop Switch, that the wearer can adjust to suit different experiences based on nearby sounds.
“It’s very intense,” says Budhuis. “But you have to innovate quickly. You have to create strong brands. That’s how you stay ahead of the curve.”
Conversions from EUR to USD are made using the OANDA conversion rate of 1 EUR to 1.05814 In US dollars as of October 9, 2023. All amounts have been rounded to the nearest dollar.
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