Interview With Landon McCoy
Describe your product or service in 2-3 sentences:
Stratus is an intelligent multi-effects pedal for musicians. With an intuitive app and an expanding, online effects platform, users can chain up to five different effects in any order they like wirelessly through the app. Stratus includes a built-in looper and tuner, and retails for $249.
Describe your company culture in 3 words:
Fast-paced, goofy, and educational.
Describe your company values in one sentence or more:
We strive to expand musicians' access to tools and technology that allow them to unleash their artistic expression through affordability, versatility, and ease-of-use. And we want to have a lot of fun with it in the process.
What are you ultimately hoping to achieve with your business?
We hope to build a platform that musicians will routinely fall back on to create through a versatile and modular interface that is incredibly easy to use and extremely high-quality.
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
We're funded through a combination of private angel investment, venture capital investment, and crowdfunding. We've raised $175,000 thus far through investments and $130,000 at this time through crowdfunding.
How big is your team?
We're a team of six.
Tell us about your team (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
I (Landon) originally founded the company in August 2019, and the other members involved are all co-founders that have been instrumental in getting the company off the ground and who joined shortly after the company's inception.
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
I personally have always been captivated by the idea of starting a tech company. The idea of walking into a retail store and seeing a product that you took from mere concept to reality is absolutely awe-inspiring to me. Combine that with the freedom you get from launching your own successful startup, and it became my absolute dream early on in my adolescence.
How did you come up with your startup idea?
It didn't originally begin as an idea for a startup. As an electrical engineering major, I've always loved tinkering with software and electronics. Early in 2019 my brother, Chandler, got his first analog guitar pedal: a Boss DS-1. Soon after I got my very own fuzz pedal and fell in love with the idea of meshing engineering with music through audio effects and tools for guitarists. The idea for an app-connected multi-effects pedal that could substitute for an entire pedalboard became a fun hobby project, and a few months later we realized how much business potential an idea like this had.
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
This sounds extremely cliché but... I was actually in the shower thinking about the big names in the audio and music tech space. Fender, Marshall, Boss, Zoom, you name it. Then it hit me: Chaos. Short, powerful, and incredibly memorable. It immediately stuck, and as soon as we realized the name was available, we were all in. Thus, Chaos Audio was born!
What is something that makes your company unique?
The entire company is made up of engineering majors at Florida State University. This is the first time we've ever launched a startup like this, but over the past two years we've made exceptional progress and are already gearing up for manufacturing by the end of this year thanks to how well our team fits together.
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
Our greatest challenge was finding the right people to help guide us. Thanks to a combination of luck and cold-calling, we found out that there was a startup incubator called TechFarms in town. Better yet, the founder of this incubator was Steve Millaway, also founder of Gain Technologies which he exited from back in 2002. He ended up liking our vision and team enough to invest, and has been instrumental in guiding us through the startup process.
Is this your first business? If not, how did your experiences with past businesses influence your decision to start this new business?
Yes, this is the first time I've ever launched a business, and the same can be said for the rest of the team. We're figuring it out though!
Who is your product or service made for?
Beginner to intermediate guitarists, as well as musicians utilizing other instruments with a quarter inch audio jack. We're primarily focused on at-home, recording, and/or bar and restaurant gigging musicians who need a versatile effects solution to act as either a pedalboard replacement or a solid and affordable addition to their existing pedalboard.
What's your marketing strategy?
We've been primarily organic through Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter content, and have ramped up our digital advertising as we progress through our Kickstarter campaign. Word of mouth has been significant for us, and we trust that if we build a really great product that people enjoy, the increase in sales will follow.
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
We set up a "VIP" reservation funnel where our audience could reserve their pedal at a discounted price in exchange for a $1 reservation fee. This resulted in a surge of backers for our Kickstarter campaign at the very beginning, surpassing 100 sales in less than 24 hours.
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
We're very early stage, so for the time being we simply want to build a product that people resonate with, and that will generate enough of a margin for us to scale the sales of this first product, plus introduce new software and hardware products.
How has your approach to managing your business changed from when you started to now?
We've slowly had to get more organized over time as more and more responsibilities begin to fill up each of our plates. What started as essentially a 2-3 person garage business has turned into a 6 person startup with the need for daily stand-up meetings, multiple calls a day, and consistent analyzation of how well we continue to work together as a team.
If you could go back in time and change anything about your entrepreneurial journey, would you?
At this time, I wouldn't change a thing. We've been learning out of a firehose since the start of this company, and the best way to learn is through repeated trial and error.
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?
The biggest lesson I have learned is to *never* undervalue what an individual is capable of. We've never done anything involved in launching a startup before, but we've learned on the fly and continue to make the right connections. We've even handled most of the software and hardware development in-house as a very small team, and already have a third-iteration batch of prototypes that work exceptionally well and feel production ready. All because we learned that taking repeated small steps over time leads to compound returns on that investment.
Who is your support system?
Our support system is our primary investor, Steve Millaway. He is very genuine and thoughtful in regards to how he treats people, and always remains calm and collected even when the world seems to be on fire. There's no better support system than that. We're also very open with one another as a team and can always work through difficult situations.
Who or what inspired you to start your business?
Seeing the huge success stories of people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk is absolutely awe-inspiring. To even be at 1% of that level, with a moderately successful startup, the time to do the things you want to do without financial stress, and the ability to meaningfully help people is a dream in and of itself.
What motivates you?
Honestly--the ability to make your own decisions and to go from mere idea to actual, physical product can't be beat. You're in complete control of your journey through the execution of your own ideas, and the only way to create this experience is through hard work and an incredible thirst for success.
What’s the #1 resource you rely on for success?
Willingness to learn from others and to fail repeatedly until success is finally realized.
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success?
Being in control of my emotions in any situation has been a valuable trait to work on, and developing the habit of coming to work every day even when we don't yet receive a paycheck has been instrumental.
How do you define success?
When we build a product that our audience resonates with and continues to use, while also making enough of a margin off of that product to scale, we'll be successful.
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
Our ability to go from concept to physical product at an exceptional pace.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be prepared to face days of loneliness, stress, failure, and lack of motivation, but know that this is incredibly normal and pushing through these days will be worth it in the end.
More on Chaos Audio
The Stratus guitar pedal, Chaos Audio’s primary product, is a Bluetooth-enabled guitar pedal that operates more like a computerized multi-tool.
We had the privilege of interviewing Landon McCoy and Armis Sunday about Chaos Audio, the guitar-focused startup, and here are the top insights from our interview.
We have developed this list of five creative and impactful ways to support music technology startup Chaos Audio.
Audio technology startup Chaos Audio recently launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for its smart effects pedal and was quickly funded.