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Three Buddies Wanted to Have a Better Time At an Outdoor Festival. Their Invention Turned Into a $43 Million Business. Jesper Thomsen, co-founder and CEO of SOUNDBOKS, explains how his portable speaker company (literally) broke through the noise.

By Dan Bova

SOUNDBOKS

In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Who are you and what's your business?

My name is Jesper Thomsen and I am a co-founder and CEO of SOUNDBOKS (pronounced "sound-box"), a Scandinavian-based Bluetooth speaker company. Our speakers are portable, durable and loud!

What inspired you to create this business? What was your "aha moment"?

SOUNDBOKS started with three high school friends' desire to create the best party and campsite at Roskilde Festival, the oldest and largest music and arts festival in Northern Europe. Think of it like Burning Man meets Coachella, complete with DIY campsites, all-night parties, and a diverse mix of global bands and musicians. Long story short, I started hand-building speakers for Roskilde in 2011. (My first speaker lasted approximately 20 minutes before someone spilled a beer on it.) From there, I teamed up with classmates (some eventually became co-founders of SOUNDBOKS) to spend our summers building the loudest, most durable speakers we possibly could. Let's just say people started to take notice. In 2014, we had over 200 people wanting to pay $800 for our handbuilt speakers. It was then we knew we were onto something special. We officially launched in 2015, and we've been on a crazy rollercoaster ever since. We've sold over 300,000 speakers worldwide.

Credit: Soundboks

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you pivot to overcome it?

I'd say our biggest challenge has been growing to become the leaders that our business needed us to be while growing up to just become adults. It's difficult to figure out who you are as a leader when you're still figuring out who you are as a person. Surrounding ourselves with supportive board members, a strong leadership coach, and employees smarter than ourselves has helped us a ton in this matter.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?

There's an old saying from Y-Combinator that goes, ''If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice." I really believe that to be true when it comes to early-stage funding. Our first funding came from investors who we originally just reached out to for advice — and when they then saw that we took their advice, and continuously applied it to better the business, they wanted to invest.

Related: They Started in a Garage with a $100 Damaged Bathtub. Now These Founders Run a $100 Million Cold Plunge Business.

What does the word "entrepreneur" mean to you?

In short, I believe it's someone who fixes a problem or a need. And if you're a good one, you are relentlessly resourceful in your pursuit to solve it.

What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don't?

Venture funding. I think in the venture capital boom that we've had the past fifteen years, many companies that were in no way built for the growth needed to support venture capital economics went ahead and raised venture capital. It ended up diluting them, forcing them to grow their company faster than what was good for it. In the end, that may have led them to bankruptcy in the pursuit of huge upside while it might've been a lot better for them to just grow their business a little bit slower, and then manage their downside.

Related: After Being Diagnosed With Cancer, She Created a Cookie That Would Help Her Eat Cleanly and Satisfy Her Sweet Tooth. Now Her Products Are Sold in 25,000 Stores.

Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?

Leonard Cohen once said, ''Act the way you'd like to be and soon you'll be the way you act." I think that's a pretty awesome, reductive way to break down self-improvement. He also once said that success is survival, which I think is a healthy way to look at life as a hardware founder in an economic recession.

Dan Bova

Entrepreneur Staff

VP of Special Projects

Dan Bova is the VP of Special Projects at Entrepreneur.com. He previously worked at Jimmy Kimmel Live, Maxim, and Spy magazine. His latest books for kids include This Day in History, Car and Driver's Trivia ZoneRoad & Track Crew's Big & Fast Cars, The Big Little Book of Awesome Stuff, and Wendell the Werewolf

Read his humor column This Should Be Fun if you want to feel better about yourself.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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