SoundBender Before Shark Tank
Moshe Weiss is a father, rabbi, and entrepreneur. Until the Great Recession hit Minnesota hard, the St. Paul native spent his days teaching at a Jewish school for boys. The school was forced to close. After losing his job, Moshe was given an iPad to lift his spirits. He enjoyed listening to music and watching videos on the tablet, but he found himself straining to hear through the tiny speaker on the back. Eventually, he discovered that cupping his hand behind the speaker directed the sound toward him, and he reasoned that a physical product to fill the same task would be possible. Moshe ultimately came up with a small plastic “sound funnel” that could connect magnetically to the side of an iPad. He called it the SoundBender.
The product was simple and widely useful. Third-party technology accessories can have a hard time taking off because they tend to be so narrow, but millions upon millions of people own iPads. His next step was to hit Kickstarter with his invention, and he received nearly $20,000 over two funding campaigns. He knew that the success or failure of SoundBender would come down to marketing and public awareness, so he was ready to ask for the sharks’ help. With luck, he could generate some buzz and make SoundBender the next big thing in consumer electronics accessories.
SoundBender During Shark Tank
From the moment Rabbi Moshe Weiss stepped forward into the tank, it was clear that he was a natural pitchman. Decked out in his traditional beard and yarmulke, he gradually drummed up outrage at a problem allegedly affecting over 70 million people. During his pitch, he took the podium, wagged his finger, and spoke with a Captain Kirk cadence. “I’m here…to offer you guys…26% of my company…for only…$54,000.” Moshe managed to play the strict schoolmaster role well, and he had the sharks laughing in no time. With great aplomb, he unveiled the device and gave a quick demo of traditional Jewish klezmer music, with and without the SoundBender attached. It seemed to make a real difference. Moshe claimed that the SoundBender had both “huge sound” and “huge margins”.
Mr. Wonderful was quick to compliment Moshe on his presentation, but he was really after those margins. For production costs of only a dollar per unit, the suggested retail price of each SoundBender was $12.99. The business was early, but in the first six months of operations, he had sold 7,000 units. His major distribution channels were several Kickstarter campaigns, a personal website, and an online distributor. He took this opportunity to tell his story, about how he came up with the SoundBender and hoped to spread his humble invention to millions of people. Ethics and consciousness were important elements of the company, including USA-based production.
Moshe may have fumbled his next response when Kevin asked for the purpose of his investment. He was probably looking for some combination of cutting production costs, sourcing better materials, and building inventory, but Moshe had other ideas. He was interested in modifying the mold to improve sound quality. This worried Kevin, who wanted to take the already-functional product to a large market as quickly as possible. Moshe claimed that he wasn’t just a tinkerer: he wanted to sell. To back it up, he confided that he was close to closing a deal with Walgreens.
Still, Kevin wasn’t on quite the same page. His vision was to license the SoundBender and earn a royalty on each unit sold. It would be sent to an Asian factory where production costs could be lowered to cents on the dollar, and the two of them could get a cut of every single sale. Moshe was straightforward with his answer. He wasn’t interested in royalties and licensing. With this, Kevin flatly withdrew. He was convinced that licensing was the right way to go.
Moshe opened up to the other four sharks. “Let’s negotiate, people. Let’s get this done.” Mark admired Moshe’s “chutzpah” but turned down the investment opportunity. For him, the business was too small, and he couldn’t see it growing to anything resembling $20 million in sales. Barbara rarely invests in technology products and wanted some guarantee that she could get her money back. She suggested a royalty structure, which Moshe turned down on the spot. He thought giving her a flat royalty on every unit would be counter-productive, since it would siphon off cash while he grew the business. This may have been a smart business decision, but Barbara was out because of it.
Daymond was hesitant. The Walgreens deal was his main reason for interest. Without it, he would never invest, but if it went through, he was willing to do $54,000 for 40%. Moshe thought for a moment before checking in with Robert, potentially angering Daymond. He asserted his importance. “You understand, if he steps out, my offer starts to change because I become more valuable.” Robert was also only cautiously optimistic. He appreciated Moshe’s pluck, but he wasn’t sure that Moshe had done his homework. He hadn’t spoken at all about distribution channels moving forward. In this respect, he agreed with Mark. A person’s most valuable asset is their time, and Robert didn’t want to waste too much of his on SoundBender.
Moshe defended himself on this count, giving his best impression of a clueless and overwhelmed rabbi, struggling to sell on the “Internet-Schminternet”. This wasn’t him. He knew how to run the business, but he needed connections. Robert took Moshe at his word on the distribution problem and on Walgreens. He would be willing to invest for the same percentage as Daymond but drop the contingency. In reality, these offers are almost exactly the same. If Walgreens was as interested as Moshe let on, he was sure to sign a deal with them during Robert’s due diligence period. If not, Robert would be free to withdraw after the show. Still, his offer implied greater confidence in Moshe as an entrepreneur.
It was time for Moshe to make a choice, and Daymond gave him ten seconds to do it. He took his time, almost certainly more than ten seconds, but ultimately settled on Daymond. With two nearly identical deals, he settled on the investor who had experience growing a business from one product to millions of units sold. Because of FUBU, Moshe saw Daymond as a “marketing genius” and had immense respect for the man. Moshe left the tank with a triumphant “Adios!” a marked departure from his Yiddish shtick. Flailing his arms like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, he celebrated SoundBender’s future success.
SoundBender Now In 2022 – After Shark Tank
The $54,000 deal with Daymond was finalized after the segment aired. According to a business update, which was included in the fifth season of Shark Tank, one of their goals was to get the product on “one of the shopping channels.” They also began working on different versions of the SoundBender for the iPad Mini as well as for TVs.
Reinvesting their profits, they were eventually able to create injection molds—ones that are capable of producing eight million units. Not only that, but they also landed a licensing deal with Wish Factory, which guaranteed them at least $2 million in sales each year.
Tragically, however, Moshe Weiss passed away at the age of 41 on August 29, 2016, just three years after appearing on the show. According to an obituary printed in the Star Tribune, he died at his home due to heart complications. In response, Daymond posted a note of condolence on his Twitter, describing Weiss as “a man that would bring energy to any room he entered.”
Shortly after his death, the company’s website went down with a “we’ll be back soon” message. And it remained that way for several years. It wasn’t until 2021 that the site came back.
As of 2022, the website is still up and running. They currently offer the Soundbender for the iPad 2/iPad 3/iPad4, iPad Air 1/iPad Air 2, iPad Mini, Google Nexus, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 3/Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. Three colors (black, red, and white) are available for the iPad Air and iPad Minis while black is the only color available for the iPad 2/iPad 3/iPad 4. It’s worth mentioning, however, that the product cannot be ordered directly through their website; it’s only available from Amazon (clicking the link on their site will forward you to the product listing).
In terms of pricing, you’re looking at around $32 for one Soundbender. The one for iPad Air 1,2, and Mini, anyway. As far as we can tell, the other ones are currently unavailable.
Is the product worth the price? Maybe. On Amazon, it currently has a 3.5-star rating out of 178 reviews. While some people praise the product for its sound bending abilities, others are not too impressed with the overall quality. Some have even said that it does nothing for the device’s volume.
The bottom line? Your mileage may vary. It may be worth trying, though, if you’re trying to improve the sound quality of your tablet.