This Signature Changed It All for SOUNDBOKS Co-Founder
Contracts are a cause for celebration. They are the milestones on the path to every company’s success. In this series, you will see the most important contracts companies signed. Because every time you say “It’s a deal!” you’re one step closer to your goals.
Like so many great stories, this one starts with a bet. It ends with SOUNDBOKS co-founder Jesper Theil Thomsen signing the most important contract of his life. Here’s how it all came about.
Dusty nights and booming music
Back in 2011, three teenage friends, Jesper Theil Thomsen, Hjalte Emilio Wieth, and Christoffer Nyvold had one mission: get the loudest speakers possible to create the most amazing parties in the late hours of the dusty campgrounds at Roskilde Festival. They searched everywhere for a speaker that lived up to their expectations but came up short and instead decided to make their own—and voilà—SOUNDBOKS was born.
Heading to the land of opportunities
After initially building SOUNDBOKS, the founders found themselves at a crossroads in 2016 and needed some direction. This is where we return to that famous bet. Finding guidance was hard for Jesper, Hjalte, and Christoffer until a friend challenged them to apply to Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley institution and 'startup school' for early-stage startups.
In case you haven’t heard about it, Y Combinator is the Superbowl of startups. It’s insanely hard to get there. For context, other companies that have taken their entrepreneurial baby steps at Y Combinator include Airbnb, Cruise, DoorDash, Instacart, Dropbox, Twitch, and Reddit. In 2016, Y Combinator had 10,000 applicants, invited 500 to pitch, and accepted only 100—an acceptance rate of one percent. So yeah. It’s hard.
Still in good spirits, the three friends wrote the application, sent it, waited, and waited some more. That’s when Jesper started to have his doubts: "Y Combinator is known for investing in software companies, and SOUNDBOKS is clearly hardware, so why would they invest in us? We didn't think we stood a chance."
"Y Combinator was always the 'top of the top'. It was like getting into Harvard, winning a Grammy, or the World Cup in soccer. It was something almost intangible and impossible to reach" – Jesper Theil Thomsen
All of a sudden, though, an email popped up with an invitation to California, and off they went to the land of opportunities. Landing there, they dove straight into it. Like everyone else, they had 10 minutes to pitch their idea to a room full of tech and startup gurus in Silicon Valley. Then it was yet another round of waiting until they finally got the call of acceptance.
They were ready to sign the most important deal in their lives: "This was the proof we needed! We were actually doing something right and weren't just silly teenagers who liked loud music," Jesper reminisces. Shortly after, all three founders moved 4,665 miles from Denmark to California.
Staying in California for four months was tough love. Y Combinator helped shape the path of SOUNDBOKS, but it was not unconditional: "We had to grow twelve percent per week; if this didn't happen, then you weren't good enough to be there. Then you were asked to pack your bags and go home."
The deal with Y Combinator and the experience it enabled made the three founders immensely resourceful, driven and ambitious, becoming the youngest Europeans ever to get through Y Combinator.
Contracts shape SOUNDBOKS
The signing of the Y Combinator contract is almost a blur: "Maybe it's because the whole thing stands out in memory as one long journey and one long rush of emotions," Jesper says. Nowadays, most, if not all, contracts at SOUNDBOKS are signed digitally, and Jesper can't remember the last time he put pen to paper with a physical signature.
He and SOUNDBOKS have since become better at celebrating signature moments. As co-founders, they could sit in separate offices or even different countries and still sign large deals. When they sign important contracts now, they do it together in the same office room: "This way, it becomes more of an event, and not just another signature," Jesper says. Still, they have had to remind themselves to acknowledge the victories and big wins within the company.
"That's the dumb thing about big business contracts. They make you super happy, but you forget to celebrate the win. You go immediately back to work. Now we've become better at celebrating investment deals. Sometimes going out and having a couple of beers is just the right way to take a moment and acknowledge the great work you've done!" – Jesper Theil Thomsen
A lot has happened since Roskilde Festival in 2011 and the Y Combinator signing in 2016. SOUNDBOKS celebrated a record-breaking revenue of 248 million DKK for 2021—a result they were very proud of considering all the increased logistics and lack of components due to covid. In June 2022, SOUNDBOKS celebrated the launch of their second edition Bluetooth speaker, Go. They continue their journey to help the new generation of party starters, one speaker at a time... all thanks to that one contract that changed it all.