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?
I am Darren Nakonechny, CEO and founder of Flock Audio. We are a professional audio technology company that specializes in advanced analog routing technologies and hardware management solutions. Our patented analog routing technology is the first of its kind and we’re setting a new standard in our industry for using analog hardware in the professional audio field.
What inspired you to create this business?
After leaving a very stable career with many job promotions, I felt like I needed a change. Although I was making strides in my current career, I wasn’t happy or feeling fulfilled. So I changed my career path and ventured into uncharted waters, deepening my passion for audio production and recording studios — which I had been doing on the side for many years with local bands and artists. Once I left my career and began recording full-time, growing my studio and adding more recording hardware/tools along the way, I noticed there was a vital part of our industry that was missing and still stuck in the archaic past: the analog patchbay.
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Analog routing in recording studios was still being done by a 150+-year-old technology, originally developed for the telecommunications industry. We are all familiar with the classic black-and-white footage of lady operators on stools, routing phone calls on a giant patch panel as they plugged and unplugged cables to connect phone calls. It turns out that this very technology was being used a century and a half later in the audio industry, and remained the only lucrative option for thousands of audio professionals worldwide. Upon experiencing this limited and grossly outdated method of analog routing firsthand, I knew there had to be a better way. More importantly, I questioned why there wasn’t a better way. This is what led to my journey into creating our industry’s leading analog routing technology, the Flock Audio PATCH Series.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you pivot to overcome it?
As with any groundbreaking technology, it’s overcoming the naysayers. To my surprise, most of our industry accepted and adopted our new technology solution with open arms, but this didn’t change the fact that we had to win over a range of more skeptical audio professionals, who despite seeing the growing successes of the product, were still unconvinced that this was the future of analog routing. New technology and change can be scary among the masses until you see what it can offer, and this is exactly what transpired with the Flock Audio PATCH Series.
Once those skeptical audio professionals started to see more of the Flock Audio brand and eventually test it for themselves, they all agreed: there was no going back, and nothing else like it. This truly was the future of our analog hardware industry. I generally dislike the term “game changer” but the PATCH Series has been one of, if not the biggest game-changing technology in our industry. Seeing, hearing and experiencing is indeed believing.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
As with every business, product and company scenarios are always unique. There is no simple solution or method to obtain funding. You will be promised a lot of opportunities for funding, and disappointed by a lot of roadblocks and gatekeepers along the way, but keep going. If it was simple or easy, everyone would do it. You will have to experience many hardships, difficulties and dark days during the early times of starting your company, but don’t stop. Accessing capital can come in many different forms of VCs, angel investors, love money, self-funding, preorder funding and more. But don’t expect some golden-throated investor to come along and sign a check to get your business off the ground. It takes determination, stamina and decisiveness to figure out the routes that others haven’t taken, and what might work for your company — specifically in terms of funding options that haven’t been explored. Our company was promised a lot of money and investments along the way during the early years, but not a single penny came through, and we had to do it on our own using creative and decisive methods. Despite the pain and disappointment of not getting any funding from outside sources, we made Flock Audio a true success story.
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What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
For me, “entrepreneur” means a trailblazer: someone who can fit a square peg into a round hole. Perhaps someone who sees things differently? For the first 30 years of my life, I admittedly didn’t really know, care or had any reason to understand what ‘entrepreneur’ ever meant. It never made any sense to me until I lived it, and that included the heartbreaking times as well as other times of achievement that made you feel like a champion. I believe a true entrepreneur is not born. Instead, you are sculpted through early mornings and late nights of small successes and major defeats, until finally, you find the perfect balance towards achieving your dream. Never lose that focus, never forget why you started, and keep both of these things in your field of vision until you get there.
What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don’t?
Partners, co-owners, etc. I hate to sound like a lone wolf but no two people, and no two business owners, are alike. If you have a vision for your life and how you want to live it, you don’t rely on other people to get you there. You need a great team, good individuals and positive reinforcement around you to help assist in fulfilling that dream but partnering with the wrong people can destroy in a matter of weeks what may have taken months or years to establish in your mind. Like many entrepreneurs, I made the typical mistake of thinking that I needed someone else to share this journey with and I was wrong. While that partnership didn’t work out, it ultimately taught me that even though you need a good team, you don’t necessarily need a partner to help you achieve your vision. No one will work harder for your dream than you. So I say go in it alone, be the lone wolf, be the odd one out. It’s not always fun, but it’s invigorating and can teach you so many things about yourself, including strength and perseverance you never knew you had in you.
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Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
There are so many, but my favorite is one from Les Brown: “Some people get even, and some people get ahead, stay focused.” This quote has carried me through many difficult times, particularly in my own industry where there were some early naysayers who said my product would never be successful. Each and every time I heard this, I reminded myself of this quote above. The best approach was to keep my head down, stay focused and remember that the best revenge of all is proving people wrong with results; not by arguing online in an otherwise noisy world. I kept telling myself, “stay focused, stay focused, stay focused.”