We’ve all been there, you've bought some new headphones and after a few months, your left ear suddenly doesn’t receive sound anymore. Luckily you’re not turning deaf, but sadly another problem did occur; broken technology.
This is not just something that is unique to audio hardware, but today we do focus on that particular part of electronics and how a Dutch startup is changing the audio industry, one headphone at a time.
Technology is an essential part of life. Heck, there wouldn’t even be a way for me to tell this story to you without all of my electronic equipment. But for all its benefits, this enormous rise in electronics has also brought a big problem; waste! In 2022 alone we threw away more than 40 million tons of this electronic waste (e-waste) and the amount is only growing. But why do we throw these things away? Two of the main reasons are that 1. we want new things and 2. things break down.
Two study friends Tom and Dorus wanted to change this. It was long before circularity or even sustainability were the main topics in the world, but they had this vision for the future where e-waste was no longer the norm. During their studies in 2014, they came across the idea of creating modular headphones and putting them together with a subscription-based business model.
With some first starting cash, they set out to design and build a whole new product and company from scratch, which came with plenty of challenges.
"We wanted to implement both new ideas at the same time, which proved to be a lot harder than what we had envisioned. People had to get used to two new ideas instead of one, so it was a lot harder to convince people of both innovations, instead of one. So we had to go back to the drawing people and adjusted our goal to create the best modular headphones on the market, without the need for a completely new business model”.
Luckily, after many iterations and prototypes they released their first modular headphones in 2016. While they don’t focus on the subscription model, they do offer repairs for their products and you can even buy the headphones with a complete lifetime guarantee for your headphones. This means that you could just buy one pair of headphones, repair them with new parts when a part is broken, and use them forever.
The goal is to change the relationship between products and people. When people get this different connection to their products, magic can happen. Instead of people throwing away a product because just one piece is faulty, now the products can be seen as a system where if one part fails, it can be replaced with other parts just as easily.
In the end, everyone is happy. The customers get better products and services. The company gets better interaction with customers and also has an incentive to keep on innovating better and more sustainable products. This will also lead to less waste overall.
When we were starting out with our own photo shoots, we were using regular in-ear headphones from big brands, but we wanted to portray products in our shoots that we also stand behind ourselves. Luckily we found Rotterdam-based audio startup Repeat (formerly Gerard Street) and we immediately were captured by both the story and the designs.
They liked our story too and since that day we have always used their headphones in our photos and videos, whenever we want to portray headphones. Of course, we also use them for our podcasts that we just launched. In this podcast, we also invited Tom from Repeat to talk about their journey. You can find that podcast by clicking here.
"It is not enough to just focus on sustainability. You need a clear story, and also a great product. For us, the focus has always been to create the best sounding audio hardware that we can, while not compromising on modularity".
Besides the current collection, they are also expanding their line of audio-orientated products. In order to fund their future growth, Repeat is currently also raising funds. If you are interested in investing in this awesome startup, you can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to learn more about their business, you can find their mission page here.
With products and stories like these, we want to shape a future with athletes of nature. Those who reach their goals without compromising on nature. If you want us to interview/cover another cool brand, let us know!