Pro AVL Asia November – December 2017
The Eklektric view
No stranger to the world of live sound, entrepreneur Jim Sides is back and open for business with Eklektric LLC. And he has Asia in his sights.
Discovers Simon Luckhurst.
From Meyer Sound to NEXO USA, and Apogee Sound to VUE, few in the audio industry boast the enviable credentials of Jim Sides. When he called an end to his full-time involvement with VUE Audiotechnik last year, the loudspeaker company he co-founded with EAW’s Ken Berger back in 2012, many assumed that he done his time in the industry and would now be off to enjoy the finer things in life. But, for Mr Sides, it seems the entrepreneurial spirit never dies.
‘I was considering what I wanted to do,’ he recalls. ‘Do I want to just ride off into the sunset or do I want to do something new and utilise some of the skills I’ve learnt over the years? I co-founded VUE Audiotechnik having just come out of Meyer Sound. At the time, I wanted to do something unique and different, and also introduce some new technologies to the marketplace. It’s up and running now and it’s doing very well, but at the end of the day that’s not where I wanted to wind up my career.
‘At the same time, I wanted to start expanding my horizons, and have the flexibility to not travel so much,’ he continues. ‘I’ve worked it out so that I’m leaving VUE in a good fashion. I’m still a shareholder but that’s now where it ends for me.’
This departure from VUE has given to Mr Sides the opportunity to explore these new horizons, and, like any good entrepreneur, spot the niche in the market. He’s since started a new business called Eklektric that draws on a skilled network of experts to provide businesses with advice and consultation on a wide of range of matters.
‘Looking at the way consultants in our industry work, generally speaking, they’re very focused on one discipline,’ says Mr Sides. ‘One usually hires a consultant for a specific task, which is all well and good, because you need experts when you’re building or expanding a business. I felt that one of the things that was missing in our industry was a person or a consultancy that could cover a wide swath of things, from sales (meaning distribution, setting up sales policies and procedures, as well as how to sell products cleverly), marketing (what’s your message and how to expand that message globally), business development (how to set up a business, how to operate a business, what are your challenges and what are your opportunities in setting up a business), and also just being a person that the CEO or company executives can talk to on a one-to-one basis, that can really be empathetic to what they’re going through.
‘Often, especially in entrepreneurial situations, it’s lonely at the top and the person running that company can feel pretty isolated. All of these kinds of things crop up running a business and what Eklektric offers is really help in a broad sense and across many, many disciplines. That comes from being an entrepreneur myself – I’ve successfully launched two start-ups that have turned international, and both have done extremely well over the years.’
In addition to his own unique skill set, Mr Sides feels his reputation in the industry also offers him an advantage that can benefit others trying to fill his shoes.
‘Apogee Sound was one of the pioneers for many technologies that are being used today in loudspeaker systems and designs.’
‘We had a terrific impact on the industry. Subsequently, I helped to bring a French company into the United States with NEXO when I launched NEXO USA. And, of course, my foray with Meyer. I’d never really worked for anyone before and then I took up working with Meyer for almost 10 years. That saw me travel all over the planet as well, even living in Germany for almost six years. So it’s taking my experience and my credentials building businesses, both in the United States and internationally, that I feel can help people.’
The target for Eklektric is the market Mr Sides knows best: start-up companies and small businesses that lack experience but possess the drive and flexibility necessary for make constructive changes. ‘I’m really specialising working with smaller companies,’ he states. ‘Smaller really means anything from US$10 million turnover to US$50–60 million a year. That’s who I really feel most comfortable with because there’s a lot more freedom. There are a lot of production companies and business that are small and these companies really drive this industry, and if you take that kind of entrepreneurial spirit and drive (which the Asians have innately just in the way their cultures are geared towards achieving success) I really tap into that.’
From its base in California, Eklektric has its sights firmly set on the other side of the world, in part because of Mr Sides’ own appreciation for the many challenges and opportunities present.
‘I’m already really busy just off the back of my reputation, which is brilliant,’ he says. ‘But I definitely want to expand on that and I’m very keen to do more business in Asia,’ he explains. ‘I’ve done a lot of work there over the years and it’s a market I really like a lot. There are so many possibilities and so many opportunities. It really gives people the ability to reinvent themselves. I guess a comparable time would be back in the 1800s when the gold rush happened here in California. It’s similar to what has happened in Asia over the past 30 years. It’s definitely a place of opportunities if you know how to take them and move with them.’
For many westerners, the stark contrast between different Asian cultures can be a stumbling block to success, but Mr Sides considers it a strength of his. ‘It’s what I enjoy,’ he smiles. ‘I enjoy all the various different cultures, I love people and I love the differences between them. Over the years, the change in China, for instance, has just been remarkable. There are such interesting markets and a terrific amount of growth potential.’
Mr Sides undoubtedly possesses an informed and unrivalled view of the industry that keeps calling him back. In an industry experiencing immense and rapid change, it can be useful to have someone on board that can take an eclectic view.