In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are struggling in business out there every day. (Responses have been edited and shortened for clarity.)
Who are you and what is your business?
I’m Darren Nakonechny, CEO and Founder of Flock Audio. We are a professional audio technology company specializing 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 professional audio.
What inspired you to start this company?
After coming off a very stable career with many promotions, I felt like I needed a change. Although I made progress in my current career, I was not happy nor did I feel fulfilled. So I changed my career path and ventured into uncharted waters to deepen my passion for audio production and recording studios – which I’ve done on the side for many years with local bands and artists. As I gave up my career and started recording full-time, expanding my studio and adding more recording hardware/tools along the way, I realized that an important part of our industry was missing and still stuck in the archaic past: the analog patchbay.
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Analog routing in recording studios was still performed by technology over 150 years old, originally developed for the telecommunications industry. We’re all familiar with the classic black and white footage of stool operators routing phone calls on a giant patch panel while plugging and unplugging cables to connect phone calls. It turns out that this same technology was used in the audio industry a century and a half later and remained the only lucrative option for thousands of audio professionals worldwide. When I experienced this limited and utterly outdated method of analog routing firsthand, I knew there had to be a better way. More importantly, I wondered why there wasn’t a better way. This led to my journey to develop the industry’s leading analog routing technology, the Flock Audio PATCH series.
What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
As with any disruptive technology, it’s about overcoming the naysayers. To my surprise, most of our industry has embraced and embraced our new technology solution, but that didn’t change the fact that we had to win over a number of more skeptical audio professionals who, despite the product’s growing successes, weren’t yet convinced that this is the future of analogue routing. New technology and change can be scary among the masses until you see what it can offer, and that’s exactly what happened with the Flock Audio PATCH series.
When these skeptical audio pros started seeing more of the Flock Audio brand and eventually testing it out for themselves, they all agreed: there was no going back and nothing like it. This really was the future of our analog hardware industry. I don’t like the term “game changer” in general, but the PATCH series was one of, if not the biggest, breakthrough technology in our industry. Seeing, hearing and experiencing is indeed believing.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
As with any business, product and company scenarios are always unique. There is no easy solution or method to get funding. You will be promised many funding opportunities and will be disappointed by many roadblocks and gatekeepers along the way, but carry on. If it were simple or easy, everyone would do it. You will experience many hardships, difficulties and dark days in the early days of your business, but don’t stop there. Access to capital can come in many different forms from VCs, angel investors, love money, equity financing, pre-order financing and more. But don’t expect a Goldkehl investor to come along and sign a check to get your deal off the ground. It takes determination, perseverance, and determination to figure out where others haven’t gone and what might work for your business—especially when it comes to unexplored financing options. Our company was promised a lot of money and investment in the early years, but not a single penny came through and we had to make it on our own using creative and determined methods. Despite the pain and disappointment of not receiving funding from outside sources, we have made Flock Audio a true success story.
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What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
To me, “entrepreneur” means a trailblazer: someone who can stick a square pin in a round hole. Maybe someone who sees it differently? Admittedly, for the first 30 years of my life I didn’t really know, cared, or had any reason to understand what “entrepreneur” ever meant. It never made sense to me until I lived it, and that included the heartbreaking times as well as other times of success when you felt like a champion. I believe a true entrepreneur is not born. Instead, small wins and big failures will plague you early in the morning and late at night until you finally find the perfect balance to achieve your dream. Never lose that focus, never forget why you started, and keep those two things in focus until you get there.
What is something that many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don’t need?
Partners, co-owners, etc. I hate to sound like a lone wolf, but no two people and no two business owners are the same. When you have a vision for your life and how you want to live it, don’t rely on others to get you there. You need a great team, good people, and positive reinforcement around you to help make that dream come true, but partnering with the wrong people can shatter in a matter of weeks what took months or years to form in your mind establish. Like many entrepreneurs, I made the typical mistake of thinking I needed someone to share this journey with, and I was wrong. Although this partnership didn’t work, it ultimately taught me that while you need a good team, you don’t necessarily need a partner to help you achieve your vision. Nobody will work harder for your dream than you. So I say go in alone, be the lone wolf, be the underdog. It’s not always fun, but it’s invigorating and can teach you so many things about yourself, including strength and endurance, that you never knew you had inside you.
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Is there a specific quote or saying that you use as a personal motivation?
There are so many, but my favorite is one by Les Brown: “Some people get balanced and some people get ahead, stay focused.” This quote has carried me through many difficult times, especially in my own industry where there have been some early naysayers who said my product would never be successful. Every time I heard that, I remembered that quote above. The best approach was to keep your head down, stay focused, and remember that the best revenge is to prove people wrong about the results. not through online disputes in an otherwise noisy world. I kept telling myself, “Stay focused, stay focused, stay focused.”