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Sharkk Sinks Teeth Into Audio, Plans Home Automation

Expands beyond direct-to-consumer sales to online, brick-and-mortar 8/20/2015 03:00:00 PM Eastern

Sharkk, founded in late 2012 as a direct-to-consumer accessories supplier, is changing its product focus and go-to-market strategy, founder and CEO Dov Brafman told TWICE.

The Parsippany, N.J.- based company, which expanded into Bluetooth speakers about 1.5 years ago, is now focusing most of its development efforts on audio, in part by expanding its Bluetooth line with step-up products. The company, however, also plans to enter the headphone market later this year and, in 2016, expand into additional audio categories, including Wi-Fi multiroom-audio speakers, soundbars, computer speakers, and home theater speaker packages.

DIY smart-home products are also under development, with products such as Wi-Fi cameras due at the end of 2016.

“The real focus for the beginning of 2016 is the development of our audio product line,” said Brafman.

“We’re not eliminating accessories, but we’ve had very good success with audio, so that will be the focus of a lot of our development.”

The company has “cut a lot of cables and connectors, with more on the way out,” he added. “We’re moving away from me-too items and looking for products where we can stand out.”

Distribution play: While he repositions the company, Brafman has also begun to open up distribution to online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Earlier this year, the company began selling through such online retailers as BestBuy.com, Walmart.com, Amazon, Newegg, B&H.com, Overstock.com, eBay and Groupon. The company will shortly add Target.com.

Selling through brick-and-mortar outlets is another new strategy. The company has been selling through B&H’s store for a few months, all 50 of Fry’s stores for two months, and Brands Mart’s 10 stores for one month. It is in talks with other retailers as well.

The company originally started selling products as a third-party merchant on Amazon.

Partnership: Sharkk’s stepped-up activities follow a partnership with a U.S. distribution company in January, delivering what Brafman called “the benefits of a small company with the advantages of a large company’s logistics and financing.”

The investment will help Sharkk bring its audio marketing message to more consumers. “We attract people who appreciate quality and value in audio,” Brafman said. “They don’t want to pay an extra $150 for the Beats or Jambox name, but they stay far away from the cheapest.”

Sharkk “pushes technology, specs and features close to the brand names or better with a price that’s significantly lower,” he added.

One of the company’s latest products is the $149-suggested Boombox Buddy, which consists of portable stereo Bluetooth speakers, each of which plays stereo but which can be paired wirelessly for use as separate left-right speakers. Other companies offer speakers that can also be paired for two-speaker stereo use, but those products are sold singly, confusing customers, Brafman said.

The company’s previous Bluetooth offerings focused on the $30 to $69 price range.

Speakers to come: In the coming days and weeks, the company plans its first waterproof Bluetooth speaker and its first speaker with built-in power bank to charge mobile devices. The former at $59 will be IPX-67 rated for submersion in up to 1 meter of fresh water for up to 30 minutes. The latter will be priced at $79 and will be water-resistant. Its 6,600mAh battery will charge USB devices and deliver almost 24 hours of playing time.

A more powerful 30-watt Bluetooth speaker at about $150 is due in two months.

For the rest of the year, the company will launch its first two headphones, both with Bluetooth. One will be a sports-type speaker with in-ear drivers held snugly in place by hooks around the ear. The other will be an over-ear headphone pair.

Additional headphones are in the works and will follow, likely in 2016. They will include wired and Bluetooth over-ear headphones, including noise-canceling models.

Sharkk works with the R&D teams of Chinese factories to develop its products.

The company will exhibit for the first time at a CTIA show, held this year in September in Las Vegas. Sharkk will be in booth 832.

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