Tom DeVesto, who launched Cambridge Sound Works and Tivoli Audio, will make it three with the launch of Boston-based Como Audio.
DeVesto, a 40-year CE industry veteran and Hall of Fame member, left Tivoli in early 2015. Tivoli was subsequently purchased by Serruya Private Equity (SPE), a family-managed venture group.
At Tivoli, founded in 2000, DeVesto developed and sold design-oriented high-performance tabletop and portable radios and tabletop hi-fi systems with and without CD. Cambridge Sound Works, co-founded in 1988 with the late CE-industry pioneer Henry Kloss, began as a manufacturer-direct seller of Cambridge-branded home speakers. Products were sold initially through a catalog, but the company later expanded into online sales in the early 1990s, making it the first online retailer of hi-fi audio, DeVesto believes. Cambridge later began selling other-brand electronics and other Cambridge-brand audio products such as tabletop radios. The company also opened its own brick-and-mortar stores and began selling Cambridge-brand products through retailers. Cambridge was purchased in 1997 by Creative Sound Labs and sold off in the late 2000s.
DeVesto’s accomplishments include the introduction of big-screen projection television to the mass market while at Henry Kloss’s Kloss Video Corp., founded in 1977. Before that, DeVesto held various management positions at speaker company Advent, also founded by Kloss. Before his Advent tenure, he started and ran several audio-retail operations.
DeVesto spoke with TWICE to outline his plans and the niche his new company expects to fill.
TWICE: Why start another audio company in a difficult market?
All I have ever done is make products and sell them to people. It’s in my DNA. Starting something fresh is a lot of fun. I don’t want to retire. I haven’t been happier in years.
I left Tivoli on Feb. 1, 2015. I spent the last year looking to see what’s possible, and on Feb. 1, when my noncompete expired, I was raring to go. Sitting on my hands for a year was very difficult for me.
I will unveil the products in early June, and deliveries will start in the fall. It will be the fastest I’ve ever gone from concept to the marketplace.
TWICE: What types of audio products do you plan?
I have to be coy about the products so I can get them to market before someone copies them. They will be music systems, but they will be different from what I made at Tivoli. From an audio perspective, they will be not much larger but will be far more powerful in output.
Como will carry over the idea of being small and designed in a way that you will like to keep them in your house for years and years, and they will be simple to use.
I see a tremendous amount of confusion about all the different ways that content can be listened to. I think I can bring a lot of simplicity to that. I spent a year looking to see what’s possible. If this product wasn’t something special, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. There will be two to three products, depending on how you look at it.
Sonos caught lightning in a bottle, and everyone else has been trying to figure out how to get a part of that business. There has been a big movement to multiroom systems, and the emphasis has been on controlling multiple products remotely in a home through an app. But is any one model worth having in the home? Do you want one? They’re not very attractive. They’re complicated unless you are trained in their use. Who wants to download an app to turn the radio on?
If you put a multiroom speaker in a guest room, what would the guest be able to do with it? What would the babysitter be able to do? They are very complicated and difficult to use for more than one person in a household.
There can be a much better solution to that. There will be nothing like it around. It will add simplicity to a music lover’s life instead of complication.
TWICE: So who is working with you?
I can move quickly because some Tivoli employees have become available. The company that bought Tivoli let go of Peter Skiera, the senior product manager of 20-something years. He was with me at Cambridge Sound Works before Tivoli and before that at Bowers & Wilkins.
My design team in Italy was let go by the new owner at the end of 2015, so my old design team is available. And they discontinued my old public relations firm. So things are coming together, making it hard not to start a new company.
TWICE: What are your distribution-channel plans?
Our distribution uniqueness will separate us from the rest of the pack.
The days of a thousand specialty accounts with trained labor and demonstration capabilities are over. Amazon is the largest CE retailer. The second largest online retailer of electronics is Walmart.com. But specialty retailers who represent flagship opportunities remain important.