Q&A with Navi
Our Q&A session with Daniel Blumer, CEO and co-founder of Revols, left us inspired and eager to learn more about the people behind this revolutionary startup. Naturally, next in line was Dan’s equal and opposite counterpart, lifelong best friend and trusted business partner, Navi Cohen. Navi is the engineering mastermind behind this custom fitting technology, claiming the more formal title: Revols Co-founder and CTO (Chief Technology Officer). Given my business-related background, the world of R&D, product development and manufacturing was all too new to me. With endless questions and so much to talk about, I sat down with Navi to learn more about him and his role at Revols!
Quickly sum up your job description.
I’m the CTO of Revols, which pretty much covers everything related to development, research, manufacturing -- everything on the technical and engineering side.
Has it always been your dream to be the CTO of a company?
Um, yeah kind of! Since university, I knew I eventually wanted to start a company and make something. So, I went through a lot of different ideas to try to see what was worth pursuing. But yeah that was always my goal -- to try to launch something and develop it into a company.
Wow, so determined! Did you know that it was going to be for an earphone company, or did you imagine it being something else?
I imagined it being a lot of things! So, the early seed for earphones actually started when I was in undergrad. At the time, I was thinking about how to make a more comfortable and affordable earphone solution but then actually dropped it for a few years. I started looking into other things like 3D printing, consumer lighting, industrial lighting, fiber-optics, solar power, OLED displays, and a whole bunch of different things in between. So, getting back to earphones was kind of a roundabout thing. My previous “normal” jobs centered around plastics, materials and injection molding. After doing some research and coming across some interesting materials, one day it kind of clicked. I thought “Okay, if I could put these materials into an earphone, then I could probably make a quick custom molded solution -- that same idea that I had a few years ago.” And, that’s how I came back to it and said “let me try this and see if it can actually work!”
So, is this how Revols initially came about?
That was the start. Daniel and I have known each other since we were about three, and when we got to university, we knew we wanted to start a business together. We would always pitch each other on ideas, and this was one of them basically! I started thinking about it and I went over to Daniel’s one day and said, “Hey, what do you think about custom-fit earphones?” We started hacking together some prototypes on his dining room table. We bought some supplies from the pharmacy, hardware store, even Walmart, a little all over the place. With all these really rough components we managed to put something together. We might’ve even destroyed some of their baking sheets (sorry Amanda) -- we figured it was better to destroy that than the actual table. And yeah, we shoved a bunch of stuff into something that kind of resembled an earphone and was able to mold it, and that proved the concept. Once we saw that the basic idea worked, we set off looking into patents, market size and potential, future markets, and then it all snowballed from there.
That’s so interesting! So what exactly do you oversee as a CTO, and what is your favorite part about it?
I oversee everything from the mechanical design, to the development of the chemical formulation, development of the circuitry, electronics, software and firmware. In all it’s really everything from the early stages of very intense R&D (Research and Development), to the anatomy of the human ear and chemical formulations in the lab, and then finally to things that go more into product design and development (so turning an R&D type of prototype in the lab into something that actually looks like a product). Last but not least, scaling up into manufacturing -- so once we had something that actually looked and worked like a product, going through the steps of actually getting it manufactured at scale. This involves talking with the manufacturers and figuring out tooling and planning, sourcing components and pretty much everything you need to do to actually make it from 5 in the lab to 10,000. My favorite part of it all is in the middle -- going from “Okay, it works in the lab” to “How do we make this a product?”
That does sound fun! So what is the biggest challenge that you face being the CTO of a startup company?
Balancing everything, I guess. As a startup, you’re just trying to do so many things at once. We’ve always had a pretty small team and there are a lot of different aspects that go into taking something from R&D scale-prototype to something that you can actually manufacture in the ten’s of thousand’s. It’s just about balancing all those priorities and skill sets.
That definitely sounds challenging. Okay now, describe yourself as a CTO in one word.
Um, I’d say persistent.
Any plans for Revols Product 2 that you can share with us?
I do have some ideas… some thing we’ve always been interested in is integrating True Wireless technology. So, basically having completely independent earbuds, no wire behind the neck anymore. This is something that we strayed away from because we didn’t find that the connectivity was stable enough at the time of product one’s development.
Pretty much, true wireless. Also, very interested in integrating sensors into the earphones. Things like biometric sensors -- heart rate monitors, body temperature, blood oxygen level, GPS... Not that all of those will necessarily be in version 2, but looking into what could be integrated as we go forward.
Okay, now for the fun stuff. Do you have any hidden talents?
I could fall asleep almost anywhere. I could pretty much fall asleep in an uncomfortable, full seated position. This has really come in handy with all the long distance commutes to and from China that I’ve been doing!
Wow, impressive! Is there someone in the tech industry that inspires you? Who and why?
There are a lot of people, but Elon Musk I guess would be at the top of the list. He just goes for it with these massive projects that everyone thinks are crazy but then he just does it anyway! And it works!
Funny, Daniel had the same response! Speaking of him, what’s it like working with your best friend (Co-founder, Daniel) and wife (Marketing Director, Tali)?
It’s been really great actually. When we first started, everyone was a little hesitant, asking us if we’re sure we want to do that. And that was at the beginning, just with Daniel. They all said “Friends, business -- that doesn’t always mix…” But I guess we just knew each other well enough to know that based on our friendship, we knew it wouldn’t be an issue. Especially since we both have such different and complementary skill sets -- neither of us are ever stepping on the other’s toes. And then, when Tali came in, people were like “Okay, now are you sure you want to add that on top? First your best friend, and now you want to bring your fiancé [at the time] into it?” But yeah, we were always pretty confident that it would be totally fine. I don’t know if at the time it was just being naive or thinking, “Yeah other people have issues with this but I’m sure we won’t”, but we really haven’t! Even in Hong Kong, 300 square feet, living together, working together, I don’t know, we just always seem to find a balance that works.
That’s great! Speaking of which, what’s your favorite part about travelling to Hong Kong/China for work?
The food! Hong Kong has really good food, so that’s fun! Also, exploring any new place with Tali is always cool. We spent some weekends in Hong Kong doing hikes or just wandering through Central -- just discovering a new place and feeling what it’s like to be in a foreign city.
What’s your nickname around the Revols office?
Well, people call me Nav, or Navy (yes, like the color). One that hopefully isn’t catching on -- that Tali is trying to get to stick -- is Nutty Professor.
What earphones are you listening to these days?
For the last few months, I’ve been listening to Revols engineering prototypes -- they’re really awesome.
Who’s your favorite music artist?
Um, depends on the day. Recently, I’d say The Beach Boys. Historically, like consistently, I’d say Led Zeppelin, Radiohead and Elton John. I don’t have one favorite artist, I go through phases of listening to a certain artist more or less.
What are your top 3 favourite songs?
From The Beach Boys, God Only Knows. From Elton John, Bennie and The Jets. And from Radiohead, Fake Plastic Trees.
Looks like having a dream and setting your mind to it can truly pay off! Navi always knew he wanted to create something special, and he did just that. With the help of his best friend, wife and supportive startup team, Revols looks like they’re headed for even bigger and brighter things. Keep up with the latest advancements and whatever this revolutionary startup has in store for us next!
Click here to join Navi and the rest of the team on the Earphone Revolution! Stay tuned for more of “The People Behind Revols” coming soon!