Connected toys and music playlists are all the rage and a new toy called AirJamz combines both trends by offering a soundtrack for life. Any activity can be put to music with AirJamz that works with Bluetooth and Android or IOS devices. It is loaded with over one hundred unique sounds and instruments and up to twenty-five songs can be played at once with up to four players. Chad Koehler, Vice President of Zivix, is the principle of Digital Clay Studios which develops and distributes a wide array of games to all major boxed and digital retailers. He holds a business and administration degree from Highline University and recently discussed his experiences working with Zivix:
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: When was your company started and why was that specific name chosen?
Chad Koehler (CK): Our company was first started in 2008 in Dan Sullivan’s (Founder) garage! No fun story on the Zivix name—A few of our other favorite names were taken, thus Zivix was born.
MM: What kinds of items do you sell? Essentially, how would you describe your products?
CK: We sell products that make music more accessible to everyone. We started with the wildly successful jamstik SmartGuitar which was designed to teach anyone how to play guitar. There are sensors in the fretboard that can “See” your finger placement and give feedback in real time—which is incredibly valuable to anyone just learning to play. This solution is accompanied with a suite of education apps to teach guitar interactively. Beyond being one of the best ways to learn guitar basics, the jamstik+ is also a full MIDI controller that allows musicians or songwriters to have creative freedom on-the-go. Since it’s completely digital, the jamstik+ works with 100s of other apps, and has the ability to sound like virtually any instrument, making for a variety of experiences. Though quite different from the jamstik, our latest product AirJamz continues our mission by allowing anyone to do something musical right away. Apart from AirJamz and the jamstik+, we also offer the puc+ which is a Bluetooth MIDI link allowing musicians to wireless connect USB-MIDI’s or 5-PIN MIDI controllers.
MM: Right now many items does your company offer overall?
CK: Right now we’re selling multiple product lines, from the jamstik+ SmartGuitar, puc+ and the AirJamz
MM: How do you think up ideas for your products? For example, do you ever work with inventors?
CK: We are inventors! The company was born out of a few ideas from tinkerers who have a love for music. Zivix was founded on the idea of teaching people to learn guitar and become musicians through the use of smart sensor technology and companion software. A lot of the drive was to answer the call of the thousands of Guitar Hero and RockBand players who wanted to learn an actual skill, but have fun doing it. By combining engineering talents with a love of music and music instruction, the ideas for the jamstik and the puc were born. We’re always thinking of new ways we can improve our products and even what’s coming down the road. The beauty about the jamstik+ and the AirJamz in particular is that the experience can be radically enhanced from the companion apps that really bring those products to life. As such, there are always new things being added to the free apps, and some very exciting enhancements on the way in the new year.
MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working with this company?
CK: Being with a company that has a firm root in what our mission is, helping to bring more musicians in to the world and giving back to music education programs, is so rewarding. We know who we are and what we’re set out to accomplish. So many companies can lose their way trying to be everything to everyone, and that’s not us. We have the luxury of making incredibly engaging and interactive products that people love. The other big joy is seeing the reaction of people using the products for the first time, whether we’re at trade shows, the local YMCA volunteering or just being with our own friends and family.
MM: Where do you hope the company will be in ten years?
CK: We hope that the jamstik franchise and our other music related products become household names as we continue to innovate the mobile music world—pushing the boundaries of music and technology. We’ve been working on some great partnerships, including initiatives with music educators, so we’d love to see those efforts blossom into something that is making a measurable impact on as many lives as possible.
MM: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to enter the toy industry?
CK: First and foremost know your customer, who are you selling to? Always keep your eye on the experience for the end user. Is it easy to use? Is it fun? Stay true to who you are and make sure that you keep the element of fun at the forefront!
MM: Are there any upcoming events that you would like to mention?
CK: We’ll will have a team at CES, NAMM and be exhibiting at Toy Fair in NYC on February 18-21.