The Death of Sonos

I have loved Sonos for years. They were one of our advertisers when my friends and I owned Engadget, but I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt working on my first big startup and I couldn’t afford their magical “music for every room” smart speakers. By the time we sold our company, the prices had come way down. How ironic. I could finally afford their fancy gear and now it didn’t cost as much.

Today we have them in every room: a big Playbar on our living room TV, two Play:5s, two Play:3s, a Sonos One in every kid’s room and a Connect:Amp bridge that lets us play music on our backyard speakers. From our phones we can play anything we want anywhere in our house. Our family bounces between Spotify, SiriusXM, Pandora, YouTube Music, SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, podcasts and local radio stations.

Sonos is magical. Their customers rave about them to anyone who’ll listen, the same way people rave about Air Pods, Tesla, In-N-Out, Instant Pot and DisneyWorld.

And right now, they’re screwed.

In December, people attacked Sonos for bricking the old devices you “trade up” — making them unusable and environmentally hostile.

Yesterday, Sonos announced that they won’t be supporting older devices. You can keep using your older speakers without software updates — meaning they won’t be able to do things your newer devices can do — or you can trade them in for 30% off of new devices. But if you keep new devices and old devices running on the same network, then your new devices won’t be supported either. And the devices you trade in become landfill.

Longtime customers — formerly raving fans — were angry.

My first reaction was empathy for Sonos. I get it. It must suck having to make software that still works on speakers I bought in 2013 and 2014 when Apple’s latest iOS doesn’t even work on iPhones made in 2015.

I have a social video app and it’s a challenge just to support the last 3 years of Android and iOS — plus every new release. Every month I hear from someone who is disappointed that our 2-person company isn’t testing our app on thousands of different Android tablets and making sure it works on their $99 phone from 2015.

But what people expect from their smartphones and what they expect from their speakers are very different things.

Your old iPhone 4 doesn’t suddenly stop connecting to wifi or making phone calls when Apple drops support for it. It just doesn’t get the latest emojis or FaceTime features. And mixing old and new iPhones on your family plan doesn’t make your new phones stop working.

Even after the 30% discount, upgrading the speakers in my house will cost $900 — and I don’t know how long it will be until I get forced to upgrade more devices.

The reactions were 98% negative.

A few people were supportive, pointing out that Sonos has supported cloud-connected hardware for more than a decade and that this is reasonable.

But Sonos is famous for having products that just keep working.

It’s a selling point.

It’s not a good thing when your biggest fans are all over social complaining about you.

Sonos needs to reconsider what they’re doing and find a way to win us all back.

I’m Buying the Foo Fighters

Gary Vaynerchuk is known for many things. One of them is that he wants to buy the Jets. He often explains that he doesn’t expect to buy them and probably wouldn’t be happy as an NFL owner. But setting a goal of buying the Jets drives him.

So I picked a similar goal:

Gary kindly replied:

The Jets aren’t for sale. The Foo Fighters certainly aren’t for sale. And we don’t know what we’d do with them if we owned them. But man it’s going to be fun trying.

LAUNCH Incubator 3: The Legend Continues

When I visited the two LAUNCH Incubator classes in December, it was to allegedly to see if there were any interesting companies to advise. My real plan though was to soak up some of their weekly pitch practice. We were working on an iPhone app for Recurrency that we planned to debut at the LAUNCH Festival and I wanted our presentation to go as smoothly as our last one.

But watching other people pitch their startups isn’t a substitute for pitching your own. So when Jason told me that a spot had opened up, I jumped right in.

What a wild ride. Our first week of pitching went great. We won the most points. It felt like it was going to be a breeze.

Was I ever wrong.

Continue reading “LAUNCH Incubator 3: The Legend Continues”

Should you apply to the LAUNCH Incubator?

It depends. It’s not for everyone.

Only apply to the LAUNCH Incubator if you want to:

  • get Jedi-level presentation training – which will help you…
  • get a “yes” from every angel investor you talk to – which will help you…
  • attract a world-class team – which will help you…
  • build a world-class product – which is made better when you…
  • get expert feedback on your product and presentation from Jason’s amazing weekly special guests.

I hope that helps you with your decision.

NOTE: If you live on the east coast, keep in mind that you will be spending three solid months in San Francisco — away from your family. They may come visit you for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you will miss them like crazy. On the bright side, if your spouse is as supportive of you as Niki is of me, at some point during the Incubator they will decide that it’s time to sell your house and move across the country to a whole new life and all new schools in California.

Good luck!

Make awesome possible

Yesterday, Jonathan George and I launched Recurrency on stage at the LAUNCH Festival. Leading up to our debut, we spent 12 weeks in the LAUNCH Incubator doing pitch rehearsals. That training was invaluable and some of the other incubator entrepreneurs will surely be lifelong friends.

What is Recurrency? For supporters and super fans, it means giving money to creators they love each week on any social network* and becoming part of their inner circle. For creators and causes, it means “recurring currency.”

Check out the Recurrency FAQ to learn more.

* Currently this means Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the ones with great APIs. Soon it will mean dozens more. If you’re not on one of those three services, let me know what you need us to add next.