One remark to describe Lolly is, “thank you for not making another IoT product”. Just like your ear plugs, that performs neatly without having to be connected, Lolly, a 3D microphone records sound with full fidelity without having to download an app or to charge it. Founded by Tsinghua University alumni, Lolly, priced at US$ 45, has already raised 70% of its US$ 30,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding goal, with a month left.
“We have seen a lot of Chinese netizens play with live streaming, karaoke and share audio shows, audio streaming their stories using their mobile phones, which provides very limited quality of recording,”CEO at MeloAudio, Powell Li explains “We wanted to come up with a product for better voice recording for B2C consumers, so that more people can enjoy high quality sounds.”
According to 2016 NAMM Global Report, music market size of U.S. and China is US$ 7.1 billion and US$ 1.4 billion respectively. The 59% of top 15 of music products in U.S. were imported from China.
“With the popularity of smart devices, consumer audio product market is still seeing steady growth. The professional audio product market is relatively stable, and the main consumer groups are concentrated in overseas, mainly in the US,” Powell remarks. “That’s why our company is based in the US. China is the fastest growing market, with live streaming, podcast, karaoke on mobile phone.”
China’s overall production reached RMB 280.8 billion (US$ 40.7 billion) in 2015, and its audio equipment sales showed a growth rate of 54% from 2008 to 2015. The audio equipment market continues to soar in 2016, with headphones and speakers accounting for about 40% of the share, according to JD.com’s data.
Compared with its competitor Shure MV88, Lolly offers a reverberation function that brings a sense of spatial depth to the sound and uses adaptive recording orientation technology that adjusts the sound stage orientation to match the natural listening style of human ears, meaning that no matter how a user holds iPhone, the sound axis of the phone will be same with the user’s ears. Shure MV88 is priced at US$ 149 and requires users to download an app, while Lolly does not.
“When we conducted a survey, we decided not to limit our product to the IoT. App download can be a burden for our users. So we let them use any app, recording apps and live streaming apps,” Powell says.
Previously three of the founders worked in Texas Instrument in Beijing. Dr. Wilson Zuo, president and Yves Shi, CTO worked in the R&D of the application and computer chips, while Powell Li served as a distribution manager. Three employees worked on the development of an audio product in the company, and decided to start one on their own.
Lolly targets China’s live streaming market
Lolly is compact and has a pleasant design, which might greatly appeal to the female users.
“We thought about the customers. When you see microphones on Taobao, all the product design are all very similar and restricted. We thought female users might use our product when doing the live streaming, so that’s why our product looks cute and adorable, appealing to female users,” Powell says.
The company is now discussing with Chinese live streaming companies to cooperate. The live streaming market grew 180% in 2016, but as the market consolidates and the regulations gets more stringent, the speculations are that the market will slow down this year.
“Last year, all the market focus was on the live streaming market. This year will show rather smoother growth. But in a long term, I think live streaming will stay as a good entertainment way for Chinese users,” Powell remarks. “As these platforms get smarter, and get matured, it will attract more people on the way. So I believe it’s worth we’re doing this. With Lolly, live streaming experience and the customers’ expectation will both go up.”
The Beijing-based company has received angel investment of RMB 3 million from Beijing TusSeed (北京启迪种子), Beijing Taiyou Fund (北京泰有投资管理有限公司), Winhub fund (强合基金), and Li Chi, a well-known Chinese investor.
After the crowdfunding, Lolly will be seen on the shelves by local distributors in the US, China, Japan, and Germany at a retail price of US$ 99.