Ben Seaman is the Founder of Riverwood Acoustics and the winner of the inaugural RC100 $100,000 Technology Startup Competition (delivered by our colleagues at Renfrew CFDC). You can read all about how RC100 began and the role we played in helping to launch the Renfrew edition of N100 in my previous posts (here and here). We are truly excited about what is happening in the Valley.

Without further delay, here is Ben to talk about the competition, his company and Riverwood’s future plans, in our latest feature interview.

John Hayden, N100: What makes Riverwood’s speakers so unique?

Ben Seaman, Founder of Riverwood Acoustics: Our speakers have a unique story. We use 100% reclaimed ‘Riverwood’ that once travelled down the Ottawa River during the 1800’s logging drive. During their voyage many of the logs sunk to the bottom and lay perfectly preserved. This rare Riverwood has unique acoustic and visual properties as the wood grew 300+ years ago in a more ideal climate. Our speakers are truly your very own piece of Canadian history.

How do we order ours? We offer a 30 day money back guarantee to ensure customer satisfaction. These are truly premium hi-fidelity speakers with style and history.

What does it feel like to win RC100?

Simply amazing! Winning RC100 has been a game changer for us. As a bootstrapped venture, it was difficult to progress the company due to high barrier costs associated with production and tooling. We now have the tools and capital in place to take Riverwood Acoustics to the next level.

So with the $100,000 in backing from Renfrew County CFDC Investment Fund, what will you do with the investment capital specifically?

We have already found our Headquarters which will be located in Renfrew to allow for final assembly/testing and office space. We are allocating about half of the funds toward inventory needed for our next production run. Our speaker enclosure is locally manufactured so we have tight controls on quality assurance and just-in-time delivery. Next up is to focus purely on the distribution game (marketing, sales and production)

Let’s step back… we met at Algonquin College Waterfront Campus in Pembroke this Spring for the first RC100 entrepreneurial development workshop with Rich McAloney and Leo Mui from the Impact Centre. Wondering if you could tell everyone about your experience in RC100 Pitch School, along with ten other finalists?

RC100 pitch school gave me the tools to be a more effective communicator. As a startup, the world doesn’t know your brand so it’s your job as Founder to educate, inspire and tell your story with PASSION! They have taken this turtle out of his shell and allowed him to properly communicate what Riverwood Acoustics is all about.

You definitely did that. So going forward, what is your vision for Riverwood’s presence and impact in the community?

We envision growing Riverwood Acoustics into a household name for premium home wireless audio. This company is focused on quality, customer experience and value. In the future you will see new products already being developed that will be a natural extension to our product line. The goal of Riverwood Acoustics is to create a sustainable product line and impact the local economy through high quality jobs (engineering, production, office and logistics).

When you won RC100, Bruce Croxon tweeted to congratulate you and has totally endorsed your product. What’s the story behind that tweet?

Bruce Croxon is an early adopter of our speaker. We meet Bruce at a Startup Canada function, where we showed him our prototype and branding/positioning. Since last year he has one of our early prototype speakers and absolutely loves the sound quality and the story. He is an avid music lover and environmentalist which ties in perfectly to our brand… plus he’s an all-around nice guy!

Also Brett Kissel and other major celebrities seem to love your speakers, too. What impact does influencer marketing have on your sales strategy?

Brett Kissel is such a Canadian country icon he is a perfect fit for our startup. Scott and I are both big country music fans having him on board is great social validation for us. Riverwood Acoustics is in a David vs Goliath situation going head to head with established companies such as Bose, Sonos, etc. In order to stand out we must approach marketing differently. Influencers and other celebrities are looking for alternatives to the large corporate companies that share our common values (Quality Sound/Style, History and the Environment).

Riverwood is a physical technology startup but it also has a real “indie” feel to it… tell us about your team and how you came together to pursue your unique vision?

So the founding team is Scott Rathwell and myself (Ben Seaman). I have known Scott for seven years. Our kids shared a daycare together and since then we have become great friends. I had the vision for this speaker a couple years however when one night discussing over a beer (or two) we grabbed a napkin and started sketching. It was all history from there. Scott and I have over 30 years of design and engineering experience that has given us the tools and knowledge to create a world leading speaker. The sound and build quality of this little speaker is simply incredible.

After the prototype stage, we started our digital marketing activities where we found our digital marketing team (Daniel Leewood and Alex Williams). They also believe deeply in our brand and what we are trying to accomplish as a company. They have been instrumental in the growth and online presence of Riverwood Acoustics.

Can we hear the opening line from your pitch one last time…?

Historic. Artful. Unrivaled! Riverwood Acoustics has locally designed and manufactured the world’s first home wireless speaker made from 100% river wood. This wood once travelled down the mighty Ottawa River during the 1800’s logging drive. Fast forward a century, our eco-divers retrieve these logs and we turn them into an acoustic masterpiece…