Melbourne-based headphones startup Nura is launching a hardware subscription model, allowing users to pay for their product month-to-month, and to receive upgraded tech every two years.
Founded in 2015 by Luke Campbell, Dragan Petrovic and Kyle Slater, who has since left the startup, Nura creates headphones that tailor sound to each user’s unique hearing profile, providing a personalised music experience.
In November last year, the startup raised $21 million in Series A funding, led by existing investor Blackbird Ventures.
Now, it has about 50 full-time employees, Petrovic tells StartupSmart, with most based in its Brunswick offices. There are also a handful of staff members in China, and a couple in London and California.
Petrovic doesn’t disclose any stats on user numbers or Nura’s revenue, but he does reveal Nuraphone headphones have been sold in 90 countries, and that users listen to a collective six-and-a-half years’ worth of music every day.
Since the raise, Nura has been focused on raising awareness about the company and the technology.
Even the concept that different people’s hearing is different is “something most people don’t think about, or aren’t even aware of”, Petrovic says.
The team has also been working on making the product more accessible, which is where the subscription model comes in.
“We hope this is going to make the experience more accessible and more enticing for even more people,” he says.
“This has not been done before”
Nura is still a young company. The first Nuraphone was released in January last year, and it’s competing in “a large market full of fairly established players from all over the world”, Petrovic says.
“We’re focusing on distinguishing ourselves and differentiating,” he adds.
First, the startup did this by delivering the personalised music experience, and delivering new software and updates to devices, to offer people a better user experience.
“But we also realised there are some things that we want to continue to do that require hardware updates as well.”
The subscription model allows users to pay for the product subscription monthly, and each two years they will receive the latest model of their device.
As technology continues to develop more and more quickly, Nura customers will have the benefit of receiving refined technology under their existing plan.
“This has not been done before,” Petrovic says.
“We’re doing it as a test to try to understand whether it makes sense, and if the community wants this.”
Initially, 300 subscriptions will be available, at $18 a month, or less if users pay an upfront cost. But whichever plan you opt for, the price won’t amount to more than buying a set of Nuraphone headphones outright.
When you don’t want to pay anymore, you send the product back. Even if you don’t it will stop receiving any software updates, Petrovic explains.
“For as long as you maintain your subscription the product will continue to work,” he adds.
The human experience
It’s an unprecedented move for a products company to offer subscriptions, but Petrovic has faith in Nura customers to let the startup know exactly what they think about it.
“We’ve been really, really fortunate that we have a highly engaged community,” he says.
When the Nuraphone was first released, customers flooded the team with feedback — largely positive — but also including suggestions to improve usability.
The team took users’ advice on board, and when they issued an optional software update in July, 90% of customers went for it.
“That’s a very, very high adoption rate,” Petrovic says.
“[Customers] have been very open and willing to give feedback,” he adds.
“That’s why we feel bold enough to run tests like this.”
But for Petrovic, there’s no real trick to getting people engaged. Nura simply has the good fortune of operating in a space that’s meaningful to a lot of people.
Music is a universal thing, he says.
“Every culture, all people all over the world love music,” he says.
“It’s all part of the human experience.”
Delivering better music to people is “something that resonates with a lot of folks”, he adds.
“We’re not just doing technology for the sake of technology, we are doing complex technology and always with a very singular focus and purpose to deliver the best music listening experience.”
For other startups, Petrovic recommends working on something you’re passionate about.
“If you’re talking to an audience that’s really passionate about it as well, then you have a good match,” he says.
“There is no way to really pour your heart and soul into something if you don’t really care about it,” he adds.
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