“A New Idea That Has Never Been Done Before” – An Interview With OMB’s CEO

Benzi Thee, OMB CEO

How did you get into this business?

I am a curious entrepreneur, constantly seeking new exciting and challenging areas and innovations. I can’t explain the excitement and joy I feel when a new idea that has never been done yet comes to my head. I am also a musician, trained and master of improvisation.

How did you come up with the idea for OMB?

OMB was based on the idea of enabling guitarists to enjoy features that only keyboardists had access to including accompaniment of a backing band in real time). Once that thought came to me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it!

What made you decide to get in the business?

At first, I was surprised there is no such thing in the market. When I asked guitarists if they heard about this concept or use of technology or if any of the big companies tried to address this, I found out that nothing has been done in this area. I was surprised to discover the limited use of advanced technology in the guitar sector. Looking around at other musical instruments — keyboards, drums, wind instruments, violin, DJ equipment etc confirmed that the guitar sphere has been pretty much standing in the same place for way too long and needs an update!

What are the technological challenges you had to deal with?

The first challenge was to find a way to use the same exact guitar, keeping the original sound, weight, look, etc. We didn’t want to create a new instrument, we just wanted to add more features to the existing one.

The next challenge was to have the guitarist use the same exact playing method and technique they’re familiar with, and not have to teach them a new way of playing. The third challenge was to keep it affordable. The fourth is to ensure the easiest install possible.

What other challenges stand in the way of an entrepreneur?

Well besides the biggest and most obvious one — money — there are many other significant challenges. I’ll name a few:

Feedback from potential users, to actually see if the product is needed, to make sure there is a market for it. To find out what end users are actually seeking How to hire a good, devoted, motivated team. The usual stuff: design, marketing, manufacturing, fulfillment, shipping, customers service etc.

Are you a guitar player?

I am a keyboardist who plays guitar, but wouldn’t call myself a guitarist. We used professional guitarists, teachers etc, as consultants with everything that had to do with the end user.

As a keyboard player, what made you want to create this for guitar?

Here’s a story — I was playing a gig in front of 400 kids — when everything is programmed in my keyboard, the violins, trumpets, different accompaniments for each song — and the keyboard dies. I’m standing there, thinking what should I do, when I remember that I have a guitar in my car. I apologize and grab it from my car, completing the show. My emotions were mixed: On one hand, the show lacked everything I had prepared, cool things, exciting sounds and beats; on the other hand, the show had a very special personal touch and vibe that doesn’t usually happen when playing keyboards. I was closer to the audience, much more communicative, I was able to express some things better when not standing still, not moving behind the keys. But I kept coming back to the fact that I was missing all those amazing features that keyboards provide. I wished there was a guitar that does everything keyboards can do…

What was the OMB process, from concept to launch and about how long did it take?

From the time the idea popped into my head, through going to stores, tradeshows, checking online to see if there is such a thing for my personal use. Understanding there’s no such thing in the market and the decision I want to take this task upon myself, going over patents, creating the team, finding investors, establishing proof of concept, prototype, adjustments, building the app to support, sound design, building tracks, product design, bringing to manufacture, etc. It’s been at least eight years, with the first four being solely R&D.

What made you decide to launch with a crowdfunding campaign and how did that go?

The decision to go to crowdfunding was not easy, it came mainly out of the wish to show ourselves and our investors that there is a market for our product before getting into deep development and manufacturing. Fortunately, the campaign went well and we are only left with the one fear of racing against time.

Did anyone reach out to you as a result of the campaign?

Yes, we have received a lot of interest from major instrument companies as well as media, including various magazines, podcasts, radio shows etc.

If people buy aftermarket, how easy is it to install it?

The installation involves a few parts. Most of it is straightforward and pretty easy, it requires taking off strings, attaching our OMB devices, putting back the strings, and connecting our diamond strap to the neck. This part should take no longer than seven minutes. The second part requires soldering and involves taping a conductive tape on both sides of the neck and soldering the tape to the frets.

For this part, we suggest that if you are not highly experienced with soldering, bring your guitar and the device to a professional. It should take them no more than 10 to 15 minutes to complete the task. It’s very important to make sure at the end of this process that the soldiering was done cleanly so that hands could not be hurt while playing across the neck. When done properly, no damage will be done to the guitar, and no marks would remain if the tape and soldering were removed for any reason, Full instructions are attached to the device as well as an explanatory video.

Will your OMB work with any amp or PA System?

OMB does not require any output, it transfers MIDI data. The amp needed would depend on the device you are attaching it to. For example, if you hook our device to an iPad, the iPad could be hooked up to an amp that works well with iPad. Same thing if you hook it up to a computer, a keyboard, or any other module controller: the sound comes out of that, and not out of the device installed on the guitar.

Where can I buy an OMB unit or guitar?

All our products could be bought through our website – www.ombguitars.com

What are your future plans for OMB?

We see ourselves as a technology company that is able to provide any musician with the amazing power that  for the last 30 years was available only to keyboard players. With OMB other musicians can now also accompany themselves and play with full band accompaniment: following their lead, controlling all performances of the band in real time (tempo, what instruments are in the band, what part of the song they are playing and not and more). It’s accompaniment to any song, any genre, any artist, at the tap of a click.

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