1 November 2022
Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur before starting IRIS.
I founded my first company at the age of 17 and have spent my working life as a founder and CEO — apart from four years in capital markets building asset-backed credit funds and doing direct deals working for Forbes Private Capital Partners.
I was also deeply involved in the music industry for more than 15 years. These experiences led to my expertise in business development and fundraising, as well as my deep understanding of audio and passion for studying its complexities from both an engineering and neurological standpoint. All this led to the creation of IRIS Audio Technologies.
What inspired you to start IRIS?
Having built music studios, and as a music producer and a DJ, I have often seen how music affects mood and emotion, and how it shapes cultures. Its ability to motivate, relax, and focus people has always fascinated me.
Additionally, over the last twenty or thirty years, there has been a steady decline in the quality of audio – with organisations prioritising convenience over quality. In 2017, the idea for IRIS Audio Technologies came to me while developing a music festival in California. I realised the power that quality audio and music could have on social change, and I felt compelled to dive into the effects of sensory inputs, specifically audio, due to the deep neurological and physiological response it provokes in all of us.
How has IRIS developed over the past few years?
IRIS products are underpinned by a revolutionary technology that is scientifically proven to enhance our neurological response to audio. During the research process, we partnered with Mount Sinai’s Department of Rehabilitation and Human Performance in New York City — they have some of the best human performance scientists around — as well as Goldsmiths University’s Neuroscience department. We engineered the powerful IRIS Flow headphones and forged strategic partnerships including the Red Bull Racing Formula One team.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit just as we launched, disrupting lives and businesses across the world. The new normal became working from home and spending hours on Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet calls. We saw how our technology could solve this burgeoning problem of broken communication, reduced productivity, and declining wellbeing.
So we created IRIS Clarity. Designed as a super simple desktop application for everyday users or a versatile SDK that can be directly implemented into call centres and other bespoke systems, IRIS Clarity uses AI-powered voice isolation technology to remove distracting background noise from both sides of a call. This allows people to focus on what matters most — the conversation — thereby improving communication, productivity, and engagement.
Where would you like IRIS to be in five years?
Short-term, we’re building a business with a purpose. IRIS Clarity solves a worldwide problem which impacts the daily lives of many. Not only will IRIS Clarity facilitate live conversations online, it will also enhance pre-recorded audio, facilitate highly specialised communications such as aviation and emergency services, and improve the lives of many hearing-impaired individuals.
Ultimately, we want IRIS to restore audio as the rightful centre of all digital experiences, because while we can see visuals, we feel audio. We see tremendous value in that, and strive to enable the world to Listen Well — that’s our tagline — whether that’s music, audio books, podcasts, online lectures, meditation, and more. It’s these real-life connections between human and audio that will allow us to truly improve people’s lives.
What qualities should a CEO have in 2022 to be successful?
Firstly, you must have a vision of where you want to take the business. Then, without question, it’s about communication with your team and the broader world of clients and investors. You need a quality product and focus on a single market to win initially. Finally, you need to balance the ability to work in the business while having a view on the longer term.
What has been the most challenging and enjoyable part of your career to date?
Like any entrepreneur, my career has been filled with highs and lows, challenges, and successes. At the risk of being a cliché, it has been a roller coaster ride. Launching IRIS itself was probably the most challenging part.
To begin with, finding the right scientist behind the technology took time, research, and serendipity. Add the impact of COVID, supply chain issues, and no longer being able to travel, and you have a perfect storm of difficulties. Each could have individually shut us down but in reality only made us stronger.
I’m proud of how our team rose to the challenge, identified the opportunity within the storm, and quickly pivoted to create a product that’s already helping people with their business, and more importantly, their wellbeing.
What piece of advice would you share with your younger self?
Be fearless in making mistakes — it’s better to make a mistake quickly than take a long time to work it out. You’re either successful with a business goal or you’re learning what you could have done better. Fear will only hold you back but you can, and should, always learn from your actions.
Another word of warning would be how easy it is to become consumed with business, particularly when you are starting something new. Make sure you take space to reset, so you can offer more to the goal.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
Studies have proven that IRIS technology is neurologically good for you. That, and the fact that what we’re building has real value — whether that’s on a Formula One track or in emergency services communications, where clarity in communication is so vital — is for me a great accomplishment.