The IRIS Audio story: Our founders look back on our journey to date

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Published byDiana Geman-Wollach

At the inflexion point of our Series A, about to move into a new office, our three founders — Jacobi Anstruther, Tom Darnell, and Rob Reng — sit down to reflect on the IRIS Audio journey. 

A lot has happened since the company was formed in 2018, but one thing is certain: the chemistry between Jacobi, Tom, and Rob makes them a founding team for the ages. 

Listen to the full podcast to hear how the team came together, how we punched above our weight to land unexpected and groundbreaking deals, and how we adapted to the many curve balls thrown our way. If you sit with us until the end, you might be rewarded with a story about a bathroom, an owl, and an actress… 👀 

Highlights from the conversation

Audio has a powerful neurological effect on the brain, different to other senses, which spurs a unique emotional response in each person 

It all started when Jacobi, our Founder & CEO, became fascinated with the neurological response of audio compared to visual. He went down a deep rabbit hole of research and met some interesting individuals who were studying the brain’s response to psilocybin, sensory input stimuli, and the unique effects of sound on the brain. From those conversations arose the idea for IRIS Audio, with the goal of augmenting the audio experience in our growing digital environments in order to really engage with people and get to the peak of human performance. 

Our journey has been quite atypical, starting in research before going into Formula 1 and later expanding into call centres

One of our main differentiating factors is that our technology is entirely patented and anchored in research. We worked with Goldsmiths University and Mount Sinai hospital to understand the effects of audio on the brain before releasing the IRIS Flow headphones and launching the Listen Well app. We later got into Formula One, partnering with the Red Bull Racing team, which initiated the beginnings of IRIS Clarity and solving the problem of noise within communications.  

IRIS Clarity was born out of the pandemic, when we got tired of hearing Jacobi bounce balls off the wall

When the pandemic hit, Tom was taking endless walks whilst on calls, and Jacobi was purchasing a new thing on Amazon every week, including a bouncing ball and a ukulele. This highlighted the problem of background noise for the team, who realised the technology we’d developed for Formula One could solve this problem too — and IRIS Clarity was born.  

Giving our customers confidence in their communications is mission-critical to reaching successful outcomes, be it on the racetrack or in a call centre

Helping with mission-critical communications is now a core part of our business. We understand that audio is a premium, used for the most important conversations and at the peak of sporting performance, and as such, IRIS’ suite of products empowers our customers to reach positive outcomes faster and more reliably, whether that’s on the racetrack or in a call centre.  

The best is yet to come

Tom, Jacobi, and Rob share their best and worst moments to date, from holding the headphones for the first time to weathering the pandemic. But ultimately, the best still lies ahead. 

Key moments

0:54 - The neurological and emotional response to audio and how we can augment that experience

2:50 - Meeting Tom and closing Rob

8:00 - We acquired the patents and the IP, and the company was born, quickly followed by the Listen Well app, the IRIS Flow Headphones, our first partnerships in Formula 1, and eventually IRIS Clarity

10:10 - The Red Bull Racing x IRIS Flow Headphones launch event, followed closely by the global pandemic, which highlighted the problem of background noise and gave rise to IRIS Clarity

14:55 - How a lack of confidence in communications meant that in the hotbed of innovation that is F1, they were still using a pit board to communicate to their drivers — and we went to come up with a solution

17:38 - Identifying the main buckets of our business: peak performance events such as F1 and Indycar; emergency services and specialty environments such as aviation and transportation; and call centres

20:00 - Creating complementary technologies that add value to the products we already have

22:15 - How we became a global business, building a team in the US and making a splash at industry events

25:40 - Celebrating the milestone of our Series A, despite being in the middle of a tech downturn

27:54 - Rob, Jacobi, and Tom’s best and worst moments

Watch full conversation by clicking here