Interview with Tom Cullen, Co-Founder and VP Sales and Marketing, Sonos

Santa Barbara-based Sonos ( is announcing the availability of its new Sonos Digital Music System. The company is looking to target the digital music market with a unique system which allows for streaming of digital music to multiple rooms in a home, across a wireless connection. I spoke to Tom Cullen, one of the co-founders of the company about its products and the company.

BK: What is the Sonos Digital Music System, and how is it different from the many emerging digital music systems on the market?

TC: The emerging digital Music Systems fall into 2 categories: 1) Dedicated hard drives which go in to the traditional analog rack system. They view digital music as one more function in an analog system like CDs or Tapes. The fundamental drawback to these systems is that they add a very expensive component that does not use the digital music that already exists on the PC, Mac or home server. 2) Gateways that connect and old stereo to a new PC. These are nice cheap products like Apple's Airport express that deliver music from 1 PC to 1 room. Like any gateway product they face challenges controlling the legacy device which in this case is the stereo. You go to the computer to change the song and the stereo to change the volume.

Sonos is a home stereo for the digital age. The user can enjoy all benefits of digital which means you can be in any room and in the palm of your hand, see all your digital music wherever it is located and play it in any or all rooms in your home. And, thanks to the economies of scale of network components, it costs 1/4 the price of traditional analog whole home music systems.

BK: Why digital music, and how did the idea for Sonos come about?

TC: A team of software executives in Santa Barbara were looking at ideas for a new business based on opportunities that grew out of the massive scale of the Internet build-out. They were intrigued by the convergence of digital media and home networking and its affect on home music. In the end, the most appealing part was that everyone who worked on the product is a huge music fan and wants one in their own home.

BK: It looks like Sonos has spent lots of time on the design and aesthetics of your system?

TC: Design and ease-of-use were the two driving factors during the entire development process of the Sonos Digital Music System. We aspired to create a product that the technofiles would love and appreciate, but also something that the non-techie would be able to use and appreciate all the same.

BK: Who is the target market for the system, and what is your route to market for your products?

TC: We are targeting consumers that have made the transition to digital content - digital music lovers with more than 500 digital music files on a PC/Mac/Home Network. People with large digital music collections that are in the market for a new stereo to play their digital music. Consumers looking to listen to their digital music in MORE THAN one room of their homes.

BK: How is Sonos funded?

TC: Sonos is privately funded with a few angel investors.

BK: Has it been challenging bringing your product to market solely on angel funding?

TC: The great thing about the way we have grown this company through private and angel investing is that we were never pressured into bringing a product to market that wasn't ready There were never any deadlines. There was never any pressure to come to market before all the bugs were worked out. This allowed us to build a product with the highest amount of quality in place before coming to market.

BK: Thanks!


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