2020 Gabriel Zalles from Modern Ambisonic Solutions
January 24, 2020
By Barr Morgenstein
Modern Ambisonic Solutions is working to develop a VR microphone designed with scalability and cost in mind. The microphone’s main use aims to give recording engineers flexibility during post-production. Future versions may include a merger with a camera manufacturer providing a 360 degree audio solution. We interviewed Gabriel Zalles to learn more about his experience and the path Modern Ambisonic Solutions took.
Gabriel Zalles of Modern Ambisonic Solutions
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
I wish I had known how to be more patient. I feel like we want people to immediately understand and become excited about our work but it takes time to form the patterns that lead to the right reaction.
How have you adapted (pivoted) your ideas from your original vision?
The original team is no longer together – I am personally continuing to work on this project. The major pivot has been a change in the pitch, which focuses more on stereo recording rather than VR. Ideally we would want to find partners in the camera space.
With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done differently?
I think I would have made sure to take better care of myself physically and emotionally during the process. Sustainability is important for a good leader. Don’t burn yourself to the ground.
I realize now that being a leader is more than knowing every detail of every algorithm that your company produces. It is more about having a vision, a philosophy, and a direction. I am still working on changing the way I perceive myself and others so that I can be a more effective leader. The skills that I learned during the sprint are helping me now to collaborate with people in an academic setting. I am still hopeful that at some point we can become a real company but I think it will take more time. I still have a lot to learn before I can think of myself as the sort of leader a successful company needs.
How do you measure personal success?
I believe entrepreneurs are focused entirely too much on acquisitions and investments. When the right investor comes along you’ll know it. Make sure to stay connected to friends and family and never neglect your mental and physical health.
What advice can you offer anyone who wants to form a start-up?
Find people who you think are smarter than you and work really hard to convince them of your vision. You don’t want people on your side that you have to pull along the journey, but rather people that inspire you to keep going.
What was the hardest part in the early stages of the start-up?
Finding the money and believing that you have what it takes. There is also an added factor of imposter syndrome. We all feel it – just fake it till you make it!
Has being a woman/underrepresented minority founder affected your journey?
It did not. I am an international student from Bolivia but I don’t think that changes anything. Investors just want to make sure their money is working for them. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.
What in your opinion may encourage more women and underrepresented minorities to take part in the entrepreneurial world?
I think speaking courses for people who don’t speak English as a first language could help. This was not really a problem for me, but I can see how for some it might be an issue.
What in your opinion are the required steps to be taken for women/underrepresented minorities to have more leading roles?
I think for internationals they just have to embrace the other side of the coin. If they go low, we go high. Hire from all walks of life. Don’t be the problem, be the solution.
Where do you see startups themselves needing the most improvement beyond having a great idea?
I think there are a lot of companies that might be valuable in the traditional sense but seldom seek to understand their responsibility to the community. Just because something sells doesn’t mean it’s a good product, and just because something’s a good product doesn’t mean it will sell. We need to find that balance and embrace it. It is much easier to ignore the deeper issue but we have seen historically that companies that do tend to fail.
What challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
I don’t see myself as a natural leader. I am working on changing my attitude and perception so that I can form a competent team willing to invest time in this project. It is hard to face the truth but when you are able to change your fundamental flaws you become far more adept at dealing with the pressures of life. Additionally, I think we face a major challenge with sound quality. Our model relies on micro-electronics which are used in smartphones/tablets. Audiophiles don’t embrace these as potential hi-fi recording solutions. There is an antiquated notion of large heavy microphones/amplifiers being better than digital tech. This goes hand in hand with the return of vinyl – the more complicated/impractical, the better old-school gear heads believe it sounds. Challenging this misconception will be something we will need to do at every stage of development.
Do you leverage social media to raise awareness of your startup?
No. I think there is far too much “throwing money at the problem” nowadays. Before you start advertising, reach out to friends and family and see if you actually have something. People put branding and website design before product. All that does is leave you in the red and feeling sort of silly.
Are there any new features or milestones coming up for your startup?
I am hoping to work with a UCSD program that turns engineering projects into “happy meals”. Students get their box and build the hardware/software. This will give us funding/an idea of what users expect from the product.
Do you have any tips for future entrepreneurs and for those considering this path?
There is no reason that students can’t consider building a company while working on an academic degree of any kind. I would argue, additionally, that it is a great way to stay focused on a specific goal when we live in a time fraught with a lack of commitment and perseverance.