E34: The Genius Behind ElectroSpit with Bosko Kante

I got inspired during the George Floyd protests to figure out what is a structural, or a meaningful way that I can share, and give back to the black community in particular."

- Bosko Kante

Episode Summary:

The idea of visibility is a subject we want to spend some time on in the forthcoming episodes. Getting your brand or product out into the public eye so that the right people can find and connect with what you do is such a vital part of building something that sticks. We want to help you get the shine that you and your business deserve! Today, our guest is Bosko Kante, and his story illustrates this exact concept.

Bosko is the great mind behind ElectroSpit, the next generation of mobile talkbox technology. After contributing to and producing some of the biggest popular songs around, Bosko wanted to take his talkbox artistry to the next level, make it easier to perform live, and build a business that used his passion for music and engineering. On top of this project, Bosko is also behind the Black Music Entrepreneurship Incubator, and we get to see how his vision for these different avenues ties together. 

Hearing Bosko’s story and the enthusiasm and persistence with which he has approached the different stages of his career is truly inspiring. He is an excellent example of why visibility, networking, and taking leaps of faith can make all the difference in your trajectory.

What You’ll Learn On This Episode:

  • [03:26] An update on the funding that he and his incubator have just received
  • [05:12] The vision for the Black Music Entrepreneurship Incubator and Electrospit
  • [08:54] How Electrospit ties into Bosko’s family connection to music and engineering
  • [13:16] A big turning point for Bosko and deciding to pursue his passion for music
  • [18:24] Some of the big songs that Bosko played talkbox in the ’90s and early 2000s
  • [19:51] Turning a passion and a profession into a successful business
  • [24:30] Bosko’s artistic evolution, and how this led him to the talkbox
  • [29:01] The roots of the idea for the ElectroSpit and the performance that sparked it
  • [34:05] Turning the music into a gateway to promote a larger hardware business
  • [38:50] The big names that jumped on board and helped with crowdfunding
  • [43:59] How the right relationships and pivots can take any business to the next level
  • [50:39] The impacts of the pandemic and the unusual opportunities it presented
  • [55:21] How to get involved and contribute to these burgeoning projects
 

Resources Mentioned:

Connect With Us: 

Connect with Bosko Kante:

EPISODE 34

 

[INTRODUCTION]

 

[00:00:00] BK: Kanye’s Workout Plan ended up being the third single. Other people started really calling me to play talkbox, so I played – Right before that, I had played with Tupac and the Outlaws. I played talkbox for Limp Bizkit, for Tyrese. Then after the Kanye, I did stuff with Big Boi and I did this record Shutterbug and played talkbox on Shutterbug. That ended up getting a Grammy nomination, and being probably still to this day, Big Boi’s biggest record.

 

[00:00:34] AW: You’re listening to The Transcend Podcast. I’m your host, Asha Wilkerson, an attorney by training and an educator at heart. This podcast is all about empowering you to build a business and leave a legacy. Here’s the thing, the wealth gap in America is consistently increasing. While full-time entrepreneurship is not for everyone, even a side hustle can change your financial landscape if you’re intentional about using your business to build wealth.

 

I’ve run my own law firm for over 10 years and in that time, I’ve helped countless California businesses go from idea to six figures. On this podcast, we talk about what it truly takes to build a sustainable business and find financial freedom. Let’s dive in.

 

[EPISODE]

 

[00:01:21] AW: Hey, hey. Welcome back to another episode of Transcend the Podcast. As always, I am delighted that you are here today to listen to this episode. Now, this month, we’re talking about visibility and really putting yourselves out there, so that your business and your brand can get the light that it deserves.

 

This guest today has amazing stories of visibility, networking, and just putting your idea and your product into market and not being dissuaded when there are little roadblocks, or obstacles that come your way. I am super excited to introduce you to my friend, Bosko Kante. Bosko wrote and performed talkbox on Grammy-winning albums by Dua Lipa and Kanye West, in addition to being a USC-trained mechanical engineer. He’s also produced music and performed talkbox for Drake, David Guetta, and Bruno Mars, just to name a few.

 

When he was forced to lipsync his talkbox part, instead of performing live on the American Music Awards with Kanye West, he decided he had to reinvent the talkbox and make it mobile. This led to the creation of ElectroSpit and his invention, the tubeless mobile talkbox. Bosko also helps musicians create their own businesses and don’t depend on gigs and streaming at the non-profit Black Music Entrepreneurship Incubator that he founded in Oakland, California.

 

Without further ado, let’s dive right in.

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

[00:02:52] AW: All right, welcome back to another episode of Transcend the Podcast. Today’s guest, as you’ve already heard me introduce is Bosko Kante. I am still laughing, because he just sat down, it was like, “All right, let’s go. Tell me what you want to know.” I just thought, the delivery was perfect and hilarious. We’re already in a good mood. How are you today?

 

[00:03:11] BK: I’m great. I’m fantastic. The last year ended off great, and so much opportunity is right in front of me. It’s here. It’s not even in front of me. I’m holding it and I’m walking with it. I’m excited.

 

[00:03:26] AW: Awesome. Okay. Well, since we’re starting with that, let’s do this a little bit backwards. I was thinking about introducing everything that you have done in the past to get you to this moment. Let’s actually just talk about what is it that you are holding in your hands that you are so excited about in this moment?

 

[00:03:43] BK: Right now, is the culmination of all of the relationships that I’ve built over time with ElectroSpirit, and I created a non-profit called the Black Music Entrepreneurship Incubator. We just won a grant for $707,000 to acquire the building and the recording studio that ElectroSpit was founded in, and where we currently operate out of. We also just got about a $350,000 investment in ElectroSpit. That’s going to enable us to hire, to do R&D on the next version of the product.

 

There’s basically two incredible projects have just got funded. That’s just the beginning, because the excitement that’s connected with that funding and that lead up to that funding, there’s people that are ready to help and be part of what we’re doing. It’s just exciting. I’m thankful for this moment to move forward with resources.

 

[00:04:53] AW: For sure, right? With resources, right? Absolutely. Well, congratulations on that. I mean, that’s about a million dollars there and funding for two different projects. That is no easy feat, because like you said, resources, especially in the black and brown community, they aren’t really limited, but we just don’t necessarily know where to find them, or how to get them. Talk to me a little bit about the Black Music Entrepreneurship Incubator. You said, this is where you had founded ElectroSpit. What is your vision for this incubator for black music professionals? What are we doing with this?

 

[00:05:25] BK: The Black Music Entrepreneurship Incubator is where I got inspired. I’ve always been an advocate for other artists and a mentor. For the last seven years, I’ve been mentoring other artists through this organization called Zoo Labs, which is a non-profit that ElectroSpit went through – we went through their accelerator. They provided incredible resources from studio time, to technical assistance on software design, hardware development, relationships to manufacturers, relationships to investors, and help with pitching, life coaching. Just a continual open-door policy, in terms of helping ElectroSpit.

 

In addition to the resources that Zoo Labs helped us find, we found – ElectroSpit figured out how to crowdfund, how to use social media to sell our products, how to do influencer marketing. We figured out how to get more financing for loans, equity crowdfunded financing, impact funding, friends and family financing from social impact organizations, like Runway, education from Optima. We put together all of these resources to launch the company to go from an idea to company that is, we had the number one song in the country last year. ElectroSpit was on one song, Levitating by Dua Lipa. It’s been used by Stevie Wonder.

 

We just got funded for – We have $300,000 in new funding. We figured all of that stuff out. It took us seven years. I got inspired during the George Floyd protests, especially to figure out what is a structural, or a meaningful way that I can share, or how I can give back to the black community in particular. The way that I determined was best was by sharing the blueprint for success for ElectroSpit, and with other artists. which I believe has to do with looking at your artist as a business, not limiting your creativity to just music, using your creativity on your marketing, on your business model, on your hiring, on everything. The Black Music Entrepreneurship Incubator is the vehicle to deliver all of the resources, all of the information, all of the network that we have found with ElectroSpit to other artists.

 

[00:08:06] AW: I love it. That’s awesome. I mean, you mentioned so many resources, things that — you joined Zoo Labs, and then Zoo Labs was able to bring all of these pieces together to help you be successful, from other relationships that they had within the community. Which is so important, right? Because I think that oftentimes, there’s a narrative, especially in our communities about the first of all, who do you trust? Then, there’s also this narrative like, just work hard and figure it out. You don’t need anybody else. If someone steals your idea – all of these kinds of fear-based thinking that will often keep us in the same place.

 

There’s so much value in joining a community that can truly bring resources to the meeting, where you’re going to be once or twice a week. That is awesome. Tell everybody what ElectroSpit is. I’m sure they’re like, “What is he talking about? He’s an artist. There’s a hardware thing he’s talking about. There’s a software – a number one song. What is ElectroSpit?” I think it’s awesome, but I want you to tell everybody else.

 

[00:09:05] BK: Yes. Thank you. Thank you. Rewind. I’ll go way back. I was born in Ghana.

 

[00:09:11] AW: Way back.

 

[00:09:13] BK: I’ll start from the beginning. I was born in West Africa.

 

[00:09:16] AW: I thought you’re going to say Portland, Oregon, because that’s what we have in common. But look at me, learning something new.

 

[00:09:23] BK: Yeah, yeah. I was born in Ghana, in West Africa. I came over as a baby to Portland, Oregon. My mom was from Portland. My dad was from Ghana. I came from a musical family. My mom played French horn. My grandmother played trumpet. My great grandfather played trumpet. My aunts at Christmas, we were all playing instruments. I was surrounded by music my whole life. I was also surrounded by math teachers my whole life. My mom was a math teacher. My mom is also – she’s currently a civil engineer. She was a math professor at Portland State. My grandmother was a math professor at Portland State and an electrical engineer. She part of the team that developed the microwave.

 

One of my cousins was part of the team that developed the laser. He invented one of the types of lasers. I have all of these scientists. He was also a clarinetist. There’s all of this music and math and engineering that’s part of my family background. At Christmas, we would play music and then we would play math games. It was all preparing me.

 

I got a scholarship. I started breakdancing, when breakdancing got big. I won a set of turntables in a breakdancing contest. Then I started DJ’ing. Started using the money from DJ’ing. This is middle school now. In middle school, I was making money as a DJ doing party. I took the money and bought the drum machine, four-track tape deck, a computer. I was way ahead in terms of using computers with music, because I couldn’t afford high 24-track reel-to-reel studio time, or studio equipment. I replaced that with cheaper computer equipment.

 

I was making songs with my friends in the basement. 4.0 student. In high school, class valedictorian. Got a full ride scholarship to USC. Also play sports. I walked on the team at USC, while I was – basketball team. Sorry. Yes, I walked on the basketball team, not the football team. Maybe I could have done that, but I was a basketball fan. I love basketball. Played with Harold Miner. Went to the NCAA tournament. That was super fun.

 

The reason that I decided to go to USC, because I also got into Stanford, is I wanted to be in the music business. I knew the music business was in Los Angeles. When I got there, I started meeting people. Actually, one of the people on my basketball team, Tremayne Anchrum, he introduced me to this girl named Leah Reese, who was – she had a keyboard and she produced. We started doing music together.

 

Her boyfriend was this guy named Moto. Moto was AMG’s best friend. AMG was DJ Quik’s best friend. Mo started taking us over to hang out with AMG and AMG took us to hang out with Quik from time to time. I started meeting other musicians in LA. I met this guy named – There’s a couple of different parts. One, my buddy Tremayne hooked me up with this guy named Big Jon, who was a DJ in Denver. John started coming out to Los Angeles, because he loved the music that I was doing. He shot the publishing deal. Got a publishing deal with EMI. Now, I’m officially in the music business.

 

One of the other guys that I met, Treyski was the DJ for In Living Color. They needed a new theme song for In Living Color. I was playing instruments, like live instruments, and all his stuff was sampling, so per sample. He said, “Well, let’s collaborate, because we need to do something original for this theme song.” We collaborated, landed the theme song for In Living Color. This was like, I was a junior. Yeah, it was nuts.

 

[00:13:16] AW: That’s crazy. That is absolutely crazy. That’s like, this black culture icon In Living Color, and you created the seed, or collaborated on the theme song for In Living Color. Greatness. This is just greatness. This is black magic all right here.

 

[00:13:32] BK: Right on. Right on. Thank you. If you hear this laugh at the beginning, that’s me laughing. That was the secret sauce. I figured out, what would make them want to pick ours over the other submissions? I said, “Well, it’s a comedy shows, so I’ll just laugh in here.” If you hear the Living edition, Living Color box set, or whatever, that laugh at the beginning, that’s me laughing. Just being silly. It was crazy.

 

It was a turning point for me, because I got a big check. I was in the middle of my engineering studies at USC. I said, “You know what? Everybody says I’m so smart. I’m a valedictorian, and all this academic scholarship. I should be able to figure out how to make a living doing what I love.” I love math and science, but music was just so fun. It’s so fun. That was the turning point. I said, “Well, I can do this. I just landed this gig. I’m going to go for it.” I graduated, used the money to buy a house. I didn’t just buy the house in cash. It wasn’t that much money, but it was a down payment.

 

I bought a house in Los Feliz, which is just north of Los Angeles. We’re within Los Angeles, basically. I set up a music studio there. I started producing for other artists. I had this rap group called Three Ways, that there was a huge bidding war for. One of the companies that we – I mean, we met with Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen, all the big record companies, and Jive Records wanted to sign us. How they wanted to try to convince us to sign was I said, “Well, if you work with us, you can work with all these cool artists on our label.” Cool artists being E40, Too Short, Spice One. I did –

 

[00:15:27] AW: I mean, how do you say no?

 

[00:15:29] BK: I didn’t. Well, I didn’t sign with them. The group broke up, which is probably another story for another time. I still did a song with E40, the Sprinkle Me Remix. When Sprinkle Me came out, which is his first big single with Jive, the B side was my remix. They flew me out to the Bay Area to meet 40. That was my introduction to Bay Area rap. I mean, I was already listening to it, but that was my first-time meeting 40. From then on, I started doing production for E40, The Loonies, Three Times Crazy, Dru Down, Too Short. Just all of these Bay Area artists.

 

I was also working with artists in Los Angeles, Corrupt and the Dog Pound, WC, Snoop. My production career was really moving forward. I got a record deal myself with Atlantic Records. I started playing the talkbox. When I got my record deal with Atlantic, one of the first things I bought was a talkbox. The talkbox is this instrument that you use a tube, it goes in your mouth, and you make sounds and you do the, “California Love,” and songs like, the more bounce to the ounce. That would be important, so pay attention to that for later.

 

[00:16:50] AW: We’ll bookmark it.

 

[00:16:51] BK: Bookmark that. I started adding talkbox to my productions that I was doing with E40. Then a friend of mine named Mike Caron called me to do talkbox for this record for TI. He had just signed TI to Atlantic. The song’s called Let Me Tell You Something, that’s producing in Kanye West, who nobody had heard of, have produced the record, or at least not everybody had heard of. He loved the talkbox part that I put on there. He said, “Hey, come out to New York. Jump on my album. I’m working on my new album. I happened to be in New York not too long after, because I had – I was working on E40’s My Ghetto Report Card album. That’s again, another incredible story, but I won’t go too deep into that.

 

I played talkbox. John Legend, Kanye and I sat in the studio and wrote Kanye his Workout Plan. Ended up on the album, and I was like, “Man, this Kanye.” I didn’t really know what to expect. When the album came out, I was listening to the records, I’m a college dropout. I was excited to hear all the features. He’s got Jay-Z, he’s got Mos Def on there. Every song that had a big feature, Kanye’s verse was either just as good, or even, I mean, different. He was neck and neck with some of my favorite rappers, and the rest of the album was incredible. I’m like, “This guy is going somewhere.”

 

[00:18:20] AW: Yeah, yeah.

 

[00:18:24] BK: If it wasn’t obvious to everyone else, it was obvious to me at that moment. Kanye’s Workout Plan ended up being the third single. Other people started really calling me to play talkbox. Right before that, I played with Tupac and The Outlaws. I played talkbox for Limp Bizkit, for Tyrese. Then after the Kanye, I did stuff with Big Boy and I did this record Shutterbug and played talkbox on Shutterbug. That ended up getting a Grammy nomination and being probably still to this day, Big Boy’s biggest record.

 

[00:19:00] AW: At this point, you’re what? 25, 26, 27?

 

[00:19:04] BK: Yeah. Probably late –

 

[00:19:06] AW: Yeah. I mean, you’re still super young. Let me go back for a second, because you said in – First of all, when you started DJing in middle school, after you won those turntables, people were hiring you. You had an idea that you could make a little bit of money off of your talent by – I’m going to totally butcher this, because I don’t know music lingo, but I guess, just mixing records, right? DJ’ing at the parties. Then you had another epiphany in college, when you received that check for this work that you had done.

 

When you realized that you could get paid, what shifted for you in your thinking from this is something I love to do, and it’s fun to this is something I love to do and I’m going to turn myself into a business.

 

[00:19:51] BK: The turning myself into a business is actually much more recent. As a producer, I was a professional. I was saying myself more like an attorney, other types of independent contractors. Now in actuality, it was a business. It was my own business. I did incorporate. I created Bombay Entertainment way back then. I took some entrepreneurship classes at USC, but I don’t think I had enough of the business thinking. My sales and marketing was something that I found distasteful, and all the administration and legal stuff was a headache.

 

My thinking around business wasn’t quite right. I won’t say that I just wanted to make music, because I was very – At that time, I was already doing cash flow projections, Excel. I was doing those in college. I was getting pretty good at understanding the contracts, even in college. I think, those are things that gave me a real advantage compared to some of my peers, who were hiring people for everything. I think, it’s super important to have a team, but it’s also important to understand what’s going on. Because otherwise, you overpay, hire the wrong people, make bad decisions. I was curious about all of those.

 

I think, growing up in Portland, there’s this real do-it-yourself attitude. It’s different now. At that time, what’s different is at that time, if I needed to learn something, I knew I could go to the library and figure it out.

 

[00:21:40] AW:  The good, old libraries. My favorite place.

 

[00:21:43] BK: Yes, the good, old library. There are all of these bad jokes about, if you want to hide something from black people, put it in a book.

 

[00:21:51] AW: Terrible. Right. That wasn’t me. I was like, “Shoot. Put it in a book, I will find it. I will find it and use it.” Yes, it’s not going to work on me. That was just the culture, I think, that I grew up in Portland. Whatever it is. I need to register my song for a copyright. Go to the library, find the book on how to register your music for copyrights. Read the book, follow the instructions. Get the handbook from the copyright office and send it off. Every obstacle that I encountered, I would research and overcome. I didn’t think of it as outstanding, or different. It’s just how I wanted to do stuff, and nobody else knew how to do it. That’s just how you do it. You just go to the library and figure it out.

 

I think, that’s really served me going forward, because now, of course, you don’t have to go to the library. You can find it on Internet, YouTube University. It’s still the same attitude. You encounter some challenge, and you say, “Okay. Well, I don’t know how to do this, sl let me look it up.”

 

[00:22:58] AW: Right. Yeah, absolutely. I find that even with my students, because I run a paralegal program also. I’ll say something and they’re like, “Well, how do you do that?” I’m like, “If you are training to be in this legal field, you have to have some curiosity and some research skills.” We’re just in that day and age of just tell me what to do and how to do it. I do think that the folks in general and certainly, entrepreneurs that are willing to investigate a little bit, and not that you need to become the expert, but you do need to know enough to know what you don’t know, and to know when it’s time to get help.

 

Don’t be foolish enough to do everything by yourself. Also, don’t be foolish enough to not arm yourself with the knowledge that you need to be successful in your field and in your craft. Okay, so now you’re – Oh, go ahead.

 

[00:23:43] BK: Yes. I was going to say, I think, it’s a combination of ask for as much help as you can get. In parallel, research as much as you can. You’re asking the right questions when you actually get in front of the person that you’re asking. I knew I needed to make a living off the music. I did think about it in the business, as a business in that regard. I started to think about whether sales and marketing. I’m looking back and saying, “Man, I could have done so much differently.”

 

[00:24:17] AW: Well, hindsight is always 20/20, because you have new knowledge now that you didn’t have back then. I would say, you did pretty well. You did pretty well.

 

[00:24:25] BK: I’m very happy. I exceeded all of my expectations for sure.

 

[00:24:30] AW: I want to ask you about your evolution then as an artist, because you said as a kid, you were playing all of these different instruments. Even in college, you were playing different instruments. At some point, you picked up this talkbox, which is not an instrument in the traditional sense, but it’s a tool that you can use. At what point did you realize that your skills, your musical talent had to also evolve to keep up with what was going on and to be relevant in the market?

 

[00:24:59] BK: Okay. There was this huge – My career was going along, buzzing in 2005. Then around that time, the music industry started to have trouble with piracy. Streaming hadn’t even evolved yet. iTunes had started, I believe. That just the money in the music business wasn’t what it was. There wasn’t as much money. Companies were closing and consolidating. I wasn’t getting the same fees. I was working as an independent producer, doing songs for artists. Expectation was that after I did the song, that they were going to pay me for the song and the song was going to come out. Partially because of the environment in the industry, but I was doing songs for people, but their record labels were shutting down, or they weren’t paying the advances, their albums weren’t coming out.

 

The amount of work that I was doing was increasing, but the amount of money I was making was going down. Part of my reaction to that was to start doing my own music. I started working on my own album, really working on my singing. Then around the same time, or a little bit later, I had started investing in real estate, had house and the studio in Atlanta, and I was building a property in Los Angeles, and I had a condo conversion project I was doing in Oakland. Then, the financial crisis hit. All of that real estate went from being a great asset to being a huge drag. I got into a fight with the bank for the property I was building. They got seized by the FDIC, so then I had to sue the bank, because they stopped my construction loan.

 

I settled, but the settlement, I didn’t get to do that project. The condo conversion project, we had issues with that. There was just all these real estate problems, and all of the problems with the music business coming together. Around the same time, J Cole actually sampled one of my songs. He sampled the Kanye his Workout Plan. He sampled my talkbox. During this time, when I wasn’t doing as much producing, I was still getting calls for talkbox on a different record. The J Cole record ended up being a huge hit. J Cole’s Workout, and I’ll play it for you in a second.

 

I got some nice publishing checks out of that. It was a nice lift for me at the time. I was still working with E40. I had always been interested in tech. Because I didn’t have the real estate, I didn’t have a studio, that I have a place like this to record. I started asking my friends, where can I record in Oakland? My buddy, Cool Nuts, who’s from Portland, he said, “Man, Call Chief XL.” He’s got a studio. Chief XL had a studio inside of Zoo Labs. He said, “Man, you’re a production legend, man. You can come use my studio anytime. Free.” I said, “Thank you, my brother.” It was right on time.

 

I was going through basically, a rough patch with all of the financial crisis and having to sell properties and all that. The first day I got here, they were having – it was the end of a residency. I met one of the founders of the accelerator, Vinita Watson. She asked. She said, “You’re from the music business. Can you mentor these artists as they’re coming through?” I was like, “Yeah. Heck, yeah.” Then, we had a meeting to talk about my career and how I might be able to mentor the artists that were going through their accelerator. She said, “Well, you should apply for the accelerator, because you can mentor, too. I think, we have some resources.” I’m looking around this studio. I was like, “Yeah, I should apply.”

 

[00:29:01] AW: Because at this point, you already had the idea for ElectroSpit, or not yet?

 

[00:29:06] BK: I had an idea for the – so the talkbox, as I mentioned before, the talkbox you use a tube. It goes in your mouth. You have to plug it in. That goes out of here, and then you have to have a separate keyboard and all of these pieces. When I did Kanye’s workout plan, we performed it on the American Music Awards. I wanted to play live and freestyle and say, Kanye, Bosko. I couldn’t do that, because I had to lipsync, because the whole performance was dancing and motion, and it made me think, “How can I make this portable?”

 

I wanted to make a portable talkbox. It was going to be merch for my music production, my recording as an artist. I applied to the accelerator to Zoo Labs, and I partnered with Maya Kante. She is my wife, and marketing savant and Berkeley grad and spiritual life coach, and Pete Miser, who’s this really dope producer from Portland as well. He lives in New York now, and he’s also done – He’s a visual artist. He’s done music for film and TV, including Superbowl commercials. This guy named Lance Coleman, who’s a really dope artists, emcee from Atlanta, but he’s also a digital strategist. He does digital strategy for Little Wayne, Nicki Minaj.

 

I put a team together, which was one of the requirements for Zoo Labs. I had always been a solo act. That was important to get that team together. Once we came together and went through the accelerator, we realized that we started – There was this workshop called The Futures Thinking Workshop from the Institute from the future, or of the future, and of Futures Thinking. IFTF. We started thinking about what are the trends in the music business and the music business has – in music production, it’s gone from these big studios to these computers, desktop computers, to laptop computers.

 

Then we saw in the future that it was going to be all on the phone, or a lot of it will be done on the phone. It’s a lot easier to compete with the future than the present. Because in the present, you’re competing against all of these incumbents, these other companies that have tons of resources, but they’re worried about today. In the future, nobody’s there.

 

[00:31:32] AW: Right. Right, right, right. That’s a good little nugget of advice for entrepreneurs out there. Don’t compete with today. Compete with the future.

 

[00:31:39] BK: Compete, because it’s going to take you time to build your business and your product anyway. You might as well build for something in the future, rather than build for today. Then five years from now, it’s old.

 

[00:31:51] AW: Hey, excuse me. Pardon the interruption. I know you were listening intently to the podcast. I just want to tell you that I’ve got this great checklist for you to download. If you are a new business owner. Or even if you’re thinking about starting a new business, it’s called The New Business Checklist. It’s got 12 things that you need to know as a new business owner, to help grow your business and make you ready for the wealth infusion that you’re going to have, so then you can leave a financial legacy for your kids and your kids’ kids, and your kids’ kids’ kids. If you’re ready for that checklist, head on over to transcendthemembership.com/checklist and get it for free.

 

[00:32:30] BK: What we did was we took the talkbox, and instead of using the talkbox technology, we used another – This is one of our first prototypes. It came up with right after the residency. It’s like, Ace Hardware, PVC pipe screwed together, glue. This is rubber from the inner tube, cut out, pieces of automotive, clips that I – Everything is pretty much from Ace Hardware, but it makes the similar sound to the talkbox. Didn’t sound nearly as good, but you don’t have the tube in your mouth that makes you talk like this. It’s more portable. That was our first prototype.

 

Then, we instantly saw that, or got excited. Instead of we were going to be a rap group and have this merch, which was this portable talkbox. Instead, we said, we’re going to flip it and we’re going to be a hardware company and use the music to promote the sale of the instrument. If you look across artists right now in business, even large artists, they’re making the majority of their money from things besides music. Music becomes advertising, or I won’t call it a loss leader, but it’s just – if Jay-Z is a billionaire, and probably only 10%, or 20% of his money comes from music. It’s all comes from his music and his notoriety and his celebrity. The actual dollars come from sales of champagne, sales of clothes, sales of art, sales of technology businesses.

 

[00:34:05] AW: Right. It’s like, the music has become the brand awareness tool, and then creates that relationship and that trust, that know, like and trust factor. Then once you have that, you can point people to whatever other direction that you want, that is a little bit more lucrative for you as a business owner.

 

[00:34:23] BK: Yes, absolutely. We wanted to do that with our business, because – I mean, I had been producing records and I had been making songs and I loved it, but I was ready for more control, for more revenue, more financing. It’s really hard. You make a great song, then but to blow it up, you need money. Where’s the money going to come from? Well, usually from a record company and they want to own everything. The upside is going to be limited.

 

Whereas, if you are selling hardware, or a piece of technology, it probably takes a similar amount of money to really get it started. You can get loans. You can get inventory financing, unexpected sales. You can get grants. There’s a whole ecosystem around creating businesses that doesn’t – creating hardware businesses and creating non-music businesses that doesn’t really exists for music, or at least – That’s one of the things that we’re building, and that we’re putting together, but it’s not as common.

 

[00:35:24] AW: Got it. The talkbox, or the ElectroSpit allows you to change your vocals, and add different instruments at your fingertips, so it becomes this smaller computer production tool.

 

[00:35:39] BK: The original talkbox, not portable, hard to talk with. ElectroSpit talk box, which this is our current version, the ESX 1, it goes around your neck, like so. You can change your colors, and you use an app. We created an app that has the synthesizer. Instead of having a big synth you have to carry around, you just have it all right in your palm. Then you connect the output from the phone to the ESX 1 talkbox. Then, “California Love. Whoo. California knows how to party. California, knows how to party. ElectroSpit baby.”

 

[00:36:31] AW: I love it. If you are not watching this right now, if you’re just listening to the audio, my smile is so big. That just brings up all of the memories and all the feels from middle and high school. That is so cool.

 

[00:36:46] BK: Thank you. That’s what you can do with it. It’s right in the palm of your hands. It’s portable. It’s easier to pronounce your words. You don’t have to know how to play a keyboard to play it. There are a lot of advantages. There’s a wow factor to when you see the talkbox and hear the talkbox. Because it’s like, it sounds human, but a little bit not quite human. You’re like, “What is that sound?” That excitement of hearing the talkbox and then seeing the new form factor, when we started sharing it on Instagram, celebrities were hitting us.

 

Teddy Riley saw it and reached out say, “Hey, what’s that?” I had no previous relationship with Teddy Riley, but I hit him back and said, “Hey, would you like to try it?” He’s like, “Yeah, I want to try it.” I flew out to Vegas. He’s living in Vegas now. I showed it to Teddy Riley. I got all of this great video of him playing his hit songs, his reaction. Then I did the same with David Guetta. David Guetta, I was fortunate that I was working with him on a record. He wanted a talkbox. Then I showed him the ElectroSpit. He just lost his mind. He’s like, “What is this? This is incredible.” I captured it on video. I’m basically going through around LA and around the country capturing people’s reaction to the product on video.

 

All of that footage was compiled into a Kickstarter video. When we launched our Kickstarter, and people saw these celebrities going crazy for this product, we instantly sat up, we started getting reposted, Just Blaze reposted it, Pete Rock reposted it, and we got 40,000 views on, and a 100,000 views on a couple of different Kickstarter promo videos on Instagram. We only had 700 followers at the time. This is 2018. Our Kickstarter was funded in 48 hours, and then went on to go 300% of our original goal.

 

[00:38:50] AW: Tell me about Stevie Wonder though, because I’ve heard this before, but I love Stevie, so I just – What was Stevie’s reaction? He got his product into the hands of Stevie Wonder y’all, just like – That’s, I guess, if all of the other connections weren’t enough to be amazing. But Stevie.

 

[00:39:08] BK: Okay. After we did the Kickstarter, I flew to China to figure out the manufacturing for the product. When I got there, some of the quotes that I had got that were 40,000, or 20,000. They say, “Well, no. It’s going to be more like 80,000. You need more development.” I came home from China a little disappointed, but with a lot more information. I understood how manufacturing work a lot better, after having talked to the different people in China. We didn’t have enough money. We had to redesign the product. Make it adjustable for different necks. We had to make it, so you could break it apart and mold it for the manufacturing.

 

We knew we had to raise more money. We didn’t have it. I’m creative. What I did was I talked to the injection molding company, which is this company called Victim, and they were also a startup. They were pretty flexible on how they were doing business. I said, “Can I get some samples? I don’t have the 60,000 I need for the injection molds, but I can give you a deposit. Then, samples were already part of the process. They said, “Well, yeah. We can give you five samples.” I said, “Hmm, can I get more samples?” They said, “Well, how about we could give you 25?” I said, “Can you give me 50?” “We’ve never done it before, but hey, why not?”

 

Doesn’t cost them anything. Just 10-cent piece of plastic. Got 50 samples, launched an equity crowdfunding campaign in exchange for a $1,000 investment in ElectroSpit, you got one of these, essentially, prototypes. There was only one ElectroSpit at the time. These prototypes were in high demand. $50,000 later, we had the money to start manufacturing. This was the beginning of 2019. In that process, one of the things that I did, I was posting on Instagram, trying to figure out how to get the crowdfunding going, sell people this device, so I was demonstrating it. I thought, what will be one of the coolest things to do with it? Well, what if I play with Stevie Wonder?

 

I didn’t know Stevie Wonder. I said, “Well, I’m going to take one of his old videos.” I got one of his old videos from the 70s of him playing talkbox. I put it side by side with me playing with him. I posted and I said, “Man, wouldn’t this be amazing?” It was just a fluke. There really wasn’t this deep strategy behind it. It was just me dreaming. I did it late at night, and my wife was asleep, so I couldn’t make any noise, so I had the headphones on and the volume super low.

 

The next day, this was a Friday, I got a DM from this guy, Mike Phillips. He said, “This is crazy. I want to try it.” I only had one, mind you, at this time. I said, “Well, are you going to be in Oakland anytime soon?” He’s like, “No. I’m not. Not for a couple of weeks.” I said, “Well, cool. We’ll hook up then.” He said, “I’m actually also performing on Monday in San Francisco.” I said, “Oh, yeah?” He said, “Yeah, I’m part of Stevie Wonder’s band for this performance.” It’s like, oh. He’s like, “Would you like to show it to Stevie?” I was like, “Hell, yeah.”

 

[00:42:22] AW: Right. That’s why I made the video. Right. What kind of question is that? That’s a rhetorical question.

 

[00:42:32] BK: You get to touch with Stevie. I posted a video on Friday. On Monday, I was at the Four Seasons with Stevie Wonder at the hotel, showing him the ElectroSpit talkbox. He takes it. He’s playing all of his hits. He played some – I played him some of my songs, he played my songs on there. It was just a dream, because Stevie is my favorite artist of all time, I have a picture on our Instagram, and you just see me smiling ear to ear. I’m just so happy. When I posted that picture, we did 10,000 in investments that day, on that one picture. I posted that picture, no advertisements or anything. Just posted that picture on our Instagram with seven – At that time, I think we had 1,400 followers or something. We don’t have this huge audience. Boom, 10,000 in investments, just like that.

 

One of the guys from his team, Lamar introduced us to Corey Henry, who’s another incredible keyboardist and said, “Man, you need to talk to Cory Henry. He needs to see this ElectroSpit.” We went out to New York and hung out with Corey Henry. Showed it to him. He’s got 500,000 Instagram followers. He posted a video of using it, another 10,000. Boom. It’s like, that influencer, marketing connection funded us and allowed us to start manufacturing.

 

[00:43:59] AW: Absolutely. Yeah, there’s a few. There’s quite a few things that I want to highlight. Your story is just absolutely fascinating. One of them, like you just said, the power of the network. You had all of these years of creating these relationships and building goodwill amongst folks, pre-ElectroSpit, pre putting yourself into the market in a different way than you had before, that have all come to serve you. Because people aren’t going to recommend you, or their product, if they don’t like, you were feel good about you, or if your reputation hadn’t supported that beforehand.

 

For all of us listening, don’t underestimate the power of relationships and building them before you need something. Two, I love the pivot from here I am in the studio. I want my own rap group. We’re going to do it a couple different times. I’m going to make my own music to, let me see how I can still do my craft and be in the business, but not necessarily the one who’s making the songs. Now you have become – you’ve pivoted to become not necessarily indispensable, but this new hot wave of technology that artists that you’ve worked with in the past, now want to go back and see what you’ve got going on now.

 

You saw that the game of being the artist, making the song, it’s hard to make money on the streaming apps and things like that, they diluted the income that was there previously. Instead of saying, forget it, you found a way to pivot into provide something valuable to the market. Big lesson on that as well. Then also, the creativity about funding and negotiating, thinking about, well, there’s only one prototype right now. Let me go back and see if I can get some more samples. Okay, five. Well, how about 10? Well, what about 25? Okay, what about 50?

 

I think, sometimes we are so – a lot of times when we’re starting out, we’re not always confident in what it is that we’re doing, so we hesitate to ask for more. What’s the worst they could have told you? “No, I can only do five.” Okay, you would have done something with the five. But you got 50 prototypes that you were able to then use not just to handout for free, but because you needed an infusion of capital, you said, “Let me use what I’ve got to see how I can raise this money.” I think, just kudos for you on that creativity as well. Because oftentimes, we get stuck, or we think that we’re stuck, and we shut down, but there’s always a way. Just keep digging. Keep digging a little bit more.

 

[00:46:30] BK: Yeah. I think, it’s in negotiation, I always look for other ways. If the money is an obstacle, then what are the other assets? What are the other things that we can trade? What’s the other value that I can bring, or that I can deliver? The company that was doing the manufacturing, they didn’t care about those samples. They were just a throwaway to them. It was a way to get the – so I could say, “Oh, this isn’t right. I can make this change.” It cost them almost exactly the same amount to make 50, as it did to make five. Instead of $20, it cost them $30 or something.

 

For me, it was the difference between, it was $50,000. Then with the customers. If I say, it’s a $1,000 for this instrument, that is – I mean, it’s a sale that can be made. Instead, I said, “Hey, you invest a $1,000 in ElectroSpit, which is something that can grow, and you get this product for free, essentially.”

 

[00:47:35] AW: Right. It’s like the bonus gift, because they’re thinking about getting money back on their investment in the form of cash later on. As an incentive it’s, oh, and you get to play with this awesome tool.

 

[00:47:47] BK: Yes. For them, a lot of them, maybe they weren’t really tech investors, or that wasn’t their main motivation. They really just wanted the gear. It’s an easier sell. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m just paying a super high price for this piece of gear. No, I’m investing in this company. I’m part of the people who are going to be influencing the future of this instrument. I’m supporting somebody who’s – I see myself in their shoes someday, creating my own business.” There are a lot of other reasons why the psychology of investing a $1,000 for this instrument was much easier for people, than just buying it outright, it made it so we can raise the money that we needed to do the manufacturing.

 

Yeah, just being creative. That’s one of the things I was talking about earlier, as artists, we think sometimes that the creativity stops when you walk out of the studio, but it doesn’t. It should be, you have to be creative in your marketing, creative in the way that you manage your relationships. The best artists, that’s one of the reason they’re successful is because they are creative. They get stuck and they said, “Well, there’s another way we can do this different.”

 

[00:49:02] AW: Right. Right. Yeah, and just taking the time sometimes to figure it out. It might not just pop up instantly, but giving that space to make it happen. Another thing too, is before this, you hadn’t done anything in manufacturing. I’m assuming you had to figure out that process and maybe go slow, maybe speed up and then make some adjustments as needed. Even though it was a new realm, you didn’t let that stop you, push through to figure out what you needed to figure out to get the thing done.

 

[00:49:31] BK: It’s that same spirit from Portland. When I was a kid, I didn’t know how to fix my bike. I would go over to my friend’s house, who maybe knew how to fix bikes, maybe go to the bike shop and ask a couple questions. It’s like, you can figure it out. You just have to be patient with yourself. The same thing with the manufacturing. I had no idea. Now, I did have a mechanical engineering degree, but especially at a school like USC, what that means is I study lots of textbooks. I did lots of physics and calculus.

 

[00:50:08] AW: Yeah, you understand the theory behind it, not necessarily the practice.

 

[00:50:12] BK: I hadn’t built anything. I think, that maybe the programs that in colleges, especially and USC are different now. There’s probably a lot more hands on, just because the manufacturing technology is different now. At that time, it was all theoretical. I mean, it was just like – I was probably studying how to make a rocket, but in practice, I was just making a toothpick car.

 

[00:50:39] AW: Absolutely. Well, I mean, obviously, I think your story is incredible, which is why I asked you to be on this podcast. Then, this is come full circle. Zoo Labs is where your accelerator was. Now, you have taken over and secured funding to buy the property where Zoo Labs used to be housed out of. Then now, you are going to be running this non-profit that gives back to the community, the same that you got from Zoo Labs. Tell us, if people are artists, or want to get involved, how do they do that and what should they be looking out for?

 

[00:51:15] BK: Yes. As you just described, so the success of ElectroSpit. We were able to raise the money to manufacture. We won first place at the Guffman Awards, which is the top award for musical instruments. Our sales dropped off right after winning the award, because the pandemic started. Through the pandemic, we used some of that same creativity. When the manufacturing and warehouse was closed, I was taking parts around from employee to employee. They were building it at home.

 

We had this whole map through the Bay Area, where the product would go to this person’s house and this person’s house, and then they take it to the next to get it. We figured out how to build a product, how to deliver it to all of our Kickstarter backers. Then, we started in the fall of 2020, we started doing some advertising. David Guetta started using – he created a video that we didn’t even know about, because of the during the pandemic – I know we’re probably over time, but I would tell this quick story.

 

[00:52:20] AW: Keep going.

 

[00:52:22] BK: During the pandemic, David Guetta hit me on FaceTime. I had an Android phone and I just happen to have an old iPhone that was still connected to FaceTime. I look at it, this is March or something. I was like, “David Guetta.” I’m like, I had never talked to him on the phone on FaceTime before. It’s like, “Why is David Guetta hitting me?” I better answer. He says, “Hey, Bosko, can you teach me how to play talkbox?” I’m on lockdown in Miami. I can’t go anywhere. I want to learn. I’m like, “Heck, yeah.” He buys a whole package, a couple of ElectroSpit talkboxes, a couple of keyboards. I ship it to him overnight. We’re going online on FaceTime and I’m showing him how to set everything up and how to play. For two weeks, we’re just going hard.

 

Then I got him to the point where he felt comfortable. He did a performance at this huge fundraiser on the top of one of these famous buildings in New York, but one of the tallest buildings in New York, he did a concert there. Then I didn’t hear from him for six months. Then I get this call. “Hey.” A friend of mine said, “Man, that video you got with David Guetta is really cool.” I was like, “What video?” He had done a demonstration of playing the talkbox with the ElectroSpit talkbox with this magazine called DJ Mag. He’s got millions of followers, they have millions of followers, our video, our website traffic tripled for the next three months. Our sales tripled for three months.

 

We took some of that video, along with some of the other influencer video that we had and put it into, and made a commercial. Our sales went from, and we started doing Facebook ads with that video and our sales in the holidays went – from October, we did 16,000. November, we did 29,000. December, we did 50,000. Our sales just shot up. It was basically, based on relationships and influencers, advertising, just creativity. Essentially, ElectroSpit is blowing up. At the same time, the owners of the building, because of the pandemic, and partially because of the pandemic, also because they are doing – just we had other interests and they’re thinking about moving, building properties and they just had other things they want to work on. They didn’t want to be bothered with a physical location.

 

The George Floyd protests are happening. I’m thinking, how can I give back to the black community? I couldn’t create billion-dollar fund. I wasn’t ready to fund that myself. What I did have was the blueprint for ElectroSpit. I had these relationships, and I had this experience. I was already doing mentoring, mentoring other artists. I said, “Well, why don’t I buy this building,” which I didn’t have the money for.

 

[00:55:21] AW: Well, I mean, you’re creative. You always found a way to get it done.

 

[00:55:24] BK: Find a way. I said, they want to get rid of the building. I’m going to buy the building, and create a new incubator, and share all these information and these resources with other artists, so that instead of one music business, like ElectroSpit, let’s make 50-million black-owned music related businesses, and a network of resources and mentors and financing. I just had a vision for that. I started working on it in the middle of the pandemic.

 

I decided that it needed to be a non-profit, because there was more funding available, at least for startup. That’s the vision. The vision is impact. There was a non-profit organization called CAST, Community Arts Stabilization Trust that was interested in getting behind it. I started making partnerships with Zoo Labs, partnerships with Runway Family, who had financed ElectroSpit, and building a deck. Part of my journey with ElectroSpit was learning how to sell an idea, or to get support for an idea by creating pitch decks and financial models. I did the same thing with the Black Music Entrepreneurship Incubator.

 

People responded to the idea. There was a grant for acquisition of property from the William Hewlett Foundation. We applied. This is a year. It took a year to put all of this together, all the ideas and the pitch decks and the models. We won the grant in December for 707,000 to buy the building. The building is more than 707,000. It’s 3 and a half million-dollar building. That’s a big chunk of the money. Then I found financing from CAST and seller, the seller financing. Also, because of the success of ElectroSpit, because of the strength of our pitch deck, and now because an organization like Hewlett, who’s done all of this due diligence has shown the faith in this vision and organization, we will be able to raise the rest of the money.

 

If you’re listening, you can go to blackmusicincubator.org and donate if you want to support this vision and support this acquisition of the property and support our programs, which are all about taking artists and helping them create businesses, so that they can create art and not get pushed out of the Bay Area, because of the high cost of living. They can raise a family and they can continue to make music year after year. That’s how it came together. We have a launch event that’s coming up.

 

[00:58:15] AW: The end of the month, right?

 

[00:58:16] BK: Yeah. January 30th. It’s called The Crowning.

 

[00:58:20] AW: Perfect.

 

[00:58:22] BK: Double entendre, but it’s the birth. It’s the birth of this organization and the birth of these resources that we’re making available to artists, and collaborating with artists, because I think one of the reasons that Hewlett and CAST and Watson’s got behind my vision is they saw the way that I have made ElectroSpit a reality from a vision. That investing in something that I’m building, it can grow and sustain itself, as opposed to it’s just not like, “Okay, we’ll give them some money. Then that’s it.” He’s gone, or you’ll have to get more the same amount of money next year.

 

No, we’re going to create something with this and find other resources and take it and grow it. That’s what this incubator is all about is. We’re doing the same thing with artists. I said that to say, I don’t think of the artists that come through the incubator as like, okay, here’s this charity, just “charity pace,” and we’re just going to give them something and then that’s it. No, we’re helping them create something, a business, sharing our resources. They may go and create a business that’s bigger than our business and help us with resources and promote. We can create partnerships, just the same way that I’m done with Electro Spit. I took this business that was just an idea. I got support from all these organizations. Now, I’m bringing resources to those organizations and helping to further their goals in terms of impact.

 

[00:59:52] AW: Right. It truly is an ecosystem. We keep using that word, but it really, really is an ecosystem. Well, I just want to say, thank you again, for sharing the story. If you have the opportunity listen to this episode more than once, definitely do it, because there are so many just lessons and gems just from you telling your story, from being able to pivot, getting creative with financing, even just the prototype.

 

I feel like, sometimes we think that it’s got to be this million-dollar idea in the very beginning. But like you said, you put the prototype together from Ace Hardware materials. You will probably always keep that as a reminder of what it started as. Then, there will be upgrades in the future. Kudos to you for taking all of your learning and all of your background and putting it into this moment, and for turning around and giving your knowledge and your skills and your expertise back to those artists who want to come behind you. I think, we are lucky to have you in the community. I’m lucky and grateful to have you on this podcast.

 

[01:00:51] BK: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me on the podcast. Thank you for helping to spread the information, because we need to work together to bring this information and resources to our community. If people want to contact me, go to electrospit.com. If you’re interested in buying a talkbox, or you want to learn more about talkbox. We have an active campaign on Republic right now, where you can invest and own a piece of ElectroSpit. That’s republic.com/electrospit. E-L-E-C-T-R-O-S-P-I-T. The company’s on a great trajectory. I think I mentioned it earlier, but we’re on this record called Levitating, which is the biggest song of 2021.

 

David Guetta is one of our advisors. E40is an advisor. Just Blaze as an advisor. We have an incredible team of artists, as well as our own team that’s pushing Electro pit forward. Then, if you want to get involved in the incubator, whether that’s applying, mentoring, or just come into our events, to hear some of the amazing artists that are in the Bay Area, just go to blackmusicincubator.org. Sign up.

 

[01:02:07] AW: Got it. Thank you so much. One last question. This is also the ElectroSpit talkbox is also something that children can use, right? If somebody wanted to get it for their kids, is that an idea?

 

[01:02:19] BK: I would say, right now, the current version, you have to be a certain size. The close to adult size. Women can use it. I would say, you have to have a neck size that is above 12 inches.

 

[01:02:36] AW: Okay. Something I have never ever thought to measure.

 

[01:02:42] BK: The average adult can use it, whether male or female. Kids, if they’re small, smaller than a small adult, then we’re not there yet. We’re working on it. We will get there. This is the prototype for the next version, and that’s what we’re building with the money from the campaign on Republic is the next version that will address some of those issues that we can get to a wider audience, that’s even easier to use, sounds even better, and it’s less expensive.

 

[01:03:11] AW: Awesome. Well, thank you Bosko. Y’all, don’t forget to go, reach out to Bosko and check out the websites, check out ElectroSpit, and certainly, go look for it on social media, so you can see all the artists using it in action. We’ll see you next week.

 

[END OF INTERVIEW]

 

[01:03:27] AW: Hey there, thanks for listening. I really hope that you enjoyed the episode this week. I am so, so grateful to have you here. I hope that you are ready and feeling empowered to build your own business. You are needed. You are important and I want to support you. If you have just started a new business and you’re not sure what to do next, I’ve got a great checklist for you to download called the New Business Checklist. Head on over to transcendthemembership.com/checklist and put your name and your email into the box and you’ll get the checklist instantly.

 

Also, I want to ask you one more favor. If you want to interact with me on a daily basis, head on over to Instagram and follow my account. That’s @AshaWilkersonESQ on IG. I post on there daily. Can’t wait to answer your questions and begin the conversation. Talk to you soon.

 

[END]

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