Innovative Latvian company PentaClass, solving the ‘do you hear me at the back?’ problem with omnidirectional audio equipment for teachers and public speakers has announced that it is ready to sign an agreement with one of Europe’s biggest IT products distributors EET Group. Latvian news portal Delfi reported the statement by PentaClass board member Agnis Kalnins today. We covered PentaClass before here almost a year ago as they were just launching their production.
When we interviewed PentaClass founders last year they had 98 potential distributors signed up to sell their product, even before it was manufactured. In the last 7 months PentaClass audio equipment has been distributed in 16 countries worldwide including Canada, Australia and Malaysia. As for now, PentaClass has decided to focus on large distributors first to accelerate market access. For that matter, signing a deal with EET is a great step forward, as the distributor is now selling IT products in 26 European countries.
PentaClass was first funded from several young business support programmes and €100,000 investment from founders’ first business, Certes – a company specializing in audiovisual equipment for schools. Lauris Stafeckis and his co-founders had noticed that despite their business was said to offer ‘audiovisual equipment’, the overwhelming majority of products was devoted to the visual part, leaving only a tiny portion to audio. With children spending 75% of classroom time listening this was an astonishing discovery.
The team went on to look deeper into subject and discovered that 65% of teachers in Latvia had problems with their voice. Teachers turned out to report voice problems 32 times more often than the general population. On the other hand, the quality of sound in most classrooms was considerably below what is considered the norm for speech recognition, significantly impairing understanding of those sitting at the back. You can see full results of PentaClass desk research in this infographic:
The founders then went on to develop a functional, durable and easy-to-use solution to the problem. This is how PentaClass was born. Facing one engineering challenge after another, traveling to education technology exhibitions, receiving teacher feedback, revamping the product and trying again, looking for and negotiating with suppliers and manufacturers – all of this took more than a year.
The final product is an elegant pentagon made of plywood, aluminum and plastic. It can be installed in any room up to 120m2. The final PentaClass prototype was built with help of Cesis business incubator, Ventspils High Technology Park, personal networks and experienced engineers. Latvian Investment and Development Agency helped the company to attend international exhibitions.
PentaClass is now financed from retained earnings and foresees €1 million revenue for this year, with 10-30% profits, depending on R&D reinvestment decisions yet to be made. If their revenue forecasts come true, PentaClass plans to take on the US market at the end of this year. According to them, two competitors have already managed to sell 100,000 units of similar equipment there.