Spotlight on: Moshe Weiss

Your success will be determined by whether your idea solves a problem or substantially improves an existing product.

Moshe Weiss lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and three children. After working for years as a rabbi and teacher, “Rabbi Weiss” has recently become known as an inventor and businessman. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Moshe appeared last February on Season 4 of ABC’s Shark Tank – a reality television series featuring entrepreneurs who pitch their businesses and ideas to a panel of wealthy venture capitalists, “Sharks,” in an attempt to secure an investment. On national television, he presented his invention, a small plastic device that, when connected magnetically to an iPad, amplifies the sound by redirecting it from the back of the device toward the user.

The “Sharks” were impressed with Moshe’s product, his humor, (“A rabbi’s got to eat too!”) and profit margins. Moshe accepted one of the two offers he received from the “Sharks,” leading to a successful business that continually adapts its products to be compatible with newer tablet products. For more information on The SoundBender, visit www.TheSoundBender.com.

You’re a rabbi. Where does your interest in invention and business stem from?

I’ve always been inventive and interested in innovation, and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind. Growing up in a very large family, I had to find creative ways to come up with pocket money, so I was always business oriented. My parents owned a bakery where I learned the basics of operating a business, as well as the risks and the rewards that come with it.

At age ten, I worked in the back of the family bakery cracking eggs, or helping customers. The experience provided me with exposure to how a business is run at a very young age. Whenever I would be confronted with a problem, I saw it as an opportunity to come up with a profitable solution. As a young businessman, I would record television shows and sell them to the workers at the bakery. I would also have an adult buy a lottery ticket for me, and I would figure out which tickets had a better chance of winning based on patterns I discovered. Another little business I ran was selling day-old bakery products to my classmates. So by 11 years old, I was familiar with the basics of operating a business.

For me, the fundamentals of business have always been: find out what people need, buy or manufacture the product at a discounted price, and sell it to customers at a profit. After withdrawing just enough to cover your needs, reinvest the profits to purchase more product so you can fill more orders and grow your business.

What was your teaching and rabbinical background before you began running a business?

My background is in education; I have a Master’s degree in Special Education and taught for 10 years before I founded and shortly thereafter became the director of a yeshiva in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. When the yeshiva closed a couple of years ago, I remained active in the community, staying in touch with students and the small Jewish population.

Are you happy with the success of The SoundBender? Does it have any competition?

Yes. It’s selling really well, and I’m very happy with its success.

I love the competition. A few competing devices have popped up recently, but The SoundBender is the best product because, in addition to being the first product of its kind, it’s the only magnetic sound amplifier for tablet devices that I know of. The other products on the market are cheap knock-offs of my product. One of these days I’ll probably sue the copycats for patent infringement of some sort.

Do you develop new products that are compatible with the newer Apple models and other handheld devices?

Absolutely. In the next week or so, we will be launching the iPad Air and iPad Mini versions ofSoundBender. We are also developing SoundBender for iPhone, Microsoft Surface and Galaxy products. We will do a Kickstarter campaign to give people the opportunity to pre-order.

What’s the next step for SoundBender?

I’ve received a lot of requests to develop similar devices for flat-screen televisions and other phone models. The SoundsBender is versatile because its value is not limited to the product. It’s about the technology and concept of redirecting sound toward the ears. Although a quality speaker provides a better sound, if that sound isn’t directed toward your ears then you’re not getting the full benefit of the speaker. SoundBender takes that quality sound and brings it to your ears.

What made you decide to go into this business?

When the yeshivaclosed a few years ago, a close family friend gave me an iPad as a gift to help lift my spirits. Until then, I was strictly a PC and Blackberry guy. I started using the iPad over the weekend, but because of the background noise caused by the air conditioner and my kids running around, I had to cup my hand around the speaker to amplify the sound when listening to music or watching videos. By Wednesday night I had taped a band aid box around the iPad’s speaker to give my hand a break. I searched the Internet for a product to improve the sound, but all I found were headphones, which I don’t enjoy wearing. Although the iPad had been on the market for a few months, I was surprised that there was still no product available to improve the sound. I saw it as an opportunity, and SoundBender was born. I went straight downstairs and told my wife decidedly, “I’m going to make this product.”

I did some patent research, and within two weeks we had the prototype. The Kickstarter campaigns brought in enough money to produce the molds, and the business took off from there.

It was a sign for me – a light at the end of the tunnel. In only three weeks, I had gone from being disappointed and discouraged with the yeshiva’s closing to having the opportunity to potentially have the funds to open a new yeshiva in the future, G-d willing.

What do you think is the secret to your success?

Good work ethic is very important. So is research. I knew SoundBender would be a winner, and it was my first product that proved to be successful. I’ve had a lot of other ideas that are still in the patent stage, because the research I conducted led me to not continue pursuing them further.

What are you working on right now?

I operate the business end of SoundBender. Right now we’re expanding the line, so I’ve been working on distribution agreements and selling the product. We’re trying to get the products into large retailer stores around the world by interviewing distributors who work with the large chains globally. Our hope is that the product will one day be a big name brand.

What is your advice for someone looking to invent a new product?

1. Don’t share your idea with anybody unless they first sign a nondisclosure agreement.

2. Protect yourself with a patent before introducing your concept to the public.

3. Make sure that there is a market for your product and that you can produce and sell it at a price that the market can bear. These factors can sometimes prevent a product from becoming successful. Research your concept well to determine whether those hurdles are the reason your idea hasn’t already been developed.

Your success will be determined by whether your idea solves a problem or substantially improves an existing product.

You’re a frum Jew. How does that affect your business?

I went on Shark Tank with my tzitzis and yarmulka clearly visible. I’m a big believer in staying true to yourself. Also, a big component of building a brand is the story behind it. Going on Shark Tank was a huge opportunity, not only to help grow my business – and truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to do so – but it was also a once in a lifetime opportunity to show 20 million plus viewers around the world an example (I hope a good one) of a frum Jew, and to make a Kiddush Hashem. Daymond John saw that in me and that’s a big reason why I chose him and he chose me, I believe. And a rabbi inventing a product and making a deal with Daymond John – now that’s a good story. It’s my story. And it’s a pretty cool one, I think!

Avi Werde

Head Quarters , 231 Rogers Ave, Brooklyn, NY, 11225, United States

Avi started his business life at a very young age, which has allowed him to explore many industries. After finishing his studies as a music student he went on to other areas in the hospitality industry expanding his knowledge and experience to the point that he felt unsatisfied by the restraints and slow progressions of working for another leading him to create his company ECS (Event Connection Source). This brought Avi national and international attention as the world was to experience their first large scale Jewish wedding expo, opening doors that he has been yearning to open. He has since been involved with projects such as Concerts, Galas, Art Shows, Art installations, Fashion shows, managing event spaces, birthdays, product launches, corporate events, Festival management, parties, event marketing, PR, the works.