Q & A With Katarina Civanova & Imrich Valach: How Do We Build Amongst the Tech Giants?

Imrich Valach and Katarina Civanova are the CEO and Head of Marketing a Sentien a company that makes all day audio wearable headsets that uses bone conduction to send sound through the cheekbones directly to your inner ear while leaving your ears open. I had the opportunity to interview them on their product and how has a start up they build amongst the tech giant competitors.

Imrich Valach and Katarina Civanova

Can you describe your product?

Sentien Audio is an all-day wearable audio headset that uses bone conduction to send sound through the cheekbones directly to your inner ear while leaving your ears open. Unlike any headphones, headsets, and earbuds that you’re familiar with, Sentien Audio is designed to be worn for the entire day. The battery lasts an average of 10+ hours, the ergonomic design fits all heads comfortably, and the headset comes with an app that makes it possible to set voice, gesture, and touch commands so you can access your smartphone’s features without ever having to take out your phone.

What inspired the creation of your product?

New technology should empower us and bring us closer to a seamless interaction with our tech. By seamless I mean that you don’t have to think about it at all or add extra steps like typing or unlocking something. The more seamless it is, the more efficient and the less distracting it will be. Technology should work for us and help us with our tasks.

The ultimate goal is to be able to think something and have it done; well, we’re taking a significant step closer to that goal with Sentien Audio. In the very early days, we bought a bunch of bone conduction headphones and gave them to people with various backgrounds in different industries, which helped us understand both the problems and the potential of bone conduction technology, and what solutions it could provide. We took what we learned and created our headset.

Sentien Audio is designed to seamlessly connect the online and offline worlds so you can interact with technology naturally and efficiently, providing instant access to the functions of a smartphone with a single touch or a word. It challenges the current paradigm we’ve grown used to: interacting with tech through a screen.

How do you ensure privacy for your customers?

The user is 100% in control of Sentien Audio via the Sentien App. That’s where you can configure touch gestures as well as set which notifications you want to hear. Sentien Audio acts only as an interface. There’s also optional on-device, offline keyword recognition so the user can invoke an action with just their voice.

Were there any challenges when it came to ensuring a private and secure experience?

Security and privacy are at the root of Sentien Audio, and all future Sentien products. One of Sentien's co-founders previously worked in the security industry, so the challenges and solutions were familiar to us from the start.

How do you compete with your tech giant competitors?

As a small startup, we have the flexibility to challenge the status quo and test more daring concepts. We’re able to focus on the founding principles behind the reasons people use technology, which gives us an edge over established players since our products will meet people’s needs and wants better. Plus, we can learn from established players and utilize the things that we know work. However, it's a challenge to find the right crowd for your product/brand since, unlike the big tech companies, we're not well known (yet).

How do you go about marketing your product?

So far we’ve focused on organic reach for finding our initial community. We’ve used different channels and forums for this through which we’ve been able to develop our message and positioning from a human-computer interaction project to the first all-day wearable audio headset that leaves your ears open. Currently, we‘re in the process of planning a bigger marketing push connected to getting closer to shipping, which will be happening approximately by the end of the summer.

Do you have any advice for founders trying to provide a secure experience?

Common issue we see among security startups and people from a security background is the belief that the "security" badge will sell the product. Security is just a tool, an assumption. Although it depends on your target market, but generally speaking people opt for ease of use in return for less secure or private experience. The product has to be at least the same quality (and ideally better quality) than its alternatives.

Thank you Katarina and Imrich for letting me feature you. If you’re working on something and would like to be featured in a future edition of Society x Tech fill out this form here.