By ALAN KRAWITZ
Early on, Santa Monica entrepreneur Paul McCloskey III (Pepperdine MBA ’11) envisioned his newly-formed company East 2 West would be a wine importing business.
But, as fate and/or luck would have it, wine importing wasn’t in the cards for McCloskey, who, with help from a key Pepperdine business school professor would later merge East 2 West with the successful consumer electronics startup, Olens Technology, known best for its versatile Micorder MP3 recorder.
While the logistics behind the merger of the two companies is somewhat complex, McCloskey says that his intentions as an entrepreneur are very simple. “I wanted to set out to create multiple products to help people live better lives,” he says.
Admitting that he’s always wanted to start his own business, McCloskey, 35, who grew-up in Savannah, GA and moved to CA to work in movie production, says he “dabbled in restaurants, night clubs and real estate,” racking up many failures along the way due to not being involved enough, in the various ventures.
“Pepperdine gave me that confidence and the skills to jump in and succeed on my own,” he says, adding that the school’s staff was very helpful and hands-on. McCloskey also says the school provided faculty support and help with testing product ideas and assessing their market feasibility.
McCloskey’s first idea, which he took through Pepperdine’s business program, was for a product called Solar Bulbs, a self-powering solar light bulb.
“The best part of the solar bulb idea was that I was going over to China and bringing back that experience to my classroom at school, in addition to gaining valuable information on how to get the product idea moving forward,” McCloskey recalls.
Further, McCloskey says that his solar bulb idea is what ultimately connected him to his eventual business partner and Olens Technology founder, Ron Meritt.
“I pitched the idea in class and my professor, Dave Newton, said the idea was ‘just the type of thing that Ron Merrit was into’,” recalls McCloskey.
But, despite the fact that Meritt, who had entrepreneurial success with a portable video player designed for automobiles, loved the solar bulbs idea, it would never come to fruition.
“At the end of the day,” recalls McCloskey, “the concept didn’t work because the technology wasn’t quite ready for primetime and would need at least another five years.”
But, McCloskey wasn’t about to shelve his entrepreneurial ambitions due to a technological roadblock.
“Ron Meritt had been looking for a partner for the past seven or eight years to do some innovative products,” McCloskey recalls, adding that the two men “really hit it off” regarding their eventual partnership.
The two companies, East 2 West, owned by McCloskey and Olens Technology, owned by Meritt, officially merged in January 2012, retaining the Olen’s Technology name which already had a measure of national brand recognition.
Although the MiCorder MP3 recorder was mostly marketed by Meritt alone, a slew of new consumer electronics products are being jointly designed, manufactured and sold by the re-formed Olens Technology.
Much of the company’s future success is riding upon two just-developed products known as Fuser and Renny.
The Fuser allows its users to mix outside sound into any headphone set so people can hear things such as traffic noise, trains, and other natural ambient sounds to allow people to hear their surroundings and vastly improve the safety of wearing head- phones while outdoors.
The Renny is a Bluetooth home-ringer which basically acts as a home base-station for any mobile phone. Renny’s ad slogan proclaims that “You’ll never miss a call again due to not having your phone near you, or having it on silent or vibrate mode.”
McCloskey adds that while both products are just about at completion and will be available shortly, he notes that there were numerous challenges along the way.
Paramount among those challenges was product development, says McCloskey.
“From the beginning… dealing with engineers has been a huge challenge,” he relates.
“Time differences loom large as most of the designers and manufacturers tend to be in Asia.”
McCloskey says that working on weekends, staying up late and getting up very early to be able to effectively communicate with project collaborators is common.
“There are so many headaches on the engineering side,” McCloskey says. “You have to fail numerous times before getting it right.”
Currently, McCloskey says both products are now finished and are in the process of being shipped to the U.S. from China after a process of roughly two years.
McCloskey says that a large deal with a major North American telecommunications company is in the works to possibly market The Renny Bluetooth Home Ringer system in more than 26,000 retail locations.
“Some big names have shown interest in Renny… I’m waiting for that first large purchase order and check to roll-in,” he says. The Home Shopping Network has already accepted Renny and plans to air it in June.
Asked about advice for future MBAs, McCloskey advises would-be entrepreneurs to read and research as much as possible about any potential business idea. He also advises to “Keep overhead to a minimum and use a home office where possible and stay away from renting office space unless absolutely necessary.”
In addition, he says to remember and have fun, celebrating every victory, no matter how small.
McCloskey’s partner, Ron Meritt, advises budding entrepreneurs to do their marketing homework first before developing a product too far.
“Ninety percent of the time I’ll talk to someone who has an idea that’s already out there, or it’s such a niche product that the market isn’t large
enough to be profitable.”