“My current title is CEO and chief engineer. I also make sandwiches.”
That’s how Jeremy Bridge, CEO of PK Sound, introduced himself for this interview—pretty unconventional, but that in and of itself tells you a lot, because PK as a company is also pretty unconventional. And while he was making a joke, it also inadvertently points out that the CEO isn’t above getting his hands dirty. You’re as likely to find him in the back of the company’s Calgary, Alberta HQ making loudspeakers as in the front, mapping out the company’s future. That’s not due to a lack of manpower either. “We have a total of about 70 full-time, part-time and contractors working at PK,” he said. Rather, it’s just what he’s always done: “I started making loudspeakers when I was 14, and I’ve had a passion for all things related to engineering and audio throughout my entire life.”
That passion was matched early on by an entrepreneurial spirit, as Bridge founded the company while at college, earning a degree in engineering. “I started PK Sound as a hobby and as a way to help put myself through school,” he noted. “From the very start, we built our own loudspeakers and we grew that business by remaining intimately involved in the growing music culture.”
All engineers analyze systems to note what works and what can be improved, and it was that process that led to PK Sound’s current structure. “When I started my career, I worked for a local company called Spartan Controls,” said Bridge. “That company shaped my vision for PK because it was owner-operated; everyone in the company worked and treated their customers like they were owners, because they all had a stake in the company. I modeled PK after that.”
As a result, all PK employees are part-owners, and Bridge readily admits it sets the tone within the company. “PK is a very tight knit group of passionate people, and we are really like a big family,” he said. “Our employee-owned mentality shapes the passion and care that we each devote to the business. I fit into the team in a very similar way as everyone else: I do what needs to get done, and I believe that is how we all think as a culture. We have a flat organization and if a certain team member needs help, everyone helps. If I need to build speakers, then that’s what I do; if I need to do sales, then that’s what I do—but my passion lies in loudspeaker design and business strategy.”
Strategy has certainly been part of the story, as well as a touch of being in the right place at the right time. “We started in a garage,” he recalled. “Artists that were our close friends practicing in their parents’ houses became large international touring acts. We grew together and helped each other along the way and forged long-lasting relationships.”
Starting as a rental company that made its own loudspeakers, PK Sound opened a warehouse in San Francisco in 2011 to serve the west-coast festival market, and the brand began to spread across North America. “The phone started to ring and more people wanted to buy our loudspeakers because of shows they heard them on, so we needed to scale the manufacturing area of our business, which started to really take off,” he said. The result was that PK boxes can now be found supporting productions like Dierks Bentley’s recent tour, Electric Daisy Carnival and the touring edition of Hamilton.
In Canada and the U.S., the company sells its offerings directly rather than using reps, but has been building a global partner network over the last few years. “We provide products directly to the customer since we prefer really close relationships with the people using our equipment,” said Bridge. “Globally, we are building our partner network in a very selective way—it is so important these partners have the same values, drive and passion that we do, because they are not just resellers to us. They are an extension of our brand and will make or break PK in their respective region.”
Generally speaking, PK likes to keep things close to home, and reflecting that, all engineering, development and manufacturing is handled in the Calgary headquarters. The top focus in recent years has been the Trinity line array system, the Gravity 30 subwoofer and, released at the end of October, the new Trinity 10 loudspeaker.
“Having set up shows myself day after day and being an engineer, it was obvious that loudspeaker technology had become so dated and there hadn’t been much innovation to the loudspeaker itself,” said Bridge. “It never made sense to me that the line array could not respond to changing conditions or have variable directivity. So, I came up with the idea to incorporate robotics into loudspeakers so that they could provide variable directivity in both the horizontal and vertical planes, and Trinity was born.”
The Trinity 10 loudspeaker, then, takes that technology and expands on it—ironically, by getting smaller: “Since we released Trinity, many people asked, ‘Will you be making a smaller one?’ After three years, we finally have it. Scaling the technology into a smaller package was very challenging; we really wanted to keep the box light, but also versatile and powerful. One of the key design constraints was to have it voice as closely to Trinity as possible.”
While Bridge is excited about the new Trinity offering (“I think it’s going to be a great year for this loudspeaker”), it’s ultimately just the latest step in a much larger journey that he and everyone at PK Sound are on together. “I love thinking about the company’s strategic vision, where we will be in 10 to 20 years, and how we will get there,” he shared. In fact, the only aspect of the future that might be termed disappointing is that it still holds only so many hours in a day. “I have a little sketch book,” he explained, “that is full of more loudspeaker design ideas than I think PK will ever make in 20 years!”
PK Sound • www.pksound.ca