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UCD grad named ‘emerging entrepreneur’ of 2012

Rock-it, a vibration device that can turn everyday objects into music speakers, is the bestselling product of OrigAudio, co-founded by a UC Davis graduate. Courtesy photo

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From page A1 | February 08, 2013 |

Things keep getting better for UC Davis graduate Jason Lucash.

The co-founder of OrigAudio, the portable audio device company whose mention in Time magazine led to an appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” reality program, recently beat out five other contenders for Entrepreneur magazine’s Emerging Entrepreneur of 2012 award.

“It’s like winning the best actor award at the Academy Awards,” Lucash, 29, said in a phone interview this week. “It verifies what we’re doing is right.”

The Danville native earned a degree in managerial economics from UCD in 2006.

Founded in 2009, OrigAudio enjoyed $4 million in sales last year, its bestseller so far being the Rock-it, a vibration device that can turn everyday objects into music speakers.

The Fold N’ Play speakers, which are made of recycled paper and fold flat for easy travel (and inspired by origami, which is reflected in the company’s name), ranked among Time’s “Top 50 Best Inventions” list of 2009.

Once based in Lucash’s parents’ garage, the company now operates out of a 4,000-square-foot facility in Costa Mesa and employs 15 people. Its products are sold in 5,000 stores across the country — including Nordstrom and Bed Bath & Beyond — and distributed in 30 countries.

Lucash and OrigAudio’s co-founder, Mike Szymczak, have seen their company grow eight times in value since their 2011 appearance on “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurs lobby a panel of five billionaire business tycoons to invest their cash in exchange for a percentage of their companies.

The pair received an offer from technology innovator Robert Herjavec — $150,000 for a 15 percent stake — but ended up not taking the money, Lucash said.

When they filmed the episode in the fall of 2010, OrigAudio had a value of about $1 million. But it doubled shortly after the show aired, and Lucash and Szymczak — who had yet to receive Herjavec’s investment — attempted to renegotiate the terms of the deal.

Herjavec declined, “so we told him, ‘no thanks,’ ” Lucash said. With OrigAudio now valued at $8 million, it was a solid decision indeed.

“Business has skyrocketed,” Lucash said, and 2013 appears to be similarly on track for success.

Among OrigAudio’s newest products are Designears, noise-reduction headphones that can be fully customized with pictures, images and artwork.

Other popular headphones on the market — Bose, Skullcandy and Beats by Dre — “are all designed the way (the company) wants them to look. The consumer gets no say,” Lucash said. With Designears, “the headphones reflect the user’s personal taste and likes.”

OrigAudio also has gotten into the business of making headphones featuring school logos, including some currently available at the UCD Bookstore. But while some companies cater to big schools that place orders in the thousands, “we’ll do as little as one,” Lucash said.

And next month, Lucash plans to travel to Hanover, Germany, for CeBIT — “the Super Bowl of trade shows” — to launch a portable surround-sound system for laptops and iPads.

The seven-inch long, cylinder-shaped product, which has yet to be named, clips to the devices and uses Bluetooth technology to create what Lucash describes as “3D sound.”

Lucash, who while growing his company also married his college sweetheart last year, said he and Szymczak hope to land their products in large-scale retailers such as Target or Walmart in the near future.

“We haven’t even reached the tip of the iceberg yet,” Lucash said. “Bigger and better things are coming from OrigAudio.”

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

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