The Missing Link: Young Entrepreneurial Team Rides the New Wave in Mobile Electronics
McCrea, Bridget, Black Enterprise
Imagine being able to watch a television show, access the Internet, use Microsoft Office suite, and listen to your complete music library from the driver's seat of your car. That vision has been four years in the making for Los Angeles-based VeaLink Inc., makers of the networking multimedia console that incorporates all of those elements and more.
Unveiled at the Extreme Autofest in Pomona, California, in October 2004, VeaLink is the brainchild of cousins Ryan Russell, 28, and Ray Cahill, 27. The multimedia console--which the pair first installed in a friend's car--runs on Windows XP and features touch-screen monitors that allow for navigation between a CD/MP3/DVD jukebox, television programming, FM radio, GPS system, and the Internet.
With some of their own money and a $15,000 cash infusion from a private investor, Russell and Cahill, an exercise-science major, spent the next four years creating a prototype. They began selling the product in the fall of 2004. "From that point, we were able to generate enough direct sales to keep us afloat," says Cahill, the company's vice president, who credits early exposure at the Extreme Autofest with helping to create buzz for the new product.
With five employees and an expected $350,000 in revenues for 2006, VeaLink has toured with the Dub Magazine National Car Show and Concert Series, and been installed in the magazine's executive edition 2006 Chrysler 300. The system has also been featured on MTV Cribs and on Outdoor Life Network's Rock the Boat series, which included a customized version of the system for two speedboats.
Russell, who directs product design and development, while Cahill handles sales and marketing, says an in-house tech team handles most of the product manufacturing. Larger orders are outsourced to a contract manufacturer. VeaLink is sold wholesale to specialty automotive retailers nationwide, and the price ranges from $1,800 to $2,800, depending on the options selected.
Looking to establish relationships with retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City, Russell and Cahill say their biggest challenge is overcoming the ghosts of mobile consumer electronics vendors whose products didn't live up to expectations. …