INTERVIEW: Blake Augsburger – LEA Brings A Differentiated Value Proposition

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LEA Professional launched at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California in January 2019. The company showed its product at InfoComm in June 2019. Heading the company is a renowned figure Blake Augsburger.

Blake joined Hubbell as Director of Engineering in 1994 and in 1999 became VP and General Manager with P&L responsibility for four business units totaling more than $70m.

Later Blake went on to join Crown International as President in 2001 and grew that business, becoming President of Harman’s Professional Division and North America Country Manager for Harman International in 2006. Blake left Harman ten years later.

Blake has also been a board member of the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Organization in North America.

SI Asia spoke to Blake about what LEA is bringing to the table.

What prompted you to start this venture (LEA)?

I saw the evolution of amplifier technology and the revolution in IoT technologies but these movements existed in isolation and no one was looking at advancing them together.

I believed the idea of coupling the very best in amplifier innovation and IoT connectivity would yield significant improvements in system performance and system management but also how integrators designed, installed and managed sound systems.

I shared the idea with friends and partners — including integrators and dealers in this region — and received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

I built a team and now it’s much more than me and an idea. We’ve gone from start-up to established industry player and the idea that prompted it all is now inspiration for a can-do organizational culture of innovation and entrepreneurship!

In such a crowded space (Professional Audio), what is LEA bringing to the table that it is worth considering? Is it filling any particular gap?

The space for commodity (professional audio) components is indeed crowded but I see us serving a distinctly different market with a very differentiated value proposition. The amplifier market has headroom for innovation and we have the most experienced, talented engineering team in the business.

I also think that the mission to bring non-proprietary connectivity and control to audio is unique and compelling and that it’s resonating with dealers, integrators across the globe and especially here in Asia.

Another gap that I think we are filling is that we’re a new business with a proven organization and a fresh approach to technology and business.

Our extended team — comprising the factory team and partners like Generation AV (based in Singapore)— is deeply committed to the professional systems integration community meaning we understand the market dynamics and we serve the professional in ways that prosumer companies cannot ever do.

Please provide us with a brief on each of the models of your solutions that is currently shipping.

In September we will begin shipping our Connect Series amplifiers for small to medium size installations. These amplifiers will offer IoT capabilities as a standard feature by providing remote control and monitoring of installed systems without having to VPN into a local area network.

We will leverage the AWS IoT Core as the infrastructure that will safely and securely transmit data to and from the amplifier.

When our cloud services come online shortly after we begin shipping amplifiers, the Connect Series will be able to connect and communicate with the cloud via our LEA Connect Series Apps, which will also include data analytics capabilities and push notifications.

Our LEA Connect family of amplifiers will include two, four and eight channel amps with direct HiZ (70V or 100V) or LoZ selectable by channel with the ability to connect from a built-in Wi-Fi access point, the venue’s WiFi, or using the FAST Ethernet to connect to any local area network via Cat5 or Cat6 cable.

Who are some of the key team members and what are they bringing to the table?

I have been very lucky and I am very grateful for our team. We founded the business in South Bend, Indiana which is famously a cradle of amplifier innovation. Jeremy Bules is Vice President of Engineering & Operations. He spent 18 years at Harman and in doing so led the development of some of the most successful and iconic amplifiers in our industry.

Scott Robbins, Vice President of Sales, is also a Harman veteran. We worked closely together at Crown and at the group level and he was responsible some very smart programs and sustained growth over many years.

Matt McLain is Vice President of Finance and Administration and joined us from Schafer Industries. He’s a great organizer and is helping us stay lean and agile.

Brian Pickowitz is Vice President of Marketing. He was at Harman for more than 15 years in engineering, marketing, and business development roles.

The team and the culture here are among the most positive aspects of starting LEA Professional! There is deep belief in our mission and confidence in the products we’re offering and the platform we’re imagining! I think the market understands this and it explains the phenomenally positive reaction LEA Professional has garnered!

What else can we look forward to in terms of product releases from LEA in the near future?

We had a strong idea for the amplifier as a central building block of a connected infrastructure platform. That’s already leading to some exciting ideas and innovations that you’ll see as product introductions in the near-term.

In addition to new products and platforms from LEA Professional you can also expect new, innovative programs!

We want this company to be an organization that integrators want to work with and is easy and efficient to work with!

I am very bullish on the potential of the global AV industry to provide comprehensive value to the technology enterprise and I’m similarly bullish on the contribution of LEA Professional to the advancement of the global AV industry.

Please brief us on LEA plans for Asia including distributors who have already been appointed.

We appointed the newly-formed Generation AV as our representatives in Asia to provide sales, application engineering and technical support to all distributors and partners in the region. Generation AV is led by David McKinney whom I have worked with extensively and know very well.

Both organizations have a shared sense of purpose and a shared energy to realize our potential.

Here, again, the timing has been optimal with David starting his firm just as we were seeking a partner in the region.

Do give us your view about Asia’s potential for LEA as well.

I think the global market for AV has strong potential. Audio and video technologies serve as end-points and gateways for advanced networks featuring artificial intelligence and machine learning engines that provide amazing experiences.

Today, we’re seeing those experiences in theme parks, universities and high end retail but as technology gets less expensive and even easier to deploy and operate, you’ll see huge growth of AV in hospitality, healthcare and the enterprise!

LEA Professional is right there at the cusp of this innovation and we’re driving growth of our business and that of our partners and customers.

The Asia market has considerable potential for growth. There are many greenfield developments planned; infrastructure spending is generally strong and there is a broad cultural attachment to entertainment and sport. We see opportunity in the built environment here and our partners and systems integrators share this optimism.

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