Can’t sing? These undergrads have a karaoke booth just for you
April 16, 2019
In partnership with two other UC Berkeley undergraduates, CED student Noah Adriany (B.Arch ‘22) has created a sweet escape for any closeted karaoke fan.
The rest of the “musical” entourage consists of Aayush Tyagi, a third-year electrical engineering and computer science major, and Luofei Chen, a first-year student enrolled in the Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (M.E.T.) program.
On a trip to China last year, Chen discovered a soundproof karaoke booth which would later inspire his future venture, Oki Karaoke. Inside of the airport karaoke booth, Chen found himself “singing in the shower but with better equipment.”
“I thought I’d spend 15 minutes in it. I ended up using it for an hour and a half. I think I was the last person to get on the plane,” Chen said.
In his first months at Berkeley, Chen collaborated with Adriany, his roommate and fellow avid karaoke lover, and imagined designing a similar soundproof karaoke pod for the U.S.
Chen and Adriany pooled their savings, investing $1000 to build a prototype. In a span of 80 hours spread across two weeks, the duo engineered an open karaoke booth equipped with a computer tablet and video screen for music videos. The prototype was displayed and trialed for research in their Unit 2 dorm lobby for two months.
“People really responded to being spontaneous and singing whenever they wanted to,” Adriany says. “We tracked up to 1.5 hours of singing every day with the 18-to-25-year-old age group during the two months we had the prototype installed.”
With the help of $5,000 seed funding from the Berkeley Haas Trione Student Venture Fund, plans moved forward from the prototype to the group’s first commercial soundproof karaoke booth. Oki Karaoke is designed as an 8-foot-tall booth, roomy enough for a maximum of four people, containing privacy options, such as curtains, for singers, a video screen, and a library of more than 1000 English-language songs. Pricing details are in the works, but currently, customers are charged by the minute.
“Our target customers range from solo singers to a few friends to couples hanging out in the mall,” Chen said. Chen, who speaks Mandarin and prefers pop tunes, wants to add songs in Chinese to the library soon.
Other mentors and entrepreneurship programs have been vital in the startup’s success and growth as well. M.E.T lecturer, Stephen Torres, introduced the Oki Karaoke team to Kai and Charles Huang, alumni and creators of the Guitar Hero game series.
“They’ve gone through a lot of the same things we’re going through now with everything from licensing to manufacturing, and they’re helping us to build our company,” Chen said.
Tyagi, the team’s tech guru, is a part of Berkeley LAUNCH. LAUNCH encourages and accelerates the transformation of student ideas into successful companies through their investor and alumni network.
At the moment, the founders are staying busy. They are participating in the Bay Area entrepreneurship program, Real Startup, which connects mentors from companies like Google, Apple, and Warner Music Group to students interested in music, media, or entertainment technology. Their first booth also hit floors last month, featured in the Westfield San Francisco Centre in downtown San Francisco.
“If we can prove that our pod works and that people love it, then we can possibly get the money to build 10, 20 or 40 more booths,” Chen says.
He adds that he’s excited to get the Oki Karaoke booth rolled out for altruistic reasons, too.
“Singing is a way to happiness,” Chen says. “It’s a very easy way to have fun.”