Yondr CEO discusses creating phone-free zones at events with Tomorrow Daily
Welcome back to the show.
We've all been there.
You're at a concert.
People right in front of you trying to videotape the artist.
Can't see anything.
One company is trying to change that.
That company is called Yonder and we have the founder and CEO here with us to tell us all about it.
Graham Dugoni, thanks for being here.
Yeah, my pleasure.
So, you have the solution to our nightmare scenario.
The worst problem in the world.
In the world.
This is a device that will stop people from using their phones at public events, right?
I guess The simplest sense, yeah, we create phone-free spaces.
But conceptually, I like to think that we're just kind of the tip of the spear in a general movement.
I love this.
I think you're right, because I've gone to so many shows.
For example, when I saw Queens of the Stone Age at the Wheel Turn when they did Like Clockwork-
As people do.
Listen, that's a humble brag.
Josh Homme was
He said, hey guys, before we start the show just put your phones away, let's all enjoy tonight.
When Ashley was backstage,
[LAUGH] Stop please!
I'd be dead if that happened, I'd just die of happiness.
But there is a movement for that, and there is something to be said for really being in the moment at a concert,
Instead of shaky cam video and poor audio from it.
But always having your cell phone out.
And this is something artists want, right?
This is something that you're find not just audiences want, artists want.
Yeah, definitely both.
I mean, if you look at it as artists are the the most sensitive people in the culture, then of course they're gonna be the first to see kind of what the impact of Radical technological change will be.
And so, creating spaces where people can be swept up into a shared mood as something they value, probably above all others.
So how does it work?
Very simple, we have three sizes a case.
Get every phone on the market, so when someone comes to a show, their phone slides into one of these cases Like this, boom.
So pops open, phone goes in, it now locks, your phone's now inside the otter pouch.
You cannot access it, you keep possession of it, when you leave just tap it on one of the unlocking mechanisms [INAUDIBLE] we have a bunch out front unlocked.
I've been at events where you've had to check your phone and it's always such a pain.
Like phone checks.
Like for example the Star Wars World premier, you had to check your phone and
When you leave, there's just a line, it's such a hassle.
So this is a way to not have to check your phone at all.
You actually keep possession of your own device, you don't have to worry about it getting stolen or lost.
Exactly, and if someone needs to use it an emergency or something like that, they can always step outside the phone free space, and unlock it and use it.
So, really, what it creates is the idea of essentially a phone free app.
Smoking versus nonsmoking sections but for phones.
That's kind of how we refer to it.
Now this, this is also, I would imagine it would extend very much so to comedians as well.
because when you are, you guys don't know how comedians sort of work out there.
This, or their specials specifically, they'll spend a year, two years, three or something.
That means they'll spend a while workshoping.
Out an entire set, and a lot of times they don't want that workshopping, because it's not the finished product, out there for people, but they need to get that feedback from their audiences.
So this is also something that you were mentioning that comedians were also interested in.
I mean, exactly what you said, workshopping your jokes, but also just the ability to enter a space and know that what happens there says there.
It's kinda fundamental, I think, to the art form itself.
So it hasn't been until very recently that this has been a problem.
So it hasn't been until recently that there's a solution.
Yeah, so you sell this to a venue or you have this available at a venue.
Are you finding as places adopt this technology, people are complaining or having a problem with it?
Is it hard to convince people to use it?
Yeah, what's the audience response when they come up against something like this?
Cuz it's obviously something they've experienced before.
Yeah, no, the audience reception is incredibly positive.
I mean, it's one of the things that Early on I kind of saw by being out at a lot of venues and talking to people is that the average person there, kind of understanding of the problem, this general angst about not just this at shows but the role of technology in society in general is a lot further advanced than most people, I think, realize.
So, most people are incredibly positive.
As soon as they realize they get to keep possession of their phone, They're find with it.
We have a few people who get angry, but they'd be angry anyways.
But I mean, yeah.
I think you could actually sell these to families for dinnertime, like everybody put your phone in a bag.
You could make this in IOT thing where you're like, Alexa locked down our phones.
It's dinner time.
Somebody just had Alexa wake up in our house.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
You say Miss A from Amazon, the robot in the machine of the echo, please lock our family phone.
So there's really nothing, no damage to the phone.
There's nothing limiting the phone.
You'll still hear it ring, potentially?
Well we have different models that do different things, is the short answer.
So we have some that block all signals altogether, some that don't.
They have different use cases.
So depending on who the customer is, we'll give them a different case.
Cuz I would love to be able to go to the movies
And have everybody's phone not ring.
Or light up.
Or make a chime at all, right?
Yeah, no, that would be great.
That would be great.
So there are versions of this that actually limit the signal that it can receive?
That's why it's important for now that this version that I have right here doesn't, because if someone's at a venue, they're expecting a call from a babysitter or something like that, they'll feel their phone vibrate, and they can step out.
And that's important just for people That's also where it is superior to a check system, because you still, as you say, if you remove yourself from the situation or the area, you still have access to your phone, you don't have to go to a coat check or a phone check system.
And also you don't know if you're getting that call.
So I think if there's an emergency, if there's things that are happening where someone's trying to get ahold of you, This is a much better system.
To have in place as opposed to a phone check because you have no idea until you got out of that event.
That's something that could happen.
How long have you been developing Yondr?
The concept I had fully fleshed in about 2012 I guess.
Then sat on it then started developing about a year ago.
I thought back then it was, the issue kind of hadn't boiled to the surface enough.
People didn't see the problem so clearly.
But the first prototype and everything I did myself just through Alibaba, just using Chinese manufacturing and everything.
And then hired a design firm after all those Steps but it's been a process.
So this unlocking mechanism reminds me a lot of the type of thing that you would see at a clothing store where they take off the security tag, it sort of reminds me of that.
Sort of security tag-esq, you kind of pop out and then you see Kind of an interesting, were you inspired at all by that?
Was that a thing
You mean our proprietary technology?
[LAUGH] Proprietary tech, yeah.
Can you explain some of that for us?
I'm just going to take some notes [LAUGH]
Yeah, I know.
No, I can't.
Was there a moment in which you were like
I need to build this.
Was there a concert-
that you went to?
Was there a time where you were like, okay, a news story or something like that where you were like, I've got this great idea.
What was the light bulb moment for you?
Someone records you when you didn't want them to.
It's close though.
No, guess it's going to a lot of live shows and just seeing what was happening in general and kind of observing social trends and etiquette changes over time.
Which kind of [UNKNOWN] Memory and things like that.
But looking at that and then I guess I was at one show back when I was living in Atlanta, and saw a guy who was pretty drunk.
He was dancing.
And two strangers recording him and posted it to the Internet right after they recorded it.
I was just sitting.
Sitting there and looking at that and going, well if you follow that line out and see where that goes,
I think you find it actually, what a lot of people are saying, especially in Silicon Valley about the future of technology is just not tenable from a psychological perspective.
So I thought for a lot of reasons just to be social, the need for some help w privacy.
So that was kinda for me realizing that ,to me, became very clear that this was going to exist, and then it was just figuring out the full form.
How to do it right?
I think that's interesting of the point that you make that it's not just about creating a safe space for the artist but also for the people enjoying the show.
Sort of let loose Have a great time.
Be unself-conscious about if they're a terrible dancer for example.
Even if they're not drunk like some people here at this table, to be able to enjoy themselves without having to worry about being posted in or on somebody else's account or something like that.
You really Feel like it's a safe space not, again, not only for the artist but for the attendees.
I think that's really cool.
I mean that feeling of being uninhibited is really important.
And, yeah, I could chew your ear off about this.
About kind of the philosophical side of the whole thing for me, but at the end of the day it's Probably people go to shows and if they enjoy it more than a show with phones, then that's it.
They've made their association with the idea.
It's really not more complicated than that.
Have there been any specific places that have adopted this so far?
So there's venues all over the country we work with.
We're now working with artists in Europe and the UK as well.
And then our other big customer is schools.
Which was unanticipated but has turned out to be really
Yeah, that's a great point, again like, having possession of the phone but not having access.
That's actually pretty brilliant
And that, since it's almost anti-cheat
Technology as well.
Right, yeah, no that's a good point.
That is a really good point.
So just out of curiosity, are there any other unanticipated use cases that you were really surprised about?
That you said, my gosh, like, I hadn't thought about that as a use for this, but yeah, I guess we could use it for that.
No, I think there's different types of utility for different spaces or different areas so
Some of them are pretty practical.
Whether it's preventing people from ripping off copyrights or from production floors, stuff like that.
That's very just kind of utility.
And then there's more that kind of experiential side which is live music and creating these spaces where people can be swept up into a shared mood.
And that's really kind of the most important to me.
These other ones are fine, they're good
But educations important because I think that we haven't really figured out how new digital tools fit into education in a meaningful way.
And then entertainment is.
Yeah, it's so interesting that we give ourselves these
This bit of technology, these tools, as you said.
And we have to figure out a way to force ourselves to not use them sometimes.
Yeah, and you made a good point before we started doing this interview where you were saying that we're conditioned.
It's a habit now to Always have our phone either checking it constantly or you know always using it.
Always kind of being in that habit of having it out and in use.
So I think it's a really interesting sort of way to kind of,
Again with the whole keeping people mollified by letting them have their phone on them but also kind of saying okay just for two hours, just be in the moment and let's just enjoy this time.
Now are you selling these as a product to end users or is it sort of only a corporate or
Then you base.
We have families that have ordered them and use them at home.
But more than that its eco venues and artists or to the school.
So it's not really directly to those people.
But you know we're getting kind of new types of deals everyday so who knows.
So where can people find out more about yonder?
You're out there.
Overyonder.com But yonder without an E.
Y O N D R.
Because it removes your electronics, I don't, I don't know.
I was trying to help.
Don't do it.
I'm the PR guy, no?
You can maybe?
Just trademark stuff, would have added the E if we could.
No, very true.
And then what is
Like, overyonder.com, and then are you guys on social media at all, does anybody want to tag you or ask you questions, anything like that?
We do not have any social media, no Twitter, no Facebook.
All their phones are locked up inside the building.
So that's part of the movement.
[LAUGH] I love it.
Yeah, part of the movement.
I like that this is more than just a product but it really is a philosophical stance that you're taking which I think is kinda necessary, where we are now.
Yeah, it's just more fun.
Thank you so much for coming and talking to us about Yonder, guys get ready
Put your phone in the bag.
Put your phone in the bag, okay if you're watching the show don't put your phone in the bag yet.
No, no put your phone in the bag right now.
Finish watching the show and then put your phones back.
We'll be right back.
We are gonna have a major discussion about virtual reality because there were tons of VR news that happened this last weekend we really wanted to talk about all week, so we decided to make it its own segment.
But thank you again.
Stick around, it's Tomorrow Daily.