WU alum’s unique earbud design sparks national interest

| Staff Reporter

Yurbuds is a personally customized soft silicone attachment that slips over existing earbuds for a better fit and comfort. Yurbuds was founded by Wash. U. graduate Seth Burgett, who earned his executive MBA in Decemeber 2009. He came up with idea when his earbuds keep slipping out during training for a triathlon in 2007. (Courtesy of Yurbuds)

Students dissatisfied with their current uncomfortable earbuds no longer need to suffer. Washington University is beginning to market Yurbuds, earbuds personally customized for maximum comfort.

Seth Burgett, who earned his Executive MBA from Olin Business School at Washington University in December 2009, started Yurbuds in January 2008. Burgett came up with the idea in September 2007, when he was working out for a half ironman triathlon. After intense workouts, his ears would often hurt as a result of the earbuds he used during the workout. After learning that other friends were having similar problems, he decided to take advantage of this commonality.

“By shaping to the contour of the ear, earbuds rub pain points,” Burgett said. “We create six sizes and size you for the right one for your ear. I worked with designers to avoid those pain points, and we developed soft silicone that adapts your ear to your earbud.”

Users of Yurbuds can take a digital picture of their ears by either downloading an iPhone app called “Size Yur Ear” or uploading a picture to

yurbuds.com. This picture allows the consumer to buy the correct size.

According to Burgett, the response for Yurbuds has been strongly positive. The New York Times picked Yurbuds as one of the Top Four Picks at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. The company has raised over $2 million in private investments and have started sales at 65 Best Buy stores on the East Coast and West Coast.

“We are getting global press and receiving consistently week over week requests to do interviews and radio shows,” Burgett said. “We will have radio, TV and print features coming out in the next few months, including MacWorld and Ink Magazine.”

Burgett has also received help from Washington University, which is working with Burgett on viral marketing campaigns driven through Web sites and advertising.

“We have a collaboration with the St. Louis affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, where we plan to donate $10 for every Yurbud sold,” Burgett said. “Our goal is to donate $1 million.”

Jackson Nickerson, a professor in the business school, worked with Burgett to create the University’s affiliate program with Yurbuds. Through the affiliate program, anyone who purchases Yurbuds online can donate $5 to charity.

“Anyone can go to the Web site and become an affiliate,” Nickerson said. “You can register in terms of whether you want to receive a commission or donate the profits.”

Nickerson and Delta Sigma Pi, the co-ed business fraternity, are beginning to market the product not only to other universities but also to students here. According to sophomore Daniel Bernard, vice president of finance for Delta Sigma Pi, the fraternity and Nickerson have been in contact about the viral marketing campaign and efforts to sell it at Washington University and other universities.

“It’s something we can identify with,” Bernard said. “We want to interact with new products and new businesses, so this is a great opportunity for us to do that.”

Members of Delta Sigma Pi received Yurbuds to try out and sell to students at the University to raise interest and awareness of the product. Bernard acknowledged the importance of the “beta run” of their efforts to sell the product at the University.

“If we sell it at Wash. U., we can bring it to other chapters of Delta Sigma Pi across the country, where other chapters can realize the benefits of selling the product,” Bernard said.

Nickerson hopes that by spreading the word of the availability of Yurbuds, the campaign will eventually be able to sustain itself.

“We hope that people will choose to be affiliates and choose to sign up by themselves,” Nickerson said. “By contacting organizations at universities through viral marketing, we hope it can take off on its own.”

Bernard hopes that by selling the product at the University, members of Delta Sigma Pi can help spread word of mouth for Yurbuds.

“The primary market for DSP students is other students on campus, but there’s nothing stopping them from selling them to family or friends,” Bernard said.

Response for the Yurbuds has been highly positive. Yurbuds are sold around the country and at marathons every weekend. People tend to crowd around the Yurbud booth at marathons. In a recent marathon in Dayton, Ohio, the crowd looking to purchase Yurbuds was so big that it created a fire hazard.

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