When former Georgetown resident Mark Pundsack graduated with his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in France, he decided he was ready to tackle his lifelong goal-- to start his own business. He targeted the world of consumer electronics and was looking to develop something in smaller wireless gadgets-- something the bigger players weren't into yet. He realized that to today's generation, the iPod had become almost as popular as the cell phone, with its ability to store hundreds of music files to play on the go. The only downside some people had found with their iPod was the need to connect wired ear-buds or earphones into it to hear the music. He decided to design and develop a wireless earphone setup, to address that need, and came up with his own invention, a set of headphones, appropriately called iMuffs. While it took some perserverance on Pundsack's part, he has even managed to get Apple Corporation to take notice of his invention as Apple is now marketing iMuffs. With his undergrad degree in computer engineering from the University of Waterloo, following his days at Georgetown District High School, Pundsack was well equipped to tackle the technical challenges of creating iMuffs. And by calling on some of his MBA colleagues who had already started up their own businesses, he was able to research the business side of the proposal. He moved to San Francisco in 2004 to be close to the industry, and find people to do the work to create the product, as well as manufacture it. "Although it was developed as a wireless headphone for the iPod, I wanted it to do more, taking advantage of the new profile Bluetooth technology of some of
today's cell phones," said Pundsack, "The iMuff can not only play music from an iPod, stopping and starting it, as well as controlling the volume, it also allows the wearer to answer his or her Bluetooth-equipped cell phone, without even taking it out of their pocket." Pundsack explained how when the cell phone is answered, the device automatically stops the iPod when its playing music, then resumes after the call is finished, all remotely, up to 30 feet from the iPod. The iMuff has a built-in high quality microphone to allow the wearer to talk on the cell phone while wearing them. Marketed under Pundsack's Wi-Gear company name, the iMuffs were launched in the fall of 2005, but the iPod immediately underwent design changes, so they had to rework the original to accommodate the iPod changes. The product was selling well, but the biggest break for Pundsack came when he finally made contact with the Apple Corporation. He approached Apple to promote his product, and his proposal finally paid off-- they liked it, and it is now marketed in the Apple stores in the US. But it didn't come easily. "It took six months just to find the right guy to try to contact and sell the concept, and then about a year and a half to get the okay from Apple," said Pundsack, "Then we had to make some changes, like the packaging, to fit into their marketing system." Pundsack said the fact the iMuffs came in both white and black colours was one of the things that helped seal the deal with Apple-- the black iPod has become a bit of a status symbol, and the fact the iMuffs match makes them more appealing to market. Pundsack says the iMuffs have become popular among a variety of users, from people wearing them for workouts at the gym, to commuters, and even people working them in the garden. Personally, he wears them while working at his desk, simply because they are so light-- he can almost forget he's wearing them. "They are ergonomically designed," said Pundsack, "To not only be very light, but also to be quite comfortable. We've had incredible feedback from customers through unsolicited e-mails-- one person ran for a couple hours in the London Marathon wearing them." "We're continuing to keep on top of the technology, and more cell phones will be compatible with the iMuffs, as they incorporate the updated technology into the new cell phones," said Pundsack, "Although the iMuffs are clearly designed for the iPod, they certainly aren't limited to the iPod. More cell phones will work as the new profile Bluetooth technology becomes available." The iMuffs can be purchased at the Apple Store in the US, and for Canadian customers, online at both the Apple Store, as well as Pundsack's company website at www.wigear.com. Price through the Apple store is $179.95US, or $199.95CDN online through Wi-Gear.
Former Georgetown resident Mark Pundsack, who now lives in San Francisco, shows off his set of iMuffs, a wireless product he designed for use with the popular iPod. Pundsack has been successful in having Apple Corporation accept the product for sale in their Apple Stores across the United States.