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Dave Olson, Published January 16 2012

Fargo natives invent iPhone accessory

FARGO – In a few months, there’s a good chance the world will be able to buy the Audman, an iPhone accessory with retro styling that was designed by Fargo natives and business partners Dean Ekkaia and Sean Solberg.

Ekkaia, who now lives in California, said the Audman was intended to be something of a warm-up product for Berktronics, the Silicon Valley company he and Solberg started.

Instead, its development took more time and energy than expected, according to Ekkaia, who provided the following information on the Audman, which has gotten attention from likes of the Wall Street Journal and PC World:

Q: What have been some of the hurdles in the creation of the Audman?

A: During development, we first tried manufacturing it ourselves and built some injection molds and even made some parts. But the process was so labor intensive we decided to contract out the manufacturing. I spent a lot of time trying to find an American manufacturer, but in the end we needed to find a manufacturer in China, or the product would cost more than people said they were willing to pay.

Talk some more about the Audman.

It is the world’s smallest iPhone speaker dock with battery charging. Outwardly, it transforms an iPhone into a Walkman with additional functions.

You designed it yourself?

Sean and I did all the aspects – from idea, to design, to engineering – together.

How would people find out more about the Audman and where to buy it?

Information is available through our Berktronics or Audman.co websites. There is also information on our Kickstarter page. Our first fundraising attempt on Kickstarter (a website that pairs inventors, artists and others with potential investors) wasn’t successful. But we ended up attracting some attention from investors and distributors. One in particular we have started talking seriously with could see the Audman introduced to a number of major retail chains.

When will the Audman (tentatively priced at between $99 and $139) become available?

We actually displayed prototypes at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It should be on the market within the next three to six months.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555