Celebrating the accomplishments of graduates is an everyday thing at Gannon University-when those graduates are people. On Wednesday, July 27, a celebration honored a different type of graduate: a very successful company.
That company is Erie-based AcousticSheep, LLC, maker of wearable headphones for sleeping and running and a company nurtured at Gannon University's Erie Technology Incubator (ETI).
Launched in 2007 by co-founders Wei-Shin Lai, M.D. and her husband, Jason Wolfe, who assembled their first SleepPhones® prototype at their kitchen table. The company relocated to Erie in 2014 and began its relationship with ETI shortly thereafter.
In 2015, the success of the company's SleepPhones® and RunPhones® product lines enabled the rapidly growing global business to surpass $4 million in sales, and sales for 2016 are on track to exceed this figure. Employment has grown to 17 full-time and seven part-time employees (an increase of 10 full-time positions in the past year), and the company has won numerous regional, national and international awards for quality and innovation. Dr. Lai, the AcousticSheep's CEO, was also this year's EY Entrepreneur of the Year in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, a distinction received by Ernst & Young, the global assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services firm. In addition, she was named the U.S. Small Business Administration's Pennsylvania Small Business Person of the Year in 2015.
Dr. Lai is quick to acknowledge the role that ETI has played in her recent success. "Having arrived in Erie just two years ago, being part of the Erie Technology Incubator has firmly cemented us in the business community very quickly," she said. "We are so fortunate to continue learning from the most dynamic group of businesses and entrepreneurial support network in the entire region."
ETI's hallmark as the only technology incubator in the Northwest Pennsylvania region is its commitment to mentoring and providing strategic guidance to its members and Jeff Parnell, the organization's executive director, was eager to begin working with the co-founders after their first meeting. He is also quick to share his enthusiasm and congratulations to the team.
"All of us who have been privileged to work with AcousticSheep marvel at their continued success," said Parnell. "Their numerous achievements are a testament to the power of hard work, innovative thinking and a real willingness to be mentored and coached. Wei-Shin and Jason are always eager to learn, and our mentor team truly enjoyed serving them."
Wolfe, who serves as the company's chief technology officer, reiterated this point. "We really appreciate the support and the fantastic counsel they've given us, and are proud to now join the ranks of ETI graduates," said Wolfe.
Since 2008, ETI member companies have created 128 new jobs and raised $31 million in investment capital, and is itself achieving significant growth in its membership. In the past three years, ETI has accelerated its growth from 13 members to 30.
"We have assembled an outstanding, highly motivated group of entrepreneurs here at ETI, and our staff and mentors appreciate the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of innovative thinkers," said Parnell. "Wei-Shin and her team are examples of what can happen when ideas, passion, energy and a 'can-do' spirit converge, and the Gannon community is proud to extend our heartfelt congratulations for their success."