Founder’s Story: Mike Jennings

When Ethan and Allison, Tonic Audio’s two founders, invited me to join the company as their third co-founder, I was ecstatic. I had great respect for these two entrepreneurs, both of whom had founded multiple companies in a variety of industries over the past couple of decades. I had worked in technology for 30 years, from huge corporations to small startups. I remember going to college and working in San Francisco when the primary industries were tourism and finance, not technology. However, I was also fortunate enough to have been there through the dot com revolution. I saw firsthand the irrational growth, spending, and firm belief that anything you built would become gold during the late 90s and early 2000s. I was laid off like tens of thousands of others in 2001. It was the worst hangover after the most amazing party. 

After spending time at various companies earlier in my career I learned that I truly excel at small startups and helping them grow from being young teenagers to well-adjusted and fully functional adults. I love the scrappiness, ambiguity, and lack of structure that all startups traverse. I joined LinkedIn as employee 233 and left about seven years later when it was north of 6,000 employees. After that, I joined Airbnb as an employee 1,200 and left when it was about 8,000 employees. In both of the companies, I led the IT department and found great joy in building teams and solving problems, specifically around hyper growth and international expansion. Once these companies, and my department, were running well I found that things became a tad more mundane and that it was time to start it all over again. 

The one thing that I had never accomplished, yet always yearned to, was to help launch a company with smart and driven co-founders. I watched many other founders and observed how they operated, mistakes that were made, and decisions that yielded the best results. I was at the right place at the right time!  My background in operations, where I spent the last 20 years, is what Ethan and Allie told me was missing from Tonic. They had the vision, musical experience, product backgrounds, connections, technical chops, and were exceptional evangelists!  What they liked doing least were the functions needed to help make a company run: Finance, Legal, Sales, HR, Customer Support, IT, Supply Chain, etc.–exactly the things that I loved to build, refine, and optimize. It was a perfect match. 

My love of music started when I learned to play the viola in elementary school and the trombone in middle school. While I never learned to write or produce music, I cannot think of a single day since adolescence when I didn’t have music playing on some type of device or another. My dad had always been a home audio aficionado and I remember listening to his reel-to-reel tapes in the 70s and 80s, listening to amazing bands in the late 90s at Burning Man and going to Coachella when it had just expanded to two days in 2002. I guess you can say that I’m continually on the receiving end of what these amazing musicians are creating and being part of a company where we can remove even some of the friction and challenges from the craft is a win for authors as well as those of us who can’t imagine life without the power of music. 

We’re here for you and will always have an open ear for feedback, recommendations, complaints, and improvements. We’re so happy to be on this musical journey with you!

By Mike Jennings

Mike is the co-founder and COO at Tonic Audio Labs, where he ensures the train tracks are laid and that there is plenty of coal for the engine to stop at all of the stations on the map. He loves music festivals, camping, off-roading, exploring the great outdoors, mountain biking, and just tinkering with things to see how they work.