Imagine that you're listening to your favorite Otis Redding song while actually sitting on the dock of the bay. And then imagine your music player falls into the bay.

The airtight case can float, so it keeps pumping out sound even if it (or you) has taken a plunge. "If you point the speaker down, the music will sound perfectly fine underwater, so you can listen to your music even if you're doing laps in a pool or snorkeling," says Jonathan Maki, director of marketing for the startup. "In fact, music sounds even more clear underwater."

In the sink-or-swim world of entrepreneurialism, the business proposal for Drytunes was compelling enough to take first place at Get Started NOLA, the New Orleans leg of a "Shark Tank"-like series of events held around the country where local entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of experts.

Hidden Music

At first glance, Drytunes looks something like the sort of metallic case you might use to haul photography equipment. But the 14.2” x 11.4” x 6.5" box is fitted with internal speakers and Bluetooth wireless connectivity that allows music to be pulled from laptops, smartphones, or other devices.

Since Drytunes is designed to operate when closed, people hearing it for the first time often turn it over, and over, and over, looking for the speakers, which are not visible on the outside of the case. "People literally don't know where the music is coming from," Maki says with a smile.

As if that isn't enough, Drytunes does double-duty as a storage device for keys, cell phones, wallets and other valuables. It also comes with customizable padding that can hold wine glasses, a bottle of Bourdeaux, or anything else you want to keep dry while at the beach, camping, or tailgating.

Inspired by "Survivor"

During their Get Started presentation, the Drytunes crew made quite a splash with the audience--literally. "There was a lot of oohing and ahhing when they dropped the case in an aquarium filled with water and then changed the volume by using a Stylus, while standing a few feet away," says Steve Rowley, senior vice president of Cox Business, one of the event's sponsors. "Successful entrepreneurs know how to add some pizzazz to their presentations, while still making sure to cover all the key business points."

Drytunes was invented by motion picture camera assistant Aeron McKeough, who has worked on TV shows including "Survivor."He needed a rugged and portable audio system for remote, harsh locations, so he jury-rigged a case with a pair of speakers and then perfected the system over three years, working with two other partners .

Rowley says that Drytunes' enterprising attitude was reflected by many of the presenters at Get Started NOLA "You often assume an entrepreneur is someone who has been in an industry for a long time, and then sees a better way of doing something," he says. "But these presenters showed that the entrepreneurial spirit has expanded beyond that model, with moms and Millenials coming to the forefront, because it's become so much easier to develop an idea and put it in front of people."

Surprising Uses

The Drytunes units, available in black, green, and yellow, are assembled by hand at the company's 2,500-square-foot production facility in Mandeville, Louisiana. Having launched a little over a year ago, Drytunes has since hired sales reps and is now preparing a marketing campaign to spread its name around the world.

Maki says winning the Get Started event provided a big boost of publicity that was even more valuable than the prize money. Attention certainly can't hurt, because even though Drytunes is just getting started, the company is already looking to expand its target markets. Drytunes was originally aimed at outdoor enthusiasts-;white-water rafters, kayakers, tubers, paddle-boarders and the like. Jean Champagne, the company's chief financial officer, says the potential customer base now includes tailgaters and golfers who want to enjoy music while also protecting their stuff from a sudden downpour.

"We've even gotten some interest from oil-field people in Egypt, because the case is dust-proof," Maki says. "People have also come to us suggesting it for medical purposes, like connecting a stethoscope to the wireless speakers in the case. When you come up with a good idea, it will often take you in directions you had never thought of."

Published on: Apr 30, 2015