Outside of his family, John Billin’s two biggest passions are golf and music.
Before diving into a career in golf, where he worked as both head professional and general manager at Los Robles Golf Course, Billin worked as a stereo installer.
Billin’s newest venture combines his love for golf with his appreciation of music.
Four years ago, Billin was taking part in a weekly game at Los Robles where a group of golfers play the same hole at the same time.
Part of the enjoyment for Billin was most of the players used their iPhone or other MP3 devices to play music.
Billin and his friend, Garrett Ozar, started kicking around ideas for a Bluetooth speaker that could be temporarily mounted on a golf cart.
With $10,000 of Billon’s money and money from Ozar, they got a prototype built, which they initially called Golf Beats but eventually changed to Ampcaddy.
After initial market testing showed promise, the two put together a limited inventory of their new speaker, which they sold out in less than two months.
“The response was great but there were some growing pains,” Billin said. “There were breakage issues on the neck portion that holds the speaker so we knew we needed to do a redesign.
“Neither of us had the financial resources to do that, so we went looking for investors or a silent partner.”
Enter Billin’s friend Seth Staszower, a successful businessman who had started and flipped several start-up businesses. Staszower liked the idea enough to buy the majority interest in the company from Billin and Ozar nine months ago.
Billin stayed involved with a smaller percentage of the company and got involved in the redesign process.
They hired engineers and improved the sound quality, durability and even changed the logo a bit. They relaunched the new Ampcaddy two months ago —and business has been brisk.
Staszower was going to rent office space and hire someone to market through social media.
“I didn’t want us to spend extra money so I told Seth I could keep building speakers after work (at Los Robles) and I could do the social media stuff then as well,” Billin said. “He felt like I was burning candle at both ends.
“The next morning I woke up to an offer letter from Seth giving me a bigger share of the company back and a salary and some other things. Getting the chance to be more involved and have some income coming in was too good a chance to pass up.”
Billin stepped down as general manager at Los Robles to devote his full attention to Ampcaddy’s growth.
During Billin’s tenure as general manager, Los Robles experienced much growth and change, including the redesign and the building of the Gardens entertainment area.
Under his leadership, the course’s food and beverage business increased by $1 million. Leaving a place and an industry he had devoted so much effort into was not an easy decision.
“I loved my job at Los Robles and it was big part of my life,” Billin said. “But I felt like if Ampcaddy failed I would have looked back and wondered if it would have succeeded had I gotten on board.
“And if it was a success, I would have wished I was part of it. So making the jump was something I had to do. And I feel like it’s the best decision I could have made.”
Billin’s belief there is a place for music on the course comes from his experience in the industry. He said during his time at Spanish Hills Country Club many members had stereo units in their private golf carts.
The Ampcaddy allows golfers without their own cart to be able to attach a Bluetooth speaker easily and have it play at a volume where only the players in the group can enjoy. It swivels 180 degrees so golfers can point directly at them no matter where they are. It can also be attached to a pull cart or golf board as well.
“We need to make golf more fun, more inviting for people, and what better way than starting with music,” Billin said. “I want to build a brand associated with golf that makes the game more fun, more social and brings new people to our sport.”
Ampcaddy sells for $129 and can be purchased at www.ampcaddy.com.