Australia's Nura is wired for sound

Melbourne-based Nura wants to be a household name in audio equipment with high-end headphones that automatically adjust to your hearing.
Co-founders Luke Campbell & Dragan Petrovic
Co-founders Luke Campbell & Dragan Petrovic

Fresh from its latest round of fundraising, Nura’s co-founders Luke Campbell and Dragan Petrovic plan to spend the next 12 months boosting sales of their high-end headphones and developing new products that use their revolutionary otoacoustic-emission technology.

The Melbourne-based company raised Series A funding in mid-September, and secured $20 million from backers that include Blackbird Ventures, SOS Ventures, Qualgro Investments and AirTree. Speaking to FinanceAsia, Campbell said the final sum was above Nura’s initial target of $15 million and will give the company plenty of breathing space before it needs to return to investors.

“The fundraising process is necessary but it can be very time-consuming for the executive team and takes our focus away from building and marketing the product,” Campbell said. “We’re really looking forward to focusing on executing our strategic plan now.”

As the company’s chief technology officer Campbell is the brains behind Nura’s unique technology, which he describes like this: “We take the music-listening experience for people with normal or near-normal hearing and lift it to the next level by customising the sound produced in the headphones.”

When customers first put on the headphones and download the accompanying app, the ear-buds installed in the cans send out a series of tones to measure the cochlea's response with a tiny built-in microphone. This produces a personalised profile. Reviewers and bloggers say the resulting calibrated sound is life changing.

Campbell trained as an ear, nose and throat surgeon and came up with the idea for the intelligent headphones when he and early co-founder Kyle Slater – who has since left the business – realised there was a gap in the $15 billion global headphone market.

“Coming from a medical background I know that people’s hearing varies significantly and we all experience sound in different ways,” Campbell said. “Our mission statement is to deliver perfect sound to everyone, everywhere. No other product returns music that better matches a user’s hearing and, as a result, we enrich people’s emotional connection to the sound.”

At the concept stage, Nura struggled to attract seed funding. Instead it turned to crowdfunding to bring its dream of producing a consumer-ready product closer. In mid-2016 it launched a campaign on the global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and raised $1.8 million, the highest-ever amount for an Australian Kickstarter project.  

A round of seed funding followed in early 2017 and Nura was able to take its prototype into production.

The company does not publish sales figures, and even though some people create more than one profile per headset, Campbell said that over 100,000 hearing profiles have been created since the beginning of this year. Shipments arrive each week from Nura's manufacturing bases in China, and so far sales have been concentrated in the US, UK, Europe and Australia.

Nura is currently targetting Asia. The headphones went on sale in Hong Kong in September and they will be available in Japanese electronics outlets by the end of the year.

The next step for the two-year-old business is to expand into new products, though the company hasn’t yet revealed how it plans to replicate the technology in other sound systems.

In the meantime, it is working on incremental improvements on its hardware: an important element of Nura’s philosophy is that this should improve over time, rather than become outdated. Recently it released an update via its app that adds a noise-cancelling function to the headphones, and a new Social Mode that allows users to hear the world around them by touching a button on the side of the can.

“We don’t want this to be a static purchase for customers,” Campbell said.


Nura is one of six Australian startups profiled in the Fall 2018 issue of FinanceAsia's magazine. We selected young companies that already have an established customer base and are generating revenue. Each has raised capital in the past 12 months – ranging between $15 million and $80 million – and they have a number of large-name venture capital firms behind them.


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