Bastl Instruments
Bastl Instruments

”I invest a lot of my energy into people from our local
community. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to find a source of
energy for myself.”

A group of enthusiasts more than a traditional company

“In the beginning, we weren’t a start-up or a company aiming to earn money. Simply put, we were doing things we enjoyed, and as we took on other activities, we eventually had to establish a company,” admits Ondřej Merta, one of those who pushed this company forward as it started out. And that’s exactly how Bastl Instruments has been working so far; they’re still enthusiasts who enjoy electronic music which, fortunately, is also what earns them money.

Things didn’t look like this just a decade ago, though. Ondřej Merta and Václav Paloušek were students at the Faculty of Fine Arts at BUT. They knew each other and shared a passion for electronic sounds; however, it wasn’t until they cooperated on a project, Standuino, a tribute to their teacher Standa Filip and the DIY electronic world, that the two recognized their combined potential.

Repairing the bad rep of DIY guys

“We got excited by the opportunity to create interactive toys but quickly reached our limits there. We were doing the very same thing, as we got inspired by the same sources online. Gradually, though, we started to discover a local DIY community who could create a working piece of electronics out of just a few resistors,” describes Merta. This brought him to local component shops where he met some of the customers and discovered the history behind the proverbial “skilful Czech hands of gold”.

“Before our market got flooded by electronics from abroad, the only way to have a good radio or a blender was to build it yourself at home. Our dads and grandads were incredibly skilful, only lots of people considered them just some weirdos with a lot of garbage lying around. And we wanted to change that impression,” adds this studied artist on the message behind Standuino.

”The company grew on its own without too much involvement from us”

Gradually, Merta started organizing workshops all over Brno to give enthusiasts an opportunity to build their own instruments with all kinds of buttons producing sounds and then even play them together at a concert. These electronic parties soon became popular abroad as well, so Merta started selling his synthesizer modules on his website to the whole world. One day, however, PayPal notified him that a limit had been exceeded and he would need a business license to continue. And that’s how the company was born!

And their journey to become professionals was pretty spontaneous. One day, the guys were contacted by a Japanese businessman who wanted to buy and further sell their synthesizers. The artists had no experience in distribution, so their first business partner helped them create a wholesale price list. And with similar help from the community, Bastl Instruments became a company which sells 500 synthesizers all over the world every month. Their boxes are used by Martin Gore from Depeche Mode, Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, and even composer Hans Zimmer.

“The Czechs should be proud of their DIY past; at the very beginning of our business, there was an effort to make it noble again by drawing on that heritage.”

Ondřej Merta, Bastl Instruments

A business can be driven from the outside, too

Despite having a strong global community to sell its products to, the company’s bohemian energy required a bit of guidance towards the right path. And that’s what it received in 2016, thanks primarily to consultations with the experts at JIC. “I invest a lot of my energy into people from our local community. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to find a source of energy for myself. But I found this source at JIC. The consultants helped me clarify a lot of things for myself, offered different perspectives on business-related topics, pointed out potential problems I had overlooked, and taught me to stop and reflect on where the company and I have been going,” recalls Merta on his cooperation with JIC.

He was also pleased to hear from the consultants, all with copious experience of other companies, that he’d successfully built a unique company culture. Most of those who work for Bastl Instruments are just enthusiasts who arrived at one point and said they’d like to do the job, so they all share a huge passion for electronic gadgets. Merta lets them all do what they’d like to do, whether that means developing new synthesizers or composing music. “We can also publish what we record ourselves, and we cooperate with musicians from other continents, too,” explains Merta.

You can always come up with something new in Brno

But how does the Czech environment still keep him here, when Berlin – famous for its electronic scene – is so nearby and the company runs another showroom in Brooklyn, New York, as well? “At the beginning of our enterprise, being based in Brno was a huge advantage. I was still studying in Vienna, and it would have been too costly for me to settle down there and earn enough to pay the rent and local salaries for my colleagues,” Merta explains.

“Besides, there’s huge potential in Brno, and I like the fact that I can have a positive impact on its local culture. To establish a new scene, bring the community together, and attract talents. There’s always a lot of new things to do,” says Merta, satisfied. After all, even as a student he was trying to transform the institute he was studying at. Now, he invests his energy into the world of electronic music and supporting the DIY phenomenon in the 21st century.

Photos: Bastl Instruments Instagram