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Ciari Guitars Reinvents Instrument

San Diego-based Ciari Guitars, a music tech startup that makes portable, performance-quality guitars, sees continued success with the release of its foldable guitar and has raised $560,000 so far through its latest crowdfunding campaign. 

The foldable tech guitar, called the Ascender, was recognized by Guitar Player Magazine (Editor’s Pick) and reported $150,000 in sales last year. This year, the company primarily focused on capital raising to expand its product line.

Founded in 2016, The startup is best known in the music community for re-inventing the electric guitar instrument. It developed the first high-quality foldable guitar that can be used professionally as a backup or even as a main instrument.

In particular, the company targets music industry professionals, business professionals, and people with an on-the-go lifestyle. Depending upon finish and wood, the guitar cost as much as $2,900 and up.

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Unlike other portable guitars, which look to change the size or shape of the instrument, Ciari’s product folds at the neck. The flip of a switch lowers the tension of the guitar’s strings, and unlocks a hinge, allowing it to fold without risking damage to the instrument.

Selling Foldable Guitars

Founder and chief executive Jonathan Spangler, the idea for the Ascender occurred during his work travels, as an aspiring musician, Spangler wanted to bring a guitar with him for practicing in hotel rooms.

When he was unable to find a full-sized, gig-ready instrument that could fold to fit under a plane seat, he was inspired to launch Ciari Guitars.

“I personally experienced the pain points of guitar air travel and knew there had to be a better solution. As a patent attorney, I told clients “if you don’t like your options, make what you want.” I finally took my own advice, and invented the Ascender so people who travel can have a convenient yet quality guitar always at the ready,” said Spangler. 

Four years later, the company has since graduated from multiple accelerators. The company put the Ascender to the test at the globally renowned music-tech accelerator, Nashville-based Project Music and the San Diego Airport Innovation Lab. 

Ciari Guitars, also debuted the Ascender at winter NAMM — short for the Carlsbad-based National Association of Music Merchants — in 2019 to over 140,000 attendees. Building on this success, it has sold more than 40 guitars and had its first profitable year in 2020. 

Guitar Sales Surge in 2020

During the pandemic, guitar sales surged as people found comfort in learning or honing a skill and expressing themselves through music, said Spangler. With this surge, and the eventual return to mobility due to vaccines, Ciari Guitars is positioning itself as the solution of choice for guitarists on the move in a global market of $2.79 billion.

“Music has never been more important and the guitar industry is hotter than it’s been in years. The number of guitarists surged during the pandemic, as did mobility in RVs, motorcycles, private jets, yachts/boats. Commercial air travel is returning, and will accelerate with the availability of Covid vaccines,” said Spangler.

“People are ready to move again, and Ciari Guitars will be the solution for guitar mobility, to capitalize on this unique opportunity,” he said.

Aiming for Exit by 2025

Prior to Ciari Guitars, Spangler served as the former chief patent counsel for a medical device company, NuVasive Inc. for 14 years. Spangler brings a wide ranging experience. He owns 10 patents in the U.S. 

Ciari’s advisory board includes Famous Luthier (guitar-maker), Joe Glaser and Rick Froio, executive vice president of Black River Records in Nashville.

To date, the company has raised over roughly 900,000 in pre-seed funding and will close its $1 million crowdfunding campaign by end of April. The company’s headcount is 3 local employees.

So far, the company has launched two additional affordable tech instruments and has future developments to introduce mini and gig amps.

The big picture goal is to eventually get acquired by major players like Fender, Yamaha, Gibson and newcomer music-tech powerhouse Bandlab.

“Our exit plan involves scaling the business, expanding the product line product, and eventually getting acquired by one of the majors. This is an execution play,” said Spangler. “Based on the technology we have, the fundamental trust and understanding in the market. We project being well-positioned to exit within three to five years.”

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