Phone booth makes a comeback: Boulder startup sells $4K indoor unit for coworking crowd

Boulder-based TalkBox makes phone booths for open offices.
Credit TalkBox

Sometimes open offices are a little too open.

A 2-year-old Boulder startup is dialing up product to help put some privacy back in the office.

TalkBox, which manufactures three models of soundproof phone booths, recently raised $240,000 to continue expansion.

“We’re basically shooting to double or triple our numbers from the prior year,” said John Ruder, TalkBox president. “I want to go from selling hundreds to thousands. Whether that happens in a year or it takes longer, that remains to be seen.”

In previous jobs, Ruder spent too many days pacing the office looking for a place to make a sensitive call. He’d barricade himself in an empty eight-person conference room, or he’d head outdoors if the weather permitted. If those options weren’t available, he’d pace around the open office so his employees could hear only snippets of his conversations.

Enter TalkBox, which launched in 2016.

“As soon as I saw it, I thought it was totally brilliant. It totally resonated with me,” Ruder said.

“Something like 80 percent or more of offices are an open office environment,” Ruder said. “You see the number of square footage per employee has been dropping. Your overall real estate costs go down, because you have those efficiencies, but the problem is the total lack of privacy.”

TalkBox’s single model costs $4,000 and includes a ventilation fan, skylight and 95 percent sound absorption. The startup makes a premium version with dry erase walls for $7,450 and a larger booth for $12,500 that can fit three people.

“When we got into this — as with many startups — you’re not really sure how big the market is going to be,” Ruder said. “What we’ve come to realize is this is a new category in offices.”

Ruder said the startup sells to companies directly or to furniture dealers. TalkBox has sold a few dozen booths in Colorado.

Other companies selling office privacy booths include California-based Zenbooth.

TalkBox shares offices with Red Idea Partners at 4760 Walnut St. in Boulder and employs 10 people.

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