By Alison Bailin Batz / Photo by Claudia Johnstone
Upon first impressions, Benjamin Tietgen seems to be the typical, mild-mannered attorney and family man you see on the streets and in the boardroom each day.
“Don’t forget proud nerd, too,” says Tietgen, a partner at Quarles & Brady in Phoenix, focused on ultra-techy niches of intellectual property such as cryptocurrency and cloud computing.
But, don’t let the day job fool you.
When not busy as a dad or lawyer, Tietgen is part of Phoenix’s FCC-licensed, community-run nonprofit radio station, KDIF 102.9 LPFM.
“The Local Community Radio Act of 2011 opened the airwaves for community platforms to wedge onto the radio dial between the commercial conglomerates,” Tietgen explains. “Licensed through the Act, KDIF is a hyper-local media outlet amplifying the voices of community members and advocates and sharing the knowledge, talent, and insight coming out of Phoenix and its arts and education communities.”
Tietgen is not only a board member for the station, but helped build its facilities from scratch and is now one of its disc jockeys.
“I co-host Surf & Skate Saturday, which is on weekly from 1 to 3 p.m. We play the unlikely combination of surf rock – think Beach Boys – and skater music,” Tietgen says.
His musical talents stretch far beyond his time on the radio.
“While in law school at Arizona State University, I formed a band with some classmates, and we still play together more than 10 years later.”
Called The Vanjacks and with Tietgen on the bass and vocals, the bluesy rock band is influenced by Queens of the Stone Age and the Black Crowes.
They’ve played a host of local venues including Valley Bar, Last Exit Live, and Wells Fargo Arena (on the steps outside), and released an album of some of their original songs where Tietgen did the cover art.
“Now, if I can just get us on KDIF,” Tietgen jokes.
By Lynette Carrington / Photo by Mark Morgan
As founder and chief technology officer of OTOjOY audio technology company, Thomas Kaufmann is making a difference for those with hearing loss and those who want a better listening experience. Kaufmann relocated his company from Santa Barbara, California in 2016 when he observed that Phoenix was very accessible to those with disabilities.
He was further inspired when he met Phil Pangrazio, president and CEO of local nonprofit Ability360 and saw what the organization was doing.
“They have three fitness centers in the Valley with adaptive equipment and the video tour of the main facility was quite impressive,” Kaufmann recalls.
When Kaufmann realized that 20 percent of the population is affected by hearing loss, he knew something had to be done.
“Some people don’t have their own hearing aids or cochlear implants and some people can’t hear because they can’t afford to hear,” he explains. “Hearing aids are expensive and health insurance doesn’t always cover them.”
For those with mild or moderate hearing loss, going to a theater, church or government meeting is challenging.
“We were thinking, ‘Why can’t we use smart phones to pick up the sound from a hearing system?’”
A phone doesn’t have that capability so Kaufmann created LoopBuds, which have a special cable that can receive a signal and send it into the phone. The signal is processed by the LoopBuds app, playing it back for the user. LoopBuds won a 2018 CES Innovation award, a 2018 Edison Award and was a finalist in 2018’s Mobile Global Awards.
The technology is universal, but a venue needs infrastructure to support it. Phoenix has 28 venues, including FilmBar and Phoenix Convention Center, that are capable. Locally, OTOjOY has put a LoopBuds system in at Crescent Ballroom as a donation to the community.
Additionally, Kaufmann is working with the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Adult Loss of Hearing Association in Tucson.
“Together, we’re in the process of launching a Loop Arizona public awareness campaign modeled after the Loop California campaign we created five years ago,” he says.