Thomas Kaufmann

Photo by Brian Bossert www.brianbossert.com

Name: Thomas Kaufmann

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Age: 32

Title: Founder & CEO of OTOjOY

Married/Single: Single

Kids: None

City you live in: Phoenix, Arizona

A typical day in my life includes…

contemplating how other people have typical days. Really, there is no such thing for me. Every single day is completely different. Except for my wardrobe.

I was born…

with one of my ears folded down. My dad freaked out a little bit when he first saw it, but then it flopped up a bit later and everything was fine.

My favorite thing about Arizona… i

s how easy life is here. Everything is within reach and nothing seems like much of a hassle. Phoenix has a bunch of great restaurants and there’s rarely ever a wait. Within a short drive, you’re out in nature in one of the most amazing spots on the planet. You can fly to LA and back for $100 and you’re almost never stuck in traffic. And don’t even try. Three lanes that are moving is not considered traffic.

I’m listening to…

a lot of electronic music. Happy tunes, upbeat melodies and some nice, punchy bass. ODESZA, Rüfüs Du Sol, Einmusik, Fakear and Gramatik are the ones that get my feet moving. And tonight, Oliver Koletzki at Bar Smith. I tend to prefer music without vocals. My motto: “Less talking! More music!”

My family…

is all back in Germany where I grew up. My parents have come to visit once in the 7½ years that I’ve lived in this country. I’m the only one out here. Funny enough though, my parents did already get to see my new home although I still lived in Santa Barbara at the time and had no clue I would eventually move to Phoenix. I took them on a road trip to the Grand Canyon and a Jeep tour in Sedona. They loved it! Obviously…

If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be…

Leonardo da Vinci, Nikola Tesla and Steve Jobs. My table seats 4.

One thing I cannot live without…

is silence. I’m incredibly noise-sensitive. As much as I love attending concerts and festivals and being around other people, I need my quiet time. Even the faintest noises can drive me up a wall sometimes and the acoustics at most restaurants are intolerable for me. I spend a lot of time just sitting in my car, enjoying the silence. When I travel, I typically double up with custom-fit earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones on top of that.

When I was younger, I wanted to be…

normal. I always tried to fit in and be like the cool kids. But it never worked. I didn’t have a lot of friends when I was in school and got bullied a lot. I don’t think most school days were fun for me, except during math and physics class. Now, I embrace my differences. A friend once sent me a quote: “Make your weird light shine bright, so the other weirdos know where to find you.” That’s been working MUCH better for me. )’(

I’m inspired by…

visionary art. If you look at some of the pieces by Android Jones, MARS-1, Vajra or Alex Grey, you’ll get a glimpse of an idea of how my mind works.

The one person who motivates me is…

that crazy guy in the mirror. He can be pretty hard on me at times. Although…he does have good intentions.

If I could change anything in the world, it would be…

the way people with disabilities are looked at and how little thought is given to providing accommodations for them, or us, I should say. Unfortunately, most organizations are much more motivated by a high return on investment than by wanting to provide truly equal access and inclusion. But once they’ve been on the other side and realize, “oh, I can’t do this thing I’d love to do because nobody seems to care whether I can participate,” that’s when their thinking tends to shift.

The perfect day would be…

if anybody, regardless of their hearing ability, was able to hear what they choose to hear, access vital information, fully participate in their communities without being stigmatized, and enjoy music and concerts without damaging their hearing. Then, I could say: “Mission accomplished!” I don’t think that day is anywhere in the near future though.

My first job was…

delivering newspapers. And I remember some snowy, cold, wet, and early mornings that weren’t particularly enjoyable. My parents made sure we understood early on that it requires hard work to make money.

My favorite escape…

is the Desert Botanical Garden. If I can pick outside of the city limits, then it’s Joshua Tree National Park. That’s where I first fell in love with the desert.

My life…

is filled with daily adventure, surprises, sarcasm, and veggies.

I’m currently working on…

dedicating more time to my personal life. It’s hard to find a balance when you’re so passionate about your work.

Always…

do your best. Nobody expects you to be perfect. Usually…I think…right…?

Never…

start thinking you have it all figured out.

Favorite Quote…

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference.” – Steve Jobs

Biggest Dream…

pretty much the lyrics of John Lennon’s Imagine.

My Pet Peeve(s)…

drunk people. Loud people. Drunk, loud people. And water stains on the bathroom mirror.

More about Thomas… 

Thomas Kaufmann is a disability advocate, entrepreneur, music enthusiast, and inventor of award-winning audio technology. As the founder and CEO of OTOjOY, his mission is to enhance people’s listening experiences at live events, such as lectures, concerts, theater plays, and music festivals.



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