Meet The Makers: Valerie Sheehan
Published: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 3:54 p.m.
Valerie Sheehan's experience as CEO and president of Gainesville startup company ToneRite, Inc. hit a high note recently when she visited the technician in charge of maintaining the instruments for the 22-year-old British guitar sensation Ed Sheeran.
“I was dying to know how he had heard about ToneRite,” Sheehan says of the electronic device manufactured by her company that helps enhance the tone of stringed instruments. Sheeran's guitar tech told her he learned about ToneRite from Phil Taylor, the guitar tech for David Gilmour of Pink Floyd.
“I made him repeat it four times,” Sheehan recalls. “That's been one of the highlights of my time with ToneRite…finding out that we're able to help world-class musicians achieve amazing tone.”
ToneRite attaches to the strings of an instrument and vibrates them to simulate play, helping the instrument to produce a richer, more full-bodied tone that normally develops only after many hours of playing. For folks who are not musicians, Sheehan says, “It's basically like breaking in a new pair of shoes or a baseball glove.”
The device, which sells for between $186 and $350, was invented by Gainesville violinist and electrical engineer Agui Lye, who started ToneRite Inc. in 2007. Meanwhile, Lye got involved with another startup, Trendy Entertainment, a video-game company he co-founded in 2009. In the spring of 2012, Lye hired Sheehan to be CEO and president of ToneRite immediately after she graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Florida.