April 24 2010
I started 3 different bands in college. In each one, we dreamed of making it big, landing a record deal, and having hot Japanese chicks scream our song lyrics at us when we toured Asia.
Now that I’ve made it through grad school, and my band mates are off having kids and working their lives away 9-5, my dreams have crossed over to a different platform. I’m building tech startups and dreaming of making it big, landing VC funding, and having geeky Rails programmers whisper as I pass them in the hall at NerdCon.
Perhaps it’s not as sexy, but it’s glamorous in its own way. And I’ve realized the parallels between starting a rock band and starting a web company are pretty spot on:
I can see the natural progression I made in the music world closely parallels my progress in the tech world. My first band was a crappy punk band, Lynette. We thought we were awesome, but we weren’t very unique. We just played local venues until other bands stopped inviting us when they realized we sucked. Then I started an electro-punk band, Jersey City Fire, which was more innovative, especially in our live show setup. We got to play some shows out of town, but the team didn’t work out in the end. Then I started a dance/pop-core band, K&TK, and we blew people’s socks off (at least comparatively). We toured across the west, recorded some songs, and had a lot of fun. We had the perfect combination of team members, a unique but poppy sound, and lots of drive and hard work. We would play our songs acoustically at random parties to gain fans when we weren’t playing real shows, run online campaigns to drive traffic to our Myspace, and practice relentlessly.
Then people got married and stuff, so we let that dream die peacefully, knowing we might have had a shot if we wanted it.
My first website post-college was a sort of Digg for UFO nuts, AlienUFOBelievers.com (I made it after one of the band guys “saw” a UFO in Montana). It was a cool idea, but there wasn’t a whole lot of market potential. The site was buggy and got hacked, and I sold about $200 in stickers by the time I quit. I started some other sites, which were better constructed and had more potential for ad revenue. They still make me a little money, but I won’t be buying a yacht anytime because of them. Then I started PrintingChoice.com, a Travelocity-style search engine for business card, flyer, postcard, and brochure prices. It has a solid revenue model, and has done quite well. I put that on autopilot and started Scordit.com, a social site that pivots around products people are obsessed about. Users joined, creating thousands of pages of content, and I felt vindicated when sites like GDGT and Hollrr launched with similar ideas and gained a lot of attention. My bands were starting to suck less and less.
Now I’m working on two projects pivoting off of Scordit: mainly Dino.sr, a site for gamers that revolves around games you’ve beat/played/want and lets you created game-specific microblogs of your game progress (and the site is a game itself); and on the side I’m helping with isWearing.com, a real-time stream of people answering the question “What are you wearing,” which aims to help people dress better. Both of these have clear paths to monetization and sort of culminate the experiences I’ve had in my previous ventures. I’m sure these won’t be the last web products I create either. I’ll keep working hard and building better stuff every time, and one day one of my “bands” will get picked up by that major label — I have no doubt about that.
Starting a rock band is a very entrepreneurial experience. I’d be interested to see how many tech companies have been started by people who played in bands. Really, I think being an entrepreneur is all about executing creative ideas — being the guy (or girl) who actually starts a band rather than sitting around with friends and talking about how cool it would be, or being the one who actually sits down and builds a prototype rather than just talking about it for years until someone else builds it.
Sorry Lollapalooza, but NerdCon here I come.