Our guest today is Seth Miller, Founder and CEO at Rapchat. Seth is on a mission to democratize music creation with Rapchat’s mobile app. Rapchat takes the friction out of making music, and has helped millions of artists unleash their creativity.
Seth earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration, with an emphasis on management information systems, from Ohio University. Before founding Rapchat, Seth worked as a consultant for Adidas, and an IT Systems Engineer.
On the podcast we talk with Seth about bootstrapping his way to signs of product market fit, raising money from strategic partners like Sony Music, and what it’s like to have Facebook completely rip off your app.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Finding the right niche for your app
- Bootstrapping and early funding
- Using the right marketing channels for your app
- Filtering out the wrong users for your app's paid features
- How to transition your app from free to paid
Links & Resources
Seth Miller’s Links
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We would be dead for sure if I didn’t learn how to code. It’s an invaluable skill that I’ll have in this organization and future organizations. It also just helps me think about things. It’s a really great way to look at the world sometimes.
Hello, I’m your host, David Bernard. And with me as always, RevenueCat CEO, Jacob Eiting.
Our guest today is Seth Miller, founder and CEO at Rapchat. Seth is on a mission to democratize music creation with Rapchat’s mobile app. It takes the friction out of making music, and has helped millions of artists unleash their creativity on the podcast.
We talk with Seth about bootstrapping his way to signs of product market fit. Raising money from strategic partners like Sony, and what it’s like to have Facebook completely rip off your app.
Hey Seth, welcome to the podcast!
How’s it going? Thanks for having me.
It’s been a long time coming. You and I first chatted way back in 2019. You were the first office hour call I ever took at RevenueCat.
Yeah, going way back in my RevenueCat days.
It tells you how bad of a CEO I am that we’ve never actually spoken on the phone in those two years.
Or how good David was!
I was sold after one call. I’m like, all right, dude, where do I sign up? How do I get this going?
We have a lot of cross connections, because you’re an Adjacent portfolio. Nico is a co-investor. We’re also both Ohio-based. So, yeah, lots of cover today.
We got to hang out.
We should. It’s beautiful in Ohio today, but I’m not going to make an Ohio podcast.
But, maybe kickoff and tell us, what is Rapchat?
Yeah, absolutely. So, Rapchat is the easiest way to make music on your phone. We have an iOS and Android app. You really just like tap in, and open the app. We have hundreds and thousands of free beats on the app. So, you just pick a beat, you can record over it, and then you can share that anywhere.
We have people making full-length studio-quality songs from their phone and sharing it to Instagram and SoundCloud. And then also on the platform, we have a social layer as well. Which is really cool. Pretty much a recording studio in your pocket, with a community, with a social layer.
Similar to Visco, or Instagram for music. Our mission is really to democratize music by providing access and tools to the next billion music creators.
How did you get on this idea?
Well, like just scratching my own itch in the early days. Almost eight years ago when I was in college, apps were really starting to become a thing, and same with social networks and you-do-see platforms that let you create content and share it. You know, the golden era of Vine, Snap, all of that. But there was nothing for music.
I also had a hobby of freestyling with my friends. So, we’d get together, throw on beats, and rap, and some people would sing and just create all sorts of stuff. It was something that I noticed that was like, yeah, this should exist on your phone. I should be able to do this with my high school buddies that are on a different campus that I used to do it with.
That was really it, just scratching my own itch. Then over time, I think we’ve really come to realize that there’s just this massive opportunity to do this at scale for those that really want to make music and take it seriously.
So, I’ve kind of outgrown my own use case a little bit, even though we have people that come and have fun, but really we’re focused on providing tools for the everyday artist that historically has been kind of gatekeeped out of participating in music. So, we try and give them everything we can in their pocket, and still feels like we’re only getting started.
It’s not as easy to pirate logic these days I imagine, like it used to be.
What did those early days look like? Did you learn to code? Did you have a coding background? What did those early days look like, and when did you get the app out?
Yeah, I mean, pure chaos and it’s not too much different today, you know, it’s just a little more organized. yeah, the first version of the iOS app was June, 2014. I think it was June 7th and that was really. I wouldn’t even pass as an alpha version think especially with how good some of the test flights are, but, you know, it was very basic.
It was, you could open the app record one track over like 10 predefined beats that had to come with the app store bundle, like would even have server side, like beats, and. Like, we just wanted to test that people would do it. And you know, of course the first couple of months, is just getting friends off Facebook and family to download it.
But then, I started to notice like, you know, a little bit of traction and then more traction and then basically quit my job. I was like, all right, I gotta, I gotta really go after this. And it, that exactly. That’s when I taught myself how to code too, because, I had a lot of help in the early days, just from like friends, faculty members, anyone I could get to work on it But then after, you know, I noticed there’s just like basically early signs of product market fit, I guess, if you will now, but people sharing it. I was like, I really want to make updates to this thing and I can’t afford any engineers and I don’t know anything about fundraising. So it was like the only way I could make any updates and then wrote really shitty code for like three years.
And, but got enough traction improved to kind of, you know, enter the startup space, the fundraising space. Now, luckily we have really amazing engineers and I still write some code here and there. That’s probably not that great, but, you know, I love it. So,
Did you have any co-founders?
Yeah, so we, I mean, we had a team on campus in the early days, that, you know, we’re helping out. We’ve had a lot of people along the way, help out in different parts of the journey it’s been. An epic journey, you know, and, lots of ups and downs, but yeah, we’ve had lots of different people help us out.
And, now we have a fully distributed team, and still relatively small 10 people, but, lots of great product builders and, yeah, it’s a lot of fun
Yeah. David can, can probably talk more to the pain of not like having on staff. Like it’s not so much. I mean, yeah. I mean, the cost is a thing for sure. But like, I think a bigger thing often is the, the, the turnaround time, right? The iteration time of not having well, you know, even if you’re. You know, product person who’s non-technical and you have a technical co-founder, there’s even like friction there and communicating the ideas.
Right. If you’re not really in sync. And so having that all in one mind can really like speed things up. And in the early days, that’s what it’s all about. Right? It’s all about iteration speed. It’s all about getting, you know, different sticking stuff, different stuff to the wall. As fast as possible to see what takes off.
So, that’s always the advice saying, I don’t know if there’s anybody that listen, this is there, there probably are people in the podcast in a similar situation where they’re like, maybe they didn’t study programming or whatever. Like it’s gotta be, I mean, I don’t know so that you can, you can go against this.
Maybe it’s not the case, but it feels like it’s probably the best way to invest your time is like, get to the basics, like as fast as you can.
Yeah, I think so. I mean, the amount of time you’ll spend trying to like find a co-founder that codes. Sure. The ultimate is like, you find a co-founder you guys gel and like, they know how to code and you know, you know how to do everything else, but like, I dunno, we would be dead for sure. If I didn’t learn how to code and it’s an invaluable skill that I’ll have in this organization and future organizations, it also just helps me like, think about things like it’s a really great, like, you know, way to look at the world sometimes.
Yeah. You’re not bamboozled by engineers too, which
Yeah. Yeah. And I can like talk to engineers and I think like, it really helps me get, buy-in like I can go to the engineering team and be like, yeah, no, tell me the real shit. Like, you know, what’s really going on and we can have technical combos as opposed to like, you know, kind of the, I don’t know if it’s just a whatever stereotype of early CEO that’s like, I need this and this is why, and I’m going to go sell and you know, that can get you into trouble and. Yeah. So anyway, I, I’m a huge advocate. I get some people are really, it’s a scary thing to learn. It does take time. You’re really bad for
Ever, basically, I don’t think, I don’t think you ever get, you’re not going to be good. Like every engineer you work with is going to be like, oh right, like this
Exactly, But I do think it’s, it’s really helpful, especially those in the early days. Cause like, trust me, you can look at Google and be like, oh, I need to raise money for my startup, which is what I did.
And eventually we did, you know, do some fundraising, but It’s again, the amount of time you’d spend trying to figure out how to fundraise and just jump in this like really deep ocean versus, you know, a skill that you’ll have for life that will instantly, you know, provide value in your current job even.
Yeah. I’m, I’m all for it. I mean, I try to get people to code no matter what,
I guess like you mentioned kind of that, that early stage. Finding product market fit. Like how long if something’s called wandering the desert, but like how long did you wander the desert? Like how long until, and then when you first started to see those indications, because probably market fits this, like it’s, it’s a bad term because like, It means different things to different people and founders can deceive themselves all the time.
And, you know, even, even YC is like, I think one of the best orgs for defining this and communicating this there, their definition is not very good right there. Like, it just feels like it’s going faster. It’s like, okay. Like you can still lie to yourself really easily. So what did that look like for you?
Yeah, no, I could not agree more and could go on lots of, lots of rants about this, or just in general, like, you know, benchmarks or anything like that. I think. You know, and I’ll just speak for myself. Cause like you said, it’s like totally different for every company. but the, the first signs is when I remember I was working the first and only job I had out of college, I was a systems engineer at progressive insurance.
So I was in their data center, literally like working on servers, had no idea what I was doing, but, I was there for like six months and I remember I was like at work, searching Twitter, like Rapchat on Twitter, just to. And then over time, like more and more people just kept sharing their tracks to Twitter and like saying how much they love it.
And then app store reviews were a big thing. I mean, it’s just clear that we like, like people truly loved the product. and that was kind of the first step. And you can’t really like quantify. It’s not like, oh, there was a thousand Twitter it’s, you know, quotes or.
You weren’t measuring like day one retention, day 30 retention.
Was, I learned that I learned all that stuff over time and like, we track, we track a lot of that stuff, but I’m telling you like the most important stuff was like the qualitative in the early days.
Then, but you need qualitative at scale. Like it’s not just like your friend, you know, it’s like, plus you know, 50,000 I may use at that time or whatever it was. And I think that. That was really key. Like the first thing is like, people were actually able to record music on their phone and share it.
Some people were really good at it. Like this is, this is kind of like obvious now, but it wasn’t back in the day. Like there was like technical challenges there where, you know, people didn’t think it would be a thing. Some people still don’t think it’s like a billion opportunity, but like, you know, we had to prove out that people would really record music on their phone.
Like that was, it seems so obvious,
What was the propeller heads app? gosh, what was that called?
Had a few, I
There was, there was, I remember this bad podcasting. I don’t know the name of it, but I remember there being some really key like music apps that were kind of around that era. Right. It was like, the phones were finally getting fast enough to be able to do this without like just falling over and dying in
And Andrew, it’s still like really freaking hard to get. Right. But I mean, over time now we have like a process of like, how we think about, you know, does our product work for a certain market? And it’s changed. Like I would say you never really—we’re not in a desert, but you never stop wandering Like your product evolves over time. The market evolves over time. We’ve seen different personas evolve and grow in our community over time. and now, like I said, in the early days, a lot of it was providing just like a fun, social media app that was music-based for the F for everyone. And now, while we do have those components, it’s much more about providing a really great recording studio in your pocket with a community of creators for the everyday artists.
Like, so now we’ve actually. Zoned in a little more and focused on one or two specific segments. And we have really strong metrics engagement, now subscriptions for that specific persona. So I think that’s a big thing. Like in the early days, you’d read all these blogs and, you know, what to look at for retention or what to look at for product market fit.
But a lot of times it’s not married with context of like personas. And so for the first three years, I mean, we were getting whatever millions of downloads a year. But like this person, in India’s here to have fun. This person in Georgia is here to take it seriously. And we were just looking at it all blended.
And so like, once we learned to actually be like, no, like when now we literally ask, like, why are you here? Like, what are your aspirations? And, then we view things through that lens. That’s been one of the biggest unlocks, like, it it seems obvious again, but. If you don’t think that way then in the early days, you’re just kind of like wondering like, well, why is my day one retention?
Like not changing. It’s like, well, you know, you’re getting 30% of your users from this like really bad channel and they’re low intent. And like, you should filter those out. because that’s noise.
I it’s so tricky though, because I was in a similar position when we were trying to work on growth elevate. And, you can, you can really easily. That thing where founders are trying to lie to themselves, it’s a very easy way to lie to yourself. Right. And be like, yeah, I have a great retention if I just ignore all the users with the bad retention.
Right. And it’s like,
I think context is the important thing. Right. It’s like, okay, like what are the actual context for this? And I mean, it makes me think of, the photo room, a founder who we had on a couple, a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know the ordering of the pockets come down, but they also had a similar situation where they found it, like within their greater per user base, like a persona where retention was really strong intent was really high.
And then it’s kind of great because it gives you, I feel like from a founder and product perspective, it gives you license to focus right. A little bit and be like, okay, like we found this profile, that’s going to be our most important. And we’re going to like really put our energy here. And it kind of clarifies a lot of like things for the, you know, product decision-making.
One thing to interject on this real quick is that, I think a lot of people underestimate just how amazing Facebook got at doing this for founders. Because that the feedback loop and Facebook’s algorithm and how much data that had on people prior to app tracking transparency and apple is kind of unwound all of this, but that’s part of why Facebook has worked as the like user acquisition main channel for so many apps to grow is because all of what you were talking about, Jacob, and you were talking about.
They just do it automatically with really sophisticated eye AI and way more data than you’re ever going to have to understand people’s intent and the, the, the types of people who are going to. Oh, well in your app. So when you’re feeding those subscription monetization events back to Facebook and Facebook’s experimenting with $50,000 a year money, what are they really doing?
They’re doing what you can do. And now with app tracking transparency, we’re going to have to do it more is they’re finding those personas and then advertising to them to get you that return on investment. I think people underestimate how great Facebook did it at finding the. Amazing personas that work in your app.
But now, like it’s kind of back to doing what you’ve done. So I’d love to hear a little bit more to, you know, early on just seeing it on a, you know, Rapchat trending on Twitter and like following all that stuff. Like, I think a lot of. Over instrument early and just need to like hit some critical mass first.
But then as you get a little further along, you know, you’ve talked about building this like product market fit engine, like how, like, what’s your, what’s your stack. And then how do you think about measuring and learning about those personas and then kind of building for them and orienting the app around that?
I mean, there’s a lot there. So, I mean, again, for context, like we are now just getting into that game, which is like the worst time ever to get into the game where, you know, we’re actually trying to bring those users in with our dollars at
Maybe, but, but you know, as it’s been disrupted, right. So there’s opportunity. You, you you’ll have probably a better time than somebody who’s trying to adapt from something they got used
Right. We’re going the other way. Pretty much like, so.
Facebook charged a lot to do it. That’s the thing it’s like, they captured a lot of that revenue by figuring it out for you, but if you can figure it out and then find those channels that reach those personas in a more cash efficient way you actually are at, at, in a better place. It’s just more work on your side of things, but then you understand your customers better.
So there’s benefits to,
So, so maybe Seth put it on a timeline for me. So like you said, 2008, 2009. So you’re, you’re getting on a, a decade of, of working on this, right. It’s been, it’s been, how long have you been working on.
Sorry. Sorry. How are you telling me a college point? This is before the podcast. Sorry. I’m very good broadcaster.
It’s yeah, 2013. So it’s still okay. 7, 8, 8, 8 years or so. So when, when did, when I guess like we are, when did to kind of lead into David’s question, like when did you kind of transition from like, maybe it’s it’s recently, but like at some point, did you go like, okay, like how do I grow this thing? Like, what’s the, what’s the, you know, I see this happening a lot.
Consumer apps cause consumer apps really, it maybe they’re inherently viral, but they almost always have to have something to drive the growth. Like some sort of mechanism. When did, did you ever have a point where you started transitioning, start to think about that more as part of the company-building
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, so I mean to date, like, you know, we’ve had over 7 million people create music in over a hundred countries and over 80% of that’s been organic. So it’s like, you know, we’ve really, that was our whole thing forever because we didn’t have capital. we may have had capital, but we didn’t have enough to have remotely a good budget so we really, yeah, we, we kind of tweaked and refined our viral loops in the early days because that’s all we had. So when I say scrolling on Twitter, that was like the first instance before you could eat, there was a time period where you couldn’t even post on Twitter, you had to open the messages in the app, and then we made it really simple.
Again, all this shit’s so obvious now, and now every app does it, but you know, we made it really simple to post a link to your Rapchat to your Twitter and your Facebook. I remember it was only Twitter and Facebook, like two ugly square buttons. because those were the things at the time. And that worked though.
I mean, we saw a 10x Return on that. And I mean, to date, you know, that type of flow, come in, create content, share externally, bring your friends in. Some of them will either have the app. Some of them will go to the landing page on the website, download the app, that loop. I mean, that’s been millions and millions of downloads.
So, you know, we’re kind of lucky in that sense that, you know, being a UGC and having some network effects, like that’s really been key. and. And just continuing to improve the onboarding, improve the recording experience, improve the sharing experience. Like at some point we, you know, added Instagram and video where we auto-generate a video for you.
That was a really good moment because people, and now that’s our most used features, like sharing a video of your. because those do better on social network algorithms. So I think, you know, we’ve kind of had the core loop identified for quite some time and it’s just been consistently tweaking and investing and making that better now, since we’ve had that—and that’s kind of driven itself and still drives itself, you know, we’re looking at all these different other components as well.
So, we’re testing out some paid stuff. we’re testing out. Different types of like content marketing and like, we have our own podcast now and we really are bullish on like, you know, creating educational content for the mass music maker across different channels and think we can do some really cool stuff there.
We’re starting to explore different parts of like the growth stack, and even web like SEO and web, we haven’t invested in. And we think it’s a huge opportunity because we want to expose this content to. To everyone and we can create unique experiences per platform, and we have the bandwidth to do it now.
So now it’s kind of the fun part. whereas, you know, before it was, yeah, pretty much all organic.
How did you make money with the app, like throughout the history and when did you realize subscriptions were the only and best way to make money on the app store?
Yeah, nice plug. no, I mean, we didn’t, we didn’t make money forever. Like until last year I think we hit like we’re hitting year one. So we’ll, you know, we’ll figure out these yearly renewal renewals and all that, but, yeah, we didn’t make money. Like we basically punted making money. Jury’s still out.
Like I think if I were to start another app company, I would just implement subscriptions way earlier. But, you know, this is what, when we started and we raised our first round of funding. So we’ve raised three rounds of funding and,
When did you raise your.
First round was 2017 and it was very much like, of course the investors are like, no, no, no, don’t make money. know, grow user base, do what Twitter did.
Oh, you need money. I’ve got some right here.
Yeah. Just keep raising venture capital. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Essentially like, just get on the treadmill of ambiguous. And then at some point you can do an advertising layer and that’s how it’s done. Like that’s that’s and it’s not like we had any much better ideas either.
And we’re like, all right, like, yeah, let’s just keep growing the user base.
How did you get, how did you get this for years? You just like eating ramen and work in side jobs and
Yeah, dude. Yeah, Yeah. I mean, so two of them were at college. It was like part-time, you know, like grind in, it took a minute to just to get the test flight out and then the first version then. After progressive I for a year, you know, I just, I mean, I cashed out my 401k and paid some decent money at progressive and sold Bitcoin at like $250 a coin and yeah. Things like that. So
Max out some credit cards. I mean, whatever
You do what you gotta do. Right. it was real, scrappy until that, that, that first round. So, I mean, that’s, that’s the trade off there. Like you don’t either you’re at makes money and like you can flow and like kind of live off it or yeah, you got to do that kind of stuff and then eventually bridge to capital.
So I was kind of curious, like how,
Yeah. And, and to be honest, like that, wasn’t the only time we had to be scrappy. Like even after the first round, you know, like a lot of companies, we were kind of like, okay, we scaled our user base. Like I think, I dunno 10 X after the seed round, but it still wasn’t quite like series a level. So we were kind of stuck in between rounds and it’s like, oh shit.
Back off payroll. Okay. Like, here we go again. And, you know, it’s, it there’s Mo there’s been moments, multiple moments like that. and without revenue, it was like, you’re kind of at the, you
Is this it’s a safety net, right? Like it’s something you can go back on. Right? That, that, that I I’ve, I’ve been the receiver of that advice. Not, not in this round, that building revenue cap, but in the past of the like, just go, go, go. And it’s, it’s not bad advice. Cause it does like that’s how Instagram did it.
Right. There’s examples of companies. But it’s that classic. Like you, you know, people with a portfolio of tens or hundreds of companies giving advice to somebody with a portfolio of one and like the risk there, the, the, the, the, the, the risk equation is fundamentally different there, right. between people.
And it’s just one of those tensions with venture capital that exists. And like, you just got to negotiate. So, yeah. It’s, it’s, yeah. You know, it’s a story we’ve heard all too much. I think it’s why. No, I, I be, obviously I’ve got a horse in the race, but like, it’s why I think subscriptions are great. Right.
Cause it just like, you can still use venture capital. And in fact, like, I think it’s going to be very accelerative. Right. But, but like you have options, right. And you’re like less fragile now.
I mean, and I’m happy to say, like after that grind now we’re absolutely in the best place we’ve ever been. We have, you know, recurring revenue, we have more cash at the bank than we’ve ever had, like multiple years of runway. And we should hit cashflow positive, like pretty soon. So it’s like totally different ballgame.
And I think to answer your other question, we turned out subscriptions. Yeah. About a year ago. And it really changed the like perspective of product building too. And I think that’s a fundamental difference, like when we were raising our seed round and, you know, we had, I mean, we do, we have a social network on top of our tool and people were like, Hey, why don’t you just try and get to like a billion users?
Like that really changes how you build product and what type of features you prioritize? Like, yeah, you’re going to be more like, okay, let me put it in another sharing. Like, let me really nudge you to share or like,
Eyeballs. Right? you don’t care. You don’t care. What’s behind them, right. You’re just like
Like you basically focus on the top of the funnel instead of the middle, bottom of the funnel and like with subscriptions. Yeah. I mean, subscriptions bottom, bottom of the funnel and that’s cool because it kind of focused, it, it focuses you more and that’s, that was just a really, it was all big unlock, like last year and know, frankly, we had to figure out how to make money. We were kind of like in between again and, yeah, it just came to us.
David came to us and convinced us to do revenue
Yeah, I forgot. I forgot that that was the, that was the case. I mean, that was part of the thesis of, of what we built to. I ideally lower the barrier and, and stuff like that. So, but how has, like, has has that, because I think there’s one that you kind of mentioned just like top of funnel versus bottom of funnel, you think of an app that’s driven by virality.
There’s like disadvantages to reducing, right. To like, so you must be balancing that really delicately, right? Because you still, you don’t want to, you don’t want to take the gas out of that, that viral loop
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, especially a year ago when we were like, oh man, we’ve had a free app. We have like, you know, 400,000 monthly active users or whatever it was at the time. And we’re about to introduce this like paid product, you know, it was kind of nerve wracking that tastefully. You know, we took the approach where we didn’t paywall any of the current functionality, like you could come in, you could do everything you did before.
In fact, we upgraded the free functionality as well, and then we built new stuff. So like new vocal effects, new ways to like automatically make your song sound better using algorithms, and a few other cool things that people wanted and we paywalled like additional functionality. So I think that was really crucial to do it that.
Way and we spent, you know, a few extra months building that, but, that was key. And then people converted and they’re still converting because it’s just like you get the core experience you come in and then, you know, we gradually level them up and we’ve launched one subscription product We have Rapchat gold, which again, unlocks Supreme creator tools.
But now we’re working on a second one that we’re going to layer on top that helps these artists make money and gets their songs on Spotify and apple music. And that’s going to kind of complete the artist journey. So, building subscription products can be like really fun and fulfilling for both parties.
You know, it’s like, we’re finding ways to help you in your career.
And also like, we don’t have to start either, you know, it’s like we can
Grow together. And that probably sounds too happy, but like really it, it is like, it’s, been
You know, it’s almost like an efficient market, right. Where people are paying for value and
Value is getting created, right? Like it’s almost like a good way of
I like that.
So tell me a little bit more about, about the fundraising process, as an app and kind of being at a, you know, you said there was that kind of in-between time where it’s like, you, you, you had all these signs of product market fit. You were going after the big opportunity. And then when you switched to subscriptions, it wasn’t too long after that, that you, went and raised money, right?
Did did the subscription product really take off or was it just early and signs of it? It really taking off that, seed investment.
When we closed that round, you’re talking about that’s, you know, whatever public and, that, that was around Nico and adjacent came in, you know, we were a couple months into subscription, so it’s not like we had a ton of data, and we weren’t even like fully rolled out. Now we had proof that.
People Liked it and good conversion rates and stuff like that. But I think that was iteration one of the paywall and iteration, one of the flow and really early. but I do think it changed the pers, like how, investors perceived our company and we, we proactively changed it too we’re like, no we’re building subscription products for our best users.
You know, we, we were able to kind of take control of the pitch more-so than before where it’s like, you’re not making money. How are you going to make money? Are you going to be a social network with ads? Are you going to be a tools company? It’s like, No like, this is, this is what we are like, you know?
And, that really put us in control. And, yeah, once we got Nico and a few other, like we, it was also just a good time in the market. Like, I feel like in the past couple of years—you guys have seen, there’s been a lot of activity on the investor side getting into subscription. apps On the market side with IPOs on the founder side with building really great apps that scaled.
I mean, Adjecent’s whole portfolio as an example. so I think people were also like, that was the first time where the market worked in our favor. Right. Because before were a music tech social app, it’s like, no one wants to fucking touch that.
You’re like a, you’re like Instagram, but smaller.
Yeah. Right. Like, and so. It also like it, it was kind of a perfect storm, I guess.
And, yeah, we were very fortunate to get in the right investors that understood the market and also understood like the vision, like the vision was a lot clearer and like, I know Nico really latched onto it and his kind of thesis was perfect for like what we’re doing for music. so yeah, it just, it, it was a good fit obviously Sony was in it and like, you know, that, that was kind of a big key moment to get validation from like the music industry where it’s like, oh, they’re a lot more open and flexible to some of these new-coming technologies and apps and companies.
And in fact, like see value in working together, that kind of knocks down that like historical music/tech graveyard of the industry, killing every music tech startup.
They learned their lesson once probably.
Yeah. Pretty much.
Yeah, I’m I’m really curious about, about Sony specifically. And then, you know, you’ve already been talking about Nico, but you, after, after raising that round and going through that process, what, what’s your perspective and maybe even any advice to people thinking about this, about that kind of strategic alignment and the kind of value add, you know, finding that, that company/investor/founder fit. any lessons you’ve learned from that?
Yeah, it’s hard one
Was going to say, I was going to ask like, why? because it sounds like you’re leverage different changed probably right from
Because I, I can’t imagine, did you raise this first rounds in Ohio?
Yeah, it’s some in Ohio, some in the Midwest. You know, smaller funds on the coast, but mostly,
To have changed drastically since even
Those first couple of rounds, right? Like it’s going
Yeah, for sure. For sure. No, we have a lot more left. I mean, we’re, we can be a lot more choosy. We’ve got to pick like really great investors as of late. it’s a whole different, yeah, it’s been, it’s been crazy.
Crazy awesome. But yeah, I mean working, I don’t know that you’ll get a lot of different advice in working with strategics or big industry partners and depending on who you talk to, some will say don’t touch them at all. Some we’ll say, if you can work with them, work with them. you know, all I can say is, from my experience, like, it’s, it’s not easy.
Like you’re working with a massive, usually a public company and they have a lot more process than, than you do. So like literally getting a deal done is just going to take longer, be more strenuous, probably have a couple of strings. We were fortunate enough for it to be a really good, like clean same terms type of deal, but.
It’s, it can be really difficult. and that’s kind of up to the founder and the company to figure out like, is it worth it? you know, for us major record labels are. Still kind of the end state for a lot of potential artists in their journey. Like they still provide a lot of value if you get to that point.
So like, of course we want to, for the long tail, for our, millions of creators, give them that opportunity. if we can help bridge the gap to get signed at some point, that’s really, that’s really interesting to us. but yeah, it’s hard and again, it’s very contextual. It depends on every deal.
It depends on every company and in general, It’s just, it’s gonna take a, it’s gonna take some time,
Yeah. dealing with like a big company, like, like Sony, like venture deals, probably the only thing you’re probably tooled for this stage. Cause like that’s a bit cleaner, right? Like a venture deal. It’s like they invest money. Yeah. If you can get it on the same terms as like another venture investor, like it keeps it clean versus like if you’re working on partnerships or something like that, it gets more complicated and I think different.
And I’m sure, I’m sure that’s probably something you’re thinking about going forward. It’s like, how do you actually like begin to really engage on those partnerships? I think that’s even harder. So in this specific case, or like maybe a more general case, I can venture a small, like venture investment. It can be like a nice way to kind of just like, get your foot in the door with, with a company or like a strategic, just kinda meet people.
Just kind of give them some visibility. And then as you grew up, but I would be, I would ha I would caution against like, trying to engage on some big, hairy, strategic, like, partnership deal. I would like push that out until you get a bit bigger. And like you said, like can match the, like the bandwidth differences a little bit better.
Yeah. I have like our own general council full
And a partnerships
Tons of it. yeah,
That might probably not the best use of your time at this stage. Right. So.
No, I totally agree. I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s pretty spot on
And how did you even get an intro? I mean, if you don’t mind sharing, like, it seems like it is such a perfect fit, but even those perfect fits, like sometimes it’s hard to just even get your foot in the door.
Yeah, right. honestly, like that’s, shit, I don’t even know. I mean, I think someone might have intro to us, or I, I reached out to somebody, I mean, we’ve had a lot of different contacts. I mean over the years and you guys know this, but like now, okay. We’ve been startups for five, six years and have pretty good network and investors, partners, founders, and it’s just kind of a flywheel like now, you know, things come in, things go out.
Like it’s kind of a engine. I think with that one, it was later on in my like startup journey. So I had a lot of. Connections out there already with the other major labels too. It’s like, you know, we we’ve talked to, we’ve kept in touch. That was one thing I think we’ve done really well throughout, like our time, even though we, you know, we’ve been around for a minute, but we’ve consistently like kept people updated, whether it’s investors, whether it’s potential employees, whether it’s partners and you know, sometimes like the guy you knew or girl who.
Four years ago that you were talking to at a specific part of a bigger company is now leading venture. Right? Like in that, that type of stuff happens a lot. And I don’t think this is one of those instances. Like I literally think we talked to one division of Sony and then someone like, introduce us to another like, oh, you should talk to the U S music department or whatever.
And, you know, all that to say, like, it’s just happens. Like you just reach out to people or people reach out to you. There’s there’s no like magic
These, big places have venture teams typically, right. Or they have like some venture part of their Corp dev wing. That’s like, has, you know, funds and knows what they’re doing usually. but, but yeah, I mean, it’s tricky to. Pick partners like, cause yeah, you also, like we’re, we’re a interesting company in the sense that like we have kind of many implicit partners.
Right. and it, it, it, you know, there’s no, like there’s no like cap table, you know, wedding rings between any of us, which, which maybe simplifies or doesn’t,
I thought you guys own like 10% or at yet.
Yeah, that was, that was that’s how you got our free plan.
Days you didn’t read the full, you didn’t read the
Terms of service, parody, parody, comedy.
Yeah, I did. I did want to ask, Facebook. Kind of jumped into your space not too long ago.
Where were you? Cause you, we guarantee you, you remember when you saw this, but w what were you doing when, like you saw like, Facebook, like clingy guys?
I honestly think I might’ve been sitting right here. Like I think I was just working.
It was nothing special.
That’s Like a S a founder moment. Like, there’s these moments where you’re like, oh, somebody just like a bullet, just grazed my ear. Right?
No, I wish I could say I was like at the gym on the treadmill and then it came in and I like jumped up the treadmill.
It’s most likely you’re sitting at your desk,
Yeah, statistically. Yeah. no, it was, it was kind of a weak, like I don’t, I don’t even know how to describe the emotions. I mean, I was just like, I kind of laughed. It was just like, okay.
You know, I definitely wasn’t. Like scared or super worried or freaking out, like, you know, it’s maybe, I don’t know, 2019 me or something or in the early days would, I’m like, oh shit, like now I can’t get venture funding or now I can’t like keep building, like, they’re going to crush it. But I mean, we’ve been around in some minute ourselves, so yeah, I just, it was kind of funny and ironic.
And then it went like many viral on Twitter with a lot of, you know, my network and other people. And then, I had friends sending it to me like, oh dude, what do you gotta do? And, I don’t know, man, like just probably download it and see how bad it is and go from there.
They’re like, yeah. And it was, and honestly, it was just kind of a fun thing.
Like, you know, it, it did, like we got press around the round and then some people could write about that. And it was kind of a funny story and somewhat of a badge of honor, like people, you know, they copy a lot of the top apps. And again, it’s just kind of like validation that like clearly you’re onto something.
I mean, they used the same. Color scheme emojis at okay. One of my most proud things.
Stuff that makes you angry, right? As a
They cloned you it’s that they
Right? That’s what makes me mad.
The thing that really got me was, Like for our like, button, right. it’s a flame, it’s like an emoji. And like when you hit it, it like turns into the actual emoji flame. And I always thought that was like the sickest thing ever.
Like they did the same exact thing.
I was just like, all right. Like, I mean, that’s what the little things are, what confirmed that they actually kind of like really looked at your, your app. But, no it’s been, I don’t even know what they’ve been up to. I don’t even know if they shipped updates. It’s zero concern to us. it was just kind of fun. It was like funny to share with the team and, investors and, you know, a lot of investors were like, hell yeah, like that’s a good sign. Like
Yeah, you should hire somebody off the team.
Oh, trust me. I would love to
Because like you just think about like, yeah, I, I think you’ve got the right mentality about it. I’m not even telling you this as like, trying to make you feel better. Like really?
Cause like, think how much more skin in the game you have it. I don’t know who built this.
It’s probably some product managers like promotion, packet, project or whatever. I’m being condescending to people working in big companies. But you know, but, but, but think about it like this, you know, this is a, this is a one-time thing there’s trying out, right? This is. Passion, right. This is your life or you’ve last whatever years, right?
Like good luck. Unless it, unless they just happened to be way more talented and way more funded, which maybe Facebook is, but like they’re not, they don’t execute perfectly on everything. Right. So, I think you just smile and you just be like, yeah, let’s go, right. It’s not, it’s not like apples competing with you and being like we’re pre installing a chat wrap
Right, right. Yeah.
Which you know, could happen, but
Sure. Yeah. I mean garage band. Yeah, I appreciate that. I mean, the thing is also like, look in the early days we were. I’m just sharing this for context. Like we were, you know, one of the first apps that actually let you record your voice over a beat and share it like that was like New.
Okay. Now there’s plenty of apps where you can come in and record vocals. You know, different types of audio for beats and like music making apps are kind of a commodity. but what we’ve done that I mentioned, and we kind of fell into this was like, we built that social layer, that community layer, and you can’t replicate that, you know, like they can come in and replicate the tool and have a feed, but like, nah, dude, we already have like hundreds of thousands of like passionate creators that have been with us that have been riding with us. And my favorite thing was when complex tweeted. And like complex being like a very like cultural industry outlet. And they tweeted out and their responses to that were just like the most hilarious thing. I don’t even think I could say like half of it, but it was like, basically like Zuck this like reptile coming into like, you know, vulture culture vulture and like, oh shit, that would be my worst nightmare.
People said about us and they don’t like, it’s just are we’re authentic. And you know, we really care about the community and that’s, you know, That’s
That’s awesome. Well, I think that’s a great place to wrap up. We’re coming up to the top of the hour, but I did want to give you a few seconds to pitch. I know you’re hiring and you got a lot going on right now. Any specific roles at the company that you think our audience might be a great fit for?
Yeah, for sure. I appreciate that. I mean really just like product builders, and I say that broadly. So, engineers, designers, growth marketers, we’re looking for really great people to help us scale. Again, we’re still a small team. Ten people fully remote and, really looking to scale the product and the company. Now that we have some stability it’s a great time to jump on board.
We really think that this era of mass music creation has begun, and we kind of kickstarted it, but we’re only getting started, right? We just have a really strong opportunity to provide the everyday stack for the everyday artists.
Yeah, that’s amazing. I took a look at your careers page. It looks like there’s some great opportunities there across the whole stack, which is fun.
Where were you looking at, David?
You guys are welcome to have this conversation, but just let me leave the room, please.
I’m kidding. I’m kidding.
I do have a background in audio engineering.
No, I’m not in the market. I have too much fun having conversations like this with people like you.
Alright, thank you for listening to the Sub Club podcast.
That’s a great place to go out on there. Thank you so much, Seth, for being on the podcast. It’s been great. You’ve been so generous with your time and just sharing.
Seth’s been on multiple other podcasts. He’s been on app promotion stuff. So, I love it when people in this space are open and share about the successes, the failures, how they’re building things.
So thanks for your time today and for being so active in the kind of broader app maker community.
Yeah. I just want to say, thanks. Thanks to you guys. The podcast is awesome. I listen to it, every episode. Not to plug your product, but your product, we love it. It’s been instrumental in building a real business over here.
I just appreciate you guys. Yeah.
Thanks. It was great to meet you.
Likewise, man. Let’s let’s hang out. You guys take care.