Startup Diaries: From A £1,000 Student Loan, To An App With Global Traction
Emma Owens is a Co-Founder of Rormix, an app which helps users discover emerging music videos. She shares with The NextWomen her top tips for startups, which she has learned from her own entrepreneurial journey.
When I went for an interview in 2012 to become part of young entrepreneur Amman Ahmed’s first business, Roundwaves, never did I see myself a year later as a co-founder, speaking at events, pitching to VCs, and more surprisingly, loving Monday mornings.
Amman built his first business around the idea of ‘music with a solution’, with just £1k of his student loan to start him off. He outsourced musicians using Elance (great tip for others) and created music to help not only people, but animals too. He built brands around music to help people sleep, concentrate and relax, and even music for dogs, all centered on YouTube. This business is now a fully automated cash cow style business and has more than 2 million views a month. But when Amman took me on, he did not plan for me to be posting dog music forever.
After working together for some time, we spotted how many incredible unsigned artists there are out there with great music videos, but strangely there is no platform tailored to them. YouTube is so saturated; it is stuffed to the brim with diverse content, making it nearly impossible to get seen by the people that actually want to see you. This was an opportunity that could not be ignored, so using revenue from Roundwaves, we embarked on a new business journey. And so my startup experience alongside my amazing three co-founders, Amman, Chris and technical genius Mark, and employee number one Agi, began.
In my own startup experience, we have hit many roadblocks and had to pivot regularly to end up where we are now, and I have no doubt that business will continue this way.
We began as a YouTube network called Rorbeat. We would contact unsigned or independent artists asking if we could feature their video on our channel, and they would give us permission; it was as simple as that.
Except it wasn’t simple. When trying to get someone on board, you need to give some evidence that you are a valuable business to be a part of. We had Roundwaves, but nothing more relevant to them. Indie bands from Florida aren’t always sold on dog music… So we Skyped with all artists and basically had to pitch. Our YouTube network grew slowly, but we felt we were missing something with our current model.
We rebranded, and Rormix was born. My colleague Chris met Mark (soon to be our technical co-founder) at a networking event, and we all hit if off.
I cannot stress how important networking events are as a startup. It gets your brand and your personality out there and gets you talking to people.
Mark created a web version of Rormix, but we still felt that we were not on the right road. We had to look forward instead of looking to the present.
The growth in mobile video viewing is phenomenal - we would be stupid to ignore it - and so we pivoted once again. And that bring us to Rormix today. We have a free app on iOS and Android, which has been named one of the best apps of 2013 by The Next Web. Our app has received 15,000 downloads in more than 100 countries, and we only released in October.
Having bootstrapped our business, we have not had money for marketing, etc., so our ideas have had to be innovative and lean.
We didn’t take ages creating a ‘perfect’ app which could then potentially get rejected. Instead, Mark built our MVP in less than 3 weeks and released it to the public to gather feedback and make changes from there. One example of how the feedback was utilised is that as a result of some particularly constructive criticism through Reddit, we completely altered our Android app’s appearance.
We were naïve in thinking that we knew what the average Android user wanted and we stood corrected. This is one of the main lessons I have learnt: never to presume.
User testing is one of the most important stages of building an app.
We are in the process of building our native iOS app, which will be released in the Spring. We have listened to user feedback and put everything into making this one more user friendly and more interactive as an emerging music video discovery platform.
The lessons I have learnt along the way are invaluable to me, and I’d like to share some of them with others looking at getting into tech, apps or anything similar.
1. Be lean
Don’t waste time or money making something that people may not even want. Make something as an MVP, test the market, gather feedback and improve what you already have.
2. Never stop listening
The moment you stop listening to your users is the moment you will fail. They are the ones buying into your product so perfecting it to your own standards is one thing but they need to love it too.
It can be awkward but it is one of the most essential parts of building your business in terms of employees and branding. Give your business a face and give people something to relate to.
4. Create relationships
We learnt that Twitter is great, if you use it properly. Have a conversation with someone, don’t just mindlessly hashtag in the hope of someone falling for it. You’ll be surprised at what you can gain, from press to artists.
5. The Right Team
Our team is our biggest strength.
We counteract each other’s weaknesses with strengths and we are honest with one another about all aspects of our business. This is essential for any chance of success.
So surround yourself with the right people.
Emma Owens is twenty four years old, and graduated from university with a marketing degree in 2012. She initially went into retail, which she hated. Then she met Amman, worked on Roundwaves and increased virality for RelaxMyDog by 250%. Now Emma is a cofounder at Rormix with four other colleagues, all aged between 24-27, and works in Manchester, UK. Rormix is an app to help users discover emerging music videos.
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