Wednesday, December 7, 2016
How Beatshare Is Tackling Music And Messaging
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
There are lots of music and messaging apps out there, but is there room for an app which makes music the message? Orange County startup Beatshare--backed by the Tech Coast Angels, Pasadena Angels, Harvard Business School Angels, and Archangels, among others—thinks it's figured out the formula to make music the message in its mobile app. We talked with Eli Aizenstat, the founder and CEO of Beatshare—and still a student--as well as President and longtime technology vet Barry Lieberman about the startup. (Photo: Barry Lieberman, President and COO; Eli Aizenstat, Founder & CEO; and Rob Patrick, CTO)
What is Beatshare?
Eli Aizenstat: Beatshare is a multimedia messaging platform, where we are bringing music into the heart of the communication space. We're all know that individuals love to express themselves, and we're allow them to share their thoughts, their feelings, and their emotions, utilizing the power of music all through a mobile communications platform.
What were your backgrounds before Beatshare?
Eli Aizenstat: I'm currenatly a Chapman University student. Before that, I was at a multimedia design academy in high school. I've always been a mobile enthusiast, in technology and design and user experience.
Barry Lieberman: My backgruond is about 35 years in technology, business development, and sales and marketing. I built my own company around marketing services, and have been around business development, marketing, custom service, and sales, and also on the consumer side of technology, a little bit a mix of the two.
How did you two connect?
Eli Aizenstat: I entered into the Design Accelerator, which is an accelerator run in conjunction with the Art Center College of Design and Caltech, in the summer of 2014. I then came back to Chapman Unviersity and entered the Launch Labs program, which is a university-based accelerator. Barry was a lead mentor there at Chapman University's Launch Labs, and we paired up. We worked on Beatshare at Chapman, where there was a business plan competition, which we won. From there, we went on to a national competition, California Dreamin, which had over 200 entrants from multiple universities, with undergrad, graduate, and postgraduates from all around the country for three days, and we got second place. That's what really started to get us interest from the angel community. Barry and I worked together to create Beatshare as a business and go out for funding. We put together a presentation deck, and ended up pitching to the Tech Coast Angels, Pasadena Angels, Harvard Business School Angels, and Archangels. John Harbison, the Chairman of the TCA, actually led our seed round and the deal.
Barry Lieberman: That funding round, which was a preferred seed equity round, took place in the summer of 2015, and there was $785,000 in the round. Prior to that, we had raised $85,000 from friends and family. That funding was geared towards development of our product.
So where are you now with the product and launch?
Eli Aizenstat: We actually have 2 products. The first product is an iOS app, and that app is currently a live beta on the app store. We are going to be launching an update to that app that will be within the coming weeks and starting next year, in January. At that time we'll be launching our second product, an iMessage extension. It's the Beatshare application that lives within iMessage, utilizing Apple Music.
There are a lot of music apps and messaging apps out there, how do you stand out from everyone else out there?
Eli Aizenstat: We're doing something really different. It's the way we're approaching music and content. We're both working with music industry insiders, as well as going and talking with services. We have a massive music catalog, because we've enabled users to access their own, on-demand streaming services. Whether they are using Apple Music, Spotify, or SoundCloud, our users have access to 150M songs they can choose from. They are able to choose whatever 10 second portion or sound they want from that song. Whether it be a specific chorus or lyrics they like or a drop in an EDM song, there is lots of flexibility on whatever piece or portion of s ong they want to use. We've got various features that let them do that, search by lyrics, as well as curated categories, and a unique circular waveform controller interactive design tool built in conjunction with the Pasadena Art Center College of Design, which lets them scrub around a song and choose that 10 second portion with one finger.
Did you ink individual deals with those music catalogs, and how do you deal with copyright issues?
Eli Aizenstat: We are avoiding copyright issues. What we are doing, is we're never moving music around. All of that music is played from a user's premium music service subscription. What we're enabling, is allowing them to search that catalog of music from our user interface, find that song and 10 second snip, and directly have them play the seong from the catalog. We're doing that through a proprietary metadata sharing system. They only access content using metadata. Without going into technical details, we match songs across multiple services. The video and picture are from our service. All are separate. We never cross that line moving storing and synching music.
Barry Lieberman: That's our patent pending, proprietary secret sauce which we've built, which is the back end of the Beatshare's technology.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned so far as a startup?
Eli Aizenstat: For me personally, what I have learned is I have to find people and build a team, with experts in the indusry, and all the various different angles that touch the company. That's areas like business development, forming the company, in marketing and sales. That's how Barry came in. On the technology side, Rob Patrick, our CTO, has 20 plus years of experience in software development. On all these different angles, I've found I have needed to surround myself with people who are very experience and very knowledgable in order to take the company forward. My advice to other starting out, is you have to build a team of people who know more than you, in various other areas.
Barry Lieberman: I'll add to that. On the other side, you have to be able to adapt to marketplace changes. Iv'e been around tech and fast moving companies, some are huge now, but not when I started, and I've learned that market adaptation is very important. In our experience with Beatshare, we're in the middle of an upheaval of an industry. The move to streaming music is changing the music industry once more, and everything has been and thrown on its head. We're still in the middle of that. You have to be able to adapt, and you can never assume you have it down, and you always have to be willing to listen and learn, to pay attention to what is going on, and adjust.
Finally, what's your next big goal?
Eli Aizenstat: The next big milestone is releasing an update to the current iOS app, which will include all three large, on-demand streaming services—Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud—plus our new iMessage extension of Beatshare, which will initially only work with Apple Music. That will all happen in the coming weeks, in January.
Barry Lieberman: We're also going to market to raise $1.5M, and have so far raised $630,000 in a convertible note from a notable investor, the UCI Applied Innovation Co Fund.