yaHerd started out as MIA (Music is Alive). Wait rewind…
I wasn’t even thinking of MIA or any music tech entrepreneurial ideas in Fall 2012 semester when this journey began. I had never received my BA and went back to major in cultural anthropology. That major later morphed into Pop Culture and Collaborative Media. My curiosities lie in understanding how people can collaborate or create community in an social-economically sustainable platform. My passions were in creating sustainable platforms for musicians in the information age where music has been devalued greatly in the independent market. So In Fall 2012 for a Research Methods class I wrote a paper about an idea similar to ccMixter but pushing the envelope in regard to publishing, copyright and profitability. It was a ccmixter hybrid. It was also another idea, I thought in the back of my head, that I had little resources and support to bring into fruition. So I got intellectually high around my proposed brilliance and the idea of it existing one day. I got off from anticipating the praise I would receive from my fellow musicians and how we would challenge the damage done to music by greedy corporations. Well, I did get an A on that paper, at least.
It wasn’t until Spring 2013 that I received the email from the Zahn Center at City College of New York. The Zahn Center was the result of a huge grant the college received to support student lead start-ups. They were having a competition called the Internet-of-Things. They were offering to provide the support (substantial support) to a student lead team to build a company around a physical device that would work along with the internet or mobile apps. I immediately thought about my paper from last fall but new it had little to do with any tangible device. But I was more intrigued about the potential of being supported. Someone, something to help me see my ideas through. Someone to hold my hand dammit; there I said it! So I went to the information session and started to think.
How could I reconsider my original idea for this competition? It wasn’t until a few days later after my entrepreneurial bug started eating away at my brain that in the middle of my morning chant (I’m buddhist), an idea popped into my head. So sweet, so simple (I thought) I could kiss it.
The idea was to have a physical device that people would use to share music but also form community by the act of sharing community in the real world with each other, friends, strangers. They were responsible for this device that if neglected could die. Much like a Tamagotchi, the japanese toy pet from the 90’s. I was into the cultural cache of the tangible object regarding music. I entered the contest but didn’t win because I was the only CCNY student on my team and I needed a minimum of two students (including myself) to be eligible. But Prof. Haytham Elharwary who runs the Zahn Center took interest in my idea and later became my first advisor. He gave me food for thought every time we met. Regardless of his advice though, the big idea started to mushroom in an even larger BIG IDEA! An idea that didn’t dare try to fit in an elevator pitch.
That idea put into a Prezi presentation got me an “A” that Spring for an independent study. But I was still feeling alone with my brilliant ideas. So I contacted the girlfriend of a my girlfriend’s friend who had just graduated Cornell Business school to help. I felt distrustful of sharing the idea so I made her sign a NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement). This feeling of protecting one’s idea can be crippling. I later learn that hiding your idea from folks closes the door (spiritually and pragmatically) to help and much needed early feedback. I thought, well business shit is not my strong suite so why not seek some help (what a naive assumption to make about myself having never really ran a business). Anyway, She seemed game! Together we tried to flesh this idea out more. Through the Zahn Center they connected me with two CTO development companies that basically help start-ups with its technical needs and a network of resources to help it grow. They make money on the backend but first they have to take your idea on; and they hear a lot of BIG ideas. My now partner and I discussed this idea with the first firm. The big idea had grown past sharing the tangible object because of costs. It turned into a music sharing idea based on gps and physical locations. But they were more interested in the original device idea and not so much how it currently existed. We brainstormed with these two dudes and I felt a bit strange. I don’t know them though they were referred to me by Zahn. I felt distrustful of the process (not so much them). So, if we were to continue brainstorming, new ideas would arise and who then has the right to run with it? These are cats more established than me. What use would they have of me. I left the meeting feeling a bit lost. Like my original idea had traveled so far from its roots, I, nor my partner, knew what end was up. Ideas, like melodies are elusive. They come and then they change and then they possibly fade away.
The partnership, though never acknowledged, became strained. I am an idea person and she was a business person. Our brainstorms seemed to bud heads and honestly, I didn’t really care how she showed dressed for the first meeting, but who was I to judge at this point. Regardless, I started to sense a slight rip in the fabric. I still pressed on hoping for an aha moment for us both but the aha was not what I expected. All of a sudden my emails were not being answered and meeting times missed. Uhm…wtf? Its one thing to decide maybe this project is not for you and leave with a little grace and it’s another to fall the fuck off the face of the earth. How rude, how unnecessary and how it made me angry enough to continue. I could have just said fuck it , another idea bites the dust because people fall the fuck off, but something else, for once in my life, said “No, there is something here. Hang on for just a bit”.