Last I left you, my partner had gone MIA (pardon the acronym pun) and I was grateful we never signed anything official. She was in and out in a matter of a few weeks. MIA was now called Papillion and though I could have entertained self-doubt, I wasn’t left alone. I still had Haytham from the Zahn Center and he introduced me to Dmitry Koltunov. The way Haytham described Dmitry, he sounded like a musician with some technical knowledge who had a good ear for ideas. I imagined him to be an older white man with sage like knowledge. Well sage like knowledge he did possess, but not a grey hair on his head. We met at a cafe at 49th street in the Spring of 2013 and just talked. We talked about music, his broadway show he was working on and eventually my big idea. My breakdown of the idea was a bit convoluted and still didn’t even fit in a freight elevator pitch. I still had some fear of sharing it. Dmitry, when I ask him to sign a NDAt via email, he refused (albeit nicely). So I went against all of my fears meeting with him. Sometimes your fears don’t know shit and truly should be ignored. I was learning the first of what will be many lessons about how I see myself and others. Dmitry explained why I shouldn’t fear sharing my ideas at its early stages of development. Because they are just ideas. “The work” he said ” that it takes to build a start-up, someone has to be passionate about the idea and be ready to see it through”. “Not to mention”, he continued, “ideas change in that process”. I had thought similarly in regard to the arts but never applied it to business ventures, though business is still a form of art. I always said that art is not what you do but how. Ideas come a dime a dozen but art is an individual’s interpretation of that idea. The dominant factors in both points are the work, the team and the follow through.
Dmitry then revealed to me that while he worked on his Broadway show he also advised startups. I felt blessed to have met him and met him as one musician talking to another as oppose to just a start up looking for help. I soon went back on tour and we stayed in touch. During that time I started to trim the big idea down to a solid one. What I appreciate about Dmitry’s guidance is that he never shot any of my ideas down but left me thinking about them differently. What I appreciate about myself is that I never stayed stuck on an idea and remained open to change. I was grateful for the help and guidance so why shit on it with my ego.
When I came back from tour we met again after several revisions of the idea. In the last wireframe which visually laid out the app idea, buried underneath what was really 3 ideas was yaHerd. Dmitry showed me how what i thought was a single idea was really 3. I had a online community, a curation and support tool all in one. He asked me out of the three which provided more value? Without question it was what would become yaherd. A simple service of making it easier for music lovers to “follow” an artist only that they discover at a live event. It didn’t have the glitter and world changing feel I thought myself to be able to create but it was solid and clear. And it fit in a french elevator pitch. What I am coming to learn is that focusing on the runt prepares you to later expand it into a litter of ideas. Ok that was a weird metaphor, but better said while focusing on the simple idea of yaherd, the process became dooable, accessible, and fully fed my passions around sustainability for artists. I could imagine in all the ways it could grow…but wait one thing at a time. I needed to think even smaller.
To help with this, Haytham recommended a book “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. To some of you this book is the bible along with Steve Bank’s “The Startups Owner’s Manual”. I was already taking Steve Bank’s Udacity course online but had stopped because I was so early in my process I didn’t know how to apply anything. But The Lean Startup came to me just in time. And ironically, through a friend Natalie P. Tucker who I asked to help me find a CTO (again to early in the process), she gifted me Steve’s book. But “The Owner’s Manual” is a monster of a book and probably best read as a reference manual as you put action to idea. The Lean Startup was smaller and I found a free PDF download online that I could put on my Ipad and read while on the road. So read I did. So skype with Dmitry I did and revised I did. And the universe has a funny way of giving you what you need when your ready. The Zahn Competition came around again and this time it would be different.