As cofounder of Soundbuzz, Simon Lower was the king of iteration: the company went from online to mobile, ringtones to 3G downloads, and B2C to B2B. But this “trial by fire” turned out well, with Soundbuzz getting acquired by Motorola in 2008.
Much the wiser, Lower is now cofounder of venture accelerator Greencloud Labs and cofounder of a spinoff called Beepmo, an app for connecting with professionals nearby. The app made its big debut this week at Next Bank Asia, a premier banking conference in Singapore.
With all the buzz about social discovery apps at SXSW, Beepmo focuses on one of their most useful and non-creepy applications: networking. As with other apps, you can discover what you have in common with people and connect directly. Beepmo is targeting Southeast Asia, India, and Australia.
When I spoke to Lower in February, he told me that partnerships with event organizers would make or break Beepmo – so this is definitely a good sign. He also reflected on his 8-year experience at Soundbuzz and offered these lessons for other entrepreneurs:
Simon Lower: Probably the biggest mistake that we made from day 1 was not having a CTO, or not having someone technical as a founder and thinking we could outsource it and build it externally, or just hire people to do it. And so technology was a continual problem. We were great in terms of relationships with operators and relationships with the recording industry, but in terms of technology, that was always something that we struggled with. To this day, I won’t start anything or I won’t invest in anything that doesn’t have a strong technical lead as a founder, especially at the seed stage….
When you start any business with other partners and founders, you need to be very clear what the roadmap’s going to be and have those hard conversations at the beginning, rather than trying to figure them out when people want to leave and move on. That’s something that we learned. That’s something that, when we invest in a business or if we look at any business, we make that very clear up front. You need to know what your roles and responsibilities are, and know that … everyone needs to contribute. If one guy doesn’t contribute but feels they have some life stake to this ownership, that’s always where issues ensue and that can be very detrimental to any business. And often that’s why a lot of these businesses don’t work – it’s more internal problems rather than the business model or the idea….
Getting out of Singapore – we learned that really quickly. You can’t have a startup in Southeast Asia that’s single market, unless maybe you’re in Indonesia, or India, or China, of course. The markets are just not big enough, so we just had to scale very quickly and hire great local people.