CitizenGroove: Producing the Sounds of Startup Success

February 13, 2012

3:00 pm

CitizenGroove is a media-centered content management system for organizations that accept auditions – the application streamlines the music school or audition application process.

Cleveland-based CitizenGroove is a great study in what produces success in the startup world. For example:

  • This is not the founders’ first venture; in fact, the first venture is described by 26 year-old CEO John Knific as ‘a pretty colossal failure.’ And we all know that in this world, failure is a huge learning opportunity and can be worn as a badge of honor.
  • CitizenGroove tested the market by seeking out the real-world problems of the industry. While music students at Case Western Reserve University, the founders went to the Cleveland Institute of Music and asked the staff what they needed. While music colleges had put applications online years ago like other schools, the audition process was still being handled via mail and was labor intensive – to say the least.
  • Before building the web application, Knific says in this article that ‘we kind of finally grew some balls’ and asked for a purchasing agreement – and got it. This lead to a workable model that was easy for investors to say yes to.
  • The founders competed in every entrepreneurial competition they could find. This netted them over $100,000 to support their early ventures – and built their network along the way. This CitizenGroove ‘fan base’ includes advisors and advocates.

The concept is easy to understand – the software creates an efficient admission process for administrators and reviewers and makes the route easier to navigate for the applicant. The pricing plan is straightforward – the organization buys a plan for the number of applications it expects to receive. It’s highly scalable (there is no storage or file upload limit) and flexible (schools brand their own application forms).

The company launched in August 2010. Clients include over 35 universities, five of the top 10 music schools in the country, and even The Academy at Carnegie Hall.

Here’s how the process, called the ‘Decision Desk’ takes a committee through a review:

  • College/organization reviews all audition material online video and data
  • College/organization distributes content to the reviewers via the system
  • The application facilitates the reviewers decisions, reports and subsequent notifications

The applicant can submit audio, video and images for portfolio – and the reviewer sees it all (or only a part, depending on the admin settings). CitizenGroove promises to replicate any review process, regardless of complexity.

Features of Decision Desk include:

  • Real-time metrics on applicant activity
  • Visual dashboard that includes maps of applicant’s location
  • Unrestricted file size and unlimited storage capabilities
  • Unlimited reviews and administrator accounts
  • Blind reviewing option to hide field’s from the reviewer (the online ‘curtain’, if you will)
  • Live reviewing for real-time decision-making

The company extends the customer service reach into a concierge line that includes the renting of camera equipment, DVD creation and extended archiving of material.

CitizenGroove’s Knific has been featured among the top 25 young entrepreneurs in the US by Bloomberg Businessweek and grown the company be a leading provider of online audition services to universities. Having graduated with a degree in Pre-Med Biology, John turned down an acceptance to Case Western Reserve University’s Medical School to grow CitizenGroove. He’s also an accomplished jazz pianist.

CitizenGroove is an up-and-comer to watch – they were recently mentioned in a White House blog post on young entrepreneurs and the American Jobs Act. They are also finalists in Intel’s Innovators Award (and if you vote for them Marc Plotkin, VP Business Development at CitizenGroove, promises to write, record and release a song that includes your name as well as everyone who votes for them).

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Marla Shaivitz is a writer, developer and digital marketer. She’s interested in innovations & innovators in technology and those working toward social good. Follow Marla on Twitter at @marlashaivitz.

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