July 1, 2013
I had the opportunity to talk to Ethan Rosenberg, cofounder of one of New Orleans’s most promising startups, Marquee Mobile. They’re a lean team that has successfully dealt with some of a startup’s most difficult challenges, from working as a remote team to pounding the pavement and connecting with their users to ensure they are, in fact, providing a valuable product.
That product is an app where music fans can discover nearby concerts, check in, and get rewards from bands and venues. Below, Rosenberg explains more.
Tech Cocktail: Why Marquee? What makes it unique and how will it separate itself from its competitors?
Ethan Rosenberg: For most bands in the digital music industry, the majority of their revenue comes from playing live, not album sales, digital downloads, or streams on Pandora/Spotify. The fans who come out to concerts are the ones who have proven to a band that they’re willing to spend money on them. These are a band’s most valuable fans. Right now, the only way a band can tangibly see which fans are coming to their shows is through a mailing list, where a fan has to stumble around a crowded bar, find a merch table, and scribble down their name and email address. For a touring band, diligently gathering and keeping track of this info is a pain, and even then, what are they using that information for? Most email campaigns have a 30 percent open rate. What we want to do is modernize this process and create a fun environment for bands and fans to interact together.
Specifically, by rewarding fan loyalty, you increase the personal investment fans have for your band. Most importantly, these interactions drive real-time insight into fan behaviors. Bands will be able to see exactly who their fans are as well as how active they are (not just “likes” on a Facebook page, but real behaviors that translate into revenue from ticket and merchandise sales).
The other piece to this is the ability for bands to geo-target their promo and marketing content. Instead of blasting show announcements to your entire Facebook following (many of whom won’t find these announcements to be relevant based on their location), you’ll be able to send targeted content to those fans who you know are within a given geographic radius of that night’s show.
Tech Cocktail: What have been the most challenging growing pains for Marquee and how did you overcome them?
Rosenberg: In a startup, there are always going to be growing pains, but if you have a good team, you’ll be able to work through them. For us, I think the toughest thing has been to not rely on our assumptions. It’s taken some time to get there, but we try to come into the office everyday with the mindset that we need to prove that what we’re doing will provide value to our customers. We try to talk with as many people in the music industry as possible to make sure that we’re building the right product. Developing these relationships now will be key to our future growth.
Tech Cocktail: What external influence has been the most helpful for you thus far? Was it a mentor, accelerator program, etc.?
Rosenberg: Our advisor on this project, Elliott Adams, has been invaluable. It’s great to have an objective voice on our team – and Elliott, as someone who has spent time in music startups, understands the problems we’re trying to solve, as well as the problems that a young startup faces. I would recommend that any startup have an advisor on the team in some capacity to look at the company in an objective manner.
Tech Cocktail: I know that you split your time between New Orleans and Baltimore. How has this helped or hurt the growth of Marquee?
Rosenberg: You know, this probably could have been the answer to the “biggest growing pain” question, too. I live in New Orleans during the school year, and Baltimore during the summer months; my business partner Brandon lives in Baltimore full-time; and Scott, our developer, splits his time between Michigan, Chicago, and Baltimore.
We’ve relied heavily on using tools like Google Hangouts and Drive, Basecamp, and Agile Zen. It certainly is not the best situation that we’re all in three different states during the majority of the year, but we try to make the most of it, and the beauty is that we’re all very much self-starters. This summer, Brandon and I have been making the most of the time we have together in Baltimore, but there are definitely times where it would be nice for all three of us to be in the same room at the same time.
Tech Cocktail: What’s the next big milestone for Marquee, and when do you expect to hit it?
Rosenberg: Our plan is to release version 2.0 of our app, as well as the first version of our artist backend, during the CMJ music conference in New York in October. We’ve been doing a tremendous amount of validation this summer with artists, managers, and fans so that when it comes time to build out 2.0, we know we’re building the right product and will have something awesome to deliver come October!
Tech Cocktail: What advice would you give your fellow entrepreneurs who are considering launching a socially powered app?
Rosenberg: Great question. I think the best piece of advice that we’ve gotten is to not rest on our assumptions, and I would offer the same piece of advice to any other entrepreneur working on a socially powered app. Get out of the office and talk to as many of your potential customers/users as you can. You want to make sure you’re building the right product!
If’ you’d like to connect with Rosenberg, you can find Marquee Mobile on Twitter @checkmarquee, and feel free to keep up with the rest of what’s happening in New Orleans by following the hashtag #NOLAtech.
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