Spotlight on Founders_oo8/Thomas and Arvid_ABOSS
Founding and building a startup is like a marathon, but we treated it like a sprint.
Keadyn (K): Hi Arvid, hi Thomas! Thank you so much for taking your time. Could you give our readers a two sentence pitch about ABOSS?
Arvid (A): ABOSS stands for artist back office system, but at the same time it stands for being a boss and being in control over your own business. Our mission at ABOSS is to empower artists and all the stakeholders around him/her! On the one side the ABOSS Artist system is an online software solution that helps you to professionalize your back office. On the other side, ABOSS agency, empowers agencies to run their business more efficiently. ABOSS offers a way to centralize and organize the data and information that you need in one place.
Thomas (T): It really took us some time to nail the pitch. Doing a pitch to our clients is easy, because they understand the material. We really solve a problem for them, so they know exactly what we talk about. It is much harder to do a pitch to a VC that might not know what’s happening in the music industry. That makes it very hard to explain what the importance is of our application.
K: So let’s see whether I got it correct. You basically help artists to manage their everyday business more efficiently, right? How exactly do you do that?
T: What we do with ABOSS is to structure information flows. We help you to communicate more effectively and to connect all your information. This way we take out a lot of repetitive tasks and give you an environment where you can get a fast insight into your contracts, invoices, logistics and a lot more. Working together with a lot of artists, we noticed that they are great entrepreneurs on the creative level. They know exactly where they want to go with their career and with their music. But it’s often hard to also stay in control and have an oversight of all business related information. We make it easier for them to also stay in control of this part of their business.
K: That sounds like a really cool thing you are doing there. How did it all start?
A: We both have our background in the music industry. So we’ve seen the needs of artists and producers. Before ABOSS everyone had their own workflow and communication was in a lot of different environments, causing a lack of overview, so there was the need for one environment that brings together all people in one place and have them work together.
From my background as a tour manager, I’ve seen this occur with many artists in the field. That’s why I started supporting artists with their back office. First I just did it as a service for a couple of artist. This gave managers the freedom to really focus on developing the career for the artist. Without ABOSS, most managers spend 80% of their time on back office tasks and only 20% on their core business, develop and growing the career of the artist. We wanted to turn this around but at a certain point it became impossible to do this as a service for more then four artists at the same time, but I wanted to be able to help a lot more artists that struggle with this problem. That meant we needed smart tools.
K: So how did Thomas get involved?
A: That was actually exactly the time when Thomas got involved! We shared an office together where Thomas was working as a photographer and web developer focused on artists. He saw me struggling with the workload that resulted from handling the back office of artist and tried to help me out by building a small online form to make communication with all the different accountants way easier. This took him about 15 minutes but actually saved us a lot of hours each week! We started brainstorming for more possibilities and ABOSS was born! We first focused on Artist and after the first year we also introduced ABOSS Agency, aimed towards booking agents. When the artist and the booking agency both have ABOSS it’s possible to share parts of their back office with each other. This makes communication and planning way more efficient and transparent. With ABOSS you can plan your strategy on live data, that’s a game changer!
K: That is pretty cool actually! I heard you also expand internationally now right?
A: Yes, we are in a very lucky situation with The Netherlands as our home ground, with a huge footprint in the dance scene. First we focused on The Netherlands and tried to build a big customer base, with well known artists such as Armin van Buuren and the next generation of DJ’s such as Oliver Heldens. With all the feedback and knowledge we gained from our current customer base, we focused on finishing the core of our product and now we start expanding with international clients!
K: If you could choose one artist to sign tomorrow, which one would it be?
A: It’s a little too late for that, but we’re both huge fans of Michael Jackson. But it looks like that won’t happen… ;)
T: Tough one! I would really love to have Nine Inch Nails using ABOSS. They are really cool!
A: I’m thinking more about bands that really need it. We have this split desire, on the one hand, we want to expand our product, become market leader worldwide, and work with the greatest artists and agencies. But on the other hand, we really want to help smaller artists to become successful and build a career. Help them get in touch with the right people and fans. With ABOSS we can really empower these smaller upcoming artists to take control of their careers. They need the knowledge and tools to set up their own small business and be able to grow.
K: If you could start ABOSS all over again, what is the one thing that you would do differently?
A: I’m not one for regrets, because what we did in the past brought us to where we are now! We have awesome customers, we have a great partnership with Keadyn, our team is expanding, we’re rolling out worldwide and we have an amazing office and a great team. Every step that we made so far contributed to this moment. But I think that listening to our customers and investors helped us a lot. We listen and learn!
Some feedback that we got early on from an investor was to make sure we won’t develop the product too feature rich from the start. It does not have to be perfect upon launch. So we focused only on the most important features and that worked very well for us. You have to make choices, focus, and see where you want to get.
K: So learning from others is something that brought you far. And I think the attitude to not regret is good. But maybe our readers can still learn from your mistakes. What were some of the mistakes that you did in the beginning? There must have been some.
T: Well, there is actually one thing that we might do differently if we started again. Founding and building a startup is a marathon, but we treated it like a sprint. It gave us good things, but a little bit more balance in that would be healthy. We’re still alive, healthy, and we still keep going, but we try to monitor that better now. Sometimes we pushed our boundaries a bit too far with that. It is not just about running but sometimes also about taking a step back and think before you go again.
A: If you want to get the best out of your company you have to bring the best out of yourself. And in order to bring the best out of yourself you have to put your health on first place. Along the way, we learned that it is not only about being the fastest, it’s about being the smartest as well. If you try to compete on speed, there’s always someone with more people, more cash and more resources that can do it faster than you. But if you’re the smartest, nobody can beat you. It’s important to do things different than traditional companies.
K: That sounds like you had some really intense times. So you were close to burn out?
A: No, we don’t burn out! ;) We really love what we are doing and can keep going 24/7. But you do need sleep! You need sleep in order to think clearly, make the right decisions and be able to act to every situation that arises. Eventually, we are all humans and can’t handle 24 hours of full steam every day.
T: In the beginning, we had moments where at 5 am in the night we were still on the phone or building something on the product just to get up again at 8 am to go to the office. It’s great to be that motivated, but you don’t always make the best decision when you’re running on reserve fuel. You have to be able to make key decisions whenever the situation arises, so try to be rested and sharp for whenever that moment arises.
K: That is true, you cannot function like this for long. But it also shows your passion for your company. Do you think this is also what brought you so far with ABOSS, that you are so passionate about your work that actually work 24 hours if you don’t stop yourself?
A: I think it is. Because it actually felt good to work 24 hours a day!
T: Yeah, we are both soldiers in this way. Our company has a “let’s do it” mentality and that brought us a lot.
A: It is all about finding the right balance. You can still work fucking hard, but then you also have to relax fucking hard. You have to create a balance! Work hard, play hard!
K: If you would give one advice to aspiring entrepreneurs that want to start their own business, what would it be?
A: Just go for it and focus!
T: Surround yourself with right people that can advise you because they have done it before. But even if you have great people advising you, don’t always take their advice and run with it. Pick up the things that resonate with you, but ultimately you have to make the decision and execute it. Input is important, but it’s ultimately you who’s building the company. Don’t be afraid to do things differently.
A: And always have fun! It is easy to fall into a fear of failing. Always try to keep the positive mindset. Mentality is super important! And of course it is also really important to have the right team. You don’t have to have the same personal goals, but to have a joint vision is important. It’s important to work with the right people, people you can also drink a beer with and have a good conversation outside of work as well.
K: So how would you describe each other personalities? Thomas, what are three words to describe Arvid?
T: Go go go! Arvid is very pragmatic and has the ability to adapt to a changing environment quickly. Try it out and when needed be able to pivot swiftly.
K: And Arvid, how would you describe Thomas?
A: Thomas is more analytical than me. While I am the let’s do it type, he is the let’s think about it type. Thomas always runs through all the scenarios in his head first before acting. That gives us a great balance, we think AND act!
A combination of these two can be dangerous, but it can also be very successful when you both contribute and listen to each other. Together, we first discuss and think but are also fast to execute. That works really well for us.