Hollywood, the only setting for a story like this.
by Stephen Brett, Founder/CEO of Inmusik
I’d like to share a story with you. I feel you deserve to know the whole naked truth. It involves sharks, airports, money, music, a suitcase full of books and almost being homeless (twice), all while trying to grow Inmusik into the platform you deserve. Here it goes:
Being a musician and producer, I am (and always have been) completely obsessed with music and everything about it. Friends and family can testify!
This obsession led me to spend far too much money on Guitars and fuels the drive I have always had with Inmusik. When I started the company, I aimed to level the playing field and create a community environment where talent could rise to the top organically. A place where artists (and fans) were rewarded fairly while also creating transparency around everyone involved in the writing/recording of a song. We got halfway there. As a modestly funded start-up in Ireland we worked with the little we had to build the business, but in January 2015, we faced with serious dilemma.
With 300,000 listeners and 12,000 artists using the platform, we knew, we could not continue to run the site without investment. We couldn’t afford it anymore and I was running another business on the side (a recording studio) to help keep the servers online and noodles on the table. For a fleeting moment I thought the best thing to do was to shut down the site and call it a day, but as soon as I thought about YOU, our awesome users, I couldn’t do it! I felt like I was letting you down! I wondered, “have I really given this all my effort?” and I looked at my guitars …
I figured, if we really are going to bring Inmusik to the world then we needed to do something CRAZY. I needed to go all-in! I made some phone calls, did my research and during mid-January 2015, I listed my recording studio business, my guitars, my drums, my beautiful car, in fact, all of my earthly possessions for sale. 3 weeks later all we were left with, was our laptops, some clothes and a suitcase full of books. We bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco and had enough cash for one year. It was hit or bust!
Then a little magic happened. We met some incredible people in the beautiful Bay Area which led us to raise $7 Million with the Times Group in India within 6 months of arriving in California. While this was AWESOME, there was one snag — it was a media capital, i.e. we could spend $7 Million advertising with the World’s Largest Media Conglomerate but we couldn’t pay salaries, rent or anything else for that matter. We’d have to find more investment to fund the day-to-day operations of the company. Over the next 6 months we did our best to raise $5 Million which we were in dire need of in order to really make a difference. I even ended up on a T.V. show in Shanghai in China which was looking for the next billion-dollar business. After 3 weeks in China I arrived home and we were flat out broke, again! It was January 2016, and we were unable to pay our rent and struggled to pay for server costs. This was an extremely difficult time. Consequently, within months, the co-founder and I split-up going our separate ways.
This is where things started to become more… dramatic. One glorious California afternoon I received a call from a company (let’s call them Company X) in Los Angeles interested in the potential acquisition of Inmusik. Sure, I thought, why not?! At this point of time there was nothing left to lose. (There is a backstory here too, but skipping it to keep things short.) I drove the 5 hour drive from Redwood City to Downtown LA to meet with them. I was apprehensive, but excited! After shaking hands with many people and going through various other formalities, I took a seat at the table where I couldn’t help but notice keys to a Ferrari, casually placed. Suddenly I felt that the 5 hour drive might be fruitful after all. Then, discussions began in a rather informal manner after which, we went for a game of bowling. The keys to the Ferrari were still in plain sight and adding a few beers to the mix, my intuition was somewhat muted and numerus ‘what ifs’ floated through my mind.
They say that most deals are done on a golf course but this one was done in a bowling arcade downtown LA where the initial terms were agreed upon. After multiple meetings and a couple shamefully enjoyable laps around Beverly Hills in a Rolls Royce owned by one of the guy’s, we agreed upon a price. $10,000,000, some cash, mostly equity but it would mature based on the success of the company and I was asked to move to LA to get things moving. Finally we’d have the resources to bring Inmusik to the next level!! Yay! Success! We’d hit the jackpot… Or so I thought.
Too good to be true?
I moved to LA and got myself set up in a new apartment. Together with Vivienne, (our incredible Product Designer) we designed the new version of the app and website. We innovated some incredible new features and everything looked promising. However, I soon found that the acquiring company didn’t really have the money they claimed and were themselves trying to raise a massive investment round. This was December 2016, I was given 3 checks which I desperately needed, but they all bounced. I again was facing yet another January with not enough money to pay my rent. I also couldn’t afford to pay for the Inmusik servers and then one day, they were switched off. Everything was backed up, but I no longer had access. Worst still, I couldn’t pay MailChimp the $200 or so to send a newsletter to our 18,000 musicians, bands, artists and songwriters to explain myself. I failed…. It felt horrible!
I found myself totally alone in Los Angeles, facing the very real prospect of losing my apartment. It was a low moment. I kept myself occupied by going on long hikes through the San Gabriel Mountain behind Los Angeles, working out, meditating, reading and playing guitar. All we could do was wait for Company X to come out good as they were adamant that they would be funded ‘in the next few weeks’.
With no other choice, Vivienne (who was in the same boat as me but just happened to be back in Malaysia at that time), decided to set up another company doing what we do best, creating products. This is how 500Designs.com was born.
Take the power back
THANK GOD, 500 Designs took off and we were so grateful we could maintain a roof over our heads while waiting on Company X. We found a team of designers and oversaw some awesome projects we were fortunate enough to have come our way. ‘In the next few weeks’ was repeated over and over as the can was kick further down the road, and yet we waited patiently. We also started investing in Cryptocurrency and researched everything we could get on hands on in relation to Blockchain.
In January 2018 we were in a completely different position financially, all the while hearing ‘in the next few weeks’ from Company X. For the first time in my life, I could actually afford to invest in Inmusik myself and I began to wonder ‘what would Inmusik look like if we rebuilt the entire concept revolved around blockchain?’
8 weeks later we published our white paper, did one advertorial in the Times of India and had 3,000 people pre-register to partake in our ICO (Initial Coin Offering) in just 24 hours, all of whom were ready to take a chance on our concept.
We’ve since met with the Majors and were blown away by their enthusiasm for what we were planning to build. We built a phenomenal team, a world class list of advisors (including the inventor of Apple’s app store, Rakuten’s and Buy.com’s ex-CEO) and we were set to give this business another go. The excitement has grown rapidly but before we open up the public ICO, I wanted to reach out to you, our Inmusik users.
The Road Ahead
I’ve always done my best to make this project work as I deeply believe in the cause! Many of you know me from events, songwriting camps, collaborations, personal emails etc. and I hope that the passion came across. I know music is as important to you as it is to me, it’s makes us alike. Music is like a fuel that inspires, motivates, comforts and energizes us. Without musicians, producers, singers and songwriters feeling appreciated and rewarded fairly so they continue their art, the world would be a duller place.
With that said, I invite you to read our White Paper so you can learn about my vision of how blockchain can impact us all, listeners, fans, artists, publishers and labels. I’d like to share with you how everyone can be fairly rewarded based on the measurable value to provide within the community. A mathematical, equal and just system unlike anything we’ve seen in this space before.
Thanks and gratitude,
Founder and CEO