Based in London and LA, The Rattle has announced the first UK-based recipients of venture funding as part of its innovative Venture Label initiative.
Investing in the community of artists, inventors, hackers, and innovators the incubator/disruptor space has gathered, The Rattle’s Venture Label program prioritizes original, human creation that changes the way people think and behave over “traction’’ and “streaming numbers.”
The first cohort of venture artists and startups, focused on music, technology, and entertainment, include Too Many T’s, Our Man in the Field, and Feed. (A second group of partners based out of The Rattle’s LA space will be announced in the coming weeks.)
Investors have backed The Rattle’s new initiative with a total of $1.5m, including investments from notable EU venture funds like LeanSquare. Each founder on the Venture Label is provided a dedicated team of venture builders to help develop their company. Many of these Venture Builders come from non-traditional backgrounds like business model hackers, community managers, web developers, and startup makers. Additionally, founders receive a stipend for a year, allowing them to focus on their project full-time. The goal in that year is to turn their creative project into a credible, backable startup. Key to The Rattle’s venture method is to identify what part of a creative’s activity constitutes developing a brand, and what constitutes developing a product.
“The reality is, the ‘product’ in the traditional recorded music industry is not the music itself. It’s the right to reproduce or perform music to an audience. That product is rarely wholly owned by the artists themselves,” explains The Rattle founder and CEO Chris Howard. “However, in the early-stages of an artist’s growth, their art is often the foundation of their brand. Their brand is therefore the key to forming a relationship with their audience instead of the product their fans buy. So, at the Venture Label, we explore and experiment with new product concepts that leverage the unique brand each artist, hacker, or inventor has made. This is what makes our method unique. We don’t rely on selling music, in other words.”
Venture label teams were chosen by a wide variety of people. Instead of using streaming numbers of ‘traction’ to identify the best opportunities, they employed the same methodology as both yCombiunator and MIT to identify talent.
Each project was supported by references from their peers, evidence from their fans or users that they meaningfully create behaviour change, and a vision for a company that could become disruptive in nature.
The team sought original inventions and industry game changers with strong potential to shake up culture, industry, creativity, and creation as we know it.
This cohort is the first in what The Rattle hopes becomes a tradition of challenging the status quo. “In some ways, this is an act of protest, of disruption,” Howard said. “We’re seeing what doesn’t work in creating viable careers in the entertainment and technology industries and taking those negative aspects down by making them irrelevant.”
Too Many T’s
The mission of London-based band Too Many T’s is to make hip-hop a club genre with an aura of positivity, reminiscent of the 1990s. Too Many T’s have reached cult status among fans in the UK, frequently selling out festivals. The duo grew increasingly aware that their unique aesthetic and approach meant they needed to use different tactics to grow. The unique vision of Too Many T’s includes expanding their product beyond music streaming by leveraging a startup technique known as ‘News Jacking’; after the launch of Echo Dot, the band hosted a hip hop jam live with an Amazon Alexa. Amazon bought that video as a means to connect to a new audience, and that technique has become a key part of Too Many T’s “product strategy.” Going forward, the duo will be piloting products and concepts that build partnerships with their super fans to develop a unique “cooperative” where the band and their core community act as one company.
“We wanted to try something new. We’ve homed in on what they are doing at The Rattle,” says Ross Standaloft of Too Many T’s. “We joined the Venture Label because we are with them on their mission and we think it’s really cool and really interesting. It was a no-brainer. There is less pressure because of the fact that we don’t have to earn our base salaries from touring. This is a turning point for us.”
Our Man in the Field
UK-based Americana band Our Man in the Field, featuring lead singer-songwriter Alexander Ellis, also made The Rattle’s cut for venture partnership. Though his career seems to follow a familiar path — writing well-liked Americana music, performing alongside Grammy nominees and winners — Ellis hasn’t done a single traditional deal. By teaming up with music publishing legend, Steve Lewis through The Rattle’s network, he’s found core groups of advocates, developing strong relationships with them using startup-minded community building techniques. He uses this community to design products based on “customer feedback.” all while making great music along the way. Despite producers, labels, and publishers scrambling to work with him, he’s maintained his startup-way of operating, which has led to Ellis raising significant Venture Capital from prominent UK investors and creating a business 90% more profitable than comparable artists at his stage.
Feed, founded by Nick Edwards and Joshua Jacobson, is on a mission to help more people around the world turn their hobby, idea or passion into a business. Starting out as digital marketers in music, the founders noticed that artists’ organic posts were often the most compelling marketing content (as opposed to any bespoke ad creative)… and that it was incredibly hard to predict which posts were going to work best. So they embraced the situation and built their own AI-learning advertising technology designed specifically for small budgets. The platform identifies a user’s most engaging social media posts and leans into the content that gets the best response, running an automated marketing funnel on budgets starting from just a few dollars per day. The beta version has improved ad metrics like clickthrough rates and engagement by up to 10x versus their users’ other ads on a like-for-like basis.
The Rattle Venture Label provided them a unique opportunity to develop their product in the presence of exactly the people they are aiming to help — something every startup wishes they could do, but is rarely given the opportunity.
“As digital collaboration enables partnerships between people working across multiple disciplines, communities like The Rattle are going to become ever more essential. By being part of the community, we want to play a part in making the projects of others more likely to succeed as businesses” notes Joshua Jacobson of Feed.
“For me, it’s about showing people examples of how it can be done in a different way. Often you look at someone like Kanye West and think to get to that level you have to be signed to a label,” reflects Feed’s Nick Edwards. “We want to show just how much individuals and small teams can achieve by themselves, when they have the right tools and resources to help them along the way.”
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