Flipsyde: A Marketing and social networking tool for musicians

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The movies – video content of all types – short, long, documentary-like, short film etc., books – physical and e-books, games – first person shooter, battle royale, sports etc., music – of every genre imaginable, make no mistake, all the companies involved in the aforementioned media domains are in the entertainment business, each of them competing for viewers’, readers’ and listeners’ time and share of wallets. To complete the ecosystem, we must include the entrepreneurs and the creatives – the artists who bring their concepts to content and hence, life. 

To seek pleasure, thou shall seek the help of entertainment (and food and drink, of course). 

And there are a host of companies involved in completing this holy triad of entertainment. And in the process, today there are too many choices rather than a few. As audiences mature, and find their respective entertainment niches (individually or nudged to, by a marketing message), it is prudent to reason that they ought to stick with the ones who provide them an end-to-end experience in one particular facet of entertainment.

Today, at Bangalore Insider, we spoke to the founders of Flipsyde, an exciting start-up in the music business that seeks to help artists find the right audiences for their music, anywhere in the world. How will they do it?  Below are the excerpts from the interaction. 

Give a brief info about your startup?

Flipsyde is a marketing and social networking tool for musicians, music venues and their audiences to connect. We have profile pages, media players, newsfeed and everything else you would find in a regular social network, but with a few new twists.

We are introducing live online concerts. During COVID times we have realised that artists haven’t had a stage for a long time. We have been approached by several artists to organise these concerts via our app. We are currently adding ticketing and video services to allow for online concerts which we now believe, with or without COVID are the future. If and when live concerts start again, artists and organisers will now have the power to even reach out to fans who can’t attend. 

Flipsyde aims to encourage artists by allowing fans to tip them after listening to their music. So independent artists can upload their music, singles and albums, and through a quick and easy unified payment system, fans can send artists whatever amount they wish to, where a dollar or ten, and it gets credited instantly to their bank accounts.

We also intend to reward our users who like to go out. We offer cashback when people check into bars, clubs or pubs or share their receipts with us.  This opens up several avenues for partnerships and also makes Flipsyde a powerful marketing tool for venues and artists.

Currently over 400 artists and 800 venues across India and certain other countries have signed up with us and we haven’t officially launched yet. Flipsyde is currently in Beta mode. 

We were also one of only 50 startups in India to be invited to Apple’s campus in Bangalore for discussions relating to our app and Apple’s ecosystem. We have also received over 10,000 dollars worth of services from Amazon web services. 

Until now we have bootstrapped our way with a pre-seed investment of 50,000 Dollars.

What made you (co-founder/s) start your startup and what problem does it solve?

Meenaz: 

While working as a producer at the film production company, an experience with an independent artist who scored music for a film produced by the company, made me realise that Independent artists are cheated more often than we know. It made my blood boil and pushed me to start thinking of a solution to empower independent artists in a democratic way. A few months after that I attended a concert, for which I paid thousands of rupees and had a terrible experience at the concert. 

Rohan: 

The idea of an app like Flipsyde was actually born between 2015 and 2016 when I organised events at multiple venues and found it difficult to reach out to the right audience. Promoting the artists or events on conventional social media, which was cluttered with all sorts of information, stories, memes, and news articles, made it difficult for artists and events to actually be discovered. 

Both:

We discussed the idea of having a democratic platform for independent artists, together we chalked out a workflow and design strategy based on our experiences of being avid users of various apps and platforms. By the end of 2018, we had a functioning MVP of the app, developed in partnership with companies and professionals based in India, the United States and Argentina.

Flipsyde is not locked to any particular region or country.  So in the future, Flipsyde can be used anywhere in the world to scope out the best musicians, events and nightlife options on offer. Imagine landing in any city in the world and immediately being able to see what’s happening around you!

We realised that one had to follow tens and hundreds of pages to get relevant information on music, events and most audiences would RSVP to events but not show up simply because they forgot about them or had changed their mind due to other commitments. We felt that having a music-centric social-discovery app would get the word out about the artist and their music to the right and relevant audience.

Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?

Meenaz: 

In 2010, during summer, I was selected to participate in my college’s Co-operative Education Programme (CEP). Getting selected for CEP is one of the most cherished achievements in my life as it changed the course of multiple things and proved to be a turning point. Out of 100s of applications received each year, only 40 most eclectic students are selected on the basis of rigorous interviews. At the end of the programme, I won ‘The Best Leader’ award. In 2012, I graduated from Mumbai University with a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology. 

After college, I decided to pursue a career in Journalism, so I opted for a PG Diploma in Journalism from Bombay College of Journalism. During the course, I decided that I would work as a journalist for a while and then move on to documentary filmmaking. So I freelanced for a few publications as a writer and then picked up a job as a Creative Producer at an Indo-German film production company. 

Rohan and I also currently run an award-winning boutique design agency. This has helped us polish our web-design and UX/UI skillset. 

Rohan:

I have worn many hats in my life and have mostly hustled my way by doing any and everything I had the chance to do. I’ve been an entrepreneur, a graphic designer, a web-designer and a filmmaker. I’ve had significant recognition for my work at most levels. From the mid to the late-2000s, I executed several high-profile projects for conglomerates such as Unilever, Yahoo! India, Femina, Microsoft Kinect, Sahara TV  and more. In fact, I was one of the first professionals to work on online video content. I created moving and video adverts appearing in Yahoo! L-Recs receiving 5 times the average CTC when this field was relatively new. I have also covered massive events like the Auto Expo in 2009. 

I have since worked in several industries, like event management and publishing design and I continue to explore new things. I have a professional working knowledge of over 25 softwares in the realm of picture editing and grading, sound design, graphic design, publishing design and website and mobile app wireframing. 

Today I focus on Flipsyde along with Meenaz to make our user experience fantastic.

Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?

Our start-up is based out of Mumbai, but our new development team works in Bangalore. We too had plans to set up base in Bangalore until the Covid-19 pandemic struck. 

We started our operations in Mumbai for the sole and best reason that the best start-ups begin in their own neighbourhoods. We knew Mumbai like the back of our hands. We have been part of the nightlife and cultural scene for many years. We know venues and we know artists here on a personal basis. 

Now that we have tinkered with our model, spoken to various experts in fields and reached a consensus of how we should move forward, Bangalore seems like a very good option to have our working offices. It has prolific music and nightlife scenes, a young and creative workforce, operational costs will be significantly reduced, and finally the most important reason of all, we must be close to our development team. No matter how much the world believes in and advocates remote working, being present is the most important aspect of growth and development. 

As startup founder/s, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?

Meenaz:

Along the way I learnt a hard lesson “Perfection is an enemy of progress”.

There are multiple things that make me paranoid and anxious. I handle the accounts and financial side of things, so making ends meet on a daily basis, keeping a track of finances plus timely filings make me wake up with a fright every morning. After having heard hundreds of dreadful stories about the tech going wrong makes me really anxious and cautious about whom to trust with technical work. On a daily basis we strive to acquire customers at a very low to zero cost, plus forming connections to build a strong community via social networks and through marketing is something I consider to be very crucial for any business. Also partner/customer satisfaction remains my priority, so keeping in touch with the artists to provide them a personal experience and plus resolving any issues they face with the platform keeps me up at night as with Flipsyde like any other product there’s a learning curve.

Perfection kills progress. It forces us to overthink decisions which should already have been made. In the beginning I refused to talk to artists or any potential partner until I believed that our platform was 100% there. If you’re leading a non-traditional life, going after something more than a 10–6 lifestyle then perfection is not as important as action. Action is the key to achieving success. Each day I do something, anything, to keep moving! On a daily basis I interact with all kinds of artists and event organisers, this has helped me understand the music industry a lot better and build a strong rapport with many of the artists on Flipsyde.

Rohan:

Everything does! If you’re a startup and not having nightmares every single day, you’re not doing it right. For any company. 

But most importantly, it’s the balance of product quality vs cash flow. We have learned by burning our fingers on a daily basis. We have made several crucial mistakes that have shaped our product. Both of us barely sleep and that’s exactly what our parents did when they started their businesses. My father had three children, two boys and an organisation. I have never seen him rest and even what looked like resting was actually him deep in thought. He was always planning and always grating his brain. To me, at a nascent stage if you’re not curtailing your own lifestyle, sacrificing everything and crawling impossibly towards merely being cash flow positive, you’re not achieving anything. I have seen several start-ups receiving millions in investment and burning their way to an inevitable end. How we spend our money keeps me up!

Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?

We have many: Big players like Zomato, Insider, Events High, BookMyShow. Ones that can easily eat us up. There are also several medium and small players like Skillbox and Ticketfairy.

Every startup must believe they are offering something better than the competition, whether or not they are. But every startup must also be grounded enough to see what their competition is offering and why what they are doing is working. Sometimes there is a reason why competitors haven’t explored the offerings that you are. It would be naive and completely wrong to assume that they simply haven’t thought of it. 

With Flipsyde we learned the hard way. We overestimated the need for our services in the beginning. We were idealistic. But as time passed, we realised that timing was everything. We were trying to compete with the Zomatos, Insiders, Events Highs and Bookmyshows out there. One thing was for sure, we were trying to deliver a better product. But we didn’t gauge the fact that our potential clients and audiences didn’t care. We realised that while Flipsyde functioned in the style of a social network, we were actually nothing more than a marketing avenue for indie artists and smaller venues. Yes, artists and audiences did need a platform to discover and interact with audiences, but for any artist, the end goal is to make a career of their music. While many of them are happy to share their music and love with people, they have to eat too. Venues, on the other hand, struggled with footfalls and for many of them, helping artists was a side-effort. They themselves were embroiled in the struggle of bringing in patrons. Artists almost always suffered because, while some venues did have strong intentions to promote different kinds of music, the harsh reality was that to do so they themselves had to stay afloat. 

Our biggest realisation was that we didn’t know who or what we were. When we realised that we were actually a marketing company, it made us see potential revenue models with more clarity. We began to see a future and being able to see a future is the most important thing to happen to a start-up, even more than investment. 

How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?

It’s hard but you get used to it. It’s like everything else. There is rarely any such thing as an easy work-life balance and if there is, we don’t trust it! 

We both are in constant touch no matter where we are and what we are doing. Not only with regard to work, but otherwise too. You have to forget everything else and become best friends with your co-founder. We set aside hours for our personal life other than our work life. For us work-life is the main one and everything else is secondary. This way of thinking has actually made it easier to utilise our personal time in a more productive way. We find that our priorities towards friends and family are better.

Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If not then please tell us if you are looking to raise.

We have done a family pre-seed round of 50 Lac. We are looking to raise a seed round of another 50 Lac to cover future operational and development costs. 

What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?

We are too young for any severe misconceptions as yet. We mostly are seen as a Zomato meets BookMyShow. This is not entirely wrong. But it takes away from the democratic and social aspects of control that we offer venues and artists. Also, the fact that we are all-encompassing when it comes to music and nightlife as a social network rather than a set of services.

Our thought process

We made a few mistakes in terms of getting a few wrong team members on board who did not deliver. But this is a normal part of any business. What did go well for us, however, was that from day one we thought of things on a global scale. We realized that national and global expansion was not easy, but we knew it was the right way forward. Gradually, ideas formed in my mind and we began exploring various avenues. Our mistakes, sometimes on a daily basis, led to clarity and we knew that every day was going to be a struggle no matter what. The area of the market that we wanted to rectify, was filled with all kinds of players and all kinds of problems. We realised that while Flipsyde functioned in the style of a social network, we were actually nothing more than a marketing avenue for indie artists and smaller venues. Yes, artists and audiences did need a platform to discover and interact with audiences, but for any artist, the end goal is to make a career of their music. While many of them are happy to share their music and love with people, they have to eat too. 

Our presentation was merely a facade and we had to look for a deeper way to enable artists to earn a living. This was going to be our toughest hurdle by far because suddenly Flipsyde took form in our minds as a potential tool for artists to earn. Venues struggled with footfalls and for many of them, helping artists was a side-effort. They themselves were embroiled in the struggle of bringing in patrons. Artists almost always suffered because, while some venues did have strong intentions to promote different kinds of music, the harsh reality was that to do so they themselves had to stay afloat. Artists were entirely at the mercy of how many audience members they could bring in on a given night. If it wasn’t feasible, it didn’t matter how excellent they were. 

This was not acceptable to us because we truly have come across artists who are hardworking and beautiful humans with talents beyond anything imaginable, who were at the mercy of 4 pm and 6 pm slots, and rather than playing for enthusiastic audiences, were slaves to conditional slots based on bringing in crowds and their friends. They were struggling with having to listen to every day taunts about how Bollywood was the only thing that worked. We have even seen phenomenal musicians having to bite the bullet and themselves perform commercial covers. Classical and commercial both have their place in society, but you can’t compare the two. In fact commercial copies are classical and not vice-versa. Bollywood rips of Beethoven, but you would never dare ask the latter to cover the first. We knew we had to work with these artists. What they do today would inspire genres in the future. 

What gets you excited about this company?

In the beginning, it was the idea of it. Today it’s the reality that we have artists approaching us instead of us approaching them. We know there’s a future when we get messages and emails demanding a set of services from us and appreciating the existence of our platform. It means we are becoming relevant. That’s exciting!

Our bouquet of talent now includes influential indie artists (including bands and DJs) from India including Bickram Ghosh, The Local Train, Dopeadelicz, Kavish Seth and many more who have signed up on the app. We have other international artists like Felix Martin, Numa and Mike Eviraste who really love the platform and are promoting it out of their own accord.

We also have artist managers like Gully Gang on board with us.

Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.

As founders of a company, our mind is always occupied by thoughts about work. When I wake up in the morning, I make a to-do-list for the day and in the first one hour I get my thoughts together and mentally prepare for the day. Since we both fulfill multiple roles so we have different sorts of tasks each day and no two days are the same. For instance, yesterday after the completion of my first mindful hour which also involves some reading, I checked my emails and replied to them. There were emails from our app developers, artists, event organisers and CA. We set aside about an hour for a daily workout routine. I created some profiles on behalf of some artists on Flipsyde, made entries in the accounts Excel sheet and Tally, spoke to artists, discussed aspects of features development with developers, and prepared some contracts for partnerships with event organisers and artist managers. Everyday we spend about an hour towards reaching out and spreading information about our platform on different channels. 

Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?

I was working as a Creative Producer at a film production company. My company was producing a documentary written and directed by the co-founder Rohan Sabharwal. As the project required, I was the Executive Producer on the project and that’s when our friendship started in 2017. 

Initially we got the MVP developed in the USA and Argentina, then we decided to bring the development back to India as developers based here would be better versed with the regional tech intricacies and regulations. We were one of the few startups to be invited by Apple (at their India’s startup accelerator center based in Bangalore) for a one-day mentorship programme, where we met a lot of tech people including developers. Since then our hearts were set to have a tech team based in Bangalore. Through exhaustive lists and profiles of developers, almost a year later we have chosen our current development team as they exactly understand our vision with the platform. Our current development team consists of four people, who handle different aspects of the iOS and Android app as well as web development.

Know a great startup story or want to share your own? Write to us at contact.bangaloreinsider@gmail.com and we will get back to you. For more updates follow Bangalore Insider on Facebook and Instagram.