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How To Startup: Is My Idea Any Good?

How do you transform your startup idea from a mere spark, into a full-blown inferno of success?

Today Dmitri is talking with Cliff Fluet, a self proclaimed Digital Media Lawyer and the strategic mastermind behind Eleven. The conversation is wide ranging, from early, make-or-break stages of startup development, to what Cliff believes are key traits a successful founder holds. 

Dmitri and Cliff discuss the importance of humility, and why an army of seasoned advocates can be your strongest asset. Hear how even the best-laid plans must endure the rigors of real-world testing and why validation isn't just a step—it's a milestone. 

As Cliff says, “There’s a lot of technology in search of a solution. But ask yourself, is this an imagined problem or is this a real problem?”

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Episode Transcript

Machine transcribed

0:00:18 - Dmitri

Welcome back to Music Tech Tomics, where we go beneath the surface of music and tech. I'm your host, Dmitri Vietze. I'm also the founder and CEO of Rock Paper Scissors, the PR firm that specializes in music tech and music innovation. We're also doing some marketing alongside PR, and you know that because I say that on every single episode. But we're launching a new series with today's episode. It's called how to Start Up, and so this new series is going to be interspersed throughout the Music Tech Tonics schedule, and we're also launching two other interspersed series. So if you're not into how to start up, stick around. We're also doing executive insights on some episodes, or what we call fascinating ideas, like the voice synthesis episode we published last week. 

Whether you're new to Music Tech or a veteran, I'm hoping you get value from each of these threads. Some will be suited for you based on where you are in your career, but keep listening so that we're all on the same page for when we meet up at the Music Tech Tomics conference in October. So to kick off how to Start Up, we're going to start at the start. Is my idea any good? As we build more episodes, we will walk startups through some of the most important topics to get off the ground and grow to be successful with the help of brilliant minds like Vicki Nauman and Bill Campbell and many more. But to help kick things off with this is my idea. Any good We've got with us today, Cliff Fluet. Hey, cliff, how are you doing? I'm very good indeed. How are you? I'm good. Thank you so much for joining us. Cliff is the managing director of Eleven Advisory. He's also a partner in the joint head of media and entertainment at the law firm Lewis Silken in London. Cliff, tell us a little bit about yourself and your expertise. 

0:02:00 - Cliff

So my background I'm well into my third decade of being in and around the music industry and probably music tech has been the one unifying theme. 

After qualifying as attorney, I spent a few years at Warner Music. I then spent a few years as general counsel as a big, large commercial radio group in Europe and then for the last 18 years I've been a partner at Lewis Silken. For the last 10 years I have identified as legal, curious, as I've really wanted to get much more strategic side, working with start-ups and scale-ups. So I have the pleasure of working with some really big companies on their strategic initiatives, particularly around digital media, digital music, and the bit I really really love is working with start-ups, scale-ups and the companies that go into hyper growth. For the last 10 years. One of my first clients was one of the world's first generative AI companies, which company which was exited to a small, plucky start-up called TikTok, and I've sold and worked with many businesses in and around immersive technologies, blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence, data insights and all the good things that everyone now is finding that some real value there. 

0:03:14 - Dmitri

Awesome. It's so great to have you. You've got such great expertise and I've had a blast talking to you in the past and I'm excited about our conversation today. It may be strange for you and for me to go to the very beginning, to the idea stage, as we talk about start-ups coming up with an idea, but on the other hand, you have all this expertise and experience. It'll be really interesting to rewind to the beginning. Oftentimes you and I don't talk to start-ups at this stage. They've already gotten pretty far along. But how have you seen successful start-ups come up with their business ideas and then validate their ideas? Let's start with the brainstorming phase. What have you seen? 

0:03:50 - Cliff

Well, there's one business where I met with them they were Abbey Road Studios. They were doing a pitch and they had a one-page PowerPoint which just had a picture of one person pointing to many people, and it was an adaptive AI stuff. And so I sat down and said, right, guys, I'd love to see the business plan. And they went that's it. That's all we got. It was one slide of a deck and that's probably the earliest I've ever started with a business. But again, that is a very successful business which exited one of the biggest companies on the planet, and it is one where we really took the journey from. How do you go through the key validation points and pivots and things like that? So, talking about going back to the beginning, how I hone my thinking on all of this, is that I think that, as an attorney, there's no copyright and an idea. I can have an idea for flying cars or hoverboards or anything else fantastical, as it were but unless it's unique, unless it's ownable, it's patentable or registrable or something like that, there isn't any inherent value. So long, long long before that, there's kind of a three level test that I look at anything in the music tech world, which is one does the technology exist? There's lots of slideware and vapor air out there. Number two is it a real solution? And number three, is there a business there? And what is interesting is that you can have two of those things, which is great, but it's not necessarily going to succeed. You're going to have to really, really demonstrate, and I'll delve into that a little bit more. 

I mean, with regard to the technology, there's a lot of technology in search of a solution right now. Someone's got I've got this incredible platform, I've got this incredible app, I've got this incredible this, but what does it solve? So that's question number one is the technology real or is it there? Some people, well, they think they've got to fake it till they make it, or they've seen too many documentaries about people and getting the wrong lessons from them, et cetera, et cetera. But the technology's got to be real but, probably more importantly, the solution's got to be real. There's a lot of what I call imagined problems in the music industry. So you've got a classic one which most startups says well, this industry has a real problem with transparency and opacity. Depending on who you speak to, they like it just the way it is and that ain't a problem. So, a lot of the time, these solutions in search of a problem is it a real solution? Is it something that's going to add value? Is it something that's going to create more? 

I've got my own personal views that the music industry sees all kind of music technologies as either a maker or a taker. And if you get put in the taker bucket, like certain big platforms have just done almost this week, they ain't going to play nicely with you. But if you're seen as a maker, you're additive, helping to solve problems, having to real world problems, then you're going to get there. And then, probably the last of those things, as I mentioned, is there a business there? There are lots of technologies out there which do solve problems, but it's going to be commoditized, or you're not going to be able to charge for it, or you're not going to be able to come up with a scalable model that is investable. So in those first ideas those are the things when I'm working with companies, when they're having the ideation phase. 

Now, the trick on doing that as being as an advisor, is how you do that without poo-pooing everything. How do you do it? A lot of the time someone comes up with something and just through dint of age. No one's ever thought of a business that does this. It's like I know five of them and they all failed and that's probably a data point in and of itself. So you don't want to be that guy, but sometimes I have to be that guy. 

Sometimes you really want to test the technology and when people aren't being really open or straightforward with you, it's probably because it doesn't exist yet. Now, if it doesn't exist yet, that's fine, but you've got to say so. You've got to say so. And then really, I think that where advisors working with advisors come is to work out is the solution real? Is this an imagined problem or is this a real problem? So if you can get through those three gates of turning into a business it being a real solution and the technology being set you start to get to an idea of this is something that can build and scale and grow. It's a painful lesson, it's a tough lesson, but those tests seem to be pretty robust and it certainly worked for me. 

0:08:34 - Dmitri

Well, we've kicked off this episode of how to start up with a bang Cliff. This is epic, so you mentioned is there a real solution? Is there something that actually needs to be solved here? Is this a manufactured solution? Does the technology exist? Can the technology actually exist? Is there anything there? Is there any there there in terms of the actual technical solution? And is there a business model here? How are you going to keep this going if you can't generate some revenue from it or an acquisition or something there as well? So those are great, amazing tips right out of the gate. Love it. Thank you for sharing so much there. So, let's say, somebody has ticked off two or three of those boxes. They've taken care of that. I'm sure there's another process. You've gotten through the idea phase. What do you do to validate your idea? What do you do next? 

0:09:22 - Cliff

Validating the idea is absolutely key, because you can call it a thesis, you can call it a white paper. At the end of the day, it's a guess. So you've really then got to take it out into the wild and you've got to have people who are going to trust you enough to give you access to data or customers to be able to run it into the wild Again. This is one of the reasons why working with Advises works really well, because they're going to be able to walk you into those places to be able to test those thesis as well. So, if we talk about that business that we talked about the adaptive AI business, they had a fantastic proposition which could basically change music live in real time midstream. 

And I said to the guy they said, look, there'll be a day when people will be able to manipulate music. And I said, look, that'll happen in 10 years. I was out by about a year, but for now, the labels and publishers are not going to allow you to do this. So we decided to go down a lateral approach, which is well, if we can't change the music, let's try and change the ads around the music. So we actually developed essentially to prove the capabilities of the technology by doing something that we could do rather than doing, and I think that the other thing I would just say is that, when you come to the validation perspective, you have to see this as chess, not checkers. 

As a startup, as an entrepreneur, as a founder people want to go immediately to the other side and be able to jump through all of the hoops, et cetera, et cetera. But in the chess board they say look, we're going to have to go improve this, probably in a different area, a different type of customer. You may want to bowl the ocean with the music industry, but perhaps you have to test it with podcasts or advertising or something that you don't see is quite as sexy or as interesting, but you can genuinely go and validate the idea. So sometimes you need to leave the sandbox in order to make sure that it's actually going to work and it gives you a much safer and broader example. Sports companies are really comfortable working with data, advertising businesses are really comfortable working with data, creative businesses and so. 

So why not go into a more benign environment to be able to test it? And people will say, but Clef, where are music startups? We're just validating it. So I suppose, really, what I'm saying here is finding a safe space. To be able to validate. Your space is essential and it'll give you a space and time to be able to develop your MVP, whereas you know, and then they get other people. No, I have to go and do a deal with a major label, but why? And it reminds me of the old days when I was speaking to artists and I said, well, I want to sign to a major label. 

I was like this is not a great deal for you guys at this point, but I just want to tell my mom I've done a deal with and so you get some startups that way as well, but just want to be able to say, hey, we've done this great deal with his major label, et cetera, et cetera. I just wouldn't start there. I'm not saying don't go there, just don't start there. So validate your proposition in an industry where you can add value, where they welcome the technologies, where it's more of a known quantity, and use that as an example to demonstrate how and why your position is validated. 

0:12:32 - Dmitri

Wow Drop in knowledge here. I love it. I have never heard anybody say it that clearly and that just makes so much sense to me. The last couple of years at the Music Tech Tonics Conference, we've partnered with the Universal Music Group doing a startup boot camp and in 2023, they brought us into a beautiful UMG studio. And another piece of what I'm hearing from you and you've kind of mentioned it, but it wasn't one of your main points they validated this too by saying look for advisors who have experience in this. Another way to validate your ideas to talk to veterans and use people like you, cliff, to vet the idea, to say is this possible? How will this be possible? What are some routes to get there as well. So there's another kind of fast forward button on validating something is to work with somebody experienced like you, which is pretty cool. 

0:13:22 - Cliff

Or again, it also offers proof points and offers points of comfort as well. It's a wonderful business I'm involved with called Ordo, and I met the founder in late 2019. And I was really impressed that the guy had gone to the gumption, had the gumption to go and approach the chair of the biggest PRO and basically say right, what problem can I solve? That's a very different approach to what most people do. Most people like to stride in the room and say, hello, I'm here to save your business, or I'm here to save your industry, I'm here to save your bacon, whereas actually, that kind of humility of being able to work with those other people who really know what they're talking about in that particular field, it's a real proof point to investors, it's a real proof point for other advisors, but also as well, it really allows you to be able to test and check your proposition well. 

0:14:11 - Dmitri

Amazing. All right, we have to take a quick break and when we come back, I want to ask you what happens if you can validate your idea, what do you do? Then We'll be right back. Well, hello listener. Did you know that this podcast is just one way? Music tectonics goes beneath the surface of music and tech. We know that innovation thrives on community and connection, so we bring innovators together in a variety of ways. We've got a free online event series we call seismic activity. We've got the music tectonics conference every October in Los Angeles. We've got meetups at major industry events like the Nam show, south by southwest, and music builds. Stay on top of our schedule. Get the music tectonics newsletter in your inbox. Sign up at music tectonicscom. Okay, we're back here, cliff, and I wanted to ask you if you could remember some specific music startups that stopped completely before investing too much time. They made it through brainstorming, they made it through some validation, or maybe during validation, they realized this is not going to work. Do you have any memories about that? 

0:15:17 - Cliff

To be honest, when that happens, one of two things happens. There's a bunch of people who I think I call it sort of business plan brain freeze, right, and it's like no, no, no, but the business plan was this and we're just going to keep sticking to it. We're just going to keep going. All the points of validation aren't happening. The response from the market isn't happening. Four or five people in the market said it's not happening, but we just got to keep carrying on Right. And people hold on to a kind of a business plan like it's, like it's, you know, some sort of blanket, really in terms of a comfort. And then there's phase two, which is the pivot. Oh, and, by the way, all of the businesses in that former camp, they all died. So what you're saying? 

0:16:05 - Dmitri

is people on the early stage? People actually don't. They're like they don't want to hear it, they just keep going. 

0:16:11 - Cliff

That's what you're saying Just keep going, I will double and triple and quadruple down, whereas the most successful companies on the planet every single one of them pivot, pivot, pivot, pivot you know it's innovate pivot succeed, innovate pivot, succeed every single time and the hallmarks of, literally, of Metta, of Apple, of Amazon, but their business models evolve, evolve, evolve and pivot and grow every single time. 

Very few of these businesses just sort of double and triple down and the ones that just stick with it your, your, your Nokia's, your Yahoo's, your, you know, legacy print businesses, etc. Which is let's just keep going, it doesn't work for them and it's certainly not going to work for the startup. Now, I think that a lot of people see that pivot as some sort of compromise of vision, and actually I think that what people need to understand is it's so much. It's a, it's a pivot of execution Right, if you will view, is that you want to make I don't know, roles is more transparent, or to democratize music making or, you know, ball the ocean on data insights or lots of really fantastic businesses too. There's nothing wrong with that vision, but having purity on execution, the idea that you're going to kind of invert business gravity, I've never seen it work. 

0:17:30 - Dmitri

Gotcha, you know what. Before we go, I want to ask you some more questions about pivoting, because I think what you said is critical. Like you said, you've seen it, all the successful companies have to do it to some extent. But I want to just stop for a second before we get there and go back. Let's say somebody who does successfully validate an idea pretty early. They've got a great idea. They're working with a veteran team or a partner or something where they're like oh I see this here. I'm curious. Once they've gotten there, how do they get even more focused? We'll come back to the pivot. What are the early moves to build a business that startups that are listening right now should be thinking about? 

0:18:03 - Cliff

Well, to be honest, the word pivot it implies some sort of massive kind of 90 degree turn. But actually, even with regard to those businesses that validate, each one of them is developed or iterated. I've seen many of business where I said, okay, we're going to be an advertising-based business, and they end up being rolled into a social network inside business. Or you've got businesses that are originally there for communications and they turn into polling businesses. They're hardware and they realize actually, the hardware is a bit like the razor blade business. It's a loss leader for a much broader SaaS-based business as well. So I think that the key about all of these businesses either it's a major pivot or even if it's an iteration as well is the constant development, redevelopment, re-forecasting, checking, development, innovation, product innovation, being able to show that you can do more than one thing at a time absolutely essential for a company to grow. If you look at the most successful startups in the industry as well, very few of them have just done one thing. What they have done is being able to create a multi-headed solution to a whole bunch of problems that we've gone and that they've developed and grown and been able to actually broaden their product suite. So again, it is a form of consistent evolution, rather than revolution, that needs to be born in mind the whole time. 

Every CEO at the beginning of every year is like right, what is this year's challenge? What are the black swans? How do we grow? How do we develop? How do we do this, whereas there are too many businesses who say, right, I want to raise, you know, $1 million in the first round, $10 million in the second round, and then I want to exit in three years. That's a wish, not a strategy. Right, what you're going to need to be able to do is demonstrate scalable growth, be able to show something absolutely tangible and life-changing, or be able to develop new products and services. That's going to get you those milestones. Simply raising for the sake of raising will not work. It doesn't matter how many fundraisers you go to, it doesn't matter how many conferences you go to, it's just not going to work. 

0:20:10 - Dmitri

So I'm curious. A lot of startups are a one-person show. At the beginning they might be technical and they're just pounding away at an MVP or some kind of platform or some kind of product, or maybe it's a duo. You know, somebody's got the sales, business or marketing mindset and then they've brought on a technical co-founder to build and so forth. What, when you meet a company that's at that phase, what is your say? They've validated you, like their idea. You can see they're being agile. They're willing to switch to different verticals if needed to test things out, play in somebody else's sandbox and then come back to music, etc. What are the other first things they should do? 

0:20:53 - Cliff

I think that I've alluded to this, but I think that it's about, for me, it's all about the curiosity. You know, I meet many of these people and they're on broadcast for an hour and then they said, right, okay, well, maybe we can find a way of helping. You've just talked to me for an hour, right, you've not asked any questions, you've not thought about these things, and it's not like I've got the answers. But that lack of curiosity, I mean there is something about music industry which people can flake consumption with expertise, with extraordinary ease. Right, I've listened to all music all my life and therefore we've done that. And often I have to break it down. 

Lots of these businesses that say, oh, if I were to say to you, demetri, as a prospective client, I've come up with a new technology that's going to revolutionize the gas industry. I don't know how gas is made, I don't know how it's distributed, I don't know how it's paid for, I don't know how it's charged, I don't know how the supply chain works, but I'm going to disrupt it. I think you'd be a little bit skeptical, right? Well, I get that most days about the music industry. Yeah, you know, they don't understand the rights or what they will do is point to the technology and say but blockchain? I mean, you know that was my favorite one that blockchain was going to magic away copyright or regulation. And you know, when you're as old as I am, you heard that shit about the internet, you heard it about social, you had it about UTC. You're hearing it now about AI. It's like dude, whereas the businesses, where they do that. Why does that work that way? 

All of the things that we can do, and I think that that curiosity is what I'm looking for in the founders. With the founder team, it's a really interesting dynamic. Right To a certain extent, it is like a marriage that you're sort of getting involved with and actually you know it's very much hard truths, but also they tend to be quite a check on each other. With solo founders, you end up with people who are, by their very nature, self starters, focused and going through. But the ones that realize they need a squad around them again are the ones that I have seen succeed, and some of these people are the smartest people I've ever met in my whole life. But they have the humility to understand. They don't know everything, or at least they're prepared to have it done. The ones who dismiss it out of hand, and those can be duos or solos as well. You know, frankly, I just say I wish you all the very, very best, and you tend not to hear from them again. 

0:23:19 - Dmitri

You know, I suspect there's some people listening who are early in their startup to this podcast right now, Today. They're listening right now and maybe they're a little deflated, but maybe they're saying I want to do some self-reflection. I do, I want to take on the mindset that Cliff is suggesting here and maybe we can fast forward it a little bit by talking about some of the things that you're seeing. You mentioned some of the big picture topics that have come up. Startups have shown up and said I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that, I'm going to change everything. When you look at the market right now, Cliff, what ideas do you think are right for success? And then after that let's talk about which ones are right for failure. But what are some ideas that you see that are emerging that the music industry or society or culture or business is ready for now? 

0:24:00 - Cliff

Well, one thing that I've been, you know, as we've become more connected, we've become more disconnected. You know the tragic issue of social. We thought it was going to be a cleansing light, like you know, arab Spring and helping democracies, et cetera, et cetera and unfortunately, we've been algorithmicized and, frankly, you know, we've been more divided than you know I can certainly remember. So this is an IT. Now, the good news is that it does feel like people want to come together, they want to come with experiences, they want to engage. So I am a big fan I've been a long time a big fan of the whole super fan model. I think that you're seeing people want to have a deeper and broader engagement with creators. I've seen it in sports. I see it with influencers and digital influencers and YouTubers we used to call them and I'm seeing that in the world of music, which I think is incredible. 

I think that the idea of music moving from a static, one way linear, to a return path, to an ability to be able to play and adapt and personalize, like we can all other contexts, is really, really exciting, and I'm involved with a number of businesses that are doing that. I think that there's a genuine understanding now that, whilst people don't understand how music is getting played and they don't know how it's getting paid, I'm really interested in a bunch of businesses that are sort of joining the dots, being able to realize the value, because it's fantastic if something's been played somewhere or gone out there, but unless we've got the ways of getting paid, I think that what's fantastic is that technology isn't of themselves the solution, and I think that's the thing that I would say to a lot of people. Right, it doesn't matter if it's blockchain, it doesn't matter if it's AI, it doesn't matter if it's unicorn dust, et cetera, et cetera. The real question is that a lot of people mistake the technology with the solution. You would have had this a couple of years ago with Web 3, but blockchain and blockchain will mean this and blockchain will mean that no, but I do think that distributed ledger technologies, particularly in an AI based world where you need sources of truth, could come in really quite handy right now. 

So what people need to understand is that do you want to invest in NFTs because it's an NFT, or are you investing in it because it's something that is collectible and someone that people genuinely want? For me, what people see as NFTs, you could call vinyl. Most of it goes unopened, but people love buying it because it shows affinity, it shows fandom, it shows all those expressions of love that you've got. So I think that it's a really, really exciting time for the industry. But there needs to be a focus on value and also, if you are going to navigate the industry, you've got to know the players. If you want to win the game, there's two ways you cheat or you learn the rules and then you win, and the latter one tends to work. 

0:26:57 - Dmitri

Yeah, we've seen some people who cheated at first and then figured out how to change the rules. 

I don't know who you mean, maybe I should just leave it there. So that's interesting what you said about web3 and NFTs in particular, because obviously there was a lot of excitement as well as some criticism Not last year, but the year before 2022, I think it reached its ultimate hype cycle there and your response of sort of it's you know, are you interested in NFTs because NFTs are trendy and hot right now, versus because you see there's a market for collectibles and there's a new way to do collectibles that is interesting, has another type of value, and so forth? Are there any other popular startup trends right now that you think are not your cautious about? Maybe they're ripe for failure, but at least, or you're just thinking it's got that hype cycle that doesn't really demonstrate value. What are you sort of like when somebody shows up with a startup pitch today and you're like I think you're just saying that because it's trendy or I don't think it really has as much potential as it's been stated? 

0:28:01 - Cliff

Yeah, I mean you know, a couple of years ago it was blockchain and FT. This year it's AI, but, of course, the truth. But again, is it because it's AI or is the AI doing something that's genuinely innovative? Right, that is the question you need to ask about any form of technology. Is it the data, or is it what the data can do? It can be refined and made useful, etc. Etc. There's nothing inherently interesting in AI, not least companies like Microsoft and Google and matter that are going to be able to outpace you when it comes to that. 

So, really, the question is you really want to be focused on the solution in and of itself, but the idea that technologies will invert copyright or invert regulation, or people have invented their own form of public domain or DMCA or section 230. 

You know, people just love, love, love, assuming, inferring that these things are going to happen and they don't. 

They just don't. So the real question is is how do you use these technologies within the guidelines, within the boundaries, in order to be able to create those values, like right back to the beginning of delivering those solutions? And those are really really exciting, and I think that there are some things that are way out there at the moment, things like voice cloning, personalizing propositions, being able to use music in whole new ways, and health and wellness, or in terms of greetings, or you know the way that the music industry I think is woefully, woefully failed to embrace the world of games and gaming. You know, we have to be humble as an industry and understand that the games industry is bigger than music and film combined. And then some we still haven't found a really good way to play in a way that genuinely allows win-win type value, etc. Etc. So the opportunities for music, I think, are legion, but what needs to happen is just don't focus on the tech, focus on the solution. 

0:29:56 - Dmitri

Gosh, he keeps coming back to that guys. That's what he's going to hold you to when you call them and consult with them. I mean it's interesting because I've heard so much criticism, for example, of the metaverse and VR and mixed reality, because that was on a hype cycle. I've heard so much criticism of live streaming. These were the cycles before the AI, before the blockchain and web 3 stuff. But when I'm hearing you say it's not so much whether it's metaverse or live streaming, it's more just like what solution does it solve? 

0:30:26 - Cliff

Well, I mean again. You don't even have to be that old to remember the dot-com boom. And in 2001,. That's it. The internet is over. There's one of our biggest newspapers in the UK. Internet dies as a passing fad was a headline in November 2001. 

And you know, people were speculating on URL routes, businesses were getting the domain chocolate dot com and IPOing on the back of the word, right? So again, we looked at the noise and not the signal. Right, you know the idea that we were going to be able to transfer to these entire new worlds of value. We didn't anticipate these things and you know distributed major technologies, which in many ways, satoshi's wet paper goes back to Napster and peer to pierce things. If you look at the underlying valences, all these things, people say they've changed nothing. They've kind of changed everything, right, and you know algorithms and large language models in 2012 and 2013 in relation to neural networks and 2017 in relation to large language models to be able to create the kind of explosion that we're going to have in terms of AI. The problem we've got is that a lot of the terms don't get your arms around it. 

So the idea that you know, again, people did genuinely speculate on URLs and people were buying something. Everyone thought of the value and then thought it's about having the platform and she was a hope about having the business. So, in the same way that people wrote off the internet, mobile internet do you remember the Meet Tree About 2002, 2003, wap no, no, it's dead. The mobile web, it's not a thing. It's not a thing, right? So that is kind of how we do that. And again, with regards to the metaverse, et cetera, et cetera, I just say digital worlds, oh, the metaverse is dead. Really, going on to Fortnite, going on to Roblox, going on to Epic Games, they're doing just fine and we as an industry could learn a lot from what they do. 

0:32:28 - Dmitri

Great, awesome. Thank you for those insights. I am very curious, almost to go back to the beginning of this conversation, maybe you don't have any ideas yet and we want to figure out. Well, how, where do you know where success is going to be? But before I ask you that question, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. 

The new cycle of the music industry, and innovation in particular, is accelerating at such a fast pace it can be hard to keep up. That's why I launched Rock Paper Scanner, a free newsletter you can get in your inbox every Friday morning. Check out bitly.rpscanner. That's bitly.rpscanner. I scan hundreds of outlets for you, from the music trades to the tech blogs, from the music gear mags to lifestyle outlets. So that you don't have to, I handpick everything music tech, including industry revenue numbers, ai, cool new user tools, the live music and recording landscapes, partnerships and acquisitions and everything else. A music tech tonics podcast listener would want to know. Open a browser right now and punch in bitly.rpscanner to sign up right now. Go ahead, hit pause and go to bitly.rpscanner. We'll find the episode's blog post on and find that link. Happy scanning, but for now, happy listening. Ok, we are back, cliff. 

How do startup founders find the right wave before it forms so they can ride the wave to success? 

I've seen it happen multiple times in the music industry. 

Sometimes it's an artist who figures out, you know, online video is the place to be, and they build up their kind of following there and they write it. You know, write into another business or something like that. We saw people were trying to do it with Clubhouse during the pandemic, where they thought I'm going to be a Clubhouse influencer and people invested so much time and energy there they may have gotten it wrong that time. We see people doing it on LinkedIn now and on the business side as well, but we've seen it on TikTok, we've seen it on Instagram from an artist's perspective, but we've also seen it from a business perspective too. The folks that did figure out what the right mixed reality business was at the time, or figured out what the right web through business was at the time, or now the AI businesses that are actually solving real stuff. How do you, what's the mindset or what do you do to find the wave before it forms so that you know when you hop up on your business surfboard you're actually going to be successful? 

0:34:54 - Cliff

Well, I think that you know I'm going to talk to your analogy here about the surfing, the wave. Right, you've got to have the right board, you've got to have due course, stability, you've got to keep your eyes open. Right, people are writing the wave right now with you know, the first time I ever got on a surfboard, I sort of clinged on, closed my eyes and hoped for the best. It didn't end well, right, and that's what you don't want to be doing as a business. Right, what you want to be doing is saying, right, do I know these waters that I'm going in? Do I know where the right? And you can't begin to understand where the next wave is coming until you understand where you are. And I think in a lot of businesses you'll ask them well, where are you? Well, we don't know. We've got this idea, or my friend's got a theory, et cetera, et cetera. What I think for the most successful businesses that I've ever seen, they actually understand what is my platform, what is my core strength, how do I have the stability, how do I be able to grow, how do I know how to navigate these waters? Where are the Buies and where are the edges that I need to be looking for. Those are the things you can do. 

I often say this for companies that I work with hope is not a strategy, right? And there are a lot of businesses out there where, if you really drill down to it, their only strategy is hope. I hope that Microsoft buy us, I hope there's a. And look, you know what People win the lottery? Not many people win a lottery, and if you're comfortable with those kind of odds, then that's great. But if you want to be doing it, you've got to be much more strategic. It's got to be checkers rather than sorry. It's got to be chess rather than checkers and be able to say, right, I have a strategy and when I get to the next step, I know where I'm going to go from there. Or at least I'm going to put myself in a position where I can know where I can go so you can surf the wave, you can run the board, you can you know. 

Check the odds on poker, pick your analogy. You've got to have a strategy. What you need to be doing is working with people to be able to help hone, define and revise your strategy at all times. 

0:36:53 - Dmitri

Okay, awesome. I have one last question for you. What other resources or methods do you suggest startups tap to come up with the next big thing? This is the episode of is my idea any good People are at all over all over the place with their ideas. They might be further along with a startup or they might be ready to pivot, but I'm curious what other resources you have in mind as we wrap up the episode. 

0:37:14 - Cliff

Well, I mean, depending on the type of startup that you are or where you're from, I would just keep saying you've got to be curious. You've really. If you don't want to test your idea, it basically means you don't believe in it. That's, I would go so far as to say that right, if you're not prepared to test it, then you really don't believe in it. So what you need to be able to do is be able to go out to people in industry in thing. You need to do your research about who else is out there. 

I get lots of companies saying there are no competitors to my business and say, oh wow, there's this business over here called T-Cup that does exactly what you do. Oh, if I know that, then you don't know that. Then that tells me something. Make sure that you're there, test the idea, go out there and really, really be curious. That's really all I can say as a general. And then, for the specifics, really do your homework. Speak to people in the industry, speak to players, speak to the opportunity, be able to demonstrate it and be able to show people that you've got something that's gonna have the solution, it's gonna have the technology and really, really turn into a business and a lot of the time. If you've got two out of three and you're working with someone to look for that third bit, that is all cool. You do not need to be the finished article. I do find a lot of people allow perfection to be the enemy of the good, or, oh, I'll come to work with people when I've got it refined. No, you need to do it before that. 

0:38:36 - Dmitri

Great, this is amazing. I just wanna say, as you talk about going out to talk to people and see who's out there, see who the competitors are out there, I just wanna throw in a couple of thoughts of my own. Conferences are a great place to see where people are doing stuff, where the activity is as well. So if you hadn't thought about that, like one of the values of going to a conference is to kind of scan the horizon, see who's active, who's investing money and being out there doing deals and so forth. And obviously there's a lot to read about as well. Follow the music allies, follow the billboard, the music business, worldwide Music business worldwide. 

0:39:10 - Cliff

It's just incredible. In just music ally, music business worldwide, we all read it, we all send the elements calls to each other the next day, et cetera, et cetera. South by Southwest, tectonics, music biz, great escape. Pick your conference and be able to do that and do your homework and it'll be much more impressive if you do. But coming into the idea of I'm gonna save the world and I'm gonna tell you how to do it, et cetera, et cetera, I just haven't seen that work, Cliff. 

0:39:39 - Dmitri

This has been amazing. If people want to get in touch with you, I suppose they could go to and contact you that way. 

0:39:47 - Cliff

Sure, hit me up on LinkedIn. It is, I found out yesterday, the number one Social platform for millennials and Gen Z. I know right Because they're all on it. They're all on it, they all want a job, so find me on LinkedIn or find me on a panel somewhere usually. I'm usually there for diversity reasons, because they're on enough lawyers, cliff, it's been great. 

0:40:12 - Dmitri

Thanks so much for joining us on the Music Tech Tonics podcast. It's a real pleasure. Take care. Thanks for listening to Music Tech Tonics. If you like what you hear, please subscribe on your favorite podcast app. We have new episodes for you every week. Did you know we do free monthly online events that you, our lovely podcast listeners, can join? Find out more at and, while you're there, look for the latest about our annual conference and sign up for our newsletter to get updates. Everything we do explores the seismic shifts that shake up music and technology, the way the earth's tectonic plates cause quakes and make mountains. Connect with Music Tech Tonics on Twitter, instagram and LinkedIn. That's my favorite platform. Connect with me, Dmitri Vietze, if you can spell it, we'll be back again next week, if not sooner.

Music Tectonics at NAMM 2023

Let us know what you think! Tweet @MusicTectonics, find us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, or connect with podcast host Dmitri Vietze on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Music Tectonics podcast goes beneath the surface of the music industry to explore how technology is changing the way business gets done. Weekly episodes include interviews with music tech movers & shakers, deep dives into seismic shifts, and more.


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