Watch out for this, music fanatics — hot new startup voxx.io is reinventing the old-school jukebox, allowing anyone with a smartphone to influence the music played in bars, restaurants, clubs and other public venues. We sat down with voxx.io’s Jimmy Lowe (WG’14) a few days after the team’s Philly Startup Weekend win to learn more.
Wharton Journal: How exactly does voxx.io work? How do you differentiate voxx.io from other social music apps?
Jimmy Lowe: For any brick-and-mortar establishment that plays music for its customers – bars, cafes, coffee shops, etc… – we can generate an ever-evolving playlist based on foursquare check-ins at that establishment. That way, the music that’s played in the venue caters to the specific musical preferences of its customers. Once we recognize a check-in, we can start drawing data from the public music profile of that customer. There are already over 1 million businesses using foursquare’s Merchant Platform, and instead of just guessing what their customers want to listen to, we’ll give venues the ability to customize the music they play and provide a better overall experience for their customers.
WJ: Tell us how you, Jonathan McEuen (WG’13) and the rest of the founding team got together.
JL: voxx.io and the team were born out of Philly Startup Weekend. Josh, our team lead and lead developer from Denver, gave a 1-minute pitch about the initial idea on Friday night. He called it “Music on the Scene” during his pitch. Jonathan, myself and three others thought it was a great idea. The team just organically formed after that, and for a lot of us, we jumped on board based on our common interest in music.
WJ: What’s your background, and why choose music as an industry to tackle?
Well I’ve always been drawn to music. Before Wharton, I worked for 4 years at MTV Networks, spending my first two in New York and my second two in LA. I was part of the business development team, so I definitely wasn’t on the creative side. However, I did sing in a (pretty mediocre) cover band in LA. We played all kinds of stuff – from Michael Jackson to Kid Cudi to Zac Brown. So music is and has always been a passion of mine.
WJ: It looks like you’ve seen the music industry evolve firsthand given your previous work at MTV. What excites you most about the future of music? Where do you see the industry going?
JL: The digital revolution has democratized music like never before. There used to be a time when people had very limited options for discovering and consuming music. All you could really do was buy physical albums from a record store. From the perspective of local artists and musicians, there also weren’t many options that allowed them to be heard apart from, say, performing for a small audience in a local bar. Today, anyone can create a YouTube channel and put their music up on iTunes, which I think is a pretty awesome development. These are exciting times, and I just hope voxx.io can be a part of it.
WJ: What metrics do you use to measure success, and what are your goals for the next 12 months?
JL: We’re really still figuring that out amongst ourselves. Winning was great, and I think we were all generally surprised by the overall response since Startup Weekend. That’s definitely leading us to think that we should pursue it. We also all have other startups/projects that we’re working on, so for now, we’re more about just setting up some early wins for the team. Our immediate goal is getting a couple of retail establishments on board and refining the product.
WJ: Most music sharing and streaming startups employ business models centered around subscriptions and, to a certain extent, advertising. What does voxxio’s business model look like?
JL: We’re considering a couple of potential revenue streams. One idea that we all like is increasing a user’s musical influence on a venue based on how much they purchase, so if you were to buy a round of drinks, your music profile would be given more weight on the playlist than it would have before you made the purchase. Anytime you can drive sales, you can monetize that. To the consumer, we’re also looking at adding in a jukebox-esque function, where consumers pay a fee, say 25 cents to a dollar, to have a specific song played in a particular venue. To the venue, we’re looking at charging a flat monthly subscription fee for using our product. All of these seem to be pretty feasible as soon as we’re up and running.
WJ: Great job bagging first prize at Philly Startup Weekend! How was that experience? What did you guys take out of it?
JL: The weekend was just plain awesome. I don’t think anyone on the team knew each other beforehand, so PSW really is what got us all together. In terms of what we took from it, I’d say the most important accomplishment from that weekend was from our two developers. Incredibly, over the course of 48 hours, they were able to build a working product and prove that it is indeed possible to generate a playlist based on data from check-ins. Without proving that, we would have had nothing.
WJ: To what extent has being part of the Wharton community helped you get voxx.io to where it is now? Any words of wisdom for other hopeful Wharton entrepreneurs?
JL: Well had I not been at Wharton, I definitely wouldn’t have done Startup Weekend. I was encouraged to do Startup Weekend from a few different angles, and all of them were Wharton-related. Both the eClub and the Founder’s Retreat back in August made me think that Startup Weekend is definitely something I should try. I really like how the school encourages us to get out of University City and work with other entrepreneurs in the Philly area.