Focus on the startup: Jamm Around, the big winner of Entrepreneur Week
After securing distribution rights with EMPIRE Distribution, New Orleans native Brent Craige and his fraternity brother Marlon Butler in 2020 began creating an album through their independent label. But they ran into more difficulties than they initially expected.
“We were tasked with bringing together engineers, producers, rappers and singers to make this album,” Craige said. “But we struggled so hard.. the album didn’t make it.”
It was around the same time that their friend Donovan Williams became an app builder. At the end of that year, the three formed Jamm Around, a networking app that allows musicians and others in the industry to make connections faster through free or paid subscriptions.
A few weeks ago, Jamm Around won first prize at IDEApitch, the culminating event of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. This made the founders eligible for a $400,000 investment, which would be their largest yet. Jamm Around was also the only black-owned startup out of 12 companies in The Idea Village’s VillageX growth accelerator program this year, which produced the startups competing in IDEApitch.
“Jamm Around is a special undertaking that represents the enormous potential of what can be built in New Orleans,” said Jon Atkinson, CEO of The Idea Village. “Built for creators by creators, the company is redefining the way musicians, globally, connect and collaborate.”
Ground: When it comes to the music supply chain, the main problem Craige said he encountered was at the songwriting stage of the process. Whether it’s production, distribution, or delivery, each stage has different applications that compete to give musicians the best chance of an organized experience. However, the music composition step requires multiple apps, which Jamm Around seeks to address.
“What we’re basically doing is streamlining the music composition process,” Craige said.
Traction: Jamm Around went through an initial testing phase that included 700 users. They are now tracking its usage and found that an average of 13 people use the app daily. In the future, Jamm Around hopes to incorporate features like in-app notifications to encourage users to return and provide more accurate data.
“Of the 700 users [during the testing phase], we had 13,000 swipes. Each user sent about four requests on average,” Craige said. “So they’re using it, but we haven’t gotten to the point where we’re tracking that daily active user, which is what we’re really trying to do now that we’ve started after [the IDEApitch] competetion.”
Funding/Investment: Funding for the app initially came from the three co-founders’ own pockets, which they say gave them hands-on experience in building the business and the ability to scale it. Since the app is at an early stage, IDEApitch’s $400,000 investment is their first official funding. The co-founders are now looking to family, friends and community members to invest in the business before moving on to other investment ventures. Additionally, they have started building their advisory board with the help of The Idea Village, the producer of NOEW.
“When we first entered The Idea Village’s VillageX accelerator program, we had nothing but a product with users, and they were good enough for them,” Craige said of the launch. helping the nonprofit while trying to grow Jamm Around.
Marketing: Since the app is still in its beta version, it is available for free download from the Apple App Store or Android at www.jammaround.com. Newtral Groundz, a digital media company founded by Craige, played a vital role in spreading Jamm Around. They also looked at a few paid ads that test which formats work best for the business’s needs.
Competetion: An Australian company called Vampr launched a similar app in 2016. However, Craige said Jamm Around differs due to Jamm Around’s connection to the hip-hop market. Moreover, the target audience of Jamm Around is only music creators, unlike Vampr which opens its services to other professions.
Challenges: Craige said finding investments has been difficult at times. The company previously approached six different investors and was rejected by Google for Startups: Black Founders Fund, he said.
“That’s why I want people to understand that you don’t need tens of thousands of dollars; we built the app for $5,000,” he said.