Tuesday, June 09, 2009


It's always exciting to see industry friends/colleagues reach the impressive milestone of product launch, and it's even more exciting when the product is something that actually has some legitimate potential. Such is the case with Tunezee, a music search and discovery engine co-founded by Ogi Todic, who I've had the pleasure of knowing for a few years now. I recently had the chance to touch base with Ogi and get some more details about Tunezee's current business as well as their future plans.

Q: In a nutshell, what is Tunezee?

Have you ever remembered a few lines from a song, but have no idea who sings it or what the name of the song is? Tunezee allows you to find that song/artist through search using lyrics or other descriptors, confirm the results via our SmartKlip service, browse full lyrics of the song, view videos and purchase music and related merchandise. The SmartKlip service is a short music clip which corresponds to the search phrase. It allows you to hear exactly the part of the song that you've remembered. This will help you find the song you have in mind much faster.

Q: How did the idea for Tunezee come about?

It was a combination of a couple of things. I was working on a project that involved digital audio processing for a video application. In talking to my friend (now co-founder) we thought the technology could power a music search service that would be more powerful than what is currently available on the market. Both of us had been in situations where we knew the line from a song but not who sang the song. We knew how bad the user experience was around music search, so we figured we could make it significantly better.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and the folks behind Tunezee

Tunezee was started by myself and Tony DeFranceschi. Tony has a strong business background; he worked at McKinsey for a number of years where he consulted software, telecom and mobile device clients as well as held operating roles at two startups. I've held different technical roles at a couple of Silicon Valley companies that created some innovative technologies and services. Most recently, I have been running a software consulting business helping various startups as well as the Stanford Technology Ventures Program on building software systems. I'd also like to add that Tunezee would not be what it is without our stellar engineering team.

Q: What is your primary value proposition for both users and content owners (specifically music rights holders)?

We help users quickly find the music they are looking for, connect with music, share their findings with friends and acquire music via their preferred online store. The current user experience is fragmented in that users often have to go to multiple sources/websites to search for music, confirm the results, and then take action (for example, buy music or share findings with friends). We aim to streamline this process and to create a one-stop music search and discovery service.

We help content owners monetize their content more effectively. A user’s attention span is increasingly becoming shorter and shorter. If a user is exposed to a song (radio, concert, party, restaurant), but can’t easily find it and reconnect with it, the likelihood of that song being purchased diminishes significantly. That is why we created a simple and effective music search solution – Tunezee – which will help increase the sales of music and associated merchandise.

Q: What problem or absence in the marketplace does Tunezee solve?

Tunezee provides an effective search and discovery solution in the music space. Our goal is to fill a void in the music search space, which is currently addressed via a combination of standard search engines and cottage industry websites.

Q: How many songs do you currently have in the database, and what does the future growth of this database look like?

We have hundreds of thousands of songs (over a million if you count the same songs on different albums).

As for future plans, our goal is to provide a service where users can quickly find any song for which they are looking. This will require significant growth in the number of songs, as well as song and user metadata, which will enable a better search experience. There is still room to enhance user experience and provide users with the most relevant results when they are searching for music.


Interestingly enough, within a few days of our Q&A session, the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising published a report revealing that longer, higher quality free music samples engage more listeners and reduce the number of free riders. According to ScienceDaily.com, the report concludes that "an effective digital music free sample strategy should involve high-quality, long samples of the music being marketed, the researchers conclude. This makes it more likely that the consumer listening to a sample will buy the full product, whether that's a CD or a track download, rather than being a free-rider."

Data such as this bodes well for Tunezee -- now let's just keep our fingers crossed and hope that the music industry agrees!

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Truth be told I've known about this initiative by Coinstar for a little while now, mainly through following one of the companies (Rixty) listed in the release, so I was thrilled to see this news hit the wires yesterday because it's a great example of a traditional brick-and-mortar based business finding creative ways to get in the new media world game.

The basic premise is that Coinstar is allowing consumers (read: pre-teen and teen gamers with no access to credit cards as a way of paying for their digital entertainment addiction - I mean, hobby) to turn in their coins in exchange for pre-paid spending cards for onling games, virtual worlds and social networks. Some of the other digital entertainment properties attached to this initiative include Aeria, Stardoll, WeeWorld, Adventure Quest Worlds and, perhaps most importantly, Facebook and MySpace. I'm sure that more companies in these spaces will soon follow suit and join the Coinstar consortium -- the question is, can mainstream media companies be far behind? Hulu pre-paid card anyone?!

Just when you thought that Sparkletts water bottle full of coins was never gonna see the light of day!!

Monday, June 01, 2009


In the spirit of covering topics that my readers are interested in, today's blog topic comes from a good friend and former colleague of mine (Ed) who wrote to me recently asking if I could write a "how-to" article of sorts about how to navigate the angel investor waters. In these challenging economic times, coupled with the complex landscape found in the venture and private equity worlds, angel investors occupy a very worthwhile niche within the start-up ecosystem -- typically offering a combination of funding (albeit generally at lower amounts) and hands-on assistance that the majority of bigger money shops can't or don't offer -- although as we've read recently a handful of them are starting to set up "seed bet" funds.

Like many of us, Ed has spent many years in the digital media space and along the way has put together some potentially viable business ideas/plans that he would love nothing more than to incubate them and see if there's any "there" there. The challenge is that Ed, again like many of us, falls outside the traditional demographic of "bootstrap entrepreneurs" - early to mid-20s, living either on campus or at their parents house and funding the development of a business idea through credit cards, family loans, etc.

While many in the investment community would argue that this is the only demographic worth funding, I couldn't disagree more (and yeah - I may be a bit partial since I'm a bit past my 20s!) since those of us who have "been around the block" can and do add tremendous domain expertise and business acumen to a venture. The challenge becomes that those of us who are a bit older actually have lives and obligations -- kids, mortgage, bills, charity work, friends . . . and as such, are not in a position to max out the credit cards to help fund a business idea. But just because you're not willing to take that risk doesn't mean that your idea isn't viable.

In my quest to get some answers and potential clarity, I decided to go directly to the source and pick the brain of a prominent angel investor and industry colleague of mine - Mark Sigal. In addition to being an eight-time entrepreneur (four-times as co-founder) and 'platform guy' with deep domain expertise in digital media, social networking, software as a service, systems management and embedded systems, Mark is an angel investor and also authors an industry blog called The Network Garden.

Mark's advice for folks like Ed who have potentially great ideas and are looking for some help from the angel investor community to help them make those ideas reality:

* Ideas are a dime a dozen, now more so than ever;
* Proof is what you pay for, and proof is achieved one of two ways. First, build something to a base minimal functional state that can show whether "the dogs will eat the dog food." Second, have SERIOUS pedigree such that you can prove that you've been there, done that before;
* If you lack the ability to code, persuade someone to code your idea for equity only in order to achieve that base functional state.

The harsh reality is that there are less active angels right now since everyone's net worth has been whacked 20--50%, meaning that former investment dollars are now going towards personal expenses (read: room and board, lifestyle spend and/or "weather the storm" spend). In the axis between fear and greed, fear (and by extension poverty) still have the upper hand. In Mark's humble opinion, without most or all of these bullet points addressed, then chances are you're shit out of luck save for taking the route of the 20-somethings.

While I'm sure this isn't exactly what Ed may have wanted to hear, it does seem to reflect the current realities that we're facing with the economy. But even in these challenging times, I do think that great ideas that achieve some level of visibility beyond just a Power Point and a corporate summary do get noticed -- after all, weren't we here once already after the bubble of Web 1.0?!

As always, comments are welcome -- ideally here on my blog as opposed to my Facebook page or Twitter feed - but I'll take them anywhere!

And please keep the topic ideas comin'.