London startup of the week: This Is My Jam
Each week, we’ll be featuring the most exciting and innovative
startups in JAXenter’s hometown of London. To nominate startups to
be featured on the site, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our exploration of London’s startup scene continues with an interview with Matthew Ogle, the co-founder of This Is My Jam, a year-old social network for music fans.
What’s your elevator pitch?
This Is My Jam is the best place to put your favorite song right now -- the one you can't get out of your head. A bit like a musical "current status", we make it easy to personalise and share a song across all your networks. Then when you follow people, you get all their current favourites in a convenient playlist. Our focus on slow, considered song sharing means the quality of music and discovery is really high.
When was the company founded?
We actually started out inside another company! The first version of Jam began in late 2011 as a side-project incubated by our parent organisation, Boston-based music data startup The Echo Nest. By the time we launched our public beta in February 2012, we were getting enough traction that we started taking steps to spin out into a separate entity, and we're figuring out how to finalise that process now.
How many staff, and what do they do?
There are just four of us so we all wear a lot of hats. Roughly, I (thisismyjam.com/flaneur) lead product, Hannah Donovan (thisismyjam.com/han) leads design, Ralph Cowling (thisismyjam.com/_ralph) and Andreas Jansson (thisismyjam.com/ndreasa) manage the front- and back-ends of the service, respectively. All four of us are pretty immersed in music and tech; Hannah and I each spent 5+ years at Last.fm, Ralph runs club nights and does pirate radio, and Andreas has just started a part-time PhD at City University in music informatics.
Where are your offices based, and what are they like inside?
The Jam Factory is inside Shoreditch Works, a fairly new co-working space on Scrutton St. We share the space with a lot of interesting young startups, and the building itself with some more established players like MOO. Our corner has a lot of band posters and stuff posted up, plus a couple displays mounted on an autopole that reflect site stats and usage back at us. Unless, of course, there's a space launch or a tech keynote on!
What technologies are you working with (client and server side)?
Our stack is fairly diverse, but at its core is a pretty traditional LAMP setup running almost entirely on Amazon servers. (You can blame the PHP on me, a symptom of Jam starting on my laptop in 2011 as a lazy weekend project!) Things get more modern at the edges; we have a Python-based testing and deploy setup, an increasing amount of data in Redis, and a healthy sprinkling of the usual JS frameworks plus some Node on the front end.
What technical difficulties did you overcome to get to market?
We wanted Jam to "just work" with existing sources of music content online, so that the next time you found an amazing track on SoundCloud, YouTube, or any other service, Jam could help you personalise and showcase that song, as well as help you share it out to Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Last.fm, etc.
Doing that in a way that is not only efficient, but also looks great, always plays, and is downright fun is an ongoing challenge that spans everything from API plumbing through to copywriting. But it's a challenge we relish; the end result is a much more focused and beautiful kind of song sharing that's more rewarding than just chucking another Youtube link onto Facebook.
What are the company’s plans for the future?
We're in the process of figuring that out! We have big ambitions, from going mobile to building cool new ways of sharing and exploring our growing universe of favorite songs. We're currently to talking to a lot of folks and looking at various structures that might let us do that.
What are your three top tips for wannabe entrepreneurs?
If you can, scratch your own itch. If you're working on something you care about and that you genuinely want in the world so that you can use it, you can rely a lot more on instinct and move a lot quicker.
If you don't have the skills to draw, code, or develop your own prototypes to explore your ideas, then spend some time learning how. It'll help you find the right way to execute your idea, and when you hire people more talented than yourself to help scale (which you should also do!), you'll understand each other a bit better.
Answer support emails from your users yourself. Nothing helps prioritise feature development like having to write the same response over and over.