For those of you who missed the Johnson Shark Tank, the big startup winner was Tunetap, founded by Feifan Zhou. The mission of the company is to “Create concerts without risk”. It helps musicians find venues and actually fund their concerts through crowdfunding from their fans. Feifan was kind enough to share his thoughts on entrepreneurship, as well as his plans for the future of Tunetap.
Comments from Feifan Zhou:
How did you get into entrepreneurship?
In middle school I had a friend who turned me on to the idea of starting a company. I hadn’t really thought about the concept until then, but the idea of building something of my own, and the ability to leverage my work to make an impact on the world, really resonated with me. Between the two of us, we attempted to start a few projects, but we didn’t follow through with them because we had no idea what we were doing. I wasn’t introduced to the art and culture of entrepreneurship until I arrived at Cornell, and joined a startup shortly afterwards.
Favorite Cornell resource?
I was thrust into the entrepreneurial scene at Cornell, where I got to meet incredible people, many who are now friends and mentors. Many of these encounters happened through the Popshop, a fantastic coworking space just off of campus. The Popshop remains a meeting and working place for about a dozen Cornell startups.
When I decided to set out on my own venture, I had very little experience, and no clue what I was doing. Nevertheless, my friend and I started what would become Tunetap (although it would take us many months to get to Tunetap, after a few pivots across the first half of 2013).
Has the Tunetap team divided roles/titles? How did you decide who was doing what? Do you believe in assigning titles?
Since September, Tunetap has grown from a simple idea between two friends to a team of nine, solving a problem that we’ve discovered is a real pain point. We find people that the rest of our team would want to work with. Most took the initiative to reach out, and we brought on a few developers for winternship on the condition that they would learn the basics of Rails (a web development framework) on their own, before they arrived. Everyone on our team has an area of expertise, including web development, marketing, and setting up shows to make them happen, but everyone also has to think and talk about all aspects of the business.
Have you had any funding?
We haven’t taken any outside money, bootstrapping all our expenses so far.
How do you plan to use the Shark Tank grant? Any additional future plans?
Our Shark Tank win in early February gives us more flexibility to put on bigger shows, letting us learn more and gather more data on customer behavior. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be producing and promoting a number of shows, to make progress, collect more data about customer behavior, and get better at producing shows. We’re applying to a number of startup accelerators and competitions across the country to help us move faster and provide some funding for our summer so we can move full time, not only producing shows but also supporting a platform for others to do the same.
What tips would you give to entrepreneurial students thinking about starting their business?
I think being in college is the best time to start a company. It’s the most risk-free part of life. It’s definitely a lot of work ‚ it’s as much as, or even more, than a full-time job, on top of my engineering schoolwork. But at college, there’s already housing, and abundant food everywhere. There’s tons of brilliant people with different insights into all the parts that come together to make a company, and in many cases, the resources and support to do the things we can’t. And even if things go wrong, it’s still a fantastic story to tell at an interview.
I tell people about what we’re doing, even before we’ve started. Getting the idea out there keeps us accountable, and starts building support from our community. But it’s still incredibly hard. There have been days where I’ve wanted to drop everything and go back to sleep. There have been days where an industry veteran of 20 years tells us we’re solving a big problem for tons of people in a multi-billion dollar market. And somehow, we keep moving one step at a time, playing our next move in this game of life.