Venture Capital and Mobile Apps – A Case Study

 “It is impossible to win the race unless you venture to run, impossible to win the victory unless you dare to battle.” – Richard M. DeVos

First – download the app by clicking this link:
When I first moved to San Francisco two years ago, my good buddy (and room mate) Ed was fresh off his first company exit.
In true entrepreneurial form, he immediately started thinking about his next venture. Fast forward to late 2012 and I would come home to a group of engineers in our kitchen, sketching out business cases and wireframes on the whiteboard above the wine rack. The idea centered around passing music between people, similar to Bump technology.
It was true startup mode. Pizza and half full beers, investor checks laying on the floor covered in coffee stains, and a constant demand for faster wireless. New faces were always coming through our apartment and crashing on the couch. 2am text messages that said, “You up? Got an idea.”
As years progressed so too did the company. CopThis (now Merchbar) was maybe the first (only?) startup in SF to build the entire pitch deck into an app that was live on the app store. Seriously – we built an app that would move the slides when you touched the screen. Then he would just send investors links to download.
Eventually a pivot came. While the pioneering energy of sharing music on the individual level brought excitement, it was missing something in the business model. Around the same time, it became very clear that another opportunity was staring them in the face – mobile e-commerce for band merchandise.
The model was solidified and the team was formed. Ed (founder) and Aston (first employee Dropbox, early OKCupid) started building the iOS prototype. Others joined these two and the momentum grew. Every day I would walk into my office and there would be another desk attached to our island. “Oh he’s a Python guy.”
Merchbar gained traction and began raising money. I’ve never seen people on the phone so much. As a mobile and internet marketer, I spend a lot of my time building things and looking at screens. Across the table I witnessed multiple days where someone was on the phone for 10+ hours a day. Always be closing.
I started to see TestFlight builds come out. QA for every possible scenario. Test orders. SEO strategies about getting better website traffic. This thing was actually going to happen. Wow.
Behind the scenes I was watching another side of the business come to fruition – the contracts necessary to sell band merchandise. What I have learned is that the music industry is a pretty small group of people that control a whole lot of intellectual property. If you don’t have the rights to sell something, you’re going to get a big, big slap on the wrist.
Co-Founder John Hecker helped solve this problem with his deep connections in the music world. Even though he is across the country, his involvement was like that of any other. Deliver the deals. Sign on the dotted line. Get it done.
They had the contracts. They had the product. The had the interest. They raised the money.
Now they’re going after the customers.
The day you launch you first app is always something you’ll remember. I’m sure most of you do. Granted, this is a bit of a different scale, but the butterflies are the same. Excitement. Opportunity. The ecstasy of potential. text
Merchbar went live on September 16th late at night and is humming along nicely. The last few days I’ve walked into the office and seen a dashboard display showing orders, revenue, traffic, etc. Every few minutes something goes up.  The business is slowly spreading it’s wings, testing the air.
In case you haven’t already downloaded it, here’s what the app offers:

  • Gear from the world’s best artists in your pocket 
  • With 100,000 items of official merchandise from 3,000 artists including The Beatles, David Bowie, The B-52s and Beck, we have the bands you love and the gear you didn’t know you needed.
  • Browse and discover great merchandise you didn’t know existedMerchBar
  • For Me – Merchbar uses your music library and Facebook to create a personalized feed of the best merch from the bands you love.
  • Low Price Guarantee – Our prices always match or beat the prices in artists’ official stores, guaranteed. 
  • Unmatched Customer Service – Including Phone Support

In other words – it’s everything you ever wanted that 200 person line to be at the Skrillex show you went to last week….without the line. It’s sick.
Download the app here:

Big Things Happen

Never forget that big things happen every day. Not just in San Francisco, everywhere. The most important lesson I’ve learned from watching MerchBar is that true grit is, in fact, the most powerful force in business.
Work hard for what you want. Believe that great things will happen to you.
Disclaimer: I am an investor in MerchBar. I want it to succeed. This post is my own opinion….but you should still download the app 🙂

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