A Q&A with Timbre founder and CEO Mark Kasdorf. The Cambridge, Massachusetts–based company was founded in 2012 and closed a $360K Seed funding round in early-February. Investors include Atlas Venture, Boston Seed Capital and Bantam Group.
SUB: Please describe Timbre and your value proposition.
Kasdorf: Timbre is a location-based band discovery app that helps users find live shows in their local area. The app displays a list of all local shows in a surrounding area determined by a user’s location, allowing users to sample each artist’s music via iTunes, share the concert with family and friends via Facebook and Twitter, and purchase tickets, all within three taps.
The majority of performing musicians rely on ticket and merchandise sales in order to earn a sustainable income. YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, and comparable services have already allowed them to sell their music anywhere on the planet, yet their friends and fans struggle to discover their live shows. We seek to create an unbiased platform that enables users to connect to these local music artists and, on the other hand, help bands attract more audiences.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Kasdorf: Music lovers and artists. Discovering live music in your city is complex and can be challenging. Every venue has its own show list, ticket providers can only promote the shows they sell tickets for, and there is no easy way to sample the music of each band in your area. An average music lover must sift through a world of noise before they enjoy music they truly enjoy. And for artists, it’s increasingly difficult to get noticed with a limited marketing budget.
With Timbre, we seek to change the way people discover local music. We have invested heavily to enhance the robustness of our search results, in order to make sure our users are able discover lesser known up-and-coming bands as well as the popular artists playing in their local area. We believe Timbre is an app that changes how people spend their weekend nights. Fortunately, we are not the only ones who think so. Timbre attracted more than 100,000 downloads in the first six weeks, and to date, we have seen more than two million artist discoveries and 70,000 ticket requests made through the app.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Kasdorf: Timbre is solving a problem that many others are trying to solve. While music discovery is a very crowded space with leaders such as Songkick and Live Nation that target the live music niche, it’s safe to say that Timbre offers a unique experience that is not offered by any other apps out on the market.
SUB: What differentiates Timbre from the competition?
Kasdorf: Timbre’s mission focuses on creating a simple and innovative tool to connect music lovers with their local music scene. Unlike other apps that scan through users’ music libraries in an attempt to discern their preferred music taste, Timbre plays a wide assortment of music from bands performing in your area. By intentionally leaving out search filters, Timbre encourages users to discover what’s happening around them and encourages their ears to aid in the decision making. With the minimalistic interface, users are able to very quickly browse the list of local shows, find a song or band that they love, and purchase tickets—all within three taps.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Kasdorf: Initially, Timbre was as an internal project developed out of its parent company Intrepid Pursuits. The first working prototype of Timbre received phenomenal feedback from beta testers in the community. After four months of development effort and many iterations of working prototypes, the team created the user experience that Timbre offers today. Timbre was released in the Apple App Store on September 7, 2012. As Timbre was fortunate enough to receive support both from the Boston and Cambridge startup community and strategic placement from Apple, Timbre has since been spun off as its own entity.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Timbre? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Kasdorf: Timbre, believe it or not, was birthed out of a Hackathon back in May, 2012. The Boston Innovation Challenge, put on by the Harvard Business School and sponsored by the Boston Globe, aimed to inspire developers to create apps that sought to ‘connect disconnected communities.’ Spokespeople from many industries described their visions for a more connected community. One local Boston musician described his difficulty in reaching his local audience, despite an abundance of great venues in his area. In response to this very challenge, Matt Bridges, the CTO of Timbre, created the first version of Timbre to serve as a simple tool to connect music lovers with local bands.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Kasdorf: Timbre got its name from a short list of names that our CTO Matt Bridges kicked around. For the non-musical readers, Timber is the musical term meaning ‘the character or quality of a musical sound or voice as distinct from its pitch and intensity.’ An interesting story is that we actually spent a decent amount of time deciding how we pronounce the name. Theoretically the word ‘timbre’ should be pronounced as ‘tamber’ instead of ‘timber,’ but people seem to pick up the latter pronunciation right off the bat.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Kasdorf: We have been fortunate in our success. Few app creators have operationalized the formula for success. With no prior connections with Apple, Timbre was featured as the number one ‘New and Noteworthy App’ during the iPhone 5 launch, which was both incredibly humbling and tremendously valuable for the company. It’s safe to say that our success so far has been a combination of a killer product and a little bit of luck.
SUB: You just raised $360K in Seed funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Kasdorf: The Seed funding definitely allows us to grow at a much faster speed. As we just released fully localized versions of Timbre in 36 countries, the next step is to focus on growing our user base worldwide.
We are constantly evaluating features to improve the user experience of Timbre. We have been extremely careful about which features we add to Timbre, despite a growing backlog of user feature requests. Of utmost importance is staying true to the simple and intuitive UI. One new feature we are very excited about is the seasonal curated playlists. Ahead of the Grammys, we added a playlist of every single nominee so our users could listen to the nominated songs and albums by nominees of all 82 awards. We have big plans for the featured lists—think national and local festivals, Tastemakers’ lists, and the like. We have some other exciting announcements up our sleeves for the coming months.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funding?
Kasdorf: We were actually not actively looking to raise a round, but the excitement around the app in the Boston area actually led to investors knocking on our door—rarely a bad thing. Thanks to the tremendous support from the Boston and Cambridge startup community, Timbre was selected as one of the five startups to pitch to a panel of Boston investors in a session modeled after the ABC reality show ‘Shark Tank.’ After a five-minute pitch, Fred Destin, partner at Atlas Ventures, made an offer. In the end, our Seed round was oversubscribed at $360,000 led by Atlas Venture, Boston Seed Capital, Bantam Group, and other Angel investors.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Kasdorf: In 2011, worldwide concert ticket sales accounted for $10.3 billion of the music market. Half of those tickets were purchased through a digital medium, and this trend is growing. This, coupled with a 50 percent year-over-year growth in streaming music subscriptions, creates two solid streams of revenue for Timbre.
Timbre’s focus in the music industry opens multiple revenue channels. The first and most obvious is ticket sales. Strategic partnerships will enable Timbre to become a retailer of concert tickets that will help our users locate, sample and purchase tickets to a variety of concerts and festivals. Other sources of revenue could include festival integration and white labeling, along with music sales.
SUB: What are your goals for Timbre over the next year or so?
Kasdorf: We’ve set a number of milestones that we’d like to hit in 2013. One of the major milestones is to make Timbre available on different devices and platforms. Again, this goes back to looking for the best way to integrate features in the app. We have made a firm decision to provide a consistently stunning and simple user interface and user experience as we expand to other devices and platforms. In addition, we are going to explore the opportunities to partner with companies and organizations in order to improve different aspects of the app such as ticket purchasing, curated playlists, and music streaming.
Timbre – www.timbreapp.com