Evolving Entrepreneur: EA Conference preview

UCLA EA Conference 2014

The 29th annual EA Conference hosted by UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Entrepreneur Association will take place this Friday, May 9. The Evolving Entrepreneur conference theme explores entrepreneurship in an ever-changing landscape. “This year, the EA partnered with the High Tech Business Association to create a bigger and better conference. We thought that the theme would also be fitting for the adaptation required of entrepreneurs given rapid advancements in technology,” said conference executive committee member Kristina Bidovec via email. “The theme will be incorporated into keynotes and panels with questions focused on the changes occurring in different industries and how they have adapted.” The event will include nine panels on various topics in entrepreneurship, critical business skills, and emerging opportunities. Conference panelists Ashley Crowder, co-founder and CEO of hologram technology VNTANA, and Alex Reinlieb, founder and CEO of crowd-curated sharing platform plug.dj, shared their insights on going global, adapting to industry changes, building a strong team, and their top recommended resources for startups. Crowder and Reinleib will speak on the panel, Entrepreneurship in Music and Events: Challenges, Opportunities, and Trends.

What are the most important factors startups should consider in building international communities?

Crowder: Start with who you know. I have good friends in Singapore, Shanghai, and Seoul, so that’s where we started. Utilize your university network. USC [where Crowder studied engineering] has a really big alumni network, not just in southern California but also in Hong Kong and all over that we’ve tapped.

Reinlieb: Know your audience. From the beginning we have appealed to a very lean way of building our product and methodology. We’ve always released early and released often and tried to shape our product around our community and listen to what people want. We’ve had several million people use our product in over 190 countries.

What components have been most helpful to build a strong core team within your company?

Crowder: My business partner and I get along really well. We complement each other n our strong points. We make all the decisions together. It’s an equal team. I think that’s very important.

Reinlieb: In terms of building a team, it’s easy to settle on people because you often need people right away. It’s easy to try to settle with the first person to come across whether they’re a good fit or not. They may be a technical fit, but not a cultural fit. It takes a high degree of patience and takes a degree of honing the interview process to see who makes the most sense for where the business is.

What are the major changes occurring in the industries your company touches and how is the company adapting to those changes?

Crowder: I think the biggest change in the music industry is that the majority of revenue is now made from live performances and tours, not on record sales. There are only 52 weekends in a year. Artists can only physically play so many shows. Our whole pitch is we help artists reach more cities and play more venues in the same amount of time.

Our main competitor is Musion, the hologram company that did the hardware for the Tupac hologram at Coachella. The main difference is our system is much more scalable and easy to set up.Theirs takes three days to load in and a day to load out. It doesn’t make sense to do for a one-night event, whereas ours does. We also have the flexibility of live streaming an artist as a hologram from anywhere. That’s definitely something that only our company can do. We’re also not as expensive.

Reinlieb: The music industry is evolving quite a bit, most notably in the last few years. One of the things we’ve identified from very early on is while people are using us mainly for music, we’re really a community driven product above all else. Our product is all about bringing people together and fostering the growth of positive communities. We very much consider ourselves to be at the apex of the gaming, music, and community driven experience. We have a bit of a different flavor and take on it than some of the others in our industry. We are at the in between area, at the intersection of different industries.What are your top recommended resources for startups?

Crowder: We use DreamHost to host our website. It has big server storage with unlimited emails, which is nice.

Reinlieb: The most useful resource that I have is my network – people that are just starting companies as well as those people who have companies that are slightly ahead or are much further ahead. In terms of figuring out what service providers to use, that’s something that has mostly come from recommendations from others. There are so many cloud service providers now for hosting or HR admin or payroll or cash management software, whatever it may be.

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