" The most valuable people in a startup are the people who believe in the vision and future of the company. " - Parth Saxena, TommyJams
With an aim to revolutionize live entertainment through innovative technology, TommyJams was founded by Parth Saxena and Nikhil Kapur in 2012. The founders are both Computer Science engineers, who graduated from Delhi College of Engineering in the year 2010. Parth is also an IEEE Gold Medalist.
In an exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers, Parth talks about TommyJams, his team and co-founder Nikhil, how engineering helped him to start up with TommyJams, the importance of technology, the failures their team had to face and their learnings.
Read on to know more about TommyJams and their entrepreneurial journey.
CE: Hi Parth. Could you tell our readers more about Tommy Jams?
Parth: TommyJams builds a functional community of artists, venues and fans like never before. We revolutionize live entertainment through innovative technology.
We provide flexible, transparent and scalable web/mobile solutions through which venues book the right artists, artists crowd-fund to tour across cities/countries and the city audience gets to attend the most suitable events on-the-go.
We incubated at Stanford University's Venture Lab, accelerated at the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator as one of India's top 10 technology startups and are now building a global presence with the Startup Chile program as one the world's top 100 ventures. Our upcoming mobile technology is supported by AppCampus Finland, a Microsoft and Nokia collaboration.
CE: How did you get in touch with Nikhil Kapur, your co-founder at Tommy Jams?
Parth: Nikhil and I have known each other for over 8 years now. We were batch-mates at Delhi College of Engineering. Over all these years, we have worked together on several projects, including our thesis project with DFKI, Germany. After university, we graduated to work with Microsoft and Texas Instruments. Apart from building technology, our interest also lied in exploring music and live entertainment.
So, one fine day, the idea of TommyJams struck us. That’s when we both quit our jobs to pursue building the company. Our motivation was to combine two of our dearest passions – technology and music.
CE: Could you tell us a bit more about your educational background? How did engineering help you in starting up with Tommy Jams?
Parth: I have graduated from Delhi College of Engineering in Computer Science and then pursues Technology Entrepreneurship from Stanford University’s Venture Lab where we first incubated TommyJams.
Engineering led me to learn and build technology. I have worked on many international projects across several countries around the world in the past 10 years. All this knowledge and experience helped a lot in understanding how to build a technology platform that could revolutionize live entertainment and facilitate the flow of music across cities and countries. Without an in depth knowledge of engineering, it would have been hard to bootstrap TommyJams from scratch. Knowing what to build and quickly learning how to build it reduced our initial costs and helped us sync technology with music in a very efficient manner.
CE: How are you preparing Tommy Jams for the Indian market?
Parth: The live entertainment industry in India (and around other parts of the world) is based only on personal networks. The event-agencies are scattered and segmented due to geographical constraints. This limits the scope of performances, and holds back artists from getting new venues and performing across different cities/countries. Also, due to lack of professionalism, many artists don't receive their due payment on time. There is a lack of transparency in the money flow, and a large part of the allocated budget is absorbed by the middle-men (event agencies/promoters). This imposes pressure on the artists, making it difficult for them to earn a livelihood through their art.
TommyJams builds and supports a flexible yet credible community of artists, venues and fans, where booking and attending performances across cities/countries is made as easy as possible, through user-friendly web/mobile technology. Using this platform, venues launch their events on-line and book interested artists to perform, in just a few seconds, and fans stay tuned with all the events happening in their city and get closer to their favourite artists and venues.
The availability of such a credible platform helps artists to discover events beyond their limited personal contacts and helps venues to invite a much more diverse set of artists from different cities/countries to perform live at their events. Fans get to stay updated with all the events happening in their city and engage themselves in these events through our web/mobile technology. The money transactions are made transparent between the artists and venues, without any engagement of middlemen (event agencies/promoters). The credibility of our artists, venues and events is tracked well with the information (feedback, ratings etc.) we collect on our systems and the analysis we do with that information. This leads to fine quality events handled in an organized and structured manner.
CE: What are the most and least rewarding aspects of this type of work?
You get to work on something you are truly passionate about. It gives you a very fulfilling feeling if you are able to make a significant impact.
Most of the people don’t believe in you when you are in your darkest times. You need to continuously believe in yourself and hand on to your dream.
CE: Which skills and abilities are most valued in your field? Which ones are currently in demand?
Parth: Technology Development (Web/Mobile/Cloud), System Architecture, Design, Business Development, Business Strategy, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence.
CE: What were your biggest failures? What did you learn from them?
Parth: We are too young a company to define major failures. However we have faced a few challenges on the way:
- Firstly, we bootstrapped the company with just $300. So, the initial few months involved a lot of struggle. We had to sacrifice many things to reduce our costs so we could work on building the company for a longer period of time. Over time, we started generating revenues and people started seeing a value in TommyJams. Since then, we have continued to maintain good focus on our vision and have used our resources, in terms of time/effort/money, responsibly and diligently.
What I learnt – Your resources are very limited when you start a company. Value them.
- Once the company started growing, we needed more quality people in the team. With limited capital, it was hard to get the best people work with us. As the entrepreneurship ecosystem established, we saw more people believing in what we did and wanting to work with us. This led to having a brilliant team of employees and interns work together to execute our vision.
What I learnt – The most valuable people in a startup are the people who believe in the vision and future of the company. Forming a well-knit team out of them is probably the most important thing in the initial stages. This is all that will hold the venture together through many initial ups and downs.
- Another challenge we faced was related to scaling. As we worked on building a global presence, we had to start to delve into understanding different markets, cultures and languages. Much effort still goes into deep-diving into the ground-level details of what happens in a particular market (city/country/economy) and how can our technology solve things for the better.
What I learnt – Building a consistent and credible brand across demographies requires a lot of understanding. One needs to carefully consider and clearly act on the aspects of cultural sensitivity in order to successfully scale a business and take it global.
CE: What haven’t I asked you that I should have? Please answer the question too ?
Parth: Q. Is it worth it to take the risk of leaving a lucrative job and starting up a company?
A. Maybe. Maybe not. In my opinion, it does not matter. Don’t overthink on this question. Many have spent years doing the same.
You’ll take the risk if you have to.
CE: Thank you for your time. Any message for our readers?
Parth: Believe in yourself. Go forth and do well. Wish you the very best!