Never estimate the power of design — Creating an app with a beautifully intuitive design is important to success. Users need to subconsciously connect emotionally to your product.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcus Cobb, Co-Founder & CEO of Jammber. Marcus Cobb is a technologist, product designer, public speaker and successful entrepreneur. Cobb hails from modest and humble beginnings in El Paso, Texas where he was born and raised. He has become a highly sought-after investor, mentor and strategist for numerous organizations. His most recent role is CEO and co-founder of Jammber, a payment-workflow platform for the music and entertainment industries.
Cobb discovered the benefits of computer science at the age of 7, when his elementary school installed their first computer lab. He created his first computer game at age 12 and was an IT manager of a multi-million-dollar marketing company by age 19. At age 21, the Las Vegas Review Journal endorsed him as a “computer prodigy…and one to watch” and his story has been featured in multiple publications including Tim Shaw’s book, Blitz Your Life.
By his early twenties, Cobb had established a reputation for providing companies of all sizes with strategic advantages through his technical innovations and building high-performance teams. He went on to work for Fortune 50 companies including Microsoft, Dell and CitiGroup; amassing a remarkable project portfolio.
Having started his first venture at age 18, Cobb returned to his entrepreneurial roots after his tenure in corporate America. He joined the early leadership team at TicketsNow.com which grew into a $270M acquisition by TicketMaster. He subsequently founded and sold enterprise software company EIDO Software; his first solo exit.
Cobb launched Jammber in 2013 with the mission to simplify metadata collection and royalty payments for creatives. Comprised of a diverse group of music creators, business and tech experts, the company is based in Chicago and Nashville. Jammber got its start in Nashville’s Project Music, the music tech accelerator program, and has acquired over $5.5M in investor funding. As of today, Jammber tools have been used to create thousands of projects. Some of those projects include sessions from Paul McCartney, U2, and One Republic, spanning genres from country to hip-hop.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Ithink I have been an underdog by all definitions from the beginning, but computers gave me a competitive advantage. Whatever I imagined; I could make it come to life on the screen. From that, I was able to build a career that has spanned a couple decades — from startups to large corporations.
Jammber is a manifestation of all that experience. I am able to use technology to give our clients an advantage. We listen very closely and carefully to the problems creatives face within the music industry then ideas — like light bulbs go off — come to us as we find the best solutions to these challenges. We try to be the best in the world at solving problems for our customers.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My co-founder and I visited a major music company. While they were showing us around, I noticed stacks of checks on a conference table. Literally, millions of dollars in unpaid royalties were just sitting on this conference table. It wasn’t because the company didn’t want to pay them out, they just didn’t know who or where to send the checks to. It was hard to wrap my head around it for awhile, but I knew technology had the power to fix it.
The most interesting part of getting people paid faster is that it is a problem hiding in plain sight. It’s so around us, that a lot of us don’t even realize how big of a problem it is because it is the norm in the music industry. It takes awhile to get people to open their eyes and to understand why, as an industry, we need to get creatives paid faster. Now that they have, Jammber has an extraordinary opportunity to change the world.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
The problem Jammber is solving is so large that it requires investors to be a part of its story. It has been a challenge to fully educate investors about the problem of royalty payments. As a result, we’ve raised a lot of money via multiple smaller checks, which takes a lot of time. While it has been difficult at times, I don’t think I ever considered giving up.
Luckily, the problem has become more public. With artists and songwriters coming forward to talk about their struggles to get paid in interviews, and even lawsuits, the general public has become aware of what a major problem royalty payments are. It has given Jammber’s efforts more credibility.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
This is the year that we found ourselves and understood what we need to do on the royalty administration side of the business to help creatives get paid faster. Now we are just excited to release more apps to help creatives get credit and get paid faster.
We are proud that we have found a way to use technology to serve creatives. It was thought to be impossible to get creative’s money all in one place, let alone a mobile app. We’ve been able to create an app, called Splits, that does just that. The excitement that we experienced from around the world helped turn Splits into our fastest growing app ever. It just speaks to how important getting paid faster is to our users.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
It wasn’t funny at the time, but it is funny looking back in hindsight. It was on a feature that we thought we tested thoroughly; however, when it went live it spammed all our users with thousands of welcome emails. Our clients woke up with five to ten thousand emails in their inboxes from us. It was definitely a bad day.
In the end, it taught our entire team an important lesson on how we engage with our clients. We learned that we need to treat our client interactions like they’re sacred, because they are.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are many things that make Jammber stand out. First and foremost, our team, the Jammberites, have a way of making our users feel like we have their back no matter what comes their way. This kind of personal connection has really resonated with our clients. We are all here to serve and it shows.
Secondly, that desire to serve our customers well comes through in our designs. The Jammber products are the most beautiful products on the market. We invest a lot in the details to give our users the best experience possible.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I tell people it’s like when you’re in grade school and your picking your team for basketball or football — It’s the same way you want to pick your team in a startup. You want to pick the people who are the best in the bunch and who are great team players, they’re aren’t ball hogs and they play to win. Most importantly, you want to pick people that want to win as much as you do and they have the skills to help you win.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Personally, I believe it takes a village. It’s hard to highlight just one individual when there’s been a series of amazing people. I would say the first entrepreneur I ever met, probably had the biggest impact. Her name was Charmaine. In just a few hours of meeting her, she helped me focus on what I could be and how to embrace my gifts. She didn’t care what I didn’t have or where I came from. To me, that was very liberating.
Most impressive to me was how she used her success for good. She was active in her community and gave back. That showed me the type of entrepreneur that I wanted to be. I strive to live up to her example.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
- Grassroots Approach — We meet the creative where they are at, whether it’s conferences, showcases, writer’s rounds. Our personal connection with potential users has been of great benefit.
- Word of mouth — We have learned, if we treat our users right that they will tell their entire network about us. We’ve had users make social media videos praising Splits, which has led to mass downloads.
- Direct Referrals — By nature, Splits is referral based. Users have to invite their collaborators to the app in order to approve song ownership percentages. A typical song has two to four co-writers.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
One of the challenges we felt was important to solve was how to make the main functionality of the app free, while also building a healthy business. We believe creatives need access to tools like Splits to capture their song ownership because ownership leads to higher royalty payments. When we help creatives collect their royalties, Jammber makes money from those transaction fees.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know your customer — We have a very specific customer who expects a higher-end experience.
- Test early & often — Splits would not be what it is today without candid user feedback. The features that we are most proud of came directly from user suggestions.
- Solve the hardest problem first — We knew that getting split information from songwriters was difficult across the entire industry. We had to address this first before we could make any inroads on getting creatives paid faster. Everyone said it couldn’t be done, yet we did it.
- Never estimate the power of design — Creating an app with a beautifully intuitive design is important to success. Users need to subconsciously connect emotionally to your product.
- Focus on customers over competitors — You cannot concern yourself what others are doing. When you focus your attention on your customer, you can create the best user experience for them. This creates loyalty to your app.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would require 50% of all men in power to yield their seats to a female counterpart, all over the world.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m easy to find, it’s just @jammberceo on Twitter or Instagram.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!