brazil-mobile-music
Software & Web Development

Q&A with Brazilian Internet Radio Startup Superplayer

My first impression on arriving at Superplayer’s dojo is that of finding a tech company untouched by capital. The space is an old open-floor house close to the heart of the city of Porto Alegre, the southernmost capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, but distant enough to keep the staff focused.

 

Although the house is located across from a shopping mall, the weekdays are peaceful in the neighborhood – but not so much on Fridays and weekends, since there are some old school clubs around the quarter. Something tells me that Superplayer feeds itself from the nightlife.

 

This is an online radio which is so young, and yet so promising that over 4.5 million listeners have already used the platform since the launch on April 2013 - and numbers are growing. Not surprisingly there are some signs of serious strategizing: on one side of the room is the company’s mission, vision and goals for 2014. On the other lies a large Kanban wall with activities to be done, ongoing, and already finished ones.

 

I’m here to meet Gustavo, the youngest of the three Goldschmidt brothers, founders of Superplayer, to find out more.

 

Q: I noticed that you work with a Kanban wall. Is that Scrum? Are you working with Agile methods of software development?

A: Yes, we are. We consider ourselves to be one of the first tech companies in Brazil to be following very strictly the Lean Startup movement. There is not a better way to develop software and work with Lean than work with Scrum. As both methodologies are based on validation processes, we decided that they were going to be our weapons of choice when validating our business model and now, to keep it under continual improvement and development.

 

Q: What was your first MVP - Minimum Viable Product? What was your first idea of business?

A: Back in 2011, we started investing in a project my older brother was already developing. His mother-in-law was looking for a portable way to listen to music. She was going to buy an mp3 player, when my brother stepped in the way and told her she didn't need mp3 players since she could use her phone to listen to music. As he is a software developer, he created a cloud based application so that she could upload her favorite songs to the cloud and listen to them in a webplayer using her smartphone. We thought it was a good idea and started working on it.

The business model was to be similar to Dropbox’s: charge per storage usage. And the growth model was also going to be based on the Dropbox’s referral system. The idea seemed good, but it did not succeed. Also, when we were developing the software, some big tech companies announced they were going to launch products to solve the sync problem. Then, we decided to drop the project and start working on the problem from the scratch.

 

Q: That’s interesting, but who was footing the bill and who was developing the software?

A: In the beginning, my older brothers and I were paying the bills with our savings. Since I was the youngest one and had less commitments, I decided to quit my job to focus totally on the project. As my two brothers were already executives or partners in other companies, they were not able to work full time at Superplayer.

My oldest brother was helping us to develop the MVP during his free time with a third party developer. My middle brother, who is a lawyer, always helped with negotiations and commercial strategies.

 

Q: So, you did not have a full time developer…

No, we didn’t, and that was a mistake. We had hired a third-party developer to help my brother; however, to validate a business model and pivot it as many times as necessary demands a team that can both absorb the lessons through the process and accept to change priorities. As third-parties are normally hired with closed scopes, it was almost a contradiction. It was not until the beginning of 2012, when we decided to bring two trainees to our team, that things started to move in a different direction.

 

A: Really, and how did that go?

When we hired trainees we were starting to reboot the project. As I was telling you, when we saw that tackling only the sync problem wasn't going to work, we decided to go back to the main problem and try to build a more holistic solution. We concluded that the download model that was the dominant one wasn't offering a good value for money to consumers. It was expensive, slow and too laborious. Expensive, because people didn't want to pay for just one song, which they were going to listen to only for a few months. Slow, because people needed to wait until the song was downloaded to start consuming it. Laborious, because all of the work that we needed to do to sync our music through all different devices. That's when we realized that the future could be something called "on demand streaming". The idea of that kind of product was not to charge for the music itself, but for the convenience of having a service that would offer customers any music they wanted, anywhere they were.

 

Q: And isn’t that what you do nowadays?

A: No, It isn’t. During 2012, we built some prototypes and tested them with some close friends, but they didn’t seem to be what people were looking for. In fact, we realized that people didn't know what to listen to and that they would always look for the same music. During these tests, we also noticed that people listened to music during other activities: at work, exercising or chilling at home.

We decided to build some playlists segmented by activities and test them with our friends. The feedback was amazing. They were loving it. They told us that even the time they spent listening to music had increased. It was in the beginning of 2013 when we decide to build a product from scratch, based on the online radio model, focusing totally on convenience.

 

Q: That’s really interesting. So, you actually found not only a sustainable business model but also that what you could offer was what people were looking for. Perfect, isn’t it?

A: Yes. In the beginning of 2013, on April’s fool’s day, we launched Superplayer as it is. People loved it and started to share on their social networks and blogs. Soon after going live we found ourselves on all kinds of media. We grew from a hundred users a day to a hundred thousand in a month. It was amazing! After two and a half years working to find a valid model, we finally did it.

 

Q: And what are your plans for the future?

A: Now we want to start customizing the user experience for each of our customers. As we track every interaction that our users do with our product, we know exactly which songs each one of them heard, skipped, hated or loved and, with those pieces of information we want to start offering a customized experience. Our dream is to offer them a better playlist, one that they would have built themselves, and follow them everywhere, being available in a varied range of electronic devices.

 

 

Frederico de Azevedo Aranha is a Marketing Graduate with a Post-graduation in Project Management and a Latin American entrepreneur. He would love to receive your feedback: aranha.azevedo@gmail.com

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Frederico de Azevedo Aranha

Frederico de Azevedo Aranha is a Marketing Graduate with a Post-graduation in Project Management and a Latin American entrepreneur. He would love to receive your feedback: aranha.azevedo@gmail.com

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