Podcast Transcript – Series One, Episode 22
Kirt Debique syncfloor November 2020
00:01:00] Kirt Debique: I was actually supposed to go when I was 15 and my dad thought that would not be a great experience. So I get there and I don’t cry or anything like that.
[00:01:07] So my mom would come pick me up. My mom is an interesting cat. I’ve never seen her afraid to try anything. So I decided to stay and I never told Stanford I wasn’t coming. So there’s somebody waiting for their TA to show up.
[00:01:18] I saw the independent music sector really disproportionately negatively affected, but you had an insight that said, if you could do that, then you would have transformed creative discovery. So how am I going to be for us to do a startup? Really? Like, I think I’ve heard this before.
[00:01:32] One of the things that’s hard about fundraising is that you hear a lot of news. Ultimately, when I look back at my life, I’m always going to look back at that and feel like we did a great thing.
[00:01:41] Dan: [00:01:41] What’s up on foundation, Dan Kihanya here. Thanks so much for checking out. Another episode of founders unfound that was Kirt Debique, founder and CEO of SyncFloor, a company revolutionizing discovery, and acquisition of music for productions of all types from advertising and podcasting to filmmaking, to fitness, to e-sports and [00:02:00] TV.
[00:02:00] This platform is so cool that we have founders and found. Chose the music for this episode from sink floors, dedicated site songs for podcasters.com. Kirt is a native of Trinidad, a former fast-rising executive at Microsoft, and the creator of his own indie music label. Kirt’s story is amazing and it starts with him coming to the US for college at 16.
[00:02:21] Our episode is sponsored by Black Women Talk Tech, an organization created to identify, encourage, and support black women throughout the tech startup landscape. They are hosting their Face of a Founder Summit on November 17, bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, and partners. Registration is free, but spots are limited.
[00:02:39] You don’t want to miss it. So sign up for this tremendous experience today. Find out more in the show notes or go to bit.ly/FOFsummit. That’s Bitly B I T dot L Y forward slash F O F summit. If you’re a new listener to founders unfound, we’ve got something special for all the black founders out there who are underestimated and under [00:03:00] celebrated.
[00:03:00] There’s another way to get onto our podcast. Just leave a review and a five-star rating on Apple podcasts or a pod chaser.com. If you do this and identify yourself as a black founder, I will read your review in an upcoming episode. So make sure to plug your company URL and all the relevant handles. We really appreciate your support for our mission.
[00:03:20] For this episode, I want to give a shout out and a big thank you to Jessica Sanon who gave us five stars and wrote:
[00:03:25] Finally a platform where I’m able to hear inspirational stories that keep me motivated as an entrepreneur. Keep the stories coming.
[00:03:33] Thank you so much, Jessica. That was great. Jessica’s organization.
[00:03:37] Systemic flow focuses on STEM education for women of color. This is a cool organization that prioritizes not just learning, but also access to opportunity and fostering dreams and aspirations. Find out more systemicflow.com or at systemic_flow on Instagram and Twitter, or simply at systemicflow on LinkedIn and Facebook and [00:04:00] systemic is S Y S. T E M I C. Be sure to check out the many ways to support Jessica and her mission. It wasn’t that great. Now’s your chance. Head over to Apple or pod chaser and drop us a review now on with the episode, stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:04:15] Hello, and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet, we bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This is episode number 22 in our series on founders of African descent. I’m your host Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it today. We have Kirt Debique, Co-Founder and CEO of SyncFloor, a company revolutionizing discovery, and acquisition of music for productions of all types from advertising to podcasting, filmmaking to fitness TV to [00:05:00] e-sports welcome to the show.
[00:05:01] Kirt. We’re super excited to have you.
[00:05:03] Kirt Debique: [00:05:03] I then thank you so much for having me on here. I’m really excited to get into it.
[00:05:08] Dan: [00:05:08] So first let’s help the listeners understand exactly what SyncFloor is all about.
[00:05:14] Kirt Debique: [00:05:14] So our mission is to connect creators to the music. They love to enhance the stories that they tell.
[00:05:21] We do that by connecting them through our marketplace of commercial music from the independent music sector, in the industry, from all around the world. And we do that for productions of all kinds. Uh, whether it’s an ad production or a film or a TV show or a podcast,
[00:05:38] we’re here to make it really, really simple, intuitive for you to find the music that you want, that fits your creative and lifts your narrative.
[00:05:46] And to acquire that music acquire the rights to that music to use in your production.
[00:05:50] Dan: [00:05:50] That’s awesome. And as a podcast, or I can tell you, this is definitely something that needed to be addressed, uh, as a layman, we often struggle as what does it [00:06:00] mean to have rights and where do you get music and how does it work?
[00:06:02] So, uh, super excited to delve more into SyncFloor and what it’s all about and how it works. Uh, but let’s start off with understanding a little bit about you. Where did you come from? Where’d you grow up?
[00:06:13] Kirt Debique: [00:06:13] Sure. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So I am from Trinidad and Tobago, a little Island, seven miles off the coast of Venezuela, 10 degrees North of the equator. And I grew up there until I was 16 years old. At which point I came to the States to go to college, um, at university of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida,
[00:06:31] Dan: [00:06:31] you went when you were 16. 16?
[00:06:35] Kirt Debique: [00:06:35] Yeah, I was actually supposed to, I was 15 when my dad thought that that would, uh, I would not be a great experience for anybody was like, usually we usually, we usually wait a year.
[00:06:48] Dan: [00:06:48] Okay. So, so, so hang on. So it was where you just go ahead and advanced, or is it the system in Trinidad that just prepared you at that age to go into college?
[00:06:58] Kirt Debique: [00:06:58] Yeah, it took a couple of different things. [00:07:00] You know, the educational system in, in Trinidad is, is, is really, really great. And. Um, and so structurally it’s set up that, you know, somebody who gets out of, you know, what’d, we call the fifth form on and does, you know, all levels, the exams you take to get your certification in various subjects, by the time you’re done with that, you’re really at a point where you could take the cool under the, you know, or take the SATs, right.
[00:07:24] And look to get admission to college. And that typically happens when somebody is like, you know, sort of 16, 17 in the internet. I happen to also skip a grade and. Uh, or the equivalent of agreed. Um, uh, because I was in sort of, uh, the, the school that I went to had a lot of streaming. So they tested you constantly.
[00:07:42] And, um, as you do all these different subjects and, um, and so at one point they said, okay, you’re going to skip a lot of the years and go further ahead.
[00:07:49] That’s how come I ended up at 15 being at a point where I could actually go ahead and do that. And, but, you know, like I said, I think. And I think reasonably, so my dad thought that, Hey, you know what, you know, you’re just not, you know, sort of emotionally [00:08:00] prepared for making that leap, uh, at 15. And so let’s take a year, did an additional year of school and, you know, kind of just got up, went to wrap my head around.
[00:08:11] No, you know what it was, it was actually a pretty fantastic year actually. Yeah. Cause I was, I was, you know, some of your budget you’re, you’re a kid you’re 50. you you’re like, okay, I know I’m going to go to college in a year. And I think fairly early on, I had, you know, sort of my setup in terms of like, you know, I had this call it the scholarship to go and blah, blah, blah, and all that type of stuff. So really I was just doing a year.
[00:08:34] Dan: [00:08:34] That’s pretty cool, but I can imagine, I mean, my dad came to this country to go to college when he was actually 20. I think so coming in at 16, you’re still younger. Then the folks that are matriculating you’re you’re culturally, uh climatizing to United States. So what was that like? I mean, will you, were you in shock or you were just like, wow, this is cool. I’m just gonna roll with it.
[00:09:00] [00:09:00] Kirt Debique: [00:09:00] It was pretty, it was on a number of different dimensions, you know, in terms of, you know, keeping up with the curriculum.
[00:09:05] But that part was fine. I think I’d been essentially trained my whole life to, you know, sort of academically go do stuff ahead of my. Of where I was, where I was supposed to be.
[00:09:15] Um, so that was, uh, that was not the issue, but definitely culturally, you know, one good thing was that going to Miami, you know, Miami is a destination for, you know, immigrants from the kind of where I, where I’m from, um, locked.
[00:09:28] So, so it. You know, there are parts of it that just, you know, don’t feel completely crazily off. You know, I wasn’t necessarily going into deep winter in the Midwest or something like that. You know what I mean? Like, so, so being in Miami was, was good from that perspective, but still going to a different place, going to the States and being around people who are definitely at a different place. You know, emotionally, culturally, you know, um, you know, maturity-wise on certain dimensions was definitely something to get used to. I think I, you know, one thing that was helpful for me is that I pretty early, around, [00:10:00] early on found my people and that I found a job in the computer center there. And, you know, I was going to school to do computer engineering.
[00:10:07] I was already pretty fascinated with software and. And writing software and computers and stuff like that. And so I actually went to the computer center and I just started working, like, I’m the guy who ran the computer center team in one day. And he was just like, who’s that guy hire that guy? And they were like, I don’t know.
[00:10:21] He said he came in and he just started like helping people out and their stuff I’d go. And he had a desk and you had to print out some stuff. Like he just started working. So we were like, okay, I guess maybe he’s supposed to be here. And he was like, he came here. He came and talked to me and he’s like, Susan, what are you doing? I was just like, I don’t know. I just, I like this stuff. So helping out and he’s like, well, he’s like, I’ll tell you what we can actually hire you. Cause you don’t mind these and all that. And I can actually hire you until you do one semester. But at the end of the semester, we’ll hire you. And so I was like, see, I found that [00:11:00] people that, you know, started doing computer generic, working at the computer center.
[00:11:04] The other fun thing is that I, you know, I, so I got to get there and I don’t know, I don’t can’t drive or anything like that. So, um, so my mom would come pick me up
[00:11:15] Dan: [00:11:15] while you’re in college. Your mom would come and pick you.
[00:11:17] Kirt Debique: [00:11:17] Yeah. Yeah. So, so I would, I would have to wait, I’d have to wait outside the, um, the music school actually for her to come pick me up. And so I’d meet all these, like people from the music school is all, would probably also. So, you know, put a certain set of things into my pool and psyche. So let’s share serendipity there for Sarah.
[00:11:36] Yeah, exactly. So, so soft cell. So computers and music or
[00:11:40] mixing really early. Yeah,
[00:11:41] Dan: [00:11:41] yeah. Yeah. There you go. I was going to ask about that.
[00:11:45] Growing up in Trinidad, where you around music, did you play music
[00:11:50] Kirt Debique: [00:11:50] around music? A lot? My, my on my mom’s side, especially as a fairly musical family, there are a lot of singers and stuff like that.
[00:11:57] And there’s, of course, the very typical thing culturally, [00:12:00] where, you know, you grew up doing that in church, but also just, you know, sort of seeing. At different kinds of events and stuff that was always around. And then, you know, growing up for me, you know, in Trinidad, at least you were exposed certainly to a lot of the, um, top 100 top 40 blah, blah, blah, that kind of stuff. There was a, there was, I remember very distinctly a weekend reader showed was, um, they would rebroadcast, uh, sort of a top 100, uh, countdown from the States on one of the radio stations. Um, so I remember that being like a weekend thing is you’d be, you know, during the day doing your chores, doing whatever, and you’d be listening to this, this countdown. And, uh, so, you know, you can definitely expose to a lot of, you know, the mainstream music of the day,
[00:12:38] Dan: [00:12:38] matriculate through university Miami, which is an amazing thing still.
[00:12:42] So you came to Microsoft, which is about as far away from Miami, as you can be in the continental United. States here in the Seattle area. How do you end up at a place like Microsoft?
[00:12:52] Kirt Debique: [00:12:52] So, so, so it’s a bit of a story, you know, as in computer engineering and some of my friends there, um, uh, in fact, in fact, a particular friend of [00:13:00] mine, Eduardo, so Microsoft has this internship program, right? They run during the summers, right. It was a pretty big thing, um, that they bring interns in his paid internships as a group. Great stuff.
[00:13:08] Um, and you get to work on real stuff and you learn a ton and all that. So anyway, so, uh, one of my friends, he had done an internship the year before I graduated. And while he was there, for whatever reason, he decided to tell the recruiters, he’s like, yeah, look, I’ve got this, this friend back at UN who is like the stuff you guys shouldn’t even bother to interview. Cause they do the interviews on campus. And then they pick out of that pool of people to then send to Seattle to interview on campus at Microsoft. So he’s like, you guys shouldn’t even bother here. If you have, you should just bring him, bring him up. In fact, you really should just hire you guys even thinking. So they were like, Oh really? Okay. So,
[00:13:47] Dan: [00:13:47] wow. We, we all need friends like that advocate on our behalf and our agent.
[00:13:53] Kirt Debique: [00:13:53] Oh, of course. He, of course, he didn’t tell me any of this. Right. So I ever thought, like I got, so we hear here, you know, hot stuff. So. [00:14:00] We’re going to bring you out for this interview. I think they grilled me, but I, I, but, but at the end of the interview, they, they said, yeah, you know, want it to come here for an internship.
[00:14:08] So I said, yes, this would be great. It’s a paid internship. I could like you to see if somebody and stuff like that. When I graduated at the time, I had an admission to Stanford for computer science, um, after my undergrad. So, so I was on my way to Stanford actually. I come to Microsoft and about a month into my internship, they’re like, you know what?
[00:14:26] We want you to stay in full time. And, uh, you know, I kind of did the math and I was like, well, I could stay here and not starve, or I could go to school and be a starting TA or something.
[00:14:35] And so, so I sent it to state and I never told Stanford I wasn’t coming. So there’s somebody waiting for their TA to show up. So no problem. why isn’t this guy showed up. Yeah. You know. Um, but, but for me, I remember, you know, having decided that that’s what I was going to do, talking to my parents. And they were like, what are you talking about? You know, cause education in the Caribbean, [00:15:00] especially, and especially during that period, I was growing up.
[00:15:02] It was, this is super important. So, you know, people would send their kids a week for years to go do school, right. And to, to better themselves and hopefully make the next generation have a greater set of opportunities. So for them, they totally understood the idea of me going to Stanford, this thing called Microsoft. Right. So, what is that? So, uh, so that was an interesting conversation.
[00:15:25] Dan: [00:15:25] And for reference, we’re talking about the time when Windows was just coming out
[00:15:29] Kirt Debique: [00:15:29] that’s right. This was 90, this was 92. So say, yeah. So, so yeah, so you know what I mean today? Yeah, there would be like, yeah. Okay. You get it. But, but back then, you know, I mean, for somebody who wasn’t in the States and, um, kind of seeing what was happening on the, you know, the personal computer revolution as such taking another turn in the curve that, you know, they, they were like, we don’t understand that you’re such an engineer.
[00:15:49] Dan: [00:15:49] How did you convince your parents that it was the right decision?
[00:15:53] Kirt Debique: [00:15:53] Well, I was like, look, guys, you know, it’s not like you guys are, are going to somehow figure out how to have me not starve while I was [00:16:00] at Stanford. So, so I was like, I’m getting a salary and, you know, I know I’m really actually the real, the real kicker was that I said, look, if I went to Stanford, I would leave. And I’d probably come back to a job like this anyway, like, you know what I mean? Like I would, I would get done. And then I’d come back to try to do something like this, because this is what I’ve been wanting to do. Um, and so I’m at ground zero, you know, I might as well get in now.
[00:16:21] Dan: [00:16:21] Amazing amazing story. And so you have this great arc of a career, which we could have a whole separate episode on it at Microsoft.
[00:16:29] Kirt Debique: [00:16:29] It was a fun 20 years, for sure.
[00:16:30] Dan: [00:16:30] You touching all, all of these, you know, Seminole products and points in that company’s trajectory. So, uh, I’m sure you could write like a three, but at some point after, after a while it’s something. Gives you a niche or something. Yeah. So tell us about that transition and what became brick lane.
[00:16:53] Kirt Debique: [00:16:53] So, you know, this was in sort of 2011, 2012 timeframe, and, and I. You know, I, I was coming upon, [00:17:00] you know, 20 years there. Um, I was about to turn 40. It was a good time to reflect. We were actually also coming to the end of the cycle. I, at the time I was in the office, the business division in particular, working on office, uh, mobile productivity, uh, platforms and software and so on. And it was, and we were coming to the end of a big, you know, sort of product. Cycle.
[00:17:20] And so it all kind of, you know, shaped up to be a good time to just step back and think about what I wanted to do next. So that’s, that’s sort of one sort of, part of the background. The other part of the background is that you know, over the course of a period of time, I had connected significantly with, um, the Seattle artistic scene and music in particular. And I had been, you know, besides making music, I was also observing, um, a certain kind of disruption that was happening in the industry at the time.
[00:17:45] And this, you know, the music industry has of course gone through. A number of different disruptions at this particular one is the one, you know, out of which sort of the phoenix out of the ashes of streaming really, and looking at it, I saw the independent music sector, independent artists and [00:18:00] businesses, and so on really disproportionately, negatively affected by the time of that disruption. Which is also generally true. The independent sector tends to get hit hard.
[00:18:10] They tend to, you know, hustle and come back and find new issues and so on. But, um, in seeing that happen, I kind of thought, okay, well, I wonder if there’s a way that I can help given that it was a, a time in my life that I was trying to decide, what’s the next big, you know, kind of thing I was gonna do. I said, Hey, you know, I’m going to go do this. You know, we’ll start an independent music label.
[00:18:29] Um, and I’m going to build it around a set of principles that I thought could be really engineered to be artists focused and different, at least for the time, um, then than what was typical. That led to the founding of Brick Lane Records. So something that, that move was something that many people at the time didn’t,
[00:18:49] Dan: [00:18:49] I can imagine,
[00:18:50] Kirt Debique: [00:18:50] you know, the, there are all these people who were like, dude, you’re like Microsoft, and you’re doing all this great stuff, but you know, you know, a great trajectory and blah, blah, blah, you’re going to go do what [00:19:00] so, but, you know, I, I felt it was important to me and to people I cared about this. So I decided to do,
[00:19:07] Dan: [00:19:07] I mean, that’s an amazing shift for sure. And I’m sure there are just like there are people waiting for you and stand for. There’s probably some, some executive Microsoft who was like, I thought, I thought he was going to take my job. Where’d he go?
[00:19:22] Kirt Debique: [00:19:22] Exactly.
[00:19:23] Dan: [00:19:23] I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s a totally different rhythm, right? I mean, it’s
[00:19:26] Kirt Debique: [00:19:26] absolutely absolutely. Well, um, you know, it’s, it’s entrepreneurial at its heart, right? You’re you’re, you’re hustling, you’re doing your own thing. It’s very different from being. In, you know, sort of under the corporate wing and you know, it is also a different rhythm just in terms of like, if you’re connecting with artists, right.
[00:19:43] They’re on a different schedule, they’re on a different tip, you know what I mean? And, and so you have to really figure out how to dig deep with them, to get them to where they want to go. Part of me figuring out how to be there for them was that you know, I’m the kind of person that, you know, if I’m going to go do something, I go super deep on it so that [00:20:00] I have a lot of empathy.
[00:20:01] For, for the people involved.
[00:20:02] And so making music going on tour, sleeping in the basement of the Booker’s house in Switzerland, right. With the cap dining on the try to get it. You know what I mean? All of that is part of understanding than what my artists would be going through because I did it too. So yeah, you have to kinda kind of put yourself in different shoes for sure.
[00:20:22] Dan: [00:20:22] That’s a great story. Well, and I want to hear more about Brick Lane, but we’ll take a short break and we’ll be right back with Kirt Debique from SyncFloor.
[00:20:30] Black Women Talk Tech: [00:20:30] Hello, I’m Daniel Baldwin, digital marketing director for Black Women Talk Tech. We are an organization created to identify support and encourage black women to build billion-dollar businesses.
[00:20:42] We’re on a mission to raise the profile of black women founders in tech. And so we invite you to our face of a founder summit, November 17, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The summit is totally virtual and brings together our community of entrepreneurs, investors, [00:21:00] and partners to promote black women tech founders, and address funding needs across the tech startup sector.
[00:21:06] Join us in the hundreds of tech entrepreneurs who will attend and receive group mentorship on how to continue fundraising. Despite the additional challenges posed by 2020 attendance is free, but spot so limited. Join us by RSVP at B I T dot L Y slash F O F summit. We look forward to seeing you for this exciting and engaging event.
[00:21:34] Dan: [00:21:34] So we’re back with Kirt to beak from SyncFloor. And so Kirt, we were just hearing kind of the, uh, origins and evolution of, of Brick Lane. And you mentioned these principles that were foundational for how you want it to set up Brick Lane and how you ran it. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Sure.
[00:21:53] Kirt Debique: [00:21:53] Sure, absolutely. And you know, there, there’s a lot more talk now about know in a world that has a lot more transparency, right? [00:22:00] People can, you know, kind of get on a platform and talk about what bothers them about anything really nobody’s right. And people have, lots of people can hear about it. So there’s a lot more transparency about the issues that are a plea or that were a play. And it’s still to some degree, a Ripley in the industry. You know, when I, when I kind of came at it, I said, okay. One of the things that I was seeing was that for an artist, when you back them with, uh, you know, sort of funds to do their project and to help them manage their life while they’re doing their project, you know, it’s essentially a loan.
[00:22:30] Like, you know, there are lots of ways to talk about it and stuff like that. And typically the industry talks about, okay, here’s, here’s your advance. And you have to recoup through that with that advanced, the advanced includes what’s, you know, set up for the recording budget and things like that. But, you know, in, in our case, you know, what we were seeing is that because you have to re recoup, people are always underwater, right?
[00:22:50] So after they kind of get the thing done and they, the market, et cetera, and some amount of the budgets eaten for that. And, you know, um, and you know, making sure that they’re. Somewhat taken care of during the [00:23:00] process of recording and so on. Um, and, and support for touring and all that, you know, they’re still now waiting for enough to get me back to recoup through that before they start to see revenue.
[00:23:12] And so we said, Hey, what if we looked at it, actually in some sense, more like, you know, people invest in startups today, right? Where it’s, it’s certainly a risk, but you’re, you’re saying that I’m going to invest in you. Right. Um, and in the idea that you’re going to do well in the future, how do we both reap the benefit at the same time? Uh that’s kind of the first thing that we sent as a principle is that this is an investment, not a loan.
[00:23:34] The other thing we said is that you don’t get locked in. So really, you know, our thing was that you know, as a small label, there are certain things we could do for you as you started up. But what we, what we would gladly see happen, Is that you, you, you graduate to the next level, you graduate to a bigger label, you graduate to a greater publishing deal.
[00:23:56] You wa you know, all the things that show that you get to the next [00:24:00] level and have the next level of opportunities, we’re going to make it so that you’re not locked in. You do a project with us. If that project gets you to that next level. Great. If you want to do another project with us, we can do that too. Um, but there wasn’t any lock-in.
[00:24:12] Dan: [00:24:12] That’s not the norm, right?
[00:24:14] Kirt Debique: [00:24:14] That’s not, that’s not that, that was certainly back then. That wasn’t, that wasn’t the norm, the norm. Um, the other thing is we said that the splits were always artist majority. So, you know, and that that you know, this is a much more par for the course now where, you know, um, some of you might say, okay, well, it’s at least 50 50, but we all, we were always like, look back then. You know, people were always again behind on, you know, what percentage of the goodness the, they got a crew to them. And, um, and we said that we would always do artists majority.
[00:24:39] And so, you know, with, with all those little things kind of at play. You know, we felt that we were coming up with a set of principles that could attract an artist because we were, we were really philosophically aligned with them and could be super transparent about that alignment at the same time. I think it confused people in the industry at the time. Um, I remember, you know, one of the artists we signed. You know, when, when we were negotiating [00:25:00] with their, uh, legal team, they asked us straight out, they were like, are you guys a nonprofit?
[00:25:11] I was like, well, we just think it’s a good way to cheat the artist or something, something like that. So, so, you know, so it just wasn’t, it just wasn’t, you know, the way things were done typically today in today’s world is there are so many more avenues for artists to do things that. That, you know, they have more savvy and more leverage in some ways they also have less leverage because there’s so much music out there, right.
[00:25:34] So you’re still trying to find opportunity. And that, that actually is the thing that gets to the Genesis of st floor.
[00:25:39] But, you know, we said, Hey, we’re going to, we’re going to do this thing where, you know, sign artists, we, we, we put out some beautiful music so that, you know, ultimately. When I look back at my life, I’m, I’m always going to look back at that and feel like we did a great thing.
[00:25:52] We helped some really wonderful artists, make beautiful music, and put it out into the world and, you know, give back to the world in a way that makes it a [00:26:00] better place.
[00:26:00] Dan: [00:26:00] So I listened to one particular artist, um, in my research
[00:26:05] Kirt Debique: [00:26:05] really. Kurt Dabiq
[00:26:09] Dan: [00:26:09] I just signed him. He must’ve been a tough sell.
[00:26:11] Kirt Debique: [00:26:11] Yeah. That was the worst.
[00:26:12] That was the worst. That guy, that guy, and his team, they were they’re a paid, you know, but, uh, but yeah, you know, as I say, I, I, you know, I, I definitely. Spend time making music myself and,
[00:26:25] you know, as a form of expression. And, and, uh, we, you know, for me, part of it was a way of healing, you know, for some things that have happened in my life. But yeah, like I said, it gave me a lot of empathy for, for what, what, what, what our discourse is just going through that process as well.
[00:26:38] Dan: [00:26:38] A lot of sense. I mean, if I look back at this sort of this arc of your career, cause I know you worked in windows media, you’ve kind of touched all of the aspects of.
[00:26:46] Kind of the music creation journey from production and consumption to being an artist, to being the distribution mechanism or the, or the, the patreonic version, I guess, which is the [00:27:00] labels. Right. So
[00:27:01] Kirt Debique: [00:27:01] I should have, I should have had you back then. I mean, I know this is what we are.
[00:27:07] Dan: [00:27:07] When and having those, those principles of empathy and equity and wanting to, you know, level the playing field and make it sort of a, a more welcoming on-ramp for artists is, is a pretty powerful position.
[00:27:20] And I have a hunch, as you alluded to that, this helps set up the vision or the concept or the catalyst for sync floor. So tell us about how that, how that came about.
[00:27:32] Kirt Debique: [00:27:32] So know, going back to sort of that
[00:27:33] time period of, of, you know, jumping in to start the label to set a little bit of context. I’ll, I’ll actually talk a little bit about meeting my co-founder. So my co-founder, uh, Cestjon McFarland. She is an IP attorney and, uh, we met because she was lead outside counsel for Microsoft and on these large transactions that I was also. Yeah, that was also the technical lead on and on. So we worked really well together and we became friends and, and, you know, these were really complex transactions, like high value and, [00:28:00] you know, a hundred-plus page contracts. So, so we were like, yeah, we have a, we have a pretty good sense about how to. Navigate complex IP waters and transactional ones.
[00:28:10] So when I left to start the label, I said, Hey, you know, I’m going to need it. Good counsel. I have a friend who’s like a fantastic counsel. Um, you know, was a partner at custom DSL it’s things like that.
[00:28:19] So, so, so I said, Hey, you want to come on this journey with me? And she was like, yeah, sure. Yeah. She was like, Oh, you’re going to be. We’ve done all this hard stuff. It’s good. It’s music. Yeah. Famous last
[00:28:30] Dan: [00:28:30] little bit, you know,
[00:28:32] Kirt Debique: [00:28:32] so it turned out to be actually quite, quite the challenge, but we learned a lot. We learned a lot over the course of, you know, the four founding, you know, sink floor, which was in 2017.
[00:28:42] So, so we sent you a five years, uh, doing work with, you know, on brick lane. And we learned enough about the music business. To kind of say, you know what, there are some areas where we can, we think we can do better. Do you know? Um, just like there were areas we felt, you know, with the label, we could do some things better for artists.
[00:28:57] We saw that you have [00:29:00] a situation where artists and in particular, in sync and music licensing for productions ads, film, TV, the app, the access to opportunity was something that was really difficult because navigating that ecosystem was difficult for both parties. In terms of connecting.
[00:29:15] And so it became something that was really wrapped up in, you know, sort of how you navigate a network of relationships and you, you might have the perfect piece for production and just, nobody knows about you right then.
[00:29:26] And, and that happens in the world, certainly, but we felt that there was to an extreme, in some sense, and an extreme that, you know, sort of took a week from the opportunity for a sector that we thought had a lot of fantastic things to see. And, and a lot of great music that could lift narratives. So, so we, you know, we, we kind of sat and thought about that.
[00:29:44] And then, you know, the other thing that happened is that if you said, well if you’re going to build a business around trying to connect these ecosystems, you know, you want to look carefully at what the market it looks like. Um, um, you know, what, you know, sort of the market opportunity looks like and figure out is it venture [00:30:00] scale or not?
[00:30:00] Are you even going to be going down the path of trying to engage in, in, in venture
[00:30:04] capital? Um, funding around it and things like that. And what we felt we saw was that you know, you have trends it’s on the production side. So, um, the media production side and that he said, actually, you have a new golden age of entertainment, right. With, with lots of new money coming into, make that, uh, entertainment from players like Netflix and Amazon Apple songs.
[00:30:27] You have a new age of advertising. Where, you know, sort of social advertising and video as a lingua franca for advertising, where everybody now says, this is the way you communicate effectively with consumers is driving a ton of new production in that space.
[00:30:43] You have sort of new media right. Coming up. Right. So, uh, you know, podcasting as a, as a, as a great example. Um, so those are being created, you know, you have essentially the passion economy, right? Do you have Consumers as creators and freelancers and individuals who are creators be, [00:31:00] you know, the more creators you have and the more content being created, all of that creates this incredible dragon force on the need for music, right. Music. That’s the thing that is a differentiator, a lifter of narratives, a way of communicating emotion.
[00:31:13] And so, um, so we said, wow, okay. You know, more than maybe people realize. There’s this big sucking sound let’s get, you know, sort of say, Hey, Whoa, you got to find a way for those people to more effectively and efficiently connect.
[00:31:28] And in some sense, the EMTs even self-serve connect. Entirely ecosystem for music. And then we looked at the music ecosystem and especially the independent sector where we think that there’s a lot of great music to support. And we said, wow, it’s a very fragmented ecosystem. And so by the way, is the ecosystem of agencies and production companies. And so on that actually make the stuff on the media side, but it’s very fragmented because of some of the music side, especially in, in this independent, in this independent sector, there’s a large amount of music. You have the barrier to entry for creating music. Ha has gone [00:32:00] way down. And so therefore the volume of supply of music has gone way up.
[00:32:04] And so you have something like 60 million, I think commercial music tracks on Spotify today, uh, you know, 40,000 plus tracks of DB uploaded. So you have this vast sea of stuff in a very fragmented ecosystem. And so in some sense, you have almost a perfect state of affairs for creating, you know, sort of infrastructure connective tissue to bring these ecosystems together.
[00:32:25] And so that’s when we said, okay, we think there’s a venture scale opportunity for applying technology to more efficiently convect creative communities.
[00:32:33] Dan: [00:32:33] That makes a lot of sense,
[00:32:35] Kirt Debique: [00:32:35] built it around this concept of natural language music search. Right. Because we said, okay, well, what’s the thing that, you know, sort of, you know, differentiates us.
[00:32:43] Right. And we actually ended up finding that there were three core things that essentially, um, number one is that we were talking about. Great content. Right. And, and that’s, that’s an, a very important driver of anything that you want to do in this, in the media sphere. Right.
[00:32:56] And we have differentiated great content that we thought we could get access to. [00:33:00] Right. And, and in particular, because it was so fragmented, we could add value to them by aggregating. Right. Um, so that’s, so that’s, that, that was interesting. The other one is that we, we had an inkling. That there was this problem that, you know, people on the media side were expressing a desire for music in very creative, very natural terms.
[00:33:19] And that had to sort of ease synchronously, get out into the ether, to a set of people that might, you know, try to interpret it. Yeah. Respond with some stuff. And then the person on that side has to collect all of that stuff and put it together in a way they can actually dig through and then actually go through the productive process of trying to find what they want.
[00:33:39] Dan: [00:33:39] That makes a lot of sense because I know that, uh, I’ve worked with a few audio people and they’ll say things like, yeah, it sounds like Justin Bieber song by him wrapped in tin foil with double speeds. And it’s like, I, I don’t, what does that mean?
[00:33:53] Kirt Debique: [00:33:53] We actually spent a lot of time analyzing. We had access to an, uh, a significant Corpus of these [00:34:00] creative briefs essentially. And so we analyzed, they’ll try to say, well, is there like a common factor that we can derive that allows, that points us in the direction of building technology, building IP that could be differentiated for taking that kind of expression and turning it into music results out of an aggregated ecosystem of Greek music.
[00:34:19] Absolutely. So that’s the other thing we said. Okay. Well, we had an insight that said, if you could do that, then you would have transformed creative discovery, right? Creative, professional discovery, and you, that front door, that differentiated front door would bring in a lot of really interesting, uh, transactional fee.
[00:34:36] And then finally, the other piece was that the rights regime around the music is very complicated. You know, the analogy I, I tend to use it. I’d say, tell people that, you know, today, you know, music is kind of like if you went to, um, if you went to Airbnb and you search around for a while, You find something you’re like, ah, this place, this is the place. Right. And you’re like, okay, now, now you’re a tense because [00:35:00] you’re like, I got to get it before somebody else books.
[00:35:01] Right. So, so, so you send me to the host. You’re like, yeah, I love this place. I’m going to book it. Now. Imagine if the host then said, well, hang on. I need to talk to my roommates. And, and also I need to talk to the super and I think I have to find the building owner and talk to them and, and there’s a guy down the street at the pub. I gotta, I gotta talk to him right then. And I have to talk to his mom.
[00:35:28] Dan: [00:35:28] That’s a great analogy. Oh my gosh. Wow.
[00:35:31] Kirt Debique: [00:35:31] Right. And, and so, and so that’s, that’s how it works today. So there’s, there’s a, you know, in some sense, uh, an alternative path within the industry where, because that’s been so difficult. People have started to, and there’s more and more of a trend of this.
[00:35:44] They started to collect the representation of rights under single entities, right. They find ways to end up being what we call one stop in the industry. Right. So, you know, this single entity has figured out either because of the contract, they have the artists or the contract that they have. With the art, [00:36:00] a label and a publisher, or what have you, they’ve managed to actually put everything into one nice, neat box.
[00:36:05] And they’re like, I can wrap this into some ecosystem. Um, but what we found actually was there was a trend that more and more labels and publishers. So labels are becoming publishers as well. And publishers are becoming labels as well.
[00:36:16] They’re all, they’re all essentially trying to prevent this issue of somebody with. 2% of a part of a thing saying, no, no, no, I don’t like that deal. That doesn’t work. So, so they’ve all just, you know, in their own self-interest, right. To try to solve that problem. And so, because of that, it’s like, Oh, well, if that’s the trend, we can go focus on that content so we can find great content, high quality, high production value content that has consolidated rights. Um, and if we could learn enough about it, if we could crawl those.
[00:36:45] Those things we don’t have to, we don’t like, just like Airbnb, you don’t have to own your house. Right. You don’t have to have the keys here, so you just need to know about, right. So, so we’re building a search engine, that news about the one-stop great quality content in all of these [00:37:00] aggregated independent partners that we have. And on top of that search system, we can then build more things. We can, we can make it even more visual. We can include cultural references.
[00:37:09] So you could say, you know, this movie out of your library like I want something that has the feel of the sound of that movie. And then having gotten in there, there, we can say all of the other workflows, things that you care about collecting the setup, all you want and sharing it with others on the team, getting direct access to download.
[00:37:25] So you could try it in your edits. Being able to go, go through a licensing workflow that was simple, you know, and all that we could build all that around it. So end to end, you could go from desire for music to acquisition of the rights for the music, for your production in a way that didn’t have all of this pain and fear and friction.
[00:37:40] Dan: [00:37:40] I love it. I think you’ve totally nailed it. The macro trends are all feeding this need for a marketplace that streamlines discovery and workflow and access to licensing. Um, so it seems. Relatively obvious as you say it as the big opportunity, but I want you to take me to the [00:38:00] decision point of a rockstar in the corporate world at Microsoft, you know, uh, label mogul with break lane.
[00:38:07] Kirt Debique: [00:38:07] I don’t know mogul would apply, but you know, but that’s firing,
[00:38:13] Dan: [00:38:13] there you go. How do you step in and then say, okay, let me make this third act, which is, I got to kind of start from scratch and nobody’s going to know anything about what we, you know, we have great insight. How do you make that decision to say, okay, we’re going to go build a tech,
[00:38:26] Kirt Debique: [00:38:26] the tech company, part of it.
[00:38:28] Wasn’t the hard part. And I mean, I know I can build big systems. I’ve done it enough times and things like that. I hadn’t built a startup before. So that was a whole different can of worms. I would say, you know, there’s a part of this and I, I, I, you know, I have to thank my mom for it. Right. Like my mom, my mom is an interesting cat. I’ve never seen her free to try anything.
[00:38:47] I mean, you know, my mom’s a person who, you know, she was a teacher, a math teacher in Trinidad, you know, she jumped out of that and she decides to take her kids to the States and do something different there, she went and did you know, special [00:39:00] ed. Uh, I went and got a special ed doctorate. She’s the type of person who always like, if she saw something that she thought she had a passion around,
[00:39:07] even if it took a lot of jumping in with, you know, without seeing where you’re going to land, you know, kind of thing, she would just do it. You know, I got a little bit of that. I, if I really have a belief. In something. And in this case it was an extension of a belief that I could help, you know, an artistic community that I cared about and that there was a way to create better access to opportunity.
[00:39:28] Then I’ll just, I’ll do it. You know, I know there are plenty of things I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out. You know, I have to thank my co-founder, who the first part of like going, Oh, how hard can that be? And then we have five years of learning the music industry. I was like, So, how am I going to leave for us to do a startup? Really? I think I’ve heard this before, but all right, let’s do it.
[00:39:51] Dan: [00:39:51] That makes sense. That makes sense. And that’s these two key things that I want to bring out for the audience, which is one is this concept of. Just going for it. Just [00:40:00] do, it’s kind of the Nike slogan and stepping in part of entrepreneurship is stepping in where there’s unknowns. And so you have to have some comfort, but also this idea of having a co-founder, a lot of people ask me, like, should I, should I have a co-founder?
[00:40:15] And I always say having another voice. To collaborate with, uh, forget about the, sort of like how you look on paper and dividing the labor and all that. Just being able to talk to somebody else about these things, everything from the small decisions to, you know, should we partner, should we do this? Um, so I hear both of those things as, as kind of maybe some
[00:40:38] Kirt Debique: [00:40:38] absolutely absolutely.
[00:40:40] It’s so important. Like, look. Yeah, life is, life is better when you do it together. Yeah. I mean, there’s, there’s something to this idea of being able to carry water together. Right. In, in any kind of thing, whether it’s in your relationship in your life or your business partnership or that, you know, I, you know, I, I, I’m always fond of saying [00:41:00] to the team, um, You know, onward and upward, but a long, long, long climb, you know, we’re on K2 or something like that. Right. And, um, and you know, every once in a while you stop along the way that you reflect, but you have to kind of lookup again and go, okay, we’re going up there. And you know, sometimes that person over there is going to carry the pack and sometimes you’re going to carry the back. But it’s one of those things where having a co-founder is so essential.
[00:41:22] So sanity on a journey that has a lot of, um, not just a lot of unknowns, but a lot of hardships, as well as a lot of things that you want to celebrate along the way. And when you look to your left or you look to your right, or you want to even celebrate something right there, it’s nice to have somebody there because it rejuvenates you.
[00:41:39] And then in, in, you know, in the times when, you know, you can’t carry the water for whatever reason, you know, I think, you know, we’ve, we’ve talked, you know, when we met before I told you my, my six and a half-month-old son, Know, he was born with a severe heart defect and, you know, we had open-heart surgery in August and we were actually also in the middle of a fundraise [00:42:00] during that time.
[00:42:01] Right. And you know, you, you know, being able to have somebody while you have to kind of go do something else, be able to carry the water on something that’s, you know,
[00:42:09] Dan: [00:42:09] that’s amazing. Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. This has been a great conversation so far, but we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with Kirt Debique from SyncvFloor.
[00:42:18] Black Women Talk Tech: [00:42:18] Hello. I’m Daniel Baldwin, digital marketing director for Black Women Talk Tech. We are an organization created to identify support and encourage black women to build billion-dollar businesses. We’re on a mission to raise the profile of black women founders in tech. And so we invite you to our face of a founder summit, November 17, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
[00:42:41] The summit is totally virtual and brings together our community of entrepreneurs. Investors and partners to promote black women tech founders and address funding needs across the tech startup sector. Join us in the hundreds of tech entrepreneurs who will attend and receive group mentorship on [00:43:00] how to continue fundraising.
[00:43:01] Despite the additional challenges posed by 2020, registration is free, but spot so limited. Join us by RSVP at B I T dot L Y slash F O F summit. We look forward to seeing you for this exciting and engaging event.
[00:43:21] Dan: [00:43:21] So we’re back with Kirt from SyncFloor. So Kirt, uh, tell us about the dynamic of being CEO and CTO of your company at the same time. That’s a pretty unusual thing to maintain. How, how are you thinking about that?
[00:43:36] Kirt Debique: [00:43:36] I would say in the early stages of a startup, you simply, you simply wear many hats. Like that’s, you know what I mean? Whether, whether they are formally titled to Hatzolah. You wear, you wear a lot of hats. Um, you know, in our case, making clear that there was an aspect of my job given my background, right. That was about deep technical expertise. That it would take to actually, [00:44:00] you know, sort of to accomplish the vision we had for our transformation in music discovery, that was important to Telegraph.
[00:44:06] Right. And so, so having the formal title was, was useful in that sense. Right. Okay. And, and you just see, you kind of do, do what you need to do now in, in the long run, right? At some point you have to get out of the business of wearing all the hats because it’s, it’s the way you get to scale. Right. You know, the, the the team, the business, et cetera, And that’s really important that certain, certain points in time, but, you know, we’re, we’re still early enough that there’s a certain kind of cohesiveness that you get.
[00:44:34] Right. You know, you know, there’s a thing that they talk about that founders need to be deeply, deeply passionate about the product direction, and they need to have enough passion about the product implementation to be able to really wax poetic about it. When they talk to some people where that matters, they need to be the first salespeople.
[00:44:54] Right. Like, you’re, you’re doing hand to hand combat to, to bring in, you know, the first [00:45:00] customers or, or in our, in our marketplace, the first suppliers and all that kind of stuff. And so you can’t really shy away from any of it.
[00:45:06] Right. You have to, you have to just be part of all of it. So again, whether that’s expressed or unexpressed as in terms of title, right, you’re doing all, you’re doing many of the jobs and it’s just, as you scale, you start to figure out, well, where can I bring in skill sets that complement or enhance and augment what we have. And how do I put myself in a position to go tackle the next important challenge that we have as a company.
[00:45:30] Dan: [00:45:30] So I imagine that both of those titles won’t be yours for the rest of the history of SyncFloor.
[00:45:37] Kirt Debique: [00:45:37] I imagine. So I’d imagine so too. And so, um, but you know, you, you, you just, you do, you do what you have to at the time and, you know, um, in so far as that, I actually wrote a bunch, you know, Most of the code that actually that runs the service.
[00:45:52] It’s, you know, it’s, it’s appropriate for me to go give you the person that talks about it, um, at a low level of technical depth, when that’s, for sure.
[00:46:00] [00:46:00] Dan: [00:46:00] You mentioned in the last segment a little bit about fundraising, and I know you participated in a, an accelerator program. So maybe tell us a little bit about the fundraising journey forSyncFloor so far.
[00:46:10] Kirt Debique: [00:46:10] That was something that, you know, I hadn’t done at all, you know, uh, coming into to do a startup and sort of that in and of itself is a journey. And, um, you know, fundraising is taxing work. Right. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t think anybody should close their eyes to that fact as such, but I think one of the things that’s been really that I found always with each round that we did, I found that it really made us step back think really, really critically about where we were.
[00:46:36] And be really Chris about our narrative, not, not just in terms of where we came from, but where we were going. So, you know, narrating our vision, you know, getting to some degree, our own conviction about the steps that it would take to get from a to B and be able to really clearly express that that exercises is. You know, Lilly always, always important for a startup to be doing continuously and refining continuously [00:47:00] because that exercise comes into play when you’re selling, when you’re recruiting, when you know everything, right. You’re, you’re, you’re kind of having that conversation about who you are, where you came from, where you’re going, why that’s important.
[00:47:12] So let’s see. So when we, we founded the company in, in March 2017 and, you know, spent the first year really just. Underground hacking away at stuff. The lingo building of the first prototypes, really trying to, to again, see if. We could build this differentiated IP that did something that was actually fairly difficult.
[00:47:32] We got to the point where we felt that that was sort of pretty well done. So, uh, or, you know, I’m trying to show promise. And so at that point we raised the friends and family round. And from there we kind of said, okay, well, well, you’ve got a marketplace and some marketplace has, of course, the chicken and egg problem. Right. Uh, and so we said, okay, well, we’re going to take what we’ve built. And we’re going to go after supply first, which is a fairly typical choice for market businesses to go, who gets supply. And in particular, we felt that [00:48:00] we could, you know, market ourselves as a tool for our suppliers, especially the larger ones, to be able to mind their own catalogs in response to, to creative briefs.
[00:48:10] And so that gave us sort of a single-player mode. This allowed us to get in front of. You know, various folks, we use the network that we have from being, you know, uh, having a label. And so got it very far in front of various folks had them try stuff out. It became a really great proxy for understanding what the searches that would eventually come in, were on how they were evolving because you’re essentially getting those people to use those briefs, the search, you know, on behalf of those clients. So you’re getting a lot of interesting data that helped us refine the search engine and tune, you know, tune the, the model for it. And so on.
[00:48:44] So we spent, uh, we spent another good year plus on that, on building supply and building that ecosystem. I’m getting to a credible point, um, in terms of thinking about a launch and that, and that, that was when we said, okay, we think it’s time. We’re still at [00:49:00] pre-seed, but we think if we can, it’s time to attract some institutional investment.
[00:49:03] Because it’ll take us to the next level of prepares for a journey that we think is gonna require, you know, stages of investment to really go after the growth and the very, very large opportunity that we S we see.
[00:49:14] Dan: [00:49:14] So once you decided to do that, um, help the listeners understand. So how do you go about finding institutional investors? Because this is usually the big question people have about connections and networks and intros. And so how did you think about it?
[00:49:29] Kirt Debique: [00:49:29] You know, uh, you know, so, so one thing, you know, there’s the. I don’t want to call it mythology as such the farmer. Right? If you think about the early twenties person in the garage and you know, that kind of thing, you know, kind of coming up and getting the, the break. Yeah. And, you know, I think, I think a lot of people have found that the reality of that is different, right.
[00:49:49] Either, you know, if you’re just coming up, sometimes you get a lucky break, but a lot of times it’s because you have some network that you’re able to leverage in some way. I think also the stats show that, you know, sort of [00:50:00] the average age of founder founders is a little older than most people probably think, you know, getting to a point where you could go take this kind of risk.
[00:50:07] Sometimes it’s helpful to, to be able to say, okay, well, I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I can at least for a year or two years or whatever. We’ll try this other thing and not have, you know, the rest of my life goes upside down.
[00:50:20] So, you know, I think in, in my personal case, it was, it was that, you know, I had a 20-year career at Microsoft. You meet a lot of people in that time. And if you, if you do good work and, and, and, and established great relationships, In that context, you, you know, when you’re doing something new, people are like, Hey, what are you up to like, Oh, yo, wow.
[00:50:39] That’s kind of crazy and interesting.
[00:50:41] How can I help? You know? Um, and so you, you find ways to kind of connect with people and there’s no straight line, you know, the way we met the person who is the founder of the VC, that is our lead VC investor was, you know, Sue. Another connection that we’ve known, you know, [00:51:00] someone, someone who we’d known for I’ll tie it up, Microsoft, he moved on to another, you know, uh, business and, you know, we, we kind of continued to cultivate and talk about what we were doing because he did give us some really interesting advice. And ultimately he was like, Oh, you know what?
[00:51:14] I think there’s somebody that I know that would be, you know, a good conversation. Why don’t you guys talk? And so in talking to, to, you know, same Kirby Winfield, um, from Ascend venture capital. Um, in talking to him, he had significant passion about music. Had a really good sense for what we were trying to do and why that was an interesting venture skill opportunity.
[00:51:34] Then once you got one person with a deep passion invested in what you’re doing, Right. And invested, I’m saying invested emotionally and intellect, but once you get that first thing, then as they’re trying to think about things, they’re also thinking, Oh, who else should I talk to you to think about it?
[00:51:47] What you’re talking about? And you start to meet more people in that community. We also had like some, you know, great, you know, friends in, in things like cork there, then it, Hey, who could point us out? Cause you know, a lot of when you think about it, who [00:52:00] then goes in and becomes as part of the VC community, you’re going to find a lot of people who they themselves were. You know, at some point in the business or corporate group. So, um, you get connected into that value. So, so we, you know, we had the good fortune of being able to leverage a career, a long-standing career and a network to then meet people and find, and find the people that. You know, um, we’re really interested in and invested in what we’re doing.
[00:52:27] One of the things that’s hard about fundraising is that you hear a lot of news, right? And you can certainly take away from that, that there’s something wrong with what you’re doing, right? So you have to have a lot of conviction as a founder of what you’re doing and realize that, you know, people’s reason for saying no is simply that they don’t see what you see.
[00:52:43] And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with what you’re seeing. It’s just, they don’t see it, or they’re not passionate about it, or it doesn’t match their thesis. Or they are not at the right point in their fund to, to do, to take that particular risk right now, or, you know, or there are a million different reasons.
[00:52:57] Dan: [00:52:57] Yeah. So I’m hearing three key points [00:53:00] here, which is really great. One is leverage the heck out of your network and no matter what size it is or how long you’ve been in the professional world. Or your personal connections, you have some networks. So leverage, leverage that as much as you can. Second is this is very underestimated.
[00:53:18] You know, if I, if I had to boil it down, I would say 80% of fundraising is finding that first. Entity or person who is passionate and willing to go out on a limb, so to speak and maybe think about who else can syndicate with this. And the other 20% is then the paperwork of finding those other people are talking to them and saying, well, if in this case Kirby, if Kirby’s in, then I’m in, right?
[00:53:40] Kirt Debique: [00:53:40] Yeah. Yeah. And it bears repeating on the, on that particular point that. You want somebody that is really passionately, intellectually invested and ideally also emotionally invested because emotion, isn’t a bad thing in this, in this sense. Right? It’s like, they actually really feel it in their bones that like, [00:54:00] this is something that is going to change the world.
[00:54:02] Right. And you want that like, so you, as a founder, you are interviewing those people as well. Right. Even if, you know, there, there’s this idea of, you know, whether it’s smart money or anything like that, you’re, you’re what you want. Especially at the early stages. Isn’t money for money’s sake. Right? You, you want people who actually really are like, no, no, no, you’re doing something here.
[00:54:22] I, and not only am I going to invest in you, but I want to help you succeed. Not just because of my investment there, because I think it’s going to change something important. And so I’m going to find ways, you know, I’m going to dig deeper. Right to find ways to help you on that journey.
[00:54:36] Dan: [00:54:36] And that’s the third point is this idea that not everybody’s going to get it.
[00:54:40] And the reality is if you’re a startup, that’s going to be disruptive and change the world in major impactful ways. You’re doing things in a way that hasn’t been done before. And so by definition, if it was straightforward and clear and obvious, And everybody would understand it, then it let everybody be doing it.
[00:54:58] And so it [00:55:00] is definitely not to be taken that investor saying no means you don’t have an opportunity and that you’re not, you’re not onto something. And like you said, there’s a, there’s a, there’s a bunch of other reasons that investors pass that really almost have nothing to do with you. Is it fit their ownership model?
[00:55:17] Does D you know, is it a space that they know, or maybe they don’t wanna, they don’t wanna. Branch off into that space. You know, one of my friends, who’s an entrepreneur says, you know, I don’t judge my progress in fundraising, by yeses. I judge it by nose. Cause I know I have to get to a certain amount of nos before I’m going to get that.
[00:55:35] Yes. So I taste, I taste the nose to get them out of the way.
[00:55:39] Kirt Debique: [00:55:39] Exactly. Too soon. Exactly. Exactly. You’re going to get a lot of those. That going back to your thing about co-founders I, you know, having somebody to commiserate with them after your teens. No. Right. That’s another, you know, it’s like you support each other right through that.
[00:55:55] Dan: [00:55:55] Absolutely. Um, and so that’s, that’s one of my questions is, you know, so you’re kind of [00:56:00] an Afro Caribbean heritage. You’re, co-founders a woman. How do you look at that in terms of. As that been beneficial as it been a challenge either, you know, internal dynamics or externally how you’re viewed as a team,
[00:56:13] Kirt Debique: [00:56:13] you know? Um, so because I think we both have such long-standing careers and, you know, sort of the, you know, we have, we have the receipts when somebody, without having me Metis, right. Which, you know, biases are insidious things, right? Like the, they, they come out in ways. People don’t even realize whether they, you know, the, they have that intent or not.
[00:56:34] And they come out in ways that may even be before they see you. Right. Because they make a certain assumption. Right. So I, you know, we have enough paper receipts that we, we tend to be able to get past some of that. We also live in a time where
[00:56:47] there’s more awareness and desirous, but, um, and you know, we live in a bit of a bubble, like, you know, in terms of, but we deal with most of the time and, and you know, where we are here in the Northwest.
[00:56:56] And, but what we found is that there’s a lot [00:57:00] of more awareness now. And a lot more desire now to, to try to, to combat some of those, you know, insidious biases in that sense. I think, you know, our combination of as founders is something people look and go, well, it is have a conversation with those guys, you know?
[00:57:18] Um, but it’s, it can be, it can be, it can be rough out there and that’s, it’s a sad thing in that this journey is hard enough as it is right. Without piling. That nonsense on for, for founders of color or for female founders.
[00:57:32] Dan: [00:57:32] Yeah. And I liked your point about how the, the lens is changing and the awareness is changing.
[00:57:37] Cause I do think especially in 2020, one of the outcomes we’re seeing is that it’s kind of like that. Um, I don’t know if you ever watched the movie, a field, the field of dreams, right? Where towards the end, they kind of, uh, his family starts to see the players and I think it’s as is. Uh, sister-in-law’s like, where’d all these players come from.
[00:57:57] And it’s like, why did all these people of color who [00:58:00] are founders come from? It’s like, wow, well, wait, we’ve been here.
[00:58:04] Kirt Debique: [00:58:04] Um, there’s, you know, there’s uh, on LinkedIn, I see, uh, posts by, uh, this guy thinks Steven Wolf Pereira. He, you know, he posts executives of color. Like I think, I think he might even be doing it once a day. It’s actually fun. It’s fantastic. Like he’s he basically was just like, okay, look. You guys have been saying that there aren’t enough of these people around to get into your leadership teams or CC blah, blah, blah. And he’s like, all right, I’m going to show you that this is nonsense. And just bam. He’s like, here’s this person, here’s this person, these qualifications, this huge rule, blah, blah, blah. It’s like, wow. It’s really fantastic to see actually I was just like, wow. Yeah.
[00:58:44] Dan: [00:58:44] Absolutely. And that’s one of the reasons we started this podcast was to say, Hey, there, there’s definitely, there’s not a pipeline problem. Um, so we’re coming to the end of our time here. Uh, this has been a great conversation.
[00:58:57] Kirt. Is there any way that our [00:59:00] audience can be helpful to SyncFloor?
[00:59:02] Kirt Debique: [00:59:02] Sure. Um, you know, come talk to me come, you know, if you have perspective on it, certainly. Yeah. If you were in the audience where you’re, you know, in media production, if you’re in advertising or film or TV, or what have you, if you’re a creative director or producer and editor, anything of that, I, you know, I’m your guy, come, come talk to us, come check out what we have. Um, if you know, people tell them to come talk to us and check us out. Yeah.
[00:59:24] That’s the space we’re in now is that we’re, we’re up, we’re about to embark on sort of the, you know, sort of big go bring people in the door kind of thing. Like not because they were working with us to kind of validate the product, but because this is going to be part of their daily workflow. And so the more perspective we have on that, the more people coming through the door that the faster we iterate on the product, the faster we go, all of those things. And so, you know, come, come, come chat.
[00:59:49] Dan: [00:59:49] Awesome. And why don’t you share how people can get in touch with you or your URL or social handles?
[00:59:55] Kirt Debique: [00:59:55] The website is syncfloor.com,
[00:59:56] S Y N C F L OO R.com. [01:00:00] My email address is Kirt K I R T@syncfloor.com. Feel free to send me a note any time on Twitter and Instagram. Um, I am @katewayo, which is one of my middle names, um, uh, African Lillian, uh, it’s K A T E W A Y or at catcher. And so, yeah, you’ll find me on any of those.
[01:00:22] Dan: [01:00:22] I love it. Well, thank you so much, Kirt. This has been an incredible conversation and we really appreciate it. We wish you success and obviously, uh, continue to recovery for your son. Um, and so thanks so much for taking the time.
[01:00:35] Kirt Debique: [01:00:35] Thank you so much. Really great to be here.
[01:00:37] Dan: [01:00:37] We’d like to thank our guests, Kurt to beak and our sponsor black women talk tech.
[01:00:42] Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento that’s listen, T O and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn @foundersunfound. This podcast was produced by Dan Kihanya, editing and production by Albert [01:01:00] Holguin. Our music was composed by Kurt Debique and Enrique Molano Jimenez and Michael Kihanya.
[01:01:07] Social media and other promotion by Omama Marzuq and Aneisha Barnett.
[01:01:12] I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.
Return to previous