Everyone flush with cash in the music industry is looking for the next Spotify; Techstars Music wants to help build it. The mentorship-based, music-focused startup program — which spawned out of general technology startup accelerator Techstars four years ago, has since raised $75 million in follow-on capital, and now boasts a combined portfolio value of almost $350 million — announced its 2020 class today, trumpeting 10 music-tech ideas it believes will be key to the industry’s future.
The chosen startups include a machine-learning fan-analytics platform; an audio-visual content company focused on audience experience; a skills-training startup that teaches DJing without professional equipment; and a company making blockchain-enabled “collectibles.”
Managing director Bob Moczydlowsky, formerly the head of music at Twitter, says the companies represent the biggest and brightest “scalable technologies that the music industry can benefit from.” While last year’s class leaned toward consumer-facing products, such as an app that lets fans create videos with the face of any person, this year’s group concentrates more on new revenue drivers for industry players and artists.
“We invest in companies solving problems for music,” Moczydlowsky tells Rolling Stone. “We look for companies that are working with creative, intelligent tools and new ways of making music. We look for companies that use those tools and create really interesting, big, scalable media empires. And ultimately we look for the most amazing, most talented, most incredible founders, who are in a position to start reinventing and driving the way that the music and entertainment industries work, five to seven years from now. The people, and their teams and abilities, are the dominant factor in our search.”
Moczydlowsky says Techstars Music received several hundred applications for this year’s round and that his team had “intense debates” to narrow that pool down to 10. The startups will soon meet in Los Angeles for a weeks-long incubation period of development and coaching from Techstars Music and its partners, which include Peloton, Warner Music Group, Sony, and manager-promoter Bill Silva. On the accelerator’s “demo day” in May, 400 investors and music-industry executives will gather to hear the startups’ sales pitches. While the day used to be an informal affair, the organization has since grown it into “this one day a year where everyone interested in media and entertainment can be in the same room together” in Hollywood, Moczydlowsky says.
Former Techstars Music picks from the other three years have already gone on to make waves: Pippa was the first startup to exit, when it was acquired by podcasting company Acast; last year Endel became the first algorithm signed to a Warner Music deal; and Community has grown into a a popular platform that allows celebrities to text with fans.
The 10 startups in this year’s class, as described in their own words:
Audigo Labs puts a professional quality recording studio into your pocket, allowing musicians, podcasters, and content creators to capture, edit, and share professional-quality audio effortlessly.
Delta protects the digital rights and brand identity of entertainment companies through the detection and traceability of deepfakes. Delta’s AI-driven SaaS platform allows enterprise to actively identify, monitor, and respond to deepfake content.
Elastic Audio is democratizing modern audio for digital creatives and game developers with lightweight dev tools and a third-party sample/effects marketplace. Elastic Audio aims to do for sound what the modern GPU did for graphics — and thus become the core audio engine powering all projects, teams, and hardware.
Entertainment Intelligence (Ei) collects, cleans, categorizes, and enriches data for a wide range of entertainment businesses. Ei is unique in its ability to seamlessly blend social and consumption data from limitless sources, tracking and analyzing information on a daily basis. Ei also generates industry benchmarks, reports, and dashboards to help customers understand their market, save time, and increase efficiencies.
Fanaply creates blockchain-enabled, interactive digital collectibles for the music, sports, and entertainment industries. The Fanalpy asset ecosystem empowers teams, artists, festivals, brands, and other stakeholders to connect and reward their core audiences, driving new levels of fan engagement.
FanSifter is a machine-learning fan-data analytics platform to help music, entertainment, and sports events sell more tickets. Fansifter users save valuable marketing hours with powerful segmentation, profiling, and enrichment tools — allowing hyper-personalized communication of the right offer to the right audience.
Splashmob is building tools to empower venues, artists, teams, and performers to interact with and engage their audiences in real-time and at-scale, during live events.
Strangeloop Studios is an audio-visual content company creating new-media, live-concert, and audience experiences, including owning and operating virtual artists in partnership with the world’s leading musicians and visual designers.
TribeXR produces immersive skills training for creative industries. Their first product, Tribe XR DJ School, is creating thousands of DJs around the world without any traditional pro-audio equipment required.
ULO creates “Experience Portals” to provide short-form immersive experiences for customers in high-foot-traffic environments.