My Story and SoundShare
A lot of friends constantly ask me about my story. What’s the deal with SoundShare? How did I start? Why did I choose this path? Why don’t I simply get a normal job at an awesome company and so on…
I’m known to be really secretive about my personal life and specially about my work life. I will probably continue to be, after all, mystery is great for business. :) But I will try to tell my story and how I created SoundShare.
I’m from Belo Horizonte, Brazil and I’m currently 27 years old. And since I’m a kid, I’ve been passionate about technology and music.
I grew up with a dad who is extremely passionate about music. Before he got married he used to have one of the largest vinyls collections from our city. All of them impeccable, even with plastic around to preserve them. He would sit me down in front of the stereo to listen to great songs such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, Dire Straits, Tears for Fears a lot more. With time, I started learning a lot more about music and started changing experiences with my dad about new discoveries I’d made. He'd regularly come to my bedroom with brand new CDs for me to listen to. And I’d do the same when I discovered new great stuff. After I grew up I started noticing this same behaviour among my friends as well. But I will come back to this later.
In 2007 I went to college to study Computer Science. I chose Computer Science because I wanted to be an animator at Pixar. I always loved their movies. Toy Story, Ratatouille, Wall-E, only to name a few. My dream was to learn as much as I could and then go to Pixar. But God had other plans to my life. That year of 2007 was the year that technology would change forever. The year the iPhone was released.
I was never really passionate about phones. But the iPhone was different. As soon as I saw the keynote (which btw is the best presentation of all kind that I’ve ever seen), I had to get it. It was amazing, magical, from another planet. It was far ahead of everything else. It was the future. And boy, what a beautiful future it was.
So, to get one, I needed to learn how to unlock it, since I’m from Brazil and initially it was locked to ATT. I started learning a lot about it. How it worked, how I could modify it, jailbreak it, tailor it to my will. I read a lot, studied it a lot and learned a lot. I’d spent hours and hours every single day trying to understand as much as I could about this incredible device.
Then, in 2008 Apple released the App Store and the ability to write apps. Wow. I downloaded all the documentation that I could download, and started reading them all. Didn’t understand a thing, but was focused to learn as much as I could. By then I knew already some Java and was starting with C++, but oh boy, how bad was my college in teaching us how to code. I had to start learning it all on my own. So I started with C++. Playing around, trying to understand pointers, how it all worked. Started to become good at it and by the end of 2008 was already coding some stuff on iOS.
In 2009 I bought *a lot* of books on how to code to iOS. One specifically thought me pretty much everything that I needed to know. Beginning iOS Development, from Dave Mark and Jeff Lamarche. Also, by the same time, Stanford released their first iPhone course with Evan Doll. I took it as well. And by the end of 2009 I was becoming pretty good at iOS.
In 2010 I was not really satisfied with my college, with what I was learning and was desperate to start my own company. I was 100% certain that mobile was the future and I thought that if I kept losing my time with college, I would lose a tremendous opportunity. So, by the end of 2010 I dropped out of college to start my own company. Yep, end of 2010. 6 months before graduation. I know, I know, 6 months??? Yep, I lost 3 1/2 years on that. ;)
So, 2011. No college, all the free time in the world to study iOS and startups. Now what? As I said in the beginning, I've always loved technology and music. And always loved the experience of exchanging music discoveries. I did it with my dad and also saw all my friends do it with themselves. This social experience was amazing and I felt that I needed to take this to the digital world.
Then started the idea of SoundShare. Remember, we are still in 2011 in this story. Mobile wasn’t as powerful as it is today, specially social. Instagram was starting to get some great numbers, but that was it. Facebook sucked in mobile, there were no Snapchat or any other huge app like those we have today.
So I started coding my first real app from scratch. Worked the concept and the design (didn’t know a thing about design, had to get help from a friend who ended up designing my logo and my icon back then). After 4 months working intensely all day, I launched my 1.0 version. It was pretty basic, but it was still awesome. It allowed you to follow your friends and be followed. Play all the songs you had synced with your device, share them on Facebook and Twitter and preview 30 seconds from your friends’ songs. That was it. But some blogs liked it and I got a couple of thousands of downloads in a week, which was pretty awesome! I got a lot excited.
With all the “success” the 1.0 version was having, I needed to learn how to design an app, icons, buttons and everything else. Although I knew how to code, I didn’t know how to design. The 1.0 version didn’t have any design at all. It was all stock from iOS. And as I didn’t have money to afford a designer, I needed to learn it myself.
So I did, resulting in the second version of SoundShare, version 1.1. With a beautiful new design and some great new features such as like, comment and push notifications. It was indeed gorgeous. I still believe that God designed that app, because there was no way that I could have done it. Specially because just a couple of months before, I didn’t know a thing about design.
This second version was a hit (not as much as I expected, but it did great!). Got featured in a couple more blogs and brought a lot more users, which was awesome.
So late 2011 I had a vision. I started to see that the music market was becoming extremely fragmented. Some users would download their songs, others would buy it, others would use YouTube, others radios and this was still only 2011. Streaming music services were not really successful yet. But I knew for certain that this fragmentation would only get worse with time. And I felt that I needed to fix this problem, otherwise my goal to create a really successful social music network wouldn’t work. I needed to create a service that would become a place that everyone could see what their friends were listening to, doesn’t matter which service they were using.
But in the end of 2011, my dad came to me and said, “Hey, I gave you this year away from college. You didn’t become a billionaire, so it’s time to go back.”. Yep, back to college. That place that took 3 and 1/2 years to teach me what I could have learned in 6 months. But hey, he is my dad, so I had to do it.
So, the first half of 2012 was pretty much dead to SoundShare since I had to go to college. I’d code some stuff, add some features, some tweaks here and there, but nothing really huge.
Then came what was one of the best trips of my life. My first WWDC. Of course it had to happen in the same week as my finals in college, but I didn’t care. Talked to my teachers, found a way around it and went.
The first day, the day of the keynote, was awesome. Stayed in line since 4AM! Met Tim Cook. Was interviewed by San Francisco Chronicle about my talk with Tim Cook (even though it lasted only 30 seconds). After all that, by night I went to the NeXT event. I saw for the first time a NeXT computer, heard amazing inside stories about Steve Jobs and met a bunch of awesome guys, many Apple engineers who I got to show them SoundShare. But the coolest part was that they loved it. They were actually blown away by it. Many asked me if I was the one who created it, specially if I indeed did all by myself.
If that was not enough, in the last day, during WWDC bash, I asked one of the Apple engineers whom I became friends with, who was the most important guy there. And he pointed me to John Geleynse. So I went to him and showed him SoundShare. He loved it. He loved the smallest details on the design, how smooth it all was and also showed it to another great guy, Jimmy Patrick. Jimmy also loved it and even started to show the app around to his friends.
When I got back from this amazing trip and did all my finals at college (and got my degree), I had an amazing surprise. I opened the App Store one day and saw SoundShare there, as a recommended App from Apple!! Can you believe this? SoundShare got featured on the front page of the App Store!
If all I’ve been through wasn’t enough, this did it. I was now 100% convinced that I had something extremely powerful in my hands. So I needed to make it even better.
Then two friends joined as early angels investors. Not only that, but they were also willing to work for SoundShare. One as the Commercial part and the other as the Financial part of the team. Their investment helped me pay the server, some trips to showcase SoundShare to others and we did some small marketing tests, like giveaways. But in terms of development of the product, SoundShare was still just me.
In 2013 I became friends with Dave Mark. Does that name ring a bell? It should. He is one of the writers of the book that I previously mentioned as the one which thought me how to code to iOS. How cool is that? And he is a really nice guy, although he is known as Heisenberg in the streets, but that’s another story…
With Dave Mark giving me some great feedbacks, both friends as early angels who compromised to dedicate part of their time to work for SoundShare, things were starting to take shape.
By the end of 2013, an investor flew me to San Francisco to meet me because he was interested in investing in SoundShare. He was willing to invest but also wanted to get someone that he trusted to be a mentor to me and help me with my vision. Unfortunately, after a lot of meetings, he didn’t find this person and the deal never happened.
So, 2014 was here and in order to succeed I needed to change something. One of our team members, the one responsible for the commercial part of our business, who was responsible from bringing investors and partners, wasn’t really helping anymore. So he had to go. Since the other team member was our financial guy, the entire development of the product was still in my hands.
In 2014 I decided that I’d only release another update after receiving an investment. So my other teammate and I became focused on that. I was still improving the app, but wasn’t releasing anything to the public. By June that year a close friend introduced me to his friend, who would bring our first big angel investor a couple of months later. This investor believed and loved SoundShare so much, that he also wanted to be part of our team, helping us with some of the commercial tasks we had.
In the end of 2014, my other teammate also took some part of the commercial responsibilities to himself and started doing partnerships with celebrities from our city to help us market SoundShare.
With our seed investment, a solid product that I’ve been working for some really good time now, a team that was starting to take shape and celebrities joining our team to promote our app to their fans, things were looking pretty good.
By the end of 2014 we launched SoundShare’s newest version. We also tried something different this time. We closed SoundShare to be an invite only Social Network. With an invitation, you could join SoundShare and also invite up to 10 friends. If you didn’t have one, you could get into a waiting line and would get it a couple of days later. It worked. This idea combined with celebrities doing our marketing made SoundShare extremely popular in our city and country. We reached the Top 10 most downloaded apps and were the Top 1 trending searches in the Brazilian App Store for some time.
Then came 2015. This was by far the year that SoundShare grew the most. Not only SoundShare but our team and I grew a lot. We learned a lot, experienced a lot, made a lot of mistakes of course, but did a lot of awesome things as well. We were getting amazing feedback from our users, and I was able to really understand this market and how I could improve our product, so our users could take the most out of it.
In April that year my team and I went for a 40 day trip to Silicon Valley. To me, one of the best places in the world. And what a trip that was. I met a lot of amazing people including Evan Doll (yep, the guy who tought the class at Stanford that helped me learn how to code to iOS) and many others. Got a lot of great feedback, and incredible things happened that unfortunately I can’t share here, but trust me, it was mind blowing! :)
After we got back from that trip, I added *a lot* of new features, redesigned the UX of the app a couple of times, all using our user’s feedback as base. And it worked, by the end of 2015 we were growing pretty much organically, reaching over 1M songs shared in less than a year.
But there was still one thing missing on the app regarding my vision of a truly perfect service. As I mentioned before I wanted to build a place where everyone could have an amazing experience around music, helping others discover new great content. But I also wanted to fix the problem with the fragmentation the music market was in. And that second problem was still a problem. But this time it was even worse, because now we had Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, YouTube, iTunes and many other music services, all successful.
SoundShare was fixing only one of the two major issues I had in mind I wanted to fix.
Then came 2016. After an amazing year of growth, personally and professionally, with a stronger product and company, I needed to finally solve the second problem of the vision.
Although the entire technical team was still just me, I set myself to develop the biggest update in the history of SoundShare. Integrate all major music services inside it. Not only that, but allow them to talk with each other. In other words, SoundShare would allow an Apple Music user to build a collaborative playlist with a Spotify user and any other user using other services as well. This would definitely fix the fragmentation issue on the market.
It was an ambitious goal, but God helped me through it all the way. He helped me get to the point that I finally had executed in the palm of my hands, my vision from 5 years ago.
After months working on it, testing, failing, gathering feedback and improving it, the new version, SoundShare 2.7, is ready and it’s amazing. People who are using it are blown away. Some didn’t even believe something like this was possible. But indeed it is and is also working beautifully. Apple Music doesn’t even have a Social Network like the other services, but with SoundShare, every Apple user can have a full featured one that works with their service.
SoundShare is a proof that perseverance, excellence, patience and iteration can take a product to extremely high levels. Of course, I only got to this point because of God, my team and because of everyone who helped me with this journey.
I have no idea what will happen next. What tomorrow will bring. But I don’t care. God gave me the privilege to execute my vision and to have it working in the palm of my hands. And as long as He is in control, I’m fine with it. But I can’t wait for tomorrow though. :)
If God taught me something along the way it is this: That I should always dream big, because He is huge, I should always do everything with excellence, paying attention to the smallest details and last but not least, I should always persevere on my dream.