Invesdor UK sat down with BlueJay Music, the social radio app, to discuss the company's origins and trajectory. For more information on BlueJay, remember to also read the pitch.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Can we start by talking about BlueJay’s founders – your full names and your respective professional stories/backgrounds (especially as they relate to BlueJay)?
Full names are Leonard Peter Shore and Samuel Jordan Shore.
There’s two of us. We are a father and son team. We founded BlueJay together and have both been working on the business for about two years.
I’ve been based in London for ten years and have been in the telecom, media and tech sector for more than 30 years. From 2007-15 I was Chairman of Arqiva, the UK's owner of television and mobile phone infrastructure.
I started in the industry in Australia, where I was eventually the head of Telstra’s consumer business and a director of Foxtel, the Pay TV business.
I was also Chairman/CEO of a number of start-ups and early stage, listed tech companies in Australia - including Hostworks, Unwired, and Uecomm and I was Chairman of Lonely Planet from 2004-07.
I am currently also a Director of Cellnex, which is a listed company in Spain and the largest independent owner of mobile telecom assets in Europe.
I’m the CEO and have been working full time on the business for two years.
I’ve been based in London for six years, but originally from Sydney. I have a background in finance here in London for three years and I also undertook some technology advisory work. Before that I spent around 5 years playing football professionally.
I felt that working in finance was a little bit like being on the outer of where the real action was – where real businesses were being built and run, and after a few years I knew that it was really only a matter of time before I made a change. I was always interested in the opportunity and challenge of running a smaller start-up business.
How did BlueJay come about? Was there a particular experience that led to a lightbulb moment or to you spotting the market gap?
We had both been very interested in the capability of new technologies to fundamentally transform business. We had seen it across many industries and it was clear that the improvements in software development, in moving large quantities of data around and in the ability to process huge amounts of information, would provide many, many opportunities to give things to customers in new ways that they would really enjoy.
We were both in San Francisco working on a project with someone we’d known a long time when we became involved in a discussion about music and the lack of an ability to listen to music together, and to have some social engagement. At first that lead to ideas about crowd sourcing playlists for physical parties.
But it soon morphed into an idea, if you like, of a global party where people could crowd source a playlist. The complexities of that and the challenge of licensing in a grey area led us eventually to design more of a radio type service – where you can set up, in principle, an unlimited number of personal radio stations with an unlimited number of listeners – and can listen together and engage socially with each other.
Once you had the idea, where did you start? (Canvassed opinion, built an MVP, etc.)
It took a few months to specify and design the product to optimise the customer experience and make it sensible from a commercial viewpoint.
We also began building the product in India, but eventually we moved the development. Whether you build in India, Australia, Eastern Europe or the UK, I think there’s always a trade-off between costs of development and the amount of management overhead and the complexity of communications these different options throw up.
We eventually completed the project with a team in Australia.
It was a complex product that broke new ground – we researched patent rights worldwide and we have proceeded to apply for a patent for the process of turning a phone into an internet radio station.
What is BlueJay’s core proposition?
The core proposition is that BlueJay adds a new dimension to online music. A user can live stream a playlist of their favourite songs from their mobile device to anyone – from close friends to an audience of thousands – in a real-time and interactive environment that includes group chat.
What value does it offer to its users that they can’t get elsewhere?
Most music listening today – even online – is done alone. There is no real listening together or social engagement.
And no product today allows you to run your own radio station from your pocket.
Tell us a bit about its development, especially the app and the licensing negotiations
The development took longer than we would have wanted but as explained above it was complex and resulted in a patent application. And licensing is a complex process – we will license in jurisdictions other than the UK, but we would hope to be able to do that in a relatively straight forward way as we fit the requirements of a webcast service.
What is the status of BlueJay right now? (Customers, employees, development) How are you hoping to scale and grow, and what is your go-to-market plan?
The product is now developed and available on the iOS and Android platforms. We are raising money to accelerate the growth and, of course, there are many product developments in the pipeline – for example, we’d like our users to be able to source their playlists from anywhere not just their song files – and we are working on that.
We have a very lean model where most of the key functions are contracted – such as development and marketing – to companies that are very experienced in these areas – and we can ramp the resources up and down depending on what we need. Over time we will probably appoint more full time staff but we are very happy with our current relationships. The CEOs of the technical development and marketing companies have joined our Advisory Board. This Board is extremely strong for a company of our size and provides tremendous advice to the management.
Tell us how you came to meet Invesdor and what the process of working with them has been like.
We were introduced to Invesdor via a common friend. The first few meetings were very straight forward - which is what we are like. We had both had fundraising experience before. We didn’t feel the need to spend a long time agonising over the decision to use Invesdor.
You’ve just announced a £300K fundraising round. What will you do with this funding if you achieve it?
We are really focusing on two things – build the user base – and continue to improve the product and customer experience. That’s going to take up the vast majority of the funds.
You have a unique view into the start-up ecosystem in the UK amidst Brexit uncertainty. Have you felt the impact of this? Is the UK still a good place to be a start-up?
I think for us right now, it remains ok. People are still emotionally engaged in music – they are still going to want to listen and share – and it’s a product we can launch worldwide from here, so we have a big and diverse market. For the time being the UK and London still seems fine. I guess we just don’t know what impact Brexit is going to have in the medium term
Thanks for talking to us.