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Interview with Rachel Van Nortwick, Founder & CEO of Vinylly

Rachel Van Nortwick, CEO and Founder of Vinylly, talks about the compatibility solution Vinylly has solved in the dating application space, the lessons she learned as a non-technical founder, and her experience hiring freelance technical talent with Gun.io

Teja Yenamandra
Teja Yenamandra

Transcript

Teja: We were just talking about, before we hit record, sort of economic mobility and different ways to, kind of change your station in life. You sort of touched on a few interesting ways, and really an interesting viewpoint. Would you mind sharing that again?

Rachel: Yeah. So I think, you know, today’s world with just, you know, the sort of the rising costs of, you know, homes and shopping for, you know, just general items or, you know, back when we could travel, I mean, everything store prices are rising and a lot of it is out of reach for people, especially people who have kids and potentially like student debt and all of these other things to deal with.

So I was saying, you know, it’s really hard. I think this is not just my viewpoint. I think it’s a pretty shared view point that you can’t really get ahead. If you’re just sort of an employee over time, you know, maybe you’ll be able to save a little bit, but really I think the way that our economy has changed is that, you know, sort of the upper 1% are who can afford to live maybe the life that they want.

So, unless you are lucky enough to work for a company that goes public and you have stock in that company, so you get a nice, a nice boost, or if you have had some real estate investments or other investments that have worked out, or I guess, you know, also too, and in my case, you know, started at a company or for you it’s hard to control your own destiny and be able to get ahead.

Teja: Yeah. Do you know Gary V right? Do you follow him? Okay. What do you think about his viewpoint? That entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody, but yet he is constantly beating the drum of entrepreneurship.

Rachel: Right, you know what that reminds me of actually another quote. I think it’s Billy Joel, but let’s double check on that.

Who said, you know what, if you have to think about being a musician, being a musician isn’t right for you. Like if you have, you can choose to do or want to do it because you know, you are going to have to be out on the street corner with a guitar case that needs to be what fuels you. Like, you have to love it so much that you’re willing to deal with all of the, you know, really rough times, right until you make it.

And same thing I think with, yeah, Gary, with entrepreneurship. It Is tough. It’s a ton of rejection. It’s a ton of followup. I literally think that my strength is just like staying on top of stuff and project management. It’s not even the vision that I have. It’s not even, you know, sort of the, the startup that I’ve built.

It’s really like just staying on top of people because no one really cares as much as you do. Even people who maybe are working with you or for you, I mean, if it’s your vision and your business, it’s up to you to look after it. And it’s, it’s a lot. Like I said, and you have to want to do it and ride the roller coaster, which I totally understand.

It’s not for everybody. And I get it. It’s maybe a little bit easier, less stressful to, just sort of, you know, go work for someone else. And maybe you can do a lot of great stuff there too, you know? It just, it depends. What drives you?

Teja: So do you encourage your friends to get into entrepreneurship or, you know, I’m curious.

Rachel: Yeah. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t necessarily like, reach out and say, “Hey, go start a business.”

But when I do hear my friends talking about like, Hey, I want to do this thing, you know? Or I’ve been kind of doing this thing on the side. When I hear that and I see that Spark, I definitely say go do it. Because it is amazing how everything that exists today, I’m reading a book right now about this. It’s called everything is figureoutable and basically like everything that’s built today is started as a thought.

So, you know, if someone didn’t have a thought for air travel or someone didn’t have a, a thought for a Starbucks latte, God forbid, these things wouldn’t exist.

And so I think the only thing separating somebody is just taking the first step, taking the next step. And then, you know, before you know it, you have a thing, you know, and you can go talk to people about your thing that you’re doing. And that’s so cool.

But yeah, I think a lot of people just think like, Oh, I couldn’t do it. You totally can, you just have to be, you know, excited and committed to do it.

Teja: Did you always, sort of, have entrepreneurial DNA, like when you were coming up or is this something that you recently had an intellectual interest in?

Rachel: Yeah. You know, people say like, oh yeah, you know, I was born to be an entrepreneur. I don’t really think that’s necessarily how I have viewed life. I think I’ve just always enjoyed doing something creative. So any role I’ve had, I gravitate towards what can I create and how can I put sort of my imprint on it.

And so after working, I think I’m learning from other people in other businesses for a long time, you know, the light bulb that happened for me, where I said, okay, you know, I think now I kind of have the tools and sort of the desire to do something on my own. And because I’m so passionate about music, you know, this idea came to life just from me pursuing what matters to me.

So I think if I wasn’t a music fan, I wouldn’t be an entrepreneur. Like it’s just, you know, the entrepreneur, wasn’t the guiding part. It was, you know, what makes me tick and what do I value? And then I can sort of, you know, build on that and make something cool.

Teja: Well, that’s a natural segue to sort of introducing, you know, what you’re working on and your business. So, you know, why don’t you describe that?

Rachel: Sure. So I started Vinylly. Which is a dating app that’s based on music compatibility. So versus other sites that people use, you know, to meet matches , Vinylly is a hundred percent focused on making matches through the music that you listened to.

So we sync with your Spotify playlist, more music service providers to come and other ways to match, but we start with Spotify. And then we add a couple of questions that just round out, sort of like how important music is to you, and other music habits. And then we create matches and, you know, you can listen to your match’s playlist while you’re in the app.

You can chat in the app and pull in suggestions for live stream concerts and actual live concerts when they return. So it’s sort of a one-stop shop for music fans to be able to connect and know, create opportunities to meet. And there wasn’t anything out there that led with music and led with data.

You know, there’s a lot of apps out there that have, you know, obviously engagement and you know, the ability to swipe right, swipe left and all of this. But for some people, you know, that just is sort of like a thing you do. You just open an app and you swipe and I don’t even think your brain necessarily like registers that you’re looking for a date. Like, I think it’s kind of gamified and there’s nothing wrong with that. But for people who really want to find a music match, somebody they can share music with, we wanted to make fully all about the music first.

Teja: That’s awesome. How’d you conceive of the opportunity or the idea?

Rachel: Yeah, I think it was just, you know, sort of me as a music fan. I got so much energy and joy from going to see live music, you know?

There’s a reason that, back before COVID, there were, you know, a lot of these huge music festivals that people would pay a ridiculous amount of money, travel across the country to stand shoulder, to shoulder with spilled beer, you know, because it’s so amazing to take in music and do it with other people.

So music can produce, you know, dopamine in the brain, which has sort of a similar reaction as when you have a romantic spark with someone. And it’s just, it’s a positive experience. And so these same people that I saw, like sort of struggling with dating apps, were also music fans like me. And I said, you know, there’s gotta be a way that, you know, you can connect with somebody who’s into either a band or just music in general as you are. And it didn’t exist. So I said, you know what, I’m going to try to build it.

Teja: That’s awesome. Do you know there’s a, I mean, there’s a German word for everything, but I remember there being like a German word for the feeling that you get when somebody likes something that you show them, you know? Yeah.

Cause you know, like that, that thing where you show somebody a TV show or a book. And then they tell you, wow, that’s an awesome book. You sort of get some, you get like a rush and I don’t know what it is, but there’s like a satisfaction feeling.

Rachel: I’ll look that up too.

You know there is a German word for everything like shadow freud or shade and freud is a great one, but I’ll look into that.

Because yeah, it is true. I mean, there is sort of an ego. As well, like a boost that you get when, you know, somebody enjoys like, Hey, yeah. It’s a whole thing behind like mixtapes, right. When we used to take so much time and pick out each song and there was like a thing behind the order and you’d give it to someone and you’re just like, how was it? What did you think? When did you think of the first one? It’s like that. You personally feel fulfilled.

So yeah, I hear you on that. It is an important part of, I think, sharing music with someone.

Teja: You know, what’s funny is I didn’t realize that making people mix tapes was like a meme. Like, I became aware that that was like, a romantic meme, maybe like this year, but I did that.

And I was like, you know, especially when you burn somebody a CD, because you had the only CD writer in like the neighborhood, somebody made a mixtape. And I remember doing that and now it’s like a funny meme. So, sometimes you don’t realize that’s cool.

So, you know, I’m curious, like how do you determine how to maybe materialize the features that would make the vision a reality? You know, so you want to connect people on the basis of overlapping musical tastes because that’s a good proxy for compatibility, and I think that’s accurate. How do you sort of think about what features can best manifest that?

Rachel: Yeah, I mean, we’re always thinking about what features get more at someone’s like sort of music DNA, and what features would enable somebody to be able to converse about that with somebody else.

So I think it’s a balance, right? Like you don’t want this heavy signup flow where you’re asked a ton of questions, you know, that’s why we have that sync with your Spotify.

So it’s literally two seconds and then a few questions. And then, you know, you can go in and sort of investigate into other people’s profiles and play the music they’ve been listening to and all of that, sort of, after you’ve gotten through onboarding.

But no, absolutely. I mean, it’s myself. I also have a CTO. I have developers as well. And you know, we’re always kind of brainstorming and looking at where the engagement is in the app and how we can improve certain things. So we have a couple of feature enhancements coming out, reflective of sort of what we’ve seen.

Where it’s always, I think, tricky, is like, the opening line, like the first message you send someone. And some people like to just be straight and say like, Hey, how’s it going to other people who spend a lot of time like the perfect clever opener. So what we’ve done is we’re enabling like chat starter. So basically where it’s going to pull from your profile, like things, you know, that bands you’ve listened to, or your first concert, what, like is your favorite genre? All of those things. And you’ll be able to actually say like, okay, Hey, Mike, I saw that, you know, you like Prince and that’s already populated for you. So you don’t have to think too hard, but you can just push send on that. And it’s sort of like you know, going a little bit deeper than just saying like, Hey, what’s up?

So we’re trying to enable good conversation and always sort of bring it back to the music, but it is a balance. It’s a balance of having too many things going on because we do want it to be like, sort of streamlined and fun to use.

Teja: Yeah, I agree. I mean, you guys have really streamlined the signup process.

I played around with the app and that’s something you guys do really well and something that we actually don’t as Gun.io doesn’t do really well. Like that’s in fact, the principal feedback I get from developers, they’re like, why are you asking me a thousand questions? You know, so it’s valid. I mean, it’s valid.

Rachel: Yeah, but, you know, I mean, the thing with investing in a developer, or if it’s a developer that’s looking to put themselves out for a hire , there is, there’s so much nuance and the less, you know, coding languages and sort of other skill sets. It’s really important. I mean, you’re hiring somebody for a job. You don’t just spend like two seconds on a resume, or in recruiting someone.

So I think your product sort of justifies that investment and from a user point of view for the platform. Yeah. I appreciated that I could have the insight into all of the qualifications for a developer. So I’m sure there’s something you can improve on, but definitely don’t eliminate the thorough information.

Teja: Yeah, no, the baby is not going out with the bath water for sure.

Yeah, for sure. That’s an interesting viewpoint. I mean, there’s a cool book out by the dude who founded Twilio. It’s called Ask Your Developer, and it’s an interesting book about, it’s like, it’s all the rage in the business right now, a couple of the engineers are reading it. But it’s a cool book about sort of bringing in engineers into this sort of business level decision-making process.

Because you know, I’m originally a non-technical founder and, you know, I started the business, just basically having the demand side problem that you have, which is how do you find capable developers, if you don’t know what to look for. And thankfully, my business partner is a really talented developer and he had the opposite problem where he was like, how do I find qualified companies that will pay me on time? Right.

And so really there’s a, there’s a dual-sided vetting going on in the business where we try to help developers find quality pipeline and get consistently paid and on the company side, do the same thing, but in reverse, right. People who deliver on time.

Rachel: And I mean, you’re really a matchmaker.

Teja: A hundred percent. That’s what we are. Yeah.

Rachel: Basically Vinally, but for finding devs.

Teja: Yeah. I mean, exactly.

Anyway. Oh yeah, the book. So it’s, it’s a cool book on how to integrate developers as a, as a part of the decision-making process, you know, when thinking about your features and how to satisfy your users and such, because to your point, I think once you hire a developer, the worst thing to do is to tell them exactly how to build stuff, you know? And I’ve been guilty of that where you’re like, I want this button here and not here. And you’re like, why am I spending my time doing that? I should be doing other things. I don’t know if you’ve ever run into that, but I certainly did.

Rachel: Yeah. You know, it’s funny. The first developer that I hired for iOS was a train wreck to be perfectly honest.

It actually was a referral. They had built other music apps and I thought I was in good hands and I didn’t know enough, you know, initially when I was first starting out, I had had visual design done for the app and so that articulated my vision. And so I thought, okay, great. All they have to do is just follow this roadmap here and we’ll be good, but they sort of strung me along and they told me, you know, things I wanted to build in the app couldn’t be built. Every time we’d go to a new version, there were more and more bugs. It was, it was awful. And we never got anywhere.

So basically I spent a good year and a half before I finally got my head on straight and realized like, I’m not a developer. But I know that this isn’t right. And so I pulled the work away and the code base, and I had another referral and I mean, it was night and day and I just, I didn’t know enough at the time.

I’ve since, you know, cause it’s, it’s really important that you have some working knowledge of all aspects of your business as a founder. And so now I’m a lot more versed in what’s possible what the role requires.

And I also, yeah, I don’t like to be too prescriptive. I think I was too hands-off actually initially, so now I’m, I’m more dialed in, but I think also where you were going to is like, you know, it is really good. I think from a developer perspective or anybody who is more internal facing and not client facing to see what’s sort of the output of their work and why. You know, what are we trying to do?

I try to make sure that my developers know sort of, okay, who am I talking? You know, am I going to be doing a PR blitz? Am I going to be talking to investors? And how does their work unpack that? And what are the milestones that they’ve helped affect? Because I think that is really important that they do have a sort of a business interest in what you’re doing and not just thinking that they’re just writing code and that it’s just sort of going nowhere or just to the app. Like, there’s just so much more that they’re contributing to.

Teja: Yeah, totally.

So in running this business, which is a software business, have you sort of beefed up your knowledge of how software is written? Like, you know, what resources have you looked at to maybe get your hands around running a tech company?

Rachel: Yeah. So I think, you know, part of it too is stumbling. And I just say stumbling, I mean, it’s, it’s lucky sometimes, right? That you meet really great people.

So my CTO has been just incredible. He was the one who helped me find that new iOS developer and he has, you know, he has a solution architecture background. He’s developed apps in the past and also has, it’s really cool, because he has a music cognition research background and was a professional DJ. So this guy is kind of, he’s everything. And so I’ve learned a lot from him.

And just also through sort of the new developers who have been fantastic and have let me into their process.

So I understand sort of, if I put a bunch of stuff in JIRA, you know realistically, you know how long it will take to do certain things, right. And to be understanding of what time it takes to build certain things. And then there are other things right. That I know are super quick. So it’s important to understand things like prioritization, you know, like I said, I try not to be too prescriptive, but I try to understand sort of what their challenges are.

And I also do try to think about when I make suggestions, sort of what’s the trade-off here, like with what do I really want? What do I think is going to be most impactful to the customer versus, Hey, this is nice, nice to have just because I do understand sort of what’s involved in building it.

Teja: Yeah, totally.

There’s a great book called The Art of Business Value. It was actually recommended to me by our head of engineering, Wade. And it’s a short book. It’s like 150 pages. I really recommend it because it helped me sort of understand.

So, you know, I think when we first started the business, I used to have this point of view or like I had growth, you know, I had sales and marketing and operations to facilitate those things. And then I had product and engineering and they were basically separate. So we would have a release cycle and then we would go and market and sell it and then so on and so forth.

Reading that book as well as a couple of other things, but I would say that was the most clear and succinct. And the book that I would give people instead of giving them 10 books that kind of hint around the subject, that’s sort of described to me like the latticed kind of framework and as a tech company. Like, you need to have all of the units kind of work together because you can think about your product as a growth vehicle as well. And you can think about your marketing and your sales as a vehicle to feed your product roadmap, you know, so they all have to kind of work together effectively.

So that’s been a really effective book for me. And one where I feel really good talking to engineers about like, hey, we, you know, for example, we have this problem in the business where we’re seeing churn around it. This type of customer cohort, what can we do in the application to stop this type of churn from these types of customers? And I leave it, you know, and I don’t want to say, hey, we stick to this type of solution. I just say, this is the metric we’re trying to drive, get together with marketing and like to figure out how to improve churn.

And that’s been powerful. I mean, we’re a small company, you know, about 14 people. And so, you know, that’s still possible at our scale, but it may be harder, you know, as we scale, but that’s been a really interesting book for us.

Rachel: Yeah, I think that’s like a mark of a good leader that you sort of identify problems. You use data to identify problems and then sort of pitch it back to your team to create, you know, solutions to it. And there may be multiple solutions. And then you’ll maybe be sort of the person who decides on that. But I think that’s like, that’s really smart to bring everybody into the fold that way.

And also it frees you up, right? Like you can’t be solving, I’m putting out all of these fires, especially on a small team, you know, you have a lot to do I’m sure. So I think that’s a really good leadership rule to follow as well.

Teja: Well, thanks.

Yeah. I hope they like it, you know, sometimes I’m like, damn, should I just be internalizing this instead of just giving them the number and telling them go figure it out? But I tend to think that more transparency is better. And more insight into the business dynamics is better.

Especially if, you know, because there’s something that we’re really fortunate with in technology, which is that we generally get to work with like really capable and ambitious people who sort of treat their profession as a career rather than just a job, but I don’t think that’s the case in a lot of other industries. That’s not to say our approach is always valid. Like I think there are probably people who obsess too much over their careers, you know, and sort of lose sight of other things in life that are equally important.

But I do think that that’s one of the strengths that we have in our industry, which is ultimately what allows me to go and say, hey, figure this out and I know you’ll get it, you know?

Rachel: Yeah, I think I’m wondering, you know, is it because like in tech or in other, some other roles maybe adjacent, everybody gets to be a creator?

Like if you’re writing code, you’re creating. If you are a salesperson, you’re creating your pitch and their relationships. With marketing, same thing, you’re literally working on creative. And I think that in and of itself gives people fulfillment. Whereas yeah, you know, maybe if you’re in a job that’s super repetitive and you’re just a cog, you’re not feeling like, hey, what’s my contribution and I don’t get it. And then if you’re not, if you don’t have a contribution, you don’t get to see sort of how you impacted anything really. You know, you could be switched out with someone else.

So yeah, I think maybe that’s sort of the ticket and why people are so passionate and maybe once they sort of start in tech, stay there.

Teja: Yeah, totally.

So, you’re a current client of ours. How are we doing? You know, and be straightforward. Like, what are we doing well, what are we not doing well?

Rachel: You know, I’ve been dreading this part of the podcast. I have some feedback for you. No, you know, Gun has been really, really incredible.

So I talk about, you know, the great developer I have on the iOS side, we’re using Gun for our Android development, which is the number one thing that we get asked. Like, where’s Android? And it’s so funny because you know, obviously the general public doesn’t understand that you cannot just flip a switch and launch on platforms, that it takes a lot of development time.

It takes money and finding the right person is the key. So, you know, I came across Gun, searching online and I am dead serious. I actually thought it was too good to be true. I still think it’s too good to be true because it’s so straightforward. Really, like it, you are, it is transparent internally, as well as to the customer.

I really liked that, you know, I could go in and be very specific about what we were looking for. I mean, I even threw on there like, must be a music fan, must be excited about this topic and timelines and all of those things. And then, I literally got back, you know, a good group of folks to choose from and I could interview them and they had their video interviews done and the whole process was seamless.

Your team that you have there, you have a lot of really good points of contact that, you know, helped me to navigate. And it’s just been, it’s been really great. And the follow-up is, is there, you know, the Slack boards that we use are awesome. It’s been really, really good.

And the person that we’re using, our developer, based in India is so fantastic. I think he’s, I mean, he seems just as excited about what we’re doing as the team here and we feel very connected even though, obviously he is several times ahead of us, but it’s been great.

Really, I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you. I have, you know, some founders groups that I’m in and I have also, you know, surpassed along that recommendation as well if they’re looking for developers.

Teja: That’s awesome.

Yeah, I appreciate that and the team appreciates that too.

It’s funny. I think I’m pretty sure, somebody said this verbatim. They said I want to be Rachel when I grow up.

And we have a pretty, I think as far as age, I don’t know, we have some young folks, we have some older folks, but you know, we have some folks that are aspiring entrepreneurs and you know, so I think the comment is just like they admired what you’re doing that.

You know, for a lot of our team, this is like, their first job period, I think, and also their first job in tech. So, they look at that and they admire what you’re doing.

Rachel: And I admire what they’re doing too, because I mean, everybody I’ve worked with has been super professional, you know, and I, I think back to, you know, my first roles, like out of school I don’t, I honestly don’t know that I was, that I had it that together, you know, and I don’t think I really had like client facing roles, which is probably a good thing. I think my parents were probably like, no, not the best. But, you know, I think that was just figuring out me. So, I think that you must run sort of a great organization to bring in the people that you do. So, I appreciate that.

Vinally, you know, it’s super fun. I’m having a really good time with it.

And so I think anybody that is going to be an entrepreneur and we all hear this, like either, yeah. You’re solving a problem that you’re experiencing, and that’s why you do it, or a hundred percent do something that you are passionate about because it will come through. It’ll come through in all of the things that you do and, and in your conversations, as well, that keep you going. Because if you’re like, you know, I’m going to pursue, I don’t know, I’m going to make a better widget that I just, I don’t really know anything about or need, but I think it could be cool, that’s not going to be enough to sustain you.

Teja: Yeah, totally.

I had a really good friend who once said to me, and I think about this a lot, he said, every time I’ve pursued what I thought was a good financial opportunity I’ve lost money, and every time I’ve done something that I just wanted to do, I made money. And I think that that’s so valid.

I mean, there’s, you know, you make a million decisions a year as a CEO, but like, you know, there are definitely decisions that I’ve made that I’m like, that’s a good financial opportunity, that have just ended up as a, just a hole in the P&L, and then there are decisions that you make that are just like, this would be legit to have in the world, let’s just do it, and I don’t have any data to support it.

My team thinks I’m crazy, but I just want to do it cause it’s fun. And we’re, you know, those are the ones that end up, you know, doing really well for us.

Rachel: People do, I’m sure these opportunities come up, but do people ask you or suggest, hey, maybe you do this, but maybe you should do this other thing that maybe, it would be a good financial decision, but wouldn’t necessarily be aligned with your vision. Like, I don’t know if that comes up and you have to sort of make that decision.

Teja: Yeah. I mean, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’ll give you one. So, you know, we haven’t raised any institutional capital.

I have some friends who’ve sold their businesses for hundreds of millions of dollars, who have given us money because they’re just there chilling and they’re advising companies. And so we had one of my friends, you know, suggest we should acquire another development shop, but it’s just like, it’s a big distraction from your core mission, right. In my opinion. But it would have been a lucrative opportunity. I think. And it’s tough to say no to somebody that’s really successful and really confident in their claims and probably is right, if they are just looking at the P&L effects, but it doesn’t seem fun, like straight up. It just doesn’t seem fun, even if it seems lucrative. What are you going to do with like, what are you going to do with that?

You know, it’s just, how can you, if there’s a fire in the middle of the night, are you going to hate yourself to get up, to go and fix that part of the business, if that’s not something that you’re engaged with?

So yeah, that happens to us quite often. And I think as you know, any of our businesses grow as a law, the number, as well as the attractiveness of opportunities that you shouldn’t do increase. So like, you know, it stands to reason as your business gets more successful, the things that you’ll say no to are like more and more lucrative, right?

Because you know, why would somebody approach you over something that wouldn’t be worth your time at a hundred X the scale they would add? You just, but you still will like it, not as much as you think, right. So I think that always happens.

Rachel: Yeah. I mean, that’s a good problem, I guess, right, to have. You could say if you’re growing at that rate that you’re saying no to things that, maybe, would have completely made your company years ago, but you’ve actually sort of eclipsed that where, you don’t, you don’t need to do it. You could, but it’s a much better position to be if, you know, you want to do something then like, you know, I don’t know how we’re going to keep the lights on, so yeah, we’re going to kind of, you know, sell our soul a little bit and do this. That’s not a good place to be, but I mean, sometimes you, you know, you might do that if you stomach it and, and you see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Teja: Yeah, totally. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Like in the first three years of the business, you know, I basically cold called eight hours a day and I would take any opportunity that came into the door. You know what I mean? And I’ve said yes to everything, but then I think over time you can sort of be increasingly more discerning, you know?

Rachel: Yeah, and for Vinally, I can tell you that, you know, obviously we’re a dating app, unabashedly. I mean, that’s the point, is to match based on music. And I mean, we do have, you know, you can absolutely select a commitment level of just concert buddies. Absolutely. So you could use it, you know, platonically. But that’s not a core of our business at all, and we’re not like, you know, it’s a very ambiguous term, social platform. Like, yes, dating apps are a social platform, but we actually have a purpose for that, for the user. And it’s a, it’s a purpose. It’s a need that people have.

So I’ve had conversations with investors who have, and these weren’t like serious conversations, so that’s why I’m, sort of, like, putting it in this light, where they just said, off handed, like, Hey, have you considered, you know, kind of, you know, pivoting or just creating like, you know, Vinally into a social platform? And, you know, I’m, I’m like, Hey, respectfully, like, No, you know, I don’t think that that makes sense.

I think there’s a need for what we’re doing and we’re going to keep doing it. And maybe we’ll grow and become more of like a destination, in terms of like music and other things, but it’s never going to just be like a place to go, like talk, you know, about music because there’s so many places like that. There’s so many great blogs. There’s so many other sites and that’s not what we’re going to be able to do better at, for sure.

Teja: Totally. And that’s like a conviction assessment. That’s not even something that you can look at a PNL and decide based on expected opportunity. That’s just like a, what do you, where do you want to run? You wanna run a network or like a dating application and the only person who could make that decision typically is you, you know.

There’s an interesting thing where in the eighties and the nineties, you used to have a lot of founders CEOs replaced by venture capital, like as the company scaled. And I was, I forget where I was reading this but it was talking about how, because the technology life cycles were way longer, you can actually have the innovation created by the founder and then have a professional CEO run and take the business to, you know, a hundred million revenue or something like that and take it to scale.

But as technology cycles have become faster and more rapid and you need to innovate maybe, three to four years in the business and like completely sort of re architect the way that you maybe, make money or the way the product is functioning, there’s not enough sort of like runway for an institutional backed professional CEO to go and run that existing innovation.

So, you know, founder CEOs who understand the founding vision and who can continually shape and change that, and who have the conviction, and don’t make decisions based on strictly, you know, P&L statement of people who can run the business indefinitely.

So, I thought that was a really interesting sort of insight just about running a startup today, you know, and scaling it.

Rachel: Yeah. Yeah, no, you’re right. I don’t think you can be sort of, you can’t as a founder, be hands off the wheel and you can’t have necessarily like that distance from the vision. It’s not like, yeah. It’s not an operation. It’s still, it’s really important. That you stay, like, you know, mission focused but you do obviously have to evolve.

As you’re saying, you know, evolve with technology, evolve with the customer, always be thinking, how can you make it better, you know, faster and be open to all of that. But I think, yeah, it is. And it’s a reason like, you see, you know, a lot of, yeah, founder CEOs who stick around and stick around even after, you know, there’s an acquisition or whatever. Because it’s really important to still keep close to what the original vision was for the product.

Teja: Yeah. So what’s next for Vinally? What do you guys have in store?

Rachel: Yeah. So as mentioned, you know, we have Android in development. It’s actually, we are in the alpha phase right now, so it’s going to be published this month., So really excited to have that in the play store, as well.

I also mentioned, you know, we’re looking at additional ways to create a profile outside of Spotify. So there’s obviously other, you know, music service providers that people use, and we want to be able to incorporate those.

As well as we’re creating our own Vinylly music profile, which, you know, just as quickly, you’ll be able to sort of come up with your own, you know, profile around what you, what you’re interested in and create matches that way.

And then, you know, probably, in the near, near short term, I guess, would be expansion to other marketplaces. So we’ve identified a few others that we think finally would make sense and serve a need there. So yeah, we’ll be, we’ll be busy, especially on the development side here, or I don’t know, you know, I don’t see an end to it, but we’re just excited that, you know, the word started to get out about Vinally.

And also it goes without saying that we are really hoping that concerts come back. Selfishly, it’s a part of the app where we make that, you know, sort of possible to, to share and invite people. But also just because I think people love, you know, music and getting out and going to live events. So I’m hoping that, you know, this can happen safely or that obviously the pandemic, you know, lessons with the vaccinations, so that we can go back to enjoying music onstage.

Teja: I’m right there with you. Yeah, I definitely miss being out there and even restaurants.

Rachel: Yeah, right? Just an acoustic guitar would be incredible. I mean, you know, I think people are so hungry for it. Like, they would, I’m sure, make like a killing if that could happen, for sure.

Teja: Totally. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Rachel, for spending time with us today.

Rachel: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

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