Startup Spotlight: Clammr

Startup Spotlight: Clammr

This week we discuss audio content in social media with  Parviz,  co-founder of Clammr.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAY8AAAAJGZmOTc5MTNkLTViMzUtNDg2Yi1iODI0LWJhMTE4NmQ4MThlOAGH: What is CLAMMR?

Parviz: Clammr brings audio content into the social media conversation. We drive audience growth for audio creators by making their great audio easier to discover and share. We provide audio creators and their fans with tools to grab & mash up sound bites (max 24 seconds; mashable with images + GIFs) tied to longer audio, feature them on our platform, and distribute them for native playback on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Our social audio creation plug-in is integrated with infrastructure providers  serving 85k out of the 120-150k active podcasts. GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did CLAMMR get started? Parviz: One of my co-founders, David Silverman, and I bonded many years ago in law school over the fact that that we were both slow readers. We’ve always used audio as a hack for learning despite being slow readers. We’d often exchange audio with each other and flag specific insightful moments. David had the inspiration one day, asking why there wasn’t a way for us to collect and share the best soundbites with a link back to the full source. The idea scratched an itch both of us had and from there it became a bit of an obsession. Making great audio rapidly browsable, sharable, and collectible the way we can do with other media was something we wanted to have for ourselves and felt would make the world better.

GH: How did you build your team? Parviz: We knew we had to complement our own skills and, at the same time, wanted to set up a team norm where everyone contributes to each part of what we are doing. We adopted a “first chair” model where each person on our founding team would be the primary lead in a defined area (e.g., David focusing on product; me focusing on marketing/biz dev) while others would still be expected to contribute. For this reason, we prioritized intrinsics and the ability to think across areas in building the founding team. These are things that don’t come across on paper or based on just experience. So, we relied on personal referrals and also had “dating periods” of several weeks with each new addition before making formal commitments. Our full founding team is made of up Oren Goldfinger (front end lead), Ken Ito (backend lead), David, and me. Over time, we’ve built up group of folks working on a contract and part-time basis to complement the full-time founding team.

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture? Parviz: We’re small enough right now where our personalities play a big role in our culture and I’m having a hard time reflecting on company culture as something separate from us as individuals. I would flag that we’re mission-driven, focused on making great audio easier to discover and share. Also, over time, we’ve come to see audio creators as the folks we are primarily serving even though there is certainly a two-sided market of creators and listeners out there when it comes to discovery and sharing. So, when it comes to setting priorities, we always ask ourselves about what’s best for creators and the extent to which what we do moves the ball forward on discovery and sharing for them.

GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bouncedback from one of yours? (please identify the perceived failure as well)
Parviz: It’s hard to identify any particular moment since every day provides opportunities to learn. Last year, we prioritized developing a third-party plug-in that would let listeners generate sharable soundbites from audio players. We underestimated the complexity of the effort and our UI was far off the mark. We shared it with partners and they really had a hard time with it. Initially, it felt like a blown opportunity because our partners had to allocate developer resources to the effort and they ran into something that just wasn’t up to standard. I wish I could say there’s some brilliant insight about how went about bouncing back, but it really just came down to listening closely to the feedback, working hard to address it, putting our own skin in the game by working side-by-side with their

teams, and – most importantly – just getting lucky that folks were willing to go along for the ride with us to adopt the improved product.

GH: What did you learn from your first users?

Parviz: We saw that the uses who were most passionate and who retained the most with ourinitial app were creators who were treating it as a tool for taking moments from their longer audio and sharing it in a native format to social media. This led us to focus our efforts on creators and have less of a focus on Clammr as an audience aggregator. We prioritized building out product elements that help audio creators grow their audiences: our web tools; an audio sharing plug-in that is now integrated into audio players reaching close to 20 million people (allowing listeners to press a button and generate a soundbite that gets shared to their social media accounts with a link back to the full audio); and a service that embeds soundbites alongside premium publishers.

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

Parviz: During our earliest days while still in the concept stage, we embedded the Berklee College of Music as part of theInstitute for Creative Entrepreneurship led by Panos Panay, who is an wonderful and amazing person. We have a lot of musicians using Clammr, though we’ve focused our energy on spoken word early on because it’s where our initial motivation came from and we think there is much untapped potential as voice-based interactions emerge as a primary UI. We had four students from Berklee assigned to Clammr as part of their class and we’ve also had interns from Berklee since then. One of the interesting things about everyone we’ve work with is that they are not pigeonholed into music. Even though we’ve focused more on spoken word, the students we’ve worked with from Berklee have provided invaluable insights throughout our product development process. I think in a lot of ways musicians are ideally suited to be entrepreneurs and work with early-stage companies because being an artist a lot like running your own business. These are multi-skill athletes who not only can produce a unique end product (music) but also have natural facility with things like design, marketing, communications, and management as they look to share and make a living from their skills. In addition to Berklee ICE, I’ve things like the Music + Tech Meetup series and Venture Cafhave been great ways to get more plugged in.

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?

Parviz: The one thing that comes to mind is structural. Boston just doesn’t have a lot of very large companies of the sort that can serve as “anchor tenants” for the ecosystem by way of being customers or partners. I end up traveling to NY a good deal for that. reason. GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way? Parviz: Great advice: A new venture is an adventure – treat it like one.

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year? Parviz: We made a real sprint to develop a set of audio sharing tools that could embed into third-party audio players. It was a bet on the ecosystem and required others to take a leap of faith integrating our tools into their audio players. We were excited to see the leading podcast infrastructure providers (hosting, players) adopt our player in a very short period at the end of the year. At this point, our audio sharing tools are integrated with providers serving 85k out of the 120-150k active podcasts.

GH: What does the future hold for CLAMMR? Parviz: Our priorities are:

1. Continue to build out the footprint of where our sharing tools are – whether with our plug-ins or platforms we directly support.

2. Evangelize with creators and their fans to begin building community and scale to our database of soundbites linked to longer content.

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