Gee, Scott, what do you want to do tonight? The same thing we do every night, Steve—try to help music take over the world by building better mobile apps for bands and their fans.

In 2009, in Raleigh, North Carolina, brothers Scott and Steve Klein had been brainstorming tech startup ideas. Both were students at NC State, but with opposite majors—nearly yin and yang. Add entrepreneurial DNA and they're Pinky and The Brain. Scott (Brain) was preparing to graduate as a computer engineer, and his younger brother, Steve (Pinky), was studying business management/marketing. Their startup would be born, but the question was, what kind? Taking advantage of their student resources, they had access to mentoring and networking through the NCSU Engineering Entrepreneurs Program.

The Klein brothers started 2bros1blog.com to blog about what they learned on the startup road. Many early ideas were solutions aimed towards the university community. Scott had learned Objective-C, the programming language for iPhone apps, and they decided they really wanted to get involved with mobile apps. Everyone has a phone, and they always have it with them, right? But they needed to find the right niche. They thought about campus sports or news apps, but when they proposed building a news app for the college paper, they were met with perplexed stares. Scott and Steve realized that for their app service to fly, they needed to find people that were really interested in expanding and engaging their audience. Being music fans themselves, they took what seemed to be a logical turn that summer—towards musicians. Next stop, Sound Around.

from Steve:

What have I been up to for the past 4 months? Customer development. I've been talking with bands, bloggers and record labels trying to validate that there's a market for this. The results have been satisfying. Record labels range from sufficiently interested to overjoyed at the prospect of their band getting their very own iPhone application. It almost seems trivial to me because we've been talking about the idea for the last 6 months. But to them it's like a dream come true.

Scott graduated in December, gave a speech, and started a job at an TransLoc—a startup that provides realtime location information to mass-transit users. He built their iPhone app. At the same time he and Steve (who was still in school and working part-time in Macaroni Grill) were developing what would soon be called Sound Around. At the turn of 2010, they took on 15 bands as closed-beta testers. In February Steve learned the ins and outs of web design and built getsoundaround.com.

TechStars

With people skills and resourcefulness, they'd bootstrapped their expenses so far, but in early 2010 they got involved with TechStars in an effort to raise seed capital. In March they flew to Boulder and found themselves surrounded by like minds in the tech scene. Of 600 startups, TechStars funds only 10. Sound Around made it to the top 27 but not the final 10, and it was back to bootstrapping.

from Scott:

This weekend was an absolute whirlwind of data points about our idea, the target market, team dynamics, future of the product—we talked about it all. We talked about it all with some of the brightest minds we've met to date. Raleigh isn't necessarily a breeding ground for software startup people; you can imagine our fascination with the warm tech scene that Boulder had to offer. They just get it.

In a typical college scenario, the two brothers were living in a 4-bedroom apartment with two other students—David and A.J.—but when David moved out to live with his fiancé, Scott and Steve commandeered the empty room and converted it into a workspace—their current headquarters.

Having success with the beta apps, they started recording videos to demo the Sound Around platform, and, in the meantime started the application process for funding through another (more local) startup incubator, called LaunchBox Digital…which pretty much brings us to the present. Last night was a milestone for Sound Around. Their first apps were approved by Apple and are now live in the App Store. The party was on, but it's only the beginning for Sound Around.

In the upcoming weeks, Sound Around will be running discount promos via Twitter. Stay in the loop: @virtualmusicTV and @getsoundaround.

Scott is on a 3-month sabbatical from his job at TransLoc to focus full-time on Sound Around. Steve would love to be able to dropout next semester and get Sound Around rolling without distractions. Funding would help them "scale faster" but with or without it they're expecting to launch in public beta this summer. They considering finding a 3rd team member experienced in web and/or Android dev.

Strongpoints

The band apps as a service market is a wide-open frontier. There's some fundamental characteristics about Sound Around that really make them stand out:
  • It's the DIY mindset. Sound Around's young, two-brother team is the core of all their development. They're building it all from the ground up. By not hiring out their programming or design, they'll be able to constantly address feedback and improve their platform. When demands of the app market change, they'll be able to adapt the fastest.
  • Sound Around purely focused on developing apps for bands/musicians. They're not leaving the music niche—immense as it is—and they plan on rocking it. MobBase is their only direct competition right now, and there's plenty of room to coexist in this space.
  • In what I've learned about Scott and Steve, I can tell that they understand the importance of people in the mix. They plan on creating an interface for interaction—not one-way communication—and they have a lot of innovative ideas on deck.
  • Their pricing is user-focused. It's not based on installs. Bands pay based on the number of fans that actually use the app each month. The starter $14/month plan covers 1000 unique app users per month. Above 1000 is $0.01/user until the next tier—$29/month for 5000 unique users.
  • Their mascot is a giraffe named Shirley. She'll make you smile. :) Giraffes are a symbol of evolution, you know. She doesn't always travel with the team of course, who'll be attending events this summer, including Warped Tour in Charlotte, and would love to meet up.

update: ReverbNation aquires SoundAround. Scott:

I know it hasn't been very long since we officially launched back in July, but we've been working on something really cool behind the scenes that we're finally ready to tell everyone about. One of our fellow local music companies, ReverbNation, has acquired Sound Around and will be moving quickly to launch the product to their more than 900,000 artists.

Steve and I are both super excited to be joining the ReverbNation team to work on providing mobile products that will continue to move the needle on acquiring new fans, and engaging existing ones on a deeper level. We've been heavily vested in creating useful technologies in the mobile space, and we have no doubt that these efforts will only be amplified as we move into our new roles working alongside an impressive and passionate team of individuals.

For everyone that had a hand in touching, shaping, or otherwise influencing our foray into building a product and launching our first company, we can't thank you enough for all of the hours of mentoring, being a cheerleader, and (most importantly) bringing us down to size when we needed it.