If Steve Martocci could give everyone a fortune cookie with a customized saying inside he’d write: “Lost cookie. Please Return” with his name and address.
“Imagine if I managed to reach the billions of people in the world. I’d love to see what kinds of letters I’d get back if I gave them a feedback loop,” he says.
The fortune cookie question is one of my favorites to ask; Giving founders and investors an opportunity to reveal a foundational or unknown part of who and how they are.
If you know Martocci, or have been following his journey, his craving to discover new ways to interact with the world won’t come as a surprise. From helicopters to hoverboards to group messaging and email marketing, the now Co-founder and CEO of music startup Splice has successfully played his hand at a variety of startup games. Sounds like a typical resume, right?
Martocci’s latest endeavor Splice is “helping the world discover and meet it’s musical potential through connected technology.” Their chief goal is to empower artists “to create fearlessly.”
Founded in 2013, the platform - which Martocci describes as Adobe Creative Cloud for audio - currently serves over 300,000 users and is funded by renowned DJs Tiësto and Swedish House Mafia's Steve Angello.
The startup’s mission is a telling reflection of Martocci, who is an insatiable seeker of improving the way things are.
In today’s featured interview, he gives us an exclusive look into his creative process detailing the catalyst of his ideas, how he harnesses them, and a simple framework for you to do the same.
“It happens all the time,” Martocci says, reflecting on an idea inspired by a comment his wife made at dinner. “It’s everywhere. Someone can say something or share an idea, and I start thinking about how to refine it or create a whole different product.”
The difference between Martocci and others is his yearning desire to put his ideas into action.
“When I get passionate about why something doesn’t exist in the world I become obsessed. I have to go down that path. I don’t even think about it.”
Code and digital platforms are my canvas as an artist.
The first strike of inspiration came alive in GroupMe: A group messaging app initially designed to streamline talking to your friends at concerts. Martocci and his Co-founder Jared Hecht coded the app at a 24-hour hackathon.
“In the early stages of creation, your brain prioritizes building, reflecting, and refining all at the same time. It’s like magic,” he says. “You stay up 24 hours because you’re obsessed. I like to get obsessed.”
I do my best work when I’m obsessed.
370 days later, Skype acquired GroupMe for $70 million. The service, now owned by Microsoft, remains a leading messaging platform to communicate with large groups of family, friends, and coworkers.
“There’s a new idea every day. I’ve had to train myself not go build them all."
The question is: How do you know when you should?
The catalyst for Martocci entering a state of obsession is when he has an idea or hypothesis that he wants to build and experiment with quickly.
“You don’t know where it’s going to go, but you know that if you get to a certain point you can start making rational decisions about it,” he says.
Next time you’re in a similar position, your first course of action should be conducting initial research to assess the market. These are the questions Martocci uses to shape his search.
- Is there a company currently solving this problem? Are they successful? If so, how are they doing it?
- If there isn’t a market winner, what’s holding these companies back?
- If no companies are working on this idea, why aren’t they? Are there challenges that you didn’t realize?
The analysis, as well as talking to as many people as possible, will help you avoid building a product or service that is inherently flawed. Creation is addicting, and you can’t do everything. Although Martocci admits that he’s tried.
Blade, the Uber for helicopters, is an example of Martocci validating an obsessive pursuit. After encountering the broken booking process when trying to propose to his now wife on a helicopter ride, he teamed up with current CEO Rob Wiesenthal to design a smarter solution. The duo built the service in three months and have since raised $6 million, enabling you to book a helicopter ride from New York to the Hamptons, Miami, and more.
Once you’ve decided an idea’s worth pursuing Martocci suggests experimenting as quickly and cheaply as possible.
When meeting with entrepreneurs to potentially invest in, (yes, he’s an angel investor too,) he’s often faced with founders asking for capital to build a prototype or test an initial idea.
“I generally ask them: What are the hacks you could be doing to prove whether or not this is needed? Couldn’t you just prove that concept by having an Instagram account and hashtagging it this way?”
For Splice, which Martocci self-funded, the team worked nights and weekend to test the idea.
“If you’re really taken by an idea you’ll make it happen. Money isn’t going to make you passionate enough to do it. If you don’t have the internal expertise, you have to find another way to vet your ideas without spending investors money. Outsourcing is a quick way to waste capital.”
It’s critical to be capital efficient when evaluating your ‘A-ha moments’ because not all of them will amount to viable businesses.
“There are times when you’re hypothesis is validated and there are times when you’re wrong. Knowing when to shift your focus and cut something is extremely important,” Martocci says.
A lack of separation between data and reality can be blinding.
You can combat this by assembling a group of co-founders, board members, and investors who you trust to give you feedback along the way.
While you should always make well-informed decisions, the key to Martocci’s method is "being open to the calling to experiment."
Leave room for moments of conviction to envelop your thinking.
Explosive creation can transform your business.
Images retrieved from Business Insider and Splice.
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