[quote style=”boxed”]Help others. If you aren’t helping others, then you shouldn’t expect others to help you.[/quote]
Born and raised in Leeds, England, Ben Bechar combined music and business for the first time at the age of 13. Ben purchased some basic DJ equipment and started his first company “Party On Mobile DJs.” He played for various crowds (mainly birthday parties) in and around Leeds and after two years of running the company, he sold it to a friend who continued the successful service.
Ben holds a Masters Degree from the University of Leeds in Mechatronics and Robotic Engineering. While in school, Ben spent a portion of his free time taking night courses in studio engineering and music production. While his studies focused on the scientific sector, his interest in the music industry flourished on the side.
After realizing the inefficiencies within the music industry and how so many deserving artist were never given a chance due to a lack of music connections or money to back them, he decided that there must be a solution. Ben left his career in Robotic Engineering in England behind in order to start Eshac Entertainment in New York. The site he created Eshac.com is a social network that awards recording contracts to unsigned musical artists, based entirely on the opinions of fans. Ben believes that fans should be the ones who decide who gets signed.
Ben has managed to combine his knowledge of engineering, a passion for music and obsession with efficiency to create a solution to a problem that many artists have.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on version two of the site. It turned out that many of the assumptions that I had made for version one were not completely accurate, so now I am making a lot of very exciting changes.
Where did the idea for Eshac come from?
It was really a combination of a few things so I’ll explain one of them. I realized that it was so incredibly difficult for artists to “make it” as there were only a handful of people who made the decision as to who would be signed. This meant that if musicians didn’t have connections to the industry, didn’t have someone backing them financially or didn’t devote their entire life to their band, then they would never make it. There are so many amazing artists out there who need to be heard. If the fans are the ones deciding who gets signed rather than the few gatekeepers, then the doors are open to some incredible discoveries. I decided that there must be a solution to this problem, which is why I created Eshac. Which by the way stands for Every Song Has A Chance.
How do you make money?
At the moment Eshac is still in its growth stage and so traction is the big priority. However the different revenue streams are split into two categories. The first is related to signing an artist and includes the sale of songs, merchandise, touring, publishing etc. This is the same as every other label although we have the advantage of having lower risks and hence can be more artist friendly. The second category of revenue streams is related to the site itself (another advantage over major labels) and includes premium accounts, promoted profiles, advertising, sponsorship and everything you expect from a freemium model.
What does your typical day look like?
Almost every day follows the same pattern. I work from 7am till 3pm to manage my team, design new features, analyze data and anything related to the typical running of a business. At 3pm I go to the gym to break up my day giving me a boost. The rest of my day (4pm till 10pm) is filled with meetings, networking and some more work in between. If I’m lucky I get to socialize at 10pm but I usually just get some more work done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Although I am not a web developer, my background allows me to be able to design features in a much more detailed way, down to the mathematics required for the features to work. Then I collaborate with various developers, depending on the task, to build, test and re-build the idea.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Big Data, well using Big Data properly. Big Data has been around for a long time but it was always used in a really inefficient way. The algorithms that are being used and developed combined with the way people display the results allows for some incredible insight into what is going on in just about every industry.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked for about a year when I was 16 in a store very similar to Home Depot. It was my childhood dream to work there, as I have always loved building things. When I was old enough I applied and got a job as one of the many cashiers. However, it wasn’t long before I realized that just because the store was full of exciting things, it didn’t mean that working in the store was exciting. I guess the lesson for me was that you should keep your hobbies and work separate.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would run “lean”. Lean is just the buzzword that is used in the startup world but it essentially means that you should not assume anything and you should test, test and test. There are a few good books out there on the subject and if you are running a startup, then it is vital that you are at least aware of the methodology.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am sure it has been said a million times before but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of networking, not just with people in your industry but in fact all the time. Everyone has value, something which might not be as easy to see with some people, but they may have been through the same problems that you have in their own space or they may have been college roommates with the CEO of a company you would love to speak to. Also, help others. If you aren’t helping others, then you shouldn’t expect others to help you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Version one of Eshac. There was so much wrong with it based on many incorrect assumptions. I got stuck with developers who were costing me a lot of money and so I could not run all the tests that I wanted to in order to improve the site in a way that people would use it. I ended up having to leave those developers and find some new ones. It was a simple decision to make as the company could not survive with the original developers. However, in hindsight I should have moved much sooner.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I once designed a system that would use IR cameras installed in the top of lifts (elevators) combined with some object detection software to determine how much space was available. That way it would not need stop on other floors until others got off. I was annoyed about how often the doors would open and I would have to wait for another because there were already too many people inside. It would be a fairly easy system to implement and install to existing systems. It is not my best idea but the rest are being saved for a rainy day.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I’m going to assume that everyone has said no war, hunger, education for all etc. so I’m going to say a free Wi-Fi network in any area where people are living. That way everyone just needs a device to have access to almost every bit of knowledge out there.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
On my 17th birthday I snuck off to take my driving theory test (it’s the earliest time that you can take it in the UK) and failed. I re-took it a few weeks’ later and told people that I passed first time.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Podio – I use it with my team to manage and keep track of things. It is simple to use and allows you to customize your own software.
TeamGantt– This is just a software for creating Gantt charts but allows for easy collaboration.
Optimizely – Allows users to create A/B tests for their websites without any really programming experience. It is a very useful way of working out how to improve your site.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Light, Bright and Polite by Josh Ochs which really helps people who do not understand social media. It is an easy read with really useful information that is essential to know for any business that needs social media – which is every business.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Dave Matthews (Not the band). He is an inventor who is working on some very interesting stuff and so talks a lot about things to look out for while giving his own interesting views on the world.
Fred Wilson. He is a VC who gives a lot of very useful info and links to insightful articles.
Mashable. They have links to a lot of their articles and articles by others, which are usually fun to read whether you are a social media professional or not.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I was very recently at my sister’s wedding that was taking place in a hot country. I had been outside in the sun the day before the wedding but was under an umbrella the entire time. I woke up the morning of the wedding looked in the mirror and saw that I had the worst sunglasses marks I had ever seen, there was no missing them. All I could do was laugh at how ridiculous I looked and at how many people were going to be laughing at me for the rest of the day.
Who is your hero, and why?
Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the world wide web). His invention wasn’t just one of the greatest inventions of all time but it was one of the greatest gifts of all time. He allowed everyone to use it and it is arguably the most important thing we all use today.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an Englishman working in America?
Immigration is always a nightmare. I had to structure my company in a way that made no sense in order to play by the rules. It is hard enough starting a company but there is an extra layer added when you are not a citizen of the country your company is in. Even though there is meant to be a lot of help bringing in people to start companies to build growth in the economy, that message hasn’t really been passed down to the right people.
Do you have any special skills?
For the past year I have taken some extensive courses in nonverbal communication (more often referred to as body language). I am lucky enough to live in New York close to The Nonverbal Group, which is where I study. It is truly amazing what information people give off without realizing it and being able to read them gives you a kind of super power which is useful in all areas of life. I have become a much better communicator by being able to read when people are hiding that they are upset or want to be brought into a conversation. It is also fun to be able to look around a room and know who is barking up the wrong tree and who is getting lucky tonight.