Joey Flores – Co-Founder and CEO of Earbits

[quote style=”boxed”]The quote that resonates the most with me in terms of this lesson is one from Abraham Lincoln: “Things may come to those who wait…but only the things left by those who hustle.”  Now that I see what others are accomplishing in their 20’s, I know that you can start hustling much earlier in life–and you should.[/quote]

Joey Flores is co-founder and CEO of Earbits, an online radio platform that enables bands, labels and concert promoters to acquire fans, market new releases and promote live events.  Flores has more than 13 years of experience in online marketing and startup management.  He was Director of Online Marketing for Mota Motors, a BusinessWeek Top 50 Most Promising Startup of 2009 and TechCrunch50 finalist.  He previously led business development for Affiliate Fuel, leading to its acquisition by Experian in 2005.  After the departure of its co-founders, Joey took over management of the company during its tri-merger with LowerMyBills and ClassesUSA.  During that time, he grew the affiliate marketing division from $19 million to $48 million in less than 2 years.  His experience in online marketing and business development, combined with his passion for music and experience as front man and manager of a 10-piece original band, make him an ideal leader for Earbits.

What are you working on right now?

Right now we’re focused on increasing the size and engagement of the Earbits audience and helping our labels and bands extract value from that audience.  We’re constantly thinking about features from the perspective of the listener, exploring what can we build to get people to listen to more bands and engage them with those bands on a deeper level.  When we brainstorm ideas for new features, first and foremost we try to estimate which will have the biggest impact to the business in general, but we definitely make it a point to prioritize features that add value for both our audience and our clients.  A good example of this is letting people join bands’ email mailing lists.  Our users want to be able to do that and our bands want it, too.  We’re focused on building a product that is a win-win for everybody we work with.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day depends a lot on where we are at with the business.  Right now, I’m traveling a lot between Los Angeles and San Francisco because we’re having a lot of meetings with potential partners in the Bay Area.  At other times, I focus on marketing initiatives, including following up with potential partners, meeting with partners and brainstorming hair-brained marketing schemes.  I also spend a good 45-90 minutes every day keeping up on industry news.  Sometimes it seems like I spend too much time keeping on top of what’s happening in music or tech, but then I’ll walk into a meeting and be asked about a company, a new product or a funding event and I think it’s important to have that information readily available.

3 trends that excite you?

One trend that excites me right now is that the power seems to be shifting in favor of entrepreneurs and founders.  There are a lot more tools for startup founders to build companies, find partners, raise funding and more.  The more options there are, the cheaper companies are to start. And, the more understanding there is about how to build a company intelligently, the bigger the advantage is for companies–and that’s exciting.

Another trend that’s great is the startup boom happening in Los Angeles right now.  There are 10 or so accelerators in the space, several that I’m particularly fond of, and there are a ton of really awesome startups popping up in Santa Monica and Venice.  The companies themselves are running a bit under the radar still, but there have been some good articles about the community and investors lately and there’s a lot happening behind the scenes to strengthen the community.  Give it one more year and you’re going to see some heavy hitters coming out of L.A.

Lastly, I think consumer are growing tired of the same old music and expect more curation, which is good for Earbits.  The beauty of the Internet in terms of music is its diversity and people are increasingly wanting to tap into that.  It’s going to put us in a very good position as we continue to focus on high quality music discovery.

How do you bring ideas to life?

This is a strange question for me because I don’t really build things.  The 2 skills I have that seem to result in things existing where nothing existed before are believing, maybe naively, that those things are possible and convincing really amazing people to work on them with me.  Honestly, for all that I’ve done to help bring Earbits to life, most of it was just finding the right people to build it with me and then doing whatever I could to give them the flexibility and resources they needed to be effective.  Most of the highlights of my career have been around identifying good opportunities, picking the right people to work with and trying to add value for those people.

What inspires you?

Early on I was inspired by the drums and ultimately started playing when I turned 20.  Then I was inspired by the Los Angeles spoken word scene and I carved out a place for myself there.  Now I’m most inspired by the terrible experience that my co-founder, Yotam and I had trying to promote our music.  Every time I think of the bands we have on Earbits experiencing the same pain we had spreading the word about our music, I want to work that much harder to make Earbits successful.  The idea that one day we’ll be able to take a band that nobody’s heard of and help them market their album, sell out a tour and raise money for their next album is just amazing to me.

What is one mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it?

I’ve made plenty of mistakes and learned from most of them, but I think the one thing I regret is not pushing harder for the things I wanted early on in my life. Perhaps it was a symptom of not really knowing what I wanted.  That sounds strange to say because I’ve been working relatively hard since I was about 15 years old, but much of it was on things that weren’t important to me.  The quote that resonates the most with me in terms of this lesson is one from Abraham Lincoln: “Things may come to those who wait…but only the things left by those who hustle.”  Now that I see what others are accomplishing in their 20’s, I know that you can start hustling much earlier in life–and you should.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There are lots of business that tell you the best bar for this or the best bar for that.  I want someone to build a mobile app that just picks one single bar within a 15 mile radius and tells everyone who is looking for something to do that night to go to the same place.  On a Monday or other slow night, I’d like to go to a bar that’s crowded with people looking to have a good time, but you’ll find 5 people in this bar, 4 in that one and so on.  Most of those people are disappointed that it’s so dead out, but really the crowd is just not in one place.  If you could just tell every bored person to meet at the same bar on any given night, you’d have an instant party.  Once a company becomes capable of sending 150 people looking for a good time to a bar on an otherwise dead night, bars would start paying big bucks and offer discounts to be bar of the night.

What do you read every day and why?

I read Digital Music News, Hypebot, Hacker News and TechCrunch pretty religiously.  That keeps me relatively aware of issues in music and technology, which is important for me.  There are others that I end up reading pretty often if they show up on HackerNews or in my Facebook feed.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I think Lean Startup by Eric Ries was the most eye-opening for me as a startup founder.  I read a lot of articles and comments about the book and thought I understood its principles pretty well.  It wasn’t until I actually read it that I realized how important those principles are.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

I’m not much of a technophile.  I love my Android phone, but I’m not exactly an apps guy.  I just love that I no longer need printed directions, CDs, or half of the other things I used to use and have forgotten about now that they’re all in a phone I was going to carry with me anyway.  I’m sure if someone took time to show me some of the cool and useful apps out there, I would love it even more.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@Earbits, of course.  Other than that, I’m probably the least qualified person to answer that question.  I use Twitter to find specific things when I need them and to keep an open dialog with our customers.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Jon Stewart.  In general, there should just be more Jon Stewart in most places.

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

My co-founder is also my roommate and we have a running head’s up game of poker going.  Generally, we are already the types to take little sarcastic jabs at each other and pick on each other.  But when we sit down at the poker table, it gets taken to a whole other level.  You cannot drop a poker chip or the other person will say your hands are shaking from being terrified.  You cannot get lucky in a hand or then you’re told you have no skill whatsoever and never did.  In the past few weeks, Yotam has owed me some money in the game, but it’s nowhere near the few thousand dollars I owe him from actually borrowing money from him 2 years ago.  The other day he told me I’m lucky about something or other and I replied that he’s lucky he found a poker opponent willing to extend him so much credit.  The look on his face was classic–and I nearly died–doubled over in pain from laughing so hard.  I really need to pay him back.

What do you want to do professionally after Earbits?

I’m definitely going to focus on drums and becoming a solid drummer in a real rock band, but I also plan to start a “Y Combinator” for bands.  I want to take hand-picked musicians who are both great people and incredibly talented, bring them to a central location to work with each other and form amazing bands. I want to provide them with capital and mentoring from the best musicians and producers we can and then create a “Demo Day” packed with the best industry contacts they could ever hope to meet.  Then, I want to help them work out deals with these partners to make sure they get treated fairly and end up on the road to prosperous careers.

What are your ambitions outside of Earbits?

I want to help my parents retire, build an elaborate ball-pit room in my house that will make every party I ever have epic and then establish a long-term rehabilitation center for homeless people.  I want to pick homeless people who really have the capability to work and be healthy members of society, and not just give them a warm meal or a place to stay for a night. I want to give them independent housing, healthy food, counseling, career training and real job placement assistance.  I want to literally work with them until they are working, healthy and self-sufficient. Then I want to help them transition to being completely independent.


Earbits Website:
Joey Flores Email: [email protected]
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Earbits on Twitter: @earbits
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