Ken Oboh - Co-founder of REMIX.com and UMIX.com

[quote style=”boxed”]Even if you succeed, but you do it in an industry you don’t connect with, or while working with people you don’t like or respect, you’ll never be fulfilled, no matter how successful you become.[/quote]

Ken Oboh is the co-founder of Remix and Umix, two  music sites that give users the power to be their own DJs. Ken is a serial entrepreneur in the entertainment industry.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, we’re working on our upcoming websites, Umix and Remix. Umix is a free music social networking platform that will allow people to make their own DJ mixes automatically. The mixes can be created quickly, easily, and without a technical background, so anyone can do it. Remix, like Umix, is also a music social networking site; it will allow people to mix different licensed instrumentals together with licensed vocals to create their own songs. They can then share them with their friends, and even sell them on the site.

Where did the idea for Remix and Umix come from?

My business partner, Chris McNeeney, came up with the idea for the sites. Chris has been a hobby producer/DJ since his adolescent years and he’s also been very fascinated with internet technology, being active in music forums online for years. He was always looking for sites and software he could use to make music; the fact that a lot of these tools were either too expensive, or weren’t available, led him to ultimately decide to create them, primarily to use himself in creating music. In the process, he realized these tools should be available to the general public.

What does your typical day look like?

Apart from managing our staff at our internet marketing business, my typical day consists of researching and compiling music from several hundred upcoming independent artists. I’m using this information to build a database for the launch of Umix/Remix. I also spend time on social networking sites, building relationships with artists and getting feedback on their music from their fans so that when we launch Umix/Remix, I’ll know some of the more popular artists that we’ll be promoting more intensely to our members, as well as how we’ll get their fans on our platform.

I’m also building a list of great instrumentals and vocals that we will license as content for Remix, and I’m building a list of some major artists we can partner with to sponsor competitions among the Umix/Remix users once we launch the sites. These lists are central to our strategy of harnessing existing networks of independent artists and fans, as well as partnering with major artists, to make Umix and Remix exciting platforms to offer great value to their fans – and an opportunity for them to earn revenue from our sites.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We have a team of admin staff and freelance programmers. Chris and I regularly have meetings to go through the ideas we have for each of the projects we’re working on, and we decide which ones will be implemented. We usually flesh our ideas out into lists of features and tweaks, and then develop a mock-up for the developers. Chris usually works directly with the developers, so he manages and oversees the technical design/development process. It’s an ongoing process of ideas, discussions, tweaks, and implementation in a continuous loop.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

At the moment, I get really excited about the music technology that’s available today that enables and empowers people to make their own music and distribute it online to thousands of people. I’m super excited about our own music platforms we’re working on to facilitate this process. Over the last 10 years, as this technology has been evolving, we’ve been working with many independent artists from the U.S., Europe, and Africa. Our goal, from the start, has always been to empower these artists to build careers for themselves and make a viable living. Today, the technological landscape has finally made that a distinct possibility, so I get really excited waking up every day, knowing that we’re playing a very central role in the development of independent music on a global scale. This feeling is greater than anything else I can think of, so we feel blessed.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked in retail management in a huge warehouse. I was responsible for merchandising, stock control, and working the shop floor. I absolutely loathed the fact that I had to work in a heavily regimented environment; I wasn’t passionate about the industry, and my ideas had no impact on management. I learned that I’m terrible at being an employee who has to toe the line, which taught me that I had to build my own business in a field that I was passionate about, and where my ideas could make things happen.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would not have studied for so many academic qualifications. I would have just earned a degree and skipped the 2-3 years of postgraduate study and started a business. From where I’m standing now, I was extremely lucky to have been able to build a business after the years of extra academic study, because most of my peers now have professional jobs, families, and mortgages, so it’s not easy for them to go into business. I’m also blessed to have met my business partner. Chris is an absolute genius in “all things internet,” and he basically got me over my fear and ignorance of internet-based businesses – this was critical in getting me comfortable enough to go into business online. The older you get, the more pressure you feel to have a “normal job” and a family. It has a lot to do with the psychological concept of “identity”; if the people in your life have never associated you with building a business, then the first time you attempt to do it at an advanced age, you feel like a fish out of water, and this feeling will make you take cover in a traditional job. I always advise people to get into some form of business early, even if they’re doing it alongside their regular schoolwork or jobs.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Follow your passion and learn about as many different successful business people as possible. It’s important to find a role model that works for you. So many successful people have achieved success in a way that not everyone can follow, so it’s really important to read widely and/or speak to as many different entrepreneurs as possible, because the way one person made it may appeal more to your sense of success than the next one. It’s ultimately about what type of success you want to be. Even if you succeed, but you do it in an industry you don’t connect with, or while working with people you don’t like or respect, you’ll never be fulfilled, no matter how successful you become.

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

Amazon eBook publishing is big right now withthe huge popularity of the Kindle. You can research online and find authors who are looking for affiliates to help them sell their eBooks. You can advertise those eBooks on Amazon to Kindle owners and earn a commission for every sale you make. If you fancy yourself a writer, you could write your own eBook or pay someone to write one for you; you can hire freelance writers from sites like Guru.com or Elance.com and, for a few hundred dollars, you can have a book written for you on any topic you’re passionate about. This is probably one of the lowest-cost/lowest-risk businesses I can think of right now, where you can build an income and a business while doing something you truly love and providing value to like-minded people who will become your customers and friends.

Tell us a secret.

Did you know the word ‘testify’ derived from a time when men were required to swear on their testicles? Did you know that Peru has more pyramids than Egypt, or that a third of Americans flush the toilet while they’re still sitting on it?

What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?

  • Alexa.com: I have an Alexa toolbar installed on my browser, and I love it. When I’m browsing a site, I like to know how much traffic the site gets; it helps me easily know which types of websites and/or marketing strategies appeal to people so I can incorporate this into our own business.
  • Google: This one is self-explanatory, but I absolutely love Google. I use it for things as diverse as doing research, to converting my height to meters, to calculating the exchange rate of my currency when traveling.
  • Bookmark Tool: I have a very significant collection of bookmarks of articles, links, and documents as I do a lot of online research, and I use a cloud-based bookmark tool to sync all my bookmarks so I can access them from any computer. I find this absolutely invaluable; I can easily access any information anytime, anywhere.

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

I recommend Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. Every now and then, a book comes along that absolutely “shifts” my entire paradigm about the world, and the latest book to do that is this one. This book confirms something I’ve long suspected about success, which is contrary to what most people are brought up to believe: that geniuses are not born, but made. This myth of born success stories has been peddled for generations and has crystallized in the thinking of mainstream society. It’s provided a convenient excuse for people to not make the effort and engage in the hard work that’s necessary to achieve extraordinary success. To succeed and become an expert in anything, you have to put in the hours; there is simply no shortcut, and anyone who tells you any differently is living in the pre-knowledge era.

What’s on your playlist?

Dbanj, Akon, Davido, Drake, Yung 6ix, Wizkid, 50 Cent, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and countless others populate my playlist.

If you weren’t working on Remix and Umix, what would you be doing?

I would be working on some of our other internet marketing projects, as well as an online modeling agency, which I’ve kept on the back burner for now.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  • Follow 50 Cent. He is one of my top 3 cultural and business idols. This rapper and successful music business mogul is now embracing the concept of “conscious capitalism” and attempting to feed a billion children in Africa through his partnership with the UN Food program. Plus, he’s a great hip-hop musician, so you’ll hear some great music in his regular Twitter feeds.
  • Follow Ben Parr. He is a vocal co-editor of Mashable.com, one of the biggest tech blogs on the web. He not only posts links to articles on Mashable (as you would expect), but he also provides commentary and curated links to other interesting articles. I love the concept of getting a constant stream of up-to-the-minute news on social networks and digital trends.
  • Follow Don Tapscott. He’s a writer, speaker, and, most notably, the co-author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Tapscott is a sought-after consultant and commentator on the social effects of the web. Wikinomics is one of the great books that shaped my understanding of the digital age, and his insights are invaluable for navigating the future as an entrepreneur, especially if you’re interested in internet businesses.

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

I was talking with Chris, and we were reminiscing about the “old” days (about 8 years ago), when we were starting our music venture. We were marveling at our perception then of what we considered to be the pinnacle of success, and realizing how far we’ve come.

Who is your hero?

I have three: Warren Buffett, Anita Roddick, and Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist.com). Their sense of “conscious capitalism” really resonates with me.

What are your views on work/life balance?

This concept makes absolutely no sense to me. First of all, you should strive to make your passion your “work,” and this way, you’ll never have to take time off work because you’ll love doing it every minute. Secondly, if you’re a very ambitious individual and you want to achieve above-average success, there’s an inescapable principle which society has a problem admitting: to achieve phenomenal success in anything in life, you can’t live a “balanced” life. If you want extraordinary success, you’re going to have to live an “extraordinary” life. That means focusing on the thing you want most, even to the detriment of other areas of your life, and you have to accept this.

Is success the most important thing in your life?

No. Success is the second most important thing in my life, but it’s part of the first thing, which is fulfillment. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to learn the difference between the two. Success has to do with goals and achievement. Goals are great tools to measure success, but are insufficient to measure fulfillment. When you die, success doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters when you take your last breath is fulfillment in life. While success may have a “destination,” fulfillment has no destination, and by definition, you will never “arrive.”

Connect: