Ryan Born started his career in the Atlanta office of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Assurance and Business Advisory Services Practice where he gained experience in an array of industries. He later transferred to New York City to broaden his experience in the firm’s Tax and Legal Services division. After PwC, he served as VP of Finance and Financial Controller at WireImage.com during which time the Company was acquired by Getty Images for $208 million. After WireImage, Ryan angel invested and served as CFO to NewCondosOnline.com, the largest one-stop resource for finding and comparing new condo developments. Most recently, he relocated to Los Angeles and founded AudioMicro.com, a micro stock music licensing destination. The company secured a round of Series A financing from VC firm DFJ Frontier and has amassed a UGC library of over 200,000 stock music and sound effects tracks which are licensed into YouTube videos, iPhone apps, short films, television, animations, and other new media projects.
Ryan graduated Beta Gamma Sigma with an undergraduate degree in Accounting/Marketing & Art history and a Studio Art minor from Emory University. In addition, he possesses a Masters of Accounting Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds an active CPA license with the State Board of Accountancy of his home state, Tennessee.
What are you working on right now?
I am spending most of my time on AudioMicro these days. We continue to grow. We’ve got the best content, the largest library and we’re putting music into thousands of videos, iPhone Apps, Facebook games, movies and even television. We’re taking on large chunks of good music (which can be anyone from individuals to labels) and then on the distribution front, we’re partnering up with other websites and partners who can white label our content from us. While we’re getting a lot of traffic to our site, when it comes to distribution my belief is the more the merrier so we try and spread the content around and cast as large a net as possible. Our clients range from big brands like AMD, Martha Stewart, and Wells Fargo that are using video for internal purposes, presentations, pitches or YouTube videos to millions of independent video bloggers who’re using it for their blogs, YouTube or projects. On the bigger side of those smaller web video clients would be someone like iJustine who has a very large following both via her blog, Twitter, and YouTube.
Also, I am working on another project which is currently in stealth mode which is in the voice to text category and ties in with Google Voice.
How did you get the idea for AudioMicro?
I was working for a company called WireImage, for which I worked in a financial capacity. As I was studying the photography category, I ran across a little company called iStockPhoto which was able to compete via crowd sourcing with companies much larger like Getty Images, Jupiter Images, and Corbis. In 2005, my mother called me one day because she needed a rose for her business card. She had found an image on the Internet and had called Getty Images who quoted her $200 for that image. I sent her to iStockphoto where she was able to get an image of a rose for $5. That really hit home with me. Once I realized that licensing content from a micro stock destination was so easy that my mother was doing it, I knew that micro stock was going to be absolutely huge.
That meant to me that the micro stock business model works. Crowd sourcing content and then selling it for an affordable price works. So, then I started thinking about what other categories I could apply this business model to – flash, video, vectors, fonts, etc. At some point I thought of the music industry and then just decided to do it. So, I bootstrapped the business with three zero interest credit cards, built a basic site and then began recruiting artists via MySpace, Facebook, and direct email. We gained some immediate momentum at which point I brought in some funding and really built out the platform. Now we’re able to attract content not just from individuals but also record labels and large high end production music libraries.
What does the music biz think about you?
At first they hated us. We were a threat to the way they were doing business. Now, we don’t get those gripes anymore. While the huge bands and wildly popular artists will never use our services, AudioMicro is addressing the needs the growing number of small content producers who otherwise would have had a hard time being matched up with clients in need. Artists are making extra money because of us. We frequently send larger payouts to artists than they receive on iTunes, so I think they are happy to say the least. Some artists make more than others, and it has a lot to do with the quality and scope of your submissions. Word has gotten out that some of our artists are receiving nice monthly checks, which again brings more contributors to the site. Now, we’re respected within the industry and helping more and more musicians and producers make money with their work.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Just do it. I think it’s Mark Suster who says JFDI. I’m sure you can figure out the “F”. If you have an idea burning inside of you, do what it takes to bring it to life. No idea is great, or even good, if you don’t do anything with it. Start by trying to get a beta version live without going through too much capital. Then as and if you gain momentum, raise funds or do whatever it takes to bring your idea to the next level. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to tell everyone and anyone about your idea. No one will copy you. Ideas are worthless, it’s all about execution so you have to get out there and get something to market asap and find out if it has legs or not.
Three trends that you’re excited about
People bringing stuff to life
It’s amazing how many different people are bringing ideas to life. You can build a business with a idea, an Internet connection, some hard work, and just a little cash. It has never been as easy to do this as it is today. Using cloud based storage and servers systems and intelligent, young programmers, you can get an idea to market quickly and affordably and see if it sticks. The risks are so low for so many projects. We are seeing more ideas being brought to life than ever before, and this really excites me.
New advertising models
Technologies are continuing to revolutionize the way people get paid for content. Traditional media and publishing is on the decline. Now the next phase of advertising and monetization models are starting to form. Companies like GumGum / Bedrock are doing some really cool stuff in that space. They’re able to offer compelling content to consumers, a monetization model for publishers and producers as well as engaged eyeballs for advertisers. .
The death of voice mail
I recently got rid of my voicemail using Ribbit. It a service that, for free, hijacks your voice mail and transcribes every message left for you and emails / texts it to you. Voice mail is a waste of time and companies like Ribbit, PhoneTag, and YouMail are helping to rid the world of it. This is a trend I’m really passionate about. It’s all about productivity and reducing time wasting activities like checking voice mail.
Here is one trend that I am not excited about.
This is one trend that I am not excited about are content factories – businesses that are producing content that really isn’t that original but solely relies on getting spidered by search engines. There are two very large Los Angeles based companies that do this, but I’ll refrain from naming them. This is really not interesting to me at all, but sadly those kinds of businesses seem to be on the rise as well because they make positive cash flow by producing content cheaply and monetizing it through ads, which don’t pay much, but they pay just a little more than the content costs to create.
What’s important to you?
To spend time with family and friends.
Family and friends…they will always be by your side, no matter what. Business goes up and down but you need to take care of the people around you. Also, while my business and customers are super important to me, I am not running a hospital. What I mean is that nobody is going to live or die because of stock music and sound effects. This has been an important lesson for me to recognize. I don’t have to get super stressed out about every single fire drill. Actually most times it’s good to take a step back, relax, and then take care of whatever the issue at hand is.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.