Scott Kitun is a Chicago-based media entrepreneur and investor.
Scott is a co-founder of personalized music marketplace Songfinch that allows anyone to discover and collaborate with thousands of professional musicians to create custom, one-of-a-kind songs.
Prior to Songfinch, Scott co-founded Technori, a popular media platform featuring podcast interviews with startup founders and investor newsletters providing access to online private market data.
Scott is also an early investor in the nation’s leading equity crowdfunding platform Republic.com.
Where did the idea for Songfinch come from?
At a previous startup, my co-founders John Williamson, Rob Lindquist and Josh Kaplan built the largest B2B music catalog in the world by pairing musicians with commercial brands and while exiting that business the original idea of using similar marketplace effects to bring music creation to the masses came into form.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As a founder your primary job is always to raise capital and recruit talent.
I’m very fortunate that I get to split time between some pretty exciting businesses that are forever changing their respective industry. Songfinch, for example, is disrupting how artists and creators monetize their musical talent – so I spend the bulk of my time working with our executive team to secure partnerships with investors and brands that help accelerate our growth.
Whereas at Technori, I’m working to democratize investing, so I spend most of my time interviewing some of the top founders and investors in the world and reviewing investment opportunities for an audience of nearly a million retail investors.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a huge proponent of rapid deployment, rapid dismissal. What I mean is, I will napkin what I think is a great idea, I’ll quickly whiteboard how it could work then try to push out a beta or even a concept in the case of content like podcasts or a newsletter. Then, based on how it’s received I will iterate a few times to see if it has legs and if not, I feel no shame in killing it right there.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I think the ability to use new tech, whether that’s blockchain, tokenization or web3 (whatever you want to call it) to monetize assets, time and talent is the future. In the same way Cameo invented an entire economy (1-to-1 vs 1-to-many) for celebrity-types, web3 enables this for the mainstream. I am excited to see both the retail investor and the creator be able to profit in the same way only the top 5% has been able to do for year.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Eliminate distractions (personally & professionally). It helps me make fewer decisions which allows me to be a) more decisive and b) experience less mental fatigue. If you want to have both a family and a business (or in my case multiple) you have to be intentional about where your opinion and time matter most — a line I stumbled upon years ago (probably a Steve Jobs’ism); most people spend about 70% of their mental space on things that materially represent less than 10% of their output. So, I try to flip that and spend only 10% of my mental time on what most people spend 70% on… if that makes any sense at all.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do not take advice from people you would not trade places with.
As a young founder you’re just reaching at straws so you gravitate towards anyone you think will get your there faster. I learned pretty early on, before you give away advisor shares, make sure the person you’re working with has actually successfully been to where it is you’re trying to go, first.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Having mentors is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve leaned on plenty of experienced people throughout my career — I don’t think throwing a few ideas at someone for quick feedback to help add alternative or affirming viewpoints is inherently bad. But, I do think an over-reliance on outside voices is distracting and it complicates your decision-making process.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Focus on the one thing you do better than anything else first. You can/will learn new skills as you advance and you’ll be forced to work outside your core strengths. But, the more time you spend focused on what you do best, the more successful you’ll become.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Follow the fastest path to revenue.
Obviously not all businesses are the same, so there are clear exceptions here. But, in general, sales cures all. If you know how to generate revenue (even if it’s not the core business or scalable), you know how to buy time and in the case of most successful startups, timing is everything.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There have been plenty of misses. One that stands out is with Technori. Our bread and butter was always events and podcasts and towards the end of 2017, as the WeWorks of the world started popping up, literally anyone could access free space to host events (and similarly with tech, anyone that wanted to host a podcast did). It made it difficult to see how we could sustain; sponsorship became tougher, attendance was down and overall the market just became flooded with what we did best. So, rather than compete we built alternative revenue streams from referral to even selling technology as a service. It was against my better judgement, but I let it go on figuring better margins and bigger price tags.
I was wrong, and it nearly ended our business (and reputation). Once I got enough feedback, and against the wishes of investors, I pulled the plug and decided to listen to our audience and assess our competition. This enabled me to recognize something I couldn’t see before — people always come back to what they love or need. So, focus on making that and you’ll win regardless of the competition. Sure, we will take a hit in the short term as everyone flocks to the newcomers, but if you’re as good as you think you are then you have nothing to worry about.
So, I went back to the drawing board and completely retooled our content offering and focused on more niche, digital offerings that required less overhead but that could be more easily shared.
With the aid of a global pandemic, it worked perfectly, events went away and people had more time to pursue areas of interest — by creating more niche, digital experiences we were able to 10x our audience base and become something they would actually pay for again!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am very interested in sports trading cards. It’s fun, nostalgic and highly profitable. But, it is still massively low-tech even with cool companies like OnlyAlt.com and Rally emerging. There is a ton of fraud and the grading companies and authenticators are slow, expensive and inconsistent.
I would love to see a tech company automate, and digitally assess, grade, value and list cards so that we all were operating on a level playing field.
This business would be central to a near $50B market that is growing rapidly.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Speaking of cards, and not exactly recently, but 2 years ago, I spent $100 on a Bo Jackson rookie card — it was completely random. I hadn’t bought a card since I was about 12 years old. But, I did, and I’m not even sure why.
It was just fun, I guess. Then the value of that card went up and up and up… and before I knew it the card market had begun to explode. And, I found myself right in the thick of it. Before long I had rejoined the card community, now referred to socially as The Hobby and it has been the most fun I have had in I don’t even know how long. I’ve met tons of super smart and interesting collectors and it truly has had a crazy positive impact on all of the rest of my businesses.
I would argue I was a bit lost even when I made that fateful purchase. And, now I am found and have a renewed purpose and passion for why I do what I do.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I really like Hey.com, it’s an email from the Basecamp team that has been insanely helpful for me to manage my inbox, eliminate spam and noise and comes with a lot of tools that are collaborative and secure.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I love autobiographies. For me, I like to read about people that have achieved great success — it gives perspective, even inspiration. So, I could list a lot, but I think for the younger crowd out there who only think of Arnold as some goofy 80’s action star — Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s truly unbelievable life story is a MUST read.
What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t chase the night.” I got this advice from the famous World Wide Wes at a bar in Milwaukee as a kid. At the time, the point was nothing good ever happens after midnight. But, in life to me it applies everywhere — don’t chase! If by the time the clock runs out you haven’t accomplished what you came for, close up shop and work to set up another opportunity.
We make regrettable concessions when we chase opportunities too hard.
- Practice patience and don’t chase.
- Focus on what you do best.
- Always bet on yourself.
- Limit your distractions.
- Always leave yourself an out
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.