Sramana Mitra: What were you trying to build in the first iteraton?
David Moricca: The original vision was an online music creation platform targeting young people. It’s called Breakout Band. We created one of the first music creation platforms. It had a beatmaker where you can create your own beats. You can add your own vocals in the vocal booth. It was a consumer product oriented around younger people.
I had the idea for it, but it was only a year later that I found my technical co-founder Ben Davenport. We’ve been on this journey together for 10-plus years now. He has been the heart and soul from a technical perspective.
Sramana Mitra: Let me probe a little bit about the first-year journey. This idea that you came up with of building this music generation software. Did you outsource the development of this?
David Moricca: Yes, I hired an agency to build the first version of it. It never got anywhere.
Sramana Mitra: Why didn’t it go anywhere?
David Moricca: The vision was there. We were building something that was technically complex. To outsource that vision and execution to an agency, especially one that wasn’t as technical was a recipe for disaster. When you’re building a business from the ground up, you just can’t do this. Finding that technical leadership that is aligned with you from the beginning is hyper-critical. You can’t outsource it.
Sramana Mitra: One conclusion that I arrive at is that if you are a non-technical founder trying to do a highly-technical product, doing it without a technical co-founder is almost impossible.
David Moricca: I would agree. You’re going to go through a lot of pain. I look back to those early years. I can’t say that I look back on them with a lot of joy. My wife and I were living in New York. We didn’t have kids yet, but we were soon to have kids. I had to take my salary down from the nice Scholastic salary to zero dollars a year. I didn’t quite have the technical person that could bring this to life.
Sramana Mitra: There are styles of businesses that you can do without technical co-founders. We do recommend outsourced product development, or at least MVP development, in some cases. If the product is very technical, it’s very difficult to do that. What were the circumstances under which you met Ben?
David Moricca: In life, we’re dealt with a lot of good fortune. My wife was also an entrepreneur at the same time I was an entrepreneur. We were both living in New York City at that time. My wife had started a wines events business. She needed someone to create a website for the business. Somehow we got connected to Ben through a creative designer that I knew.
As I talked more with Ben, I realized that he was much more than a website developer. He was an absolute engineering rock star. In some ways, I got lucky. I didn’t know how to evaluate talent. I found someone who was one of the best technical problem solvers I have seen. He’s a really curious person who attacks problems in really sophisticated ways.
Sramana Mitra: What’s his background?
David Moricca: He was a graphic designer by training and a musician. He didn’t have a computer science degree. Most of the engineers we’ve hired over the years have CS backgrounds. He was not. Yet he thinks and operates like a sophisticated CS person. Because of his creative design background, he thinks about UI and how to solve problems in a different way.