When looked at from abstraction, entrepreneurship and Jenga aren’t all that different. Developing a successful startup is often about looking at an obsolete institution from a unique perspective and tweaking it to find a creative, but well-contemplated, method to accomplish something greater. All without letting the pieces fall.
Stamp.fm is exactly that — a series of carefully calculated decisions stemming from a balance between innovative and experiential learning.
Stamp.fm, an online music tournament, discovers musical talent in a way that has never been done before. As musicians enter the contest with their artistic creations and a fan base to support, fans will be able to vote for their favorite musician within each genre to finally secure a statewide and a nationwide champion.
Stamp.fm Founder and CEO, Omar Hashwi, created the company for the singular reason of discovering artistic talent independent of the theatrics of reality television programming.
Like any entrepreneurial initiative, Hashwi’s baby steps were devoted to developing his pitch and kickstarting his product. But with that came a share of problems. Building a virtual service required technical expertise but acquiring a talented team of experts demanded a working product. As a result, Hashwi had to fight the chicken-or-the-egg dilemma and take things in his own hands.
As the functionality of his company depended on a working website, Hashwi was forced to cannonball into the waters and imbibe all the technical jargon neeeded to bring his idea to life.
“For a long time, it was just me running around with a well-developed idea but no money or co-founders who could build the actual service,” Hashwi said. “If I really wanted to bring this idea to life soon, there was only one way and that was to learn how to program it myself.”
Running a single-handed production meant being a hacker and a hustler rolled into one. However later, proving the viability and success of his product allowed Hashwi to take a step back and let the experts take over the job.
“When people started to see what I finally created and its potential, the tables turned and I had more programmers apply than I could hire,” Hashwi said when narrating the growth curve of his company.
“I can say that learning how to code is one of the most important decisions I’ve made,” he acknowledged. “Even if you have a technical co-founder you need to be able to speak their language because it’s not wise to be oblivious to such an important aspect of your company.”
Companies reach roadblocks. Especially in their initial stages, they face crossroads and resistances. But to fail was to win, Hashwi believed when talking about how he learned the ins and outs of building a startup.
“Throughout our journey, we expect to fail several times but I believe the only time we would have truly failed is when we have quit,” he said. “One quality that separates successful entrepreneurs and the not successful ones is that the they learn from their failures and prevent themselves from repeating their mistakes a second time.”
The journey has not been easy, Hashwi admits. While his passion for “building and fixing” ideas from the ground-up and desire to change the face of the music industry has kept his entrepreneurial spirit alive, Hashwi said with that came personal challenges.
“The only real down side of owning a business is that it owns your life which means I have little to no time to spend with my family and friends,” he said. “That’s what I miss the most.”
Although Stamp.fm continues to grow at a fast and healthy pace, Hashwi would not be able to get too comfortable just yet. To emerge as a competitive player in the market, Stamp.fm will have to penetrate through the highly established music industry. While Hashwi remained conscientious of the difficulties that he would face when trying to expand his model into the greater industry, he strongly believed that the demands of the market could only be satisfied by entrepreneurship and innovation.
“We have to have a very tough skin and not allow the big players to really distract us or discourage us from improving,” Hashwi said.
“I think a lot of them are scared of innovation,” he said. “There has been very little of that until very recently with the online media and it’s time we changed that.”