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Josh Simons: You Cannot Make It Through the Trough Years Without These Traits

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Josh Simons

Josh Simons of Vampr.

Tell us about yourself?

Josh Simons is the CEO and co-founder of Vampr, the world’s largest and most active social-professional network for musicians (often dubbed the “LinkedIn for creatives”).

Recognised by Fast Company as one of the Most Innovative Companies in 2022, Vampr is home to over one million users, and active in every country on the planet. The music startup has helped fledgling musicians broker over 7 million connections worldwide.

Vampr offers a free solution for young musicians, built by a sympathetic founding team of established musicians with Josh’s co-founder, Baz Palmer, best known as the lead guitarist for seminal hall-of-fame rock band, Hunters & Collectors.

Simons has grown Vampr into a multi-award winning platform, including most prestigious nods from both Apple and Google in their respective Best Apps lists. Over five funding rounds the company has raised $3.5M from VC, the crowd and music industry angels.

Prior to running Vampr, Josh Simons spent the better part of a decade as a successful artist, songwriter & producer. His artist project Buchanan enjoyed multi-million streams & chart impressions worldwide.

They retired from the live circuit following a sold-out arena tour opening for Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood.

As a producer and songwriter, Simons has shared credits with Travis Scott, Troye Sivan and Kanye West to name a few. In April 2020 Simons was named in The Music Network’s 30 Under 30 List in addition to being voted Reader’s Choice. Simons holds a Bachelor of Business from Swinburne University.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

Get rich quick! Far from it. If making money quickly is the goal, work a 9-5 in a burgeoning private sector. Startup life will see you working 17 hour days for the first 5 years or so and developing thicker skin than most will ever be required.

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If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

Sell a product or service from Day 1 / MVP. This allows some level of bootstrapping from the outset, rather than a scale then sell model.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

Endurance, perseverance and resilience. You cannot make it through the trough years without these traits.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

Listen carefully. To team members, potential partners and challengers alike. Properly listening helps you cut through the noise and address the issue head on.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

I was a successful songwriter and artist in Australia. When I went to replicate the success overseas it turned out no one gave a shit. It wasn’t for lack of talent or ambition. Simply put I lacked a team, like the one I formed in Australia over 5 years, to help scale my creative career and ambitions abroad. It struck me that there was no professional online network for musicians and creatives solving this problem. LinkedIn sucks for creatives and so we looked to gaming and dating platforms as inspiration to help gamify professional networking for creatives. Enter Vampr!

Where do you see your business in five years?

A LinkedIn for all creatives. We’re starting with music because it plays to the strengths of our domain expertise – my co-founder Baz and I have 40+ years experience in the industry.

However music also plays an integral role in virtually all creative fields, as well as non-creative industries (think cafes playing music, or ads for electricity with music in the background), so it makes sense to keep music as the anchor of this professional network and let the job types, skills and roles emerge around that anchor.

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We are now home to over 27,000 different job types, so as you can see the scaling has already begun.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

Infrastructure costs are always a concern for any young social platform. As the platform becomes more popular the costs can escalate quickly.

The challenge then becomes monetizing at pace without alienating the userbase or compromising the traction. This is a balancing act that has claimed many a young startup, but one which we feel more comfortable with after 7 years in the game.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

We always look to the professional outcomes of our users when considering success stories. Many of our acts have signed large record deals – Rae Khalil and Carpool Tunnel come to mind – but we also look at things on a macro level and consider the outcomes for the userbase more broadly. 62 Billion streams across all Vampr users.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties generated by songs they’ve created. These are the metrics which get us excited.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

Platforms like Vampr, if they’re useful, will enjoy network effects which play an important role in the growth of the company.

We also advertise and invest quite heavily in publishing quality educational content which our target market will often discover as their first touchpoint with the brand.

As CEO I’ve learned over time that the essence of the job is to play salesperson in almost every conceivable context, even though I’d never label myself as a salesperson per se. You are selling to investors to raise capital to fund growth.

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You are selling the vision to your team to keep them inspired and motivated. You are selling to other brands companies when working on business development and new sales channels. It never ends!

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Do extensive market research first. Before you incorporate, before you raise any funds. Determine if there is really a need for the thing you are about to spend the next 5-10 years of your life on. This doesn’t just mean Googling your market.

It means old school user research and playing devil’s advocate with yourself and every assumption you’ve ever held about your target market. The cost of skipping these steps is higher than you can imagine.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

We’re really pleased with the professional outcomes our platform is delivering daily to our million+ users and look forward to continuing to innovate and make life easier for creative professionals around the world.

On a professional front I am driven by delivering an outcome for our shareholders that rewards the faith they put in Baz and I when they invested in our company. What does that look like? We’ll have to wait and see!

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