I had the opportunity to catch up with Amman Ahmed, CEO of Music for Pets, a novel start-up that makes relaxation music for animals. We talked about the successes and challenges he has faced on his journey from recruitment consultant to succesful tech entrepreneur.
Before making the jump into entrepreneurship, you worked as recruitment consultant after graduating from university. What did you learn from working in recruitment which has helped you as an entrepreneur?
AA: Firstly I learn’t what I did not want to do. I just did not understand the concept of wearing a suit everyday and being fixed to a desk. Recruitment also taught me how to become better at hustling without fear. Constant rejection allowed me to craft my relationship building skills.
Your first venture was the music startup, Roundwaves, What was this?
AA: Roundwaves was on a mission to create music with a solution, such as music to help you sleep study and meditate. We then ventured into creating relaxing music for cats and dogs.
Did you work on Roundwaves as a side project before quitting your job?
AA: Gary Vaynerchuk talks about this all the time, he says 7pm-2am everyday is enough time for you to do damage. I would work 8am-6:30pm in Recruitment then 7pm-2am on my side project, throughout this my mission was to get out of having to work for anyone else. Once my manager sat me aside and said I need to stop going out every night because I would turn up to work looking like crap and half asleep. Obviously I was not going out, I was just working hard building my side project. He then sat me down again and mentioned I should start doing some exercise. I remember looking down and my belly was bursting out of my shirt, because I was constantly eating shit every night. Less time cooking gave me more time to focus on growing the business.
You started Roundwaves with £1000 leftover from your student loan. How did you manage to grow this venture with such little capital?
AA: I outsourced everything by using sites like elance (now called upwork) and chose developers and music producers who had just joined those platforms as freelancers. They were desperate to prove themselves in order to build their profile on these platforms. This gave me the power to negotiate low development costs and further on I would set up long milestones, so I could make my money back in time to pay them from profits. With my producer, I pitched him my vision for Roundwaves and set up a revenue share model instead of paying him to create the music. Eventually I would end up signing him to my record label allowing me to own all the music rights 100%.
What would be your best advice to an aspiring entrepreneur who has very little capital and is looking to launch a business?
AA: Don’t limit yourself because you have very little money, stay resourceful rather than looking at your resources. For example, I would work with new developers to get a better price. I would also advise buying and selling on platforms like Amazon and Ebay. You can find under priced items on gumtree, car boot sales and junk in your house to resell at a higher price, making you more cash. You could also try using Alibaba to import and sell to raise further capital. Don’t be afraid to have a side hustle to support the launch of your business, the founders of Airbnb sold cereal to help raise cash.
Your music composer at Roundwaves is from El Salvador, How on earth did you manage to connect with him?
AA: Odesk and Elance (now upwork). I would look for new producers that just joined the platform and ended up forming a great relationship with Ricardo. He has now been a full-time employee with me for just over 5 years. The most heart warming part about this relationship was over the years he would send me pictures thanking me. He told me how he went from touching poverty to being able to afford a wedding, move into a gated community and go on regular holidays.
Having already launched Roundwaves, you launched Rormix, An online video platform for unsigned artists:
How did you manage to scale your existing business whilst launching a new one?
AA: Roundwaves was scaling organically which gave me the finances and freedom to experiment with Rormix, so I guess I was a little bit lucky in this situation. Roundwaves was pretty much a fully automated business that could be managed part-time.
With Rormix you raised £250,000 of VC funding, How did you find the expeirence of working with a VC?
AA: Just a lot to manage and very distracting. However, it all came down to me just being a terrible leader with no experience on how to manage the whole situation.
For anyone looking to secure VC investment.What must you know before going in to a pitch?
AA: It has to be 5 slides max and 7 mins max. Don’t make comparisons… like “we are the airbnb of, or the uber of…..” that shit is annoying.
You experienced great traction with Rormix, Why did you decide to shut it down in 2015?
AA: Rormix started to pick up pretty well towards the end of its journey however we struggled to raise the next round and ran out of money. I lost control as a leader and as a result lost the direction and passion.
What was the greatest lesson you learnt from the whole Rormix experience?
AA: Follow my gut feeling, which I did with Roundwaves and managed to grow it. With Rormix I got clouded by other peoples opinions and did not know how to lead. I learn’t where I failed as a leader and I learn’t when to quit. Learning when to quit is a hard lesson as it is a conflict between your gut feeling and your ego.
Whilst working on Rormix your first business Roundwaves, now called MusicForPets, also experienced tremendous growth. In numbers give us an idea of how big this has become?
AA: We now get 8 million views and streams month, 150,000,000 monthly minutes streamed and touching 1 million fans. Our games for pets experimental side of the business has passed 500,000 app downloads.
You have ventured into the realms of relaxation music for cats and dogs with Relax My Cat/Dog, Where did this idea come from?
AA: Our fan base on our relaxation music channel were asking us to create music for their cats or dogs who would suffer from anxiety. The requests continued to grow and at the same time we were researching music therapy studies, so we decided to give it a go. After a few years of trial and error on RelaxMyDog and RelaxMyCat, we found certain musical arrangements that we believed worked well based on all the feedback. Most importantly, we built this with our fans.
Most people start a youtube channel hoping to get rich. In reality how long does it take before you start generating a sizeable advertising revenue?
AA: It really depends on your niche. I was lucky that we grew pretty quickly early on but I think if you start a channel hoping to get rich then you are doomed from the start. To give an answer on a time frame is really difficult because depends on the growth and stickiness of your channel.
What is the benefit of having a youtube based business as to having to create your own platform, both of which you have done?
AA: Having your own platform requires a lot of funding, a revenue model and insane growth. Youtube is a ready made platform, so you can spend more time creating content to help your business grow.
What is your vision for MusicForPets over the next few years?
AA: MusicForPets is broken up into 4 sections of Music, TV for Pets, Vlogs and gaming for pets. I honestly do not think that far ahead, however in the next 18 months I aim to grow our subscriber base past 2 million.
Running a business requires you to always be at your best. Do you have any daily routines or rituals which help you stay ahead of the game?
AA: I am focusing more on meditation before bed (10mins), in the morning (10mins) and at 3pm (15mins) every day. This allows me to maintain increased focus.
What is your favorite quote?
AA: This is a quote I came up with, but I have to say it to myself every so often. “lose the fear of loss then you have nothing to lose”
Looking back after all the things you have experienced, What advice would you give your 16 year old self?
AA: Be more selfish with your time and your life. You can easily get trapped in a place where you end up trying to make other people happy. Also take more risks until you become numb to failure, or maybe get a door to door sales job as that will help you get over failure quickly.
Any final words to the people out there?
AA: Just follow your gut feeling, even if the data tells you the opposite. I have followed other peoples advice and messed up. I have followed my gut and got results.
To learn more about Amman and the work he is currently doing with Music for Pets follow the links below: