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Building the Creator Platform for Music Makers at Boombox.io

May 25, 2023
Written By
May 25, 2023
Season 4 Episode 3
39:31
Written By

On the heels of boombox.io's $7M seed fundraise led by Forerunner, Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya sit down with boombox co-founders India Lossman and Max Mathieu for a special episode straight from super{summit} 2023 in New Orleans!

Tom, Vivek, India and Max discuss their backgrounds as musicians and techies building a platform where music producers can store, version, and track all of their music files; collect time-stamped feedback on audio files; communicate on the go with iOS/Android apps; manage splits for songwriting and recordings; and create simple legally-binding contracts for song ownership.

The gang also discusses some cool generative AI features the boombox team has built into the app: boombox.io leverages Generative AI to enrich and extend a musician’s creative process with Boombot, a friendly, AI-powered collaborator that generates new ideas and fleshes out partial ones to make music creation more dynamic, faster and smarter. Boombot helps users spitball lyrics and song titles, suggests chord progressions, and turns them into MIDI files creators can pull directly into their digital audio workstation.

Transcript

Tom Chavez:

Welcome to this special edition of The {Closed} Sessionfrom New Orleans. I'm Tom Chavez.

Vivek Vaidya:

And I'm Vivek Vaidya.

Tom Chavez:

Vivek. Here we are in New Orleans. Why are we here? What'sgoing on?

Vivek Vaidya:

We are here for the second edition of super{set}, which isour annual event that we host for all of the techies, engineers, productpeople, sales engineers, whoever wants to attend, really.

Tom Chavez:

It's like techy palooza.

Vivek Vaidya:

It's techy palooza.

Tom Chavez:

For engineers who work at super{set} [inaudible 00:03:31].

Vivek Vaidya:

That's right.

Tom Chavez:

There's laughing, there's dancing.

Vivek Vaidya:

Drinking.

Tom Chavez:

There's drinking.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yes.

Tom Chavez:

Ideally a little bit of learning and comparison of notes.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, a little bit.

Tom Chavez:

Just a tiny, tiny bit of learning. We try to reallyprioritize the drinking and the eating and the... Right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Okay, first was first.

Vivek Vaidya:

Today was the first day. What was the most interestingpart for you?

Tom Chavez:

Well, I don't want you to get a big head, but yourinterview with Brian Christian. I got a huge man crush on Brian Christian, theauthor of The Alignment Problem. Very insightful discussion there with himabout machines and how we get them to behave and do what we human beings wantthem to.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. One of the more insightful parts of the conversationfor me was this notion that, going forward, we're going to have rate labelers.

Tom Chavez:

Yeah, right.

Vivek Vaidya:

Because this whole movement around reinforcement learningwith human feedback is going to foster this era of people who are going to justsit and label

Tom Chavez:

And in the spirit of multi-layer neural networks, here'smy big idea. Can I drop it on you?

Vivek Vaidya:

Please.

Tom Chavez:

I want have Raiders of the Raiders. Yeah.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Okay.

Vivek Vaidya:

What happens when you keep doing that, Tom?

Tom Chavez:

Then, we're going to have Raiders of the Raiders of theRaiders of the first order labelers.

Vivek Vaidya:

E-rate.

Tom Chavez:

Go ponder that for a little bit. So, speaking of machinesand human beings cooperating, getting along, we're excited to have this specialedition with two of our co-founders from a hot, hot company at super{set} thatwe're really excited about called Boombox. Max Mathieu, say hi.

Max Mathieu:

Hi. My name is Max.

Tom Chavez:

Max. How did I do on the pronunciation of your last name?

Max Mathieu:

Pretty good.

Tom Chavez:

I nailed it, right?

Max Mathieu:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

All right.

Vivek Vaidya:

You can say he did a shitty job, it's okay.

Tom Chavez:

Why do you have to get like that? Damn it. I really nailedit, Max.

Max Mathieu:

That was good.

Tom Chavez:

Mathieu, he's French.

Max Mathieu:

Correct.

Tom Chavez:

One more time.

Max Mathieu:

Do you want me to say it?

Tom Chavez:

Yeah, you say it now.

Max Mathieu:

So, my real first name is Maxence, and my full name isMaxence Mathieu.

Vivek Vaidya:

Maxence Mathieu.

India Lossman:

It sounds better when said it.

Tom Chavez:

You butchered it.

Vivek Vaidya:

I did not.

Tom Chavez:

His is way better.

Vivek Vaidya:

Well, of course, his is better

Max Mathieu:

It's like the whole world and the US trying to say myname.

Tom Chavez:

Can we do this real fast? So, I worked with Vivek for 20plus years, and then there was a woman named Jen who was walking around in ourlast company. She would stop and say, "Well, I don't know about that. I'mgoing to have to talk to Vivek." She would do this little thing with an Eon the Vivek. I'm like, "Why is she carrying on that?" It's Vivek.Then, I come to find out. I've been saying his name wrong for 20 plus years.You think you know somebody, you think you would tell me, "Hey man, you'resaying my name wrong." Doesn't say a word.

Vivek Vaidya:

As I said earlier, I'm a very accommodating person.

Tom Chavez:

We digress. Alongside Max Mathieu, we have India Lossman.Your name is much easier to pronounce.

India Lossman:

Absolutely.

Tom Chavez:

Big ups to mom and dad. India Lossman.

India Lossman:

It's a family name.

Tom Chavez:

English is my second language, and I can say that name. Ican nail that name.

Vivek Vaidya:

Oh, we're going with that now. English is your secondlanguage.

Tom Chavez:

No, it's an in-betweener. Yeah. Is English really yourfirst language?

Vivek Vaidya:

My first language?

Tom Chavez:

Yeah.

Vivek Vaidya:

No.

Tom Chavez:

What is your first language?

Vivek Vaidya:

That's a great question.

Tom Chavez:

Is it Gujarati?

Vivek Vaidya:

No.

Tom Chavez:

Boom. Who just dropped that? Gujarati?

Vivek Vaidya:

No.

Tom Chavez:

Bengali.

Vivek Vaidya:

No.

Tom Chavez:

Hindi

Vivek Vaidya:

Kinda.

Tom Chavez:

I wish you'd make up your mind. Okay. We're reallydigressing in this episode. We got to focus, focus, focus.

Vivek Vaidya:

Let's focus.

Tom Chavez:

I worked with somebody-

Vivek Vaidya:

Boombox, back, back, you're background. Boombox-

Tom Chavez:

Boombox.

Vivek Vaidya:

... Max, India.

Tom Chavez:

Okay.

Vivek Vaidya:

[inaudible 00:06:57].

Tom Chavez:

So, Boombox, let me set this up. Boombox is a company thathas been on the in the crockpot on slow for about 25 years. As some of youknow, I used to keep it low, and now I'm just out there with it. I really likemusic and I don't apologize for it. I've been playing music my whole life. Onceupon a time, I was going to be a huge rockstar. Max, India, I don't know if heknew that, but I was all around LA peddling my demos. Let's just say, I didn'tget a record label, get a record deal, but I kept on playing music and I'vebeen fortunate to work with a lot of great musicians over the years. I loveplaying, recording, producing music. I've spent a lot of time in studios.There've been two or three attempts to create a music internet company, none ofwhom worked.

Tom Chavez:

Actually, Vivek was a part of, at least, a couple ofthose. We actually raised money for a couple of those, sent the money backbecause we couldn't crack the code. We just couldn't figure it out. However, 25years later, Boombox takes root because we finally think we figured it out. So,Boombox is a collaboration platform for the remote modern musician. We borrowsome of the same patterns from software that have worked so well. This was theApple banking me on the head moment where one night I'm in the studio, we arespending 25 minutes hunting through Dropbox files, trying to find, "Wait,did that one have the drums? Where did we put the guitars? I can't remember thething with the thing." It just dawn on me like, "God, this is stupid.We're spending so much time just hunting and pecking through Dropbox."Wouldn't it...

Tom Chavez:

Then, I come to work the next morning, and of course,engineers are showing up on a system called GitHub. I just did that in thestudio with scare quotes. GitHub, which is the system that all engineers use totrack and manage what they're doing. Everybody knows, I'm on first. You're onsecond. Here's what we're doing. I'm going to roll back. That was the germ ofan idea. I dwell on that for a minute because the prior conceptions of thingsthat we tried to do in music were a little more grand. This is a super{set}theme. Sometimes, the boring but bountiful thing, hiding in plain sight that alot of people have overlooked, has legs, right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Mm-hmm. Yeah. I think, the thing that struck me aboutBoombox... We used to call it Bananarama, the first name was Bananarama.

Tom Chavez:

[inaudible 00:09:11] super{set} companies, you had tochange the name at least three times.

Vivek Vaidya:

That's right. ... was that the same problems that engineersstruggled with in terms of collaborating with each other to produce software,musicians had the exact same problem. They would exchange notes on textmessages, emails, share filed using Dropbox. There was no annotation anywhere.There was no record of what had changed, and collaboration was practicallynon-existent or primitive.

Tom Chavez:

To add to that, so what I would do with my musicianfriends when we're working on the track is, we'll have these long inscrutabletext streams or emails where we say things like, "At minute 27, drop thesnare. Bring in the bass. Hey, at two minutes, 13 seconds, the piano's a littletoo crunchy. Can you tone it down?" It's just the sea of gibberish. That'sthe way musicians do what they do. Now, again, simple, what would the worldlook like if we had a system wherein everybody could just show up with theirstuff, see it, do it, collaborate. That brings us to the premise of Boomboxhere.

Tom Chavez:

India and Max, the other thing I want to say is that wehave a magical team of people who are all around music. Everybody is passionateabout music in some way. Some people, we have several engineers who areprofessional performers, producers, songwriters. I want to set you up a littlebit here, India, your entree into Boombox. How did you get here? Tell us alittle bit about your connection to music, because it's turned out to be reallyfundamental for the company now in our early paces.

India Lossman:

Yeah, absolutely. I had the good fortune of knowing Max.He called me in and I met all of you guys, and I was like, "This is mydream. I get to work in the music industry. I get to work with artists."It's in my family. Both my brother and sister musicians. My sister'sprofessional. My brother had to go back to his day job, but I'm reallypassionate about-

Tom Chavez:

As many of us do.

India Lossman:

Yes. Well, Tom, we're happy-

Tom Chavez:

Has happened to me.

India Lossman:

... We're happy that it didn't work out for you or wewouldn't be here now. Yeah, it's a passion project. I get up every day and I'm,wow, so driven by what the creativity of talking to artists and them followingtheir passion. It's amazing and motivating, and I can't believe we get to helpthem in the creative process.

Tom Chavez:

It's got to work. What you forget to mention, so I'llmention it for you, is that India is a very established, super seasoned productmanager. What does the world look like when you bring sophisticated world classproduct management to the build out of an artist creator project like Boombox?Max, how about you?

Max Mathieu:

Well, I've been playing music in and out. Actually, manypeople don't know. When I was in college, I was in a band. I mostly, playedpiano, so hidden in the back. At some point I was like, we're playing in barsand whatnot in France and someone, "That's what I want to do." I wantto play. I like that energy and everything. I started considering dropping outof college and do that. Well, no, I didn't. I'm glad I didn't because I don't thinkI was that good of a musician. Around that time, I started to write songs and Ihave plenty of them stored in a hard drive that will never see the light on.Maybe one day on Boombox.

Tom Chavez:

You just don't know.

Max Mathieu:

I have this passion for music, a personal passion. When Iplay piano, it's almost transcendental. It's my space and I need that in mylife. Software engineering, well, I've been doing this forever. As far as I canremember, I studied very early, earlier than piano, actually. When I had theopportunity to leave Google where I was a bit miserable because it was too bigof a company and I had the opportunity join you guys to start Boombox. I waslike... At the time it was Boomjam, right? We say Bananarama, but also anotherone.

Tom Chavez:

Bananarama, then it was Boomjam, and now Boombox.

Max Mathieu:

And now Boombox.

Tom Chavez:

Our final resting place.

Max Mathieu:

Yeah, I think we find a good one now.

Tom Chavez:

It's a good name.

Max Mathieu:

So, when you guys, through your channel... Yeah, "I'mall for it. This is exactly what I need."

Tom Chavez:

There are a lot of people who are passionate about music.I have a lot of friends obviously, who are serious about their music, and thenI have some other friends who don't quite understand why are you so manic aboutyour music. There's a lot of us out there and in different levels andgradations, we all... Music is primal. By the way, the studies indicate nowthat we were playing music. We were beating on drums before we could talk, somusic is really primal. It's a very fundamental human experience. So many of ushave this connection to music, "I'm going to do it. I'm going to out onemore person who is also playing in bands in college." Oh, wait a minute,he happens to be right here with us. People don't know Vivek. You were rockingit out in college, right?

Vivek Vaidya:

I was trying to. That was just a hobby.

Tom Chavez:

All right, so this is-

Vivek Vaidya:

My music accomplishments are best left in the shower.

Tom Chavez:

And brought to the karaoke club-

Vivek Vaidya:

Yes, I would be-

Tom Chavez:

... because I've been there

Vivek Vaidya:

Karaoke, yes.

Tom Chavez:

It's impressive.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yes.

Tom Chavez:

All right.

Vivek Vaidya:

I don't know whether the-

Tom Chavez:

Don't sell yourself short like that, dude.

Vivek Vaidya:

Okay.

Tom Chavez:

What's our karaoke song? We've done it once or twice. Wehave a couple, but Vivek is a hard rock guy. I think, we do a really greatrendition of Ain't Talking About Love.

Vivek Vaidya:

Ain't Talking about Love. My love is right to the core.What's the rest of that lyric?

Vivek Vaidya:

(singing)

Tom Chavez:

There it is. That just happened.

Vivek Vaidya:

(singing)

Tom Chavez:

Keep it going.

Vivek Vaidya:

(singing)

Tom Chavez:

You know, I've been at the edge. Those are good lyrics,and then I stood and looked down. You know, I lost a lot of friends there,baby. Got no time to mess around. That is one of the greatest rocks on.

Vivek Vaidya:

Van Halen, actually-

Tom Chavez:

[inaudible 00:15:32]

Vivek Vaidya:

... really good lyrics.

Tom Chavez:

We are digressing are crazy people, but New Orleans hasthis weird effect. Yeah, there's a lot of digressing. India, Max, you got tobring us back. Help. We're stuck.

Vivek Vaidya:

Max and India are like, "Why did we agree tothis?"

Tom Chavez:

Max and India are sitting here like, "Why did we dothis?"

India Lossman:

No, I was just watching the power of music as you wentthrough those lyrics and it was really powerful for you guys.

Tom Chavez:

Back to God's work here, because look, when we wereestablishing the business plan for Boombox, I found it illuminating when we putthe numbers to it. 51% of all artists on Spotify have fewer than 500 streams.Now, to put up a song on Spotify is not easy. If you have fewer than 500streams, you're spending many thousands of dollars to get maybe, 21 cents,whatever that amounts. It's less than 21 cents. It's less than half a penny perstream. The point here is that music is primal. So many of us do it not becausewe should or because our mamas want us to, it's because we must, right? That isthe grand idea that that inspires us here at Boombox, is to create a platformthat allows people to express themselves, to create their art, to get it outinto the world.

Tom Chavez:

Listen, if Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez show up a littlebit later because, we don't want them right now, but if they showed up a littlebit later on Boombox and started to do their thing and they will, that's fine.What we're talking about here is the long tail of people like us who lovemusic. We do it because we must. It's fascinating if you spend time in studios.I've also said digital signal processing that goes into what are called DAWs,digital audio workstations, like Ableton, Pro Tools and so on, it is theseventh technical wonder of the world. What they've built into those technologysystems is amazing. The next layer, the software layer wherein we're justtrying to do boring things like organize our files, collaborate, compare notes,connect with other musicians who might want to do the thing that we'reinterested in, it's astonishing that nothing is out there yet. That's the bigprize for us to win over here at Boombox.

Tom Chavez:

I wanted to get your perspective for a minute on the team.We've recruited a pretty interesting team. All of the super{set} teams areremarkable in their way. Max, tell us a little bit about this incredible teamthat we've assembled here at Boombox. How did that happen? Obviously, there'salways a little bit of luck, but there's also some chemistry and somethingintentional going on over here. How are we recruiting this amazing team toBoombox?

Max Mathieu:

Yeah, I think, the premise of us working in the musicspace attracts people that are interested. There are other tech company thatdon't have that sexy of a product space. It's actually, interesting because Ithink, interviewed around 120 candidates over the last year and a half. By theend, some of them are like, "Oh, I'm very passionate about music I play."Yeah, the 119 before you. I feel like a lot of engineers, they have thatcreating for building, playing music, creating music or creating software. Iknow one person on your team also does woodworking. You have the thing likethere's nothing before. There's something after. They enjoy that creativeprocess. I think, there's a correlation there between engineers and musicians.

Tom Chavez:

I really want to amplify that for a minute because I thinka lot of people look at engineers and say, "Well, they're just these geekyguys," and ladies who code and do math, and they forget how creativeengineering is. There's this kind of very beautiful braid between thecreativity that goes in the engineering and the creativity that goes in themusic.

Max Mathieu:

You get your best ideas in the shower or in the middle ofthe night. It's a lot about connecting the dots. Like coding actually, is justa small portion of it, just how you execute it the same way once the course orthe lyrics, you still have to sing them. The singing may not be the hard part,right? That part of connecting like, "Oh wait, I should have done it thisway." Two weeks later, "Oh wait, I have an even better idea."This is very creative because you need all your experience put together.Sometime, with other people's experiences where Boombox, being a collaborativeplatform, a bit like GitHub is, really allows... We hope we're going to alloweven more people to find new ideas, get more inspired by other people and buildeven better music.

Tom Chavez:

So, India, you mentioned your sister is in music and she'sa very successful Spotify artist who with over a million followers, it's aremarkable thing. Now, I was wondering if you could give us a littleperspective, because we've been fortunate to get the benefit of her insights aswe build the company. What are musicians looking for? What do they need? Whatare the urgent bread and water problems?

India Lossman:

There's nothing better than getting on the horn with acustomer. I ask them, "How did you find us?" They'll say an ad orthey'll say they were shopping and they just really value what we bring to thetable. They're like, "Everything's in one place. I upload my files. Ileave timestamp comments for my people I'm working with. They are completelyacross the country. Everything's there. We talk back and forth. We makeprogress. It's listed and efficient and there forever. No one's confused. We'reall on the same page." That keep it simple. This is what people need. Theyvalue it. It's great to get on the horn. A lot of the customers, they'll tellyou, "What do I need next? Help me find more collaborators that I don'tneed."

Tom Chavez:

It's a rhetorical question, but I'm going to ask it,anyway. Why don't more musical creators just get on LinkedIn? That's where alot of people go to connect professionally. Vivek, what's your view?

Vivek Vaidya:

Well, I think, not a lot of musicians are on LinkedIn.That's why they don't go there.

Tom Chavez:

Why not though?

Vivek Vaidya:

Well, I think LinkedIn, if you think about the origins ofLinkedIn, it was meant to be a business network. I don't think LinkedIn evenconsidered themselves a social network when they started. It became a socialnetwork or it's being put under the bucket of social media now, but it was a businessprofessional network. The whole interface is all geared towards essentiallyyour resume, where did you work, where you did you go to school, et cetera, etcetera. It was not geared towards musicians building a profile. We can thinkof, one way to think of Boombox is a verticalized LinkedIn for musicians.

Tom Chavez:

I'm going to add to that. I do have a Persona on Spotify.You will not know who that is. We're not going to put it on blast. The lastthing I want is to have my musical explorations and my musical persona manifestin my professional self. I think, there's this weird psychosocial thing wheremusicians just will look at LinkedIn and say, "Yeah, it's very businessy,but douchey. No musician wants to really put their musical art. It's so personaland putting it on blast in a professional setting, it feels really unnatural.That's what creates the opportunity for Boombox because we have these differentpersona musicians. By the way, a lot of them, many of the pioneers as we callthem, have alternate egos, alternate personalities. That's part of the joy ofit, right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yep. Do you guys know his Spotify Persona?

India Lossman:

No.

Vivek Vaidya:

We should actually have a hackathon-

India Lossman:

We have to figure it out.

Vivek Vaidya:

... at Boombox to figure it out, Tom's Spotify Persona.

Tom Chavez:

Good luck with that.

India Lossman:

We totally ask-

Max Mathieu:

Have you tried asking ChatGPT?

Vivek Vaidya:

Maybe we'll figure it out. Tom has challenged us.

Tom Chavez:

Put a thumbtack in that. We're coming back-

Vivek Vaidya:

Tom has just challenged us.

Tom Chavez:

... [inaudible 00:24:15].

India Lossman:

Well, it's interesting too. We asked our pioneers, weasked our customers, "What would you actually put into a profile?"That's the other thing about LinkedIn. It's not geared towards them. It's notthe things you would want to put out into the universe-

Tom Chavez:

Say more.

India Lossman:

... like, "Hey, I want to have sample tracks thatpeople can listen to. That's how people want to connect and know this is anartist that I would want to work with." So we're asking them, "Whatdo you want to put out there for people to find you?"

Tom Chavez:

Right.

India Lossman:

LinkedIn isn't doing that right, by the way, right?

Tom Chavez:

Yeah. All the professional pedigree stuff that people doon LinkedIn in a music, in a musical context, while I studied with so andBerkeley School, nobody cares.

India Lossman:

No one cares.

Tom Chavez:

Again, it's what creates this awesome opportunity for usto, as we like to say, first collaborate, then connect. Connection comes withcollaboration, finding new people, birds of a feather who love what you do orhave interest in the genre that you participate in. Finding those collaboratorsis a big huge opportunity. Ultimately, not this year, but soon, earn money fromyour musical explorations. Let's talk a little bit about... I said we're goingto come back to ChatGPT. Max, you dropped it.

Max Mathieu:

Yes.

Tom Chavez:

You mentioned it. Okay, so here's what happens in companybuilding, and this was such a beautiful moment. This thing ChatGPT wasannounced November, 2022. We're sitting here with a very clear, crisp productstrategy that we've laid out for ourselves and that India's masterfullyblueprinting for the entire company. ChatGPT happens. My initial, I'm going tocome clean, my initial reaction was, "Yeah, that's adorable, but notreally relevant to what we're doing." By the way, artificial intelligencefor music is, I like to say, but the tech bros who drink Soylent will lovecomputer generated music because it's algorithmic and it's weird. Nobody withgood tasters sensibilities is going to listen to this stuff. Today, I have toqualify because the machines are coming fast, and there might be somethinginteresting in it.

Vivek Vaidya:

It's a good thing you qualified it because six monthslater, you would've had to eat craw if you hadn't qualified it, I think.

Tom Chavez:

As Prince Humperdinch and Princess Bride said,"Unless I'm wrong and I'm never wrong." You remember that movie?

Vivek Vaidya:

I do.

Tom Chavez:

I'm totally wrong about all of this stuff all the timeespecially, the speed at which is happening.

Vivek Vaidya:

It's remarkable.

Tom Chavez:

So, within a couple years, I don't... All bets are off.Today, we're back to how primal music is. It's something personal. I think,we'll be fascinated by the music machines generate, but there is stillsomething important about having humans out at the center and in front. When thegen AI happens, we are sitting around in one of our staffings and saying,"Is this relevant to us?" I'm confessing that my initial reaction wasno. Then, we start to take it in further and we realize, "Oh wait aminute. No, this is an opportunity for us." As we frequently do in earlystage company building, we course correct.

Tom Chavez:

I like a caveman point and grunt and I say, "Oh mygosh. I don't know what it is." There's some opportunity now for us to putthe machines to work and to create new tooling that elevates and empowersmusicians, again, with a musician out front and at the center, but withmachines now generating ideas, enriching the experience. Max, take us to whathappened here, because it's shocking. It's astonishing what Boombox has createdliterally within weeks from dirt to dinner, from blank whiteboard to livesoftware. Take us-

Vivek Vaidya:

It's in production now.

Tom Chavez:

It's in production. We just announced, we just releasedthese features this week.

India Lossman:

On Monday, yep.

Tom Chavez:

Holy guacamole.

Max Mathieu:

Yeah, those were intense. I think, six weeks total fromlate March to now. I think, we quickly realized that a lot of that generativeAI actually center around a user entering prompts. It's not just, "Oh, themachine is generating stuff from thin hair. There's someone telling it what todo." Back to building a team full of musicians that not only have theempathy and the knowledge of the industry and the empathy for our customers,they also have the background. We were able to put a team together, team ofthree engineers that all have a background in music theory. I don't know howmany people can claim they can do this in their company. We are able to havethe three of them and we're like, "Hey, we want something that is notgimmicky, something that is useful for musicians like you guys. Something thatmakes sense because you know what makes sense? Something that's in integrated.By the way, you have four weeks because we want to do something first stepquickly."

Tom Chavez:

[inaudible 00:29:20] free frame that because that's acompany building right there.

Max Mathieu:

Right.

Tom Chavez:

Four weeks. That's insane and yet it happens.

Max Mathieu:

Yeah, this was insane. The way we actually framed it onestep further, we say, one week of R&D, come up with ideas, try to do someproof of concept, a bit like a one-week hackathon, all expenses paid. Afterthis week, we sat down with India and the team and we saw what they came upwith and a lot of that were there. What we actually built the following threeweeks was a lot of refinement, hardening. That we haven't thought about, but aswe were seeing it happening, we started to iterate and have even more ideas.Within the next three weeks of April, essentially the team put it together, sothe same team. We didn't ask more engineers to write code and we had thedeadline. We're like, "By May 1st, we want be to able to record a demo. Wewant something."

Max Mathieu:

So, the team came together with the idea of generatingMIDI files that could be reused in the DAWs. All these came together veryquickly. That Slack channel was on fire, non-stop feedbacks, screenshots.Here's the incense. Everybody was so intense about it and been more hardeningabout the last two weeks and were released on Monday to production.

Tom Chavez:

Let's unpack a couple of the key things here because, infact, I remember now in one of our meetings, just to baseline things, Vivek,you said you went to ChatGPT. The dream was, you talked to what we call theBoombot. That's the alien, that's the AI at Boombox. I wish, I'd come up withBoombot, but I didn't. I love it. Okay, so you talk to the Boombot and you say,"I want a U2 style anthem with a melancholic verse and a big lift into achorus with a pulsating floor on the floor motif." You can say somethinglike that to the Boombot. Now, if you go to ChadGPT, it will give you a verydry set of core changes and give you a thumbs up and a good luck. Now, ifyou're a working musician, that's adorable, but completely not useful, right?

Max Mathieu:

I mean, you cannot even do this right with GPT the waywe've built it. You can just say what you want to write about and give somedirection. You don't have to learn prompt engineering.

Tom Chavez:

Good. I'm backing it up now. So, first there's the inprocessing like, "I'm a creator. I'm not a coder. I just have thisill-formed feeling in my head that I want to express, and you don't need toknow anything about the prompt engineering because we've engineered all ofit." Right?

India Lossman:

Right, I don't need to know anything about it.

Tom Chavez:

"I just need to express these feelings and this vibethat I have." That's huge. Now, let's talk a little bit about on the backend, because core changes, dry core changes written out in text... Look, mostmodern musicians, and I mean most of the top, the billboard, top 40 playerscan't tell you what key anything is in. They just have this incrediblesensibility. They're natural born songwriters. They feel these motifs, sothey're not theoreticians. What they do, spend a lot of time doing is thisincredible engineering of sound in these digital audio workstations we talkedabout. The ability now, there's this thing called MIDI. Let's talk about MIDIand what we do on the back end now. You're getting the output of what we builtand you're translating it, because this is, I think, the 'atom-splitting'moment where we've really broken through and have created a very interestingmode for ourselves at Boombox. Let's say a little bit more about what's goingon on the back end as we're taking these ideas and transporting them to MIDI.

Max Mathieu:

Sure. I think, at a high level, like ChatGPT or the API,whatever you want to call it, it's very text-based. It's not going to tell youall the details. We say, "Okay, well, give us the court progressions.We'll take it from there, because every time we try to poke further to get thenotes or inversions or whatnot, this was not working. We had to layer on top ofthe response from GPT, like, "Oh, this is a chord, this is a key. Thoseare the notes we want to have." Instead of just pinning it out and,"Well, those are the notes you can play." We actually generate a MIDIfile. That MIDI file, so MIDI file is not an for people that don't know, it'snot file that you can play directly. It's a description of where that notecomes in, that note stops. It's not a playable file, per se. You need virtualinstruments to actually play it.

Tom Chavez:

Can we do a quick sidebar on MIDI for our listeners?

Vivek Vaidya:

Before we do that, the fascinating thing about thisconversation, if you think about generative AI and OpenAI chat, GPT, et cetera,most of the people focus on the input part. You mentioned prompt engineering.All the research innovation, et cetera, has been how do you send the right setof prompts, how do you provide the right kind of context to OpenAI to back theoutput you want. The fascinating thing about this is not only do we have to beclever in the prompt engineering aspect of things, we also have to innovate andprocess the output that is produced by ChatGPT. So, it's both, the more itexists on both ends, the input and output. I find that fascinating.

Max Mathieu:

Yes, it's very interesting because it's far from perfect, right?People play with it. We had the discussion recently, it's either a toy or it'seither a tool. It's kind of a toy, and to make it a tool, as you say, we haveto package at the input side and also repackage it at the output and you haveto build upon it. Yeah, that's been very interesting to iterate on that and getit to where we're at now.

Tom Chavez:

The quick sidebar on MIDI, because it deserves some props.If you think about other places... When I first got into music, when I wasdoing a lot of computer science and math and stuff at the time, becausemusicians are communal by nature... In the '80s when electronic music anddigital signal processing first took root, they said, "Wait a minute. Idon't want to have a Tower of Babel where your system and your device can'ttalk to my device." So, they just went, I don't know how it happened.Actually, we should go and study, but they went to a place and they wrote out amusical interface, digital standard MIDI, musical interface digital, da, da, da,something like that. I know there's an interface in there. It's this magicalthing wherein it's this highly compact way of capturing the electronic signalsthat express a piece of music such that your system, your move synthesizer, ifyou get MIDI, I can put it into this DAW and whatever digital audio workstationI'm working with can read that device, that MIDI and we're off to the races.

Tom Chavez:

The parallel world we don't think about is one wherein youhave all of these systems and they can't talk to each other and as frequentlyhappen in software and other places. You have a whole industry of adapters andconnectors and all together nonsense. MIDI is magic is the point.

Max Mathieu:

It is.

Tom Chavez:

It's the lingua franca.

Max Mathieu:

If it didn't exist today, some company will invent andpatent it. Right?

Tom Chavez:

Yeah. Great.

Max Mathieu:

I'm glad this is out there. This is so pervasive now.

Tom Chavez:

So, translating the outputs here to MIDI we should putthis on a... We'll have it on a demo on boombox.io soon, I'm sure. It's magicwhen you see the expression of these ideas in language. Now, translated intoMIDI and remote modern musicians are off to the races.

Vivek Vaidya:

We can write our own [inaudible 00:37:15] song.

Tom Chavez:

We got. right?

India Lossman:

Yes.

Tom Chavez:

There has to be a theme song. Let's get on.

Vivek Vaidya:

Just saying.

Tom Chavez:

Hey, so as we close out over here, India, what's the mostsurprising thing that's happened? Because you came from, as I mentioned, aprofessional product management background, this is a very controversial, maybecontrarian thing you've done, joining this crazy band of five people, whateverit was, five or six people to jump on board, and oh my goodness, you'recrushing it. You're doing it well. I'm curious. What been the most surprising,unexpected part of the journey so far for you?

India Lossman:

I think, I was afraid of going to a startup and I realizedabout myself like, "Oh, I like coloring outside the lines. I like makingthe rules. I like building up the team." I think that was all surprising,but it's the right place for me, Boombox servicing musicians. It's like thestars aligned. The surprising part was just how fun it is, how rewarding it is.

Vivek Vaidya:

You really, you're doing an amazing job and it shows thepassion and the joy. The passion for the job you have and the joy you get fromit is just evident every single day. It was evident, and the panel today thatyou were moderating as well.

Tom Chavez:

I also, we're going to do this. Vivek and I interview alot of people to join these companies and we do have a set of questions that welike to ask people. I don't want to say the question because now, or if I sayit on the mic, then everyone's going to come be expecting it, but there's oneparticular question that is very important to me in the back and we ask it.Just to your point just now... This is the problem with the podcast because youcan't see us, but India's eyes go wide and it's just beaming joy and enthusiasmfor everything that we're doing and it's infectious because that's really goesa long distance towards explaining why this little team is doing the remarkablethings that they're doing. Max, why did you, so you're an Google guy-

Max Mathieu:

Correct.

Tom Chavez:

... and then joining... That was also a controversialweird thing. Why'd you do that? What's the matter with you?

Max Mathieu:

Think it was controversial for them more than it was tome.

Vivek Vaidya:

How could you leave?

Max Mathieu:

Yeah, some people are like, were like, "Why, you havekids? Why do you leave Google?" I'm like, "Because I have kids and Iwant them to see me happy." I've always worked in small companies andGoogle was, I can say it easily now, Google was for me, way to not have to payfor an MBA and have a good resume in the US because when I moved here, I didn'thave that. It was hard to find anything remotely equivalent to what I used todo back in France. So, when I had the opportunity to go there, well at least Ihaven't been, good salary for a while. I have that on my resume. Nobody's goingto ask me, "Oh, so what were you doing before?" I can put ex Googleon my LinkedIn profile if I want to.

Max Mathieu:

For them, it was... The one that the people who workedwith me understood. They knew like, "You can't stay at Google. This is notfor you." They knew all my frustrations, but for my parents it was weird'cause they were so happy to see me at Google and I'm like, "You don'trealize this is not for me." For me it was like a no-brainer. It was,again, more control for them.

Tom Chavez:

Well shout out to Google because you learned some things.

Max Mathieu:

I did.

Tom Chavez:

All right then. It all works out. Such a pleasure to haveyou two with us today. Thank you.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Thank you. This is a fantastic.

Vivek Vaidya:

Thank you India. Thank you Max.

India Lossman:

Thanks for having us.

Vivek Vaidya:

Tom, we normally do this in the middle of the show, butyou never did your unpaid-for promotion.

Tom Chavez:

We have a totally unpaid-for promotion. We have put it atthe beginning and the end, once or twice. Let's get a shout-out to our sponsor.

Vivek Vaidya:

Which is?

Tom Chavez:

New Orleans Cuisine. We are here in New Orleans.

Vivek Vaidya:

New Orleans Cuisine is our sponsor.

Tom Chavez:

Is our sponsor.

Vivek Vaidya:

How much fried chicken have you had since you came here?

Tom Chavez:

I've been here about 36 hours and by my best estimate,I've inhaled about 4.9 pounds of fried oysters, fried chicken.

Vivek Vaidya:

There you go. Good for you.

Tom Chavez:

And fried crawfish.

Vivek Vaidya:

There you go. That's why at lunch I saw you have anoatmeal.

Tom Chavez:

Right. Well, I'm not going to lie to you. I am crying outfor a carrot now. A vegetable or two would be just fine.

Vivek Vaidya:

Raw vegetable, not boiled.

Tom Chavez:

Raw vegetable. Yeah, right.

Vivek Vaidya:

All right.

Tom Chavez:

But while what we're here, just do it the New Orleans wayand just put as many fried crawfish in your belly as you can.

Vivek Vaidya:

Well, that's a good way to end the podcast.

Tom Chavez:

On that note. Maxence Mathieu, how did I do?

Max Mathieu:

That was really good.

Tom Chavez:

That was really good. Right?

Max Mathieu:

Good.

Tom Chavez:

Maxence Mathieu, it's a pleasure to have you. IndiaLossman, thank you for being with us.

India Lossman:

Thank you.

Vivek Vaidya:

Thank you, guys.

Tom Chavez:

Thank you all.

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Want to grow your product organically? This blog post breaks down understanding costs, setting up starter plans, and pricing premium features using MarkovML as an example. Learn how to engage new users and encourage upgrades, enhancing user experience and fueling growth through actionable insights.

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Building Tech on a Moving Regulatory Target

In an interview with Ketch co-founder Max Anderson, the focus is on data privacy laws and AI's role. Anderson discusses the global privacy landscape, highlighting Ketch's approach to helping businesses navigate regulations. The conversation also emphasizes data dignity and Ketch's unique role in the AI revolution.

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AI Hot Takes: Deepfakes, The Big Stakes, and What to Make

Is AI our salvation or is it going to kill us all? Tom and Vivek roam widely on others’ takes about artificial intelligence, adding their insight and experience to the mix. Along the way they consider Descartes, Ray Kurzweil, Salt Bae, Marc Andreessen among others. If you are looking for a down to earth conversation that tempers the extremes at either end of the debate, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.

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Lessons from the Startup Circus

super{set} Technical Lead and resident front-end engineering expert Sagar Jhobalia recaps lessons from participating in multiple product and team build-outs in our startup studio. Based on a decade of experience, Sagar emphasizes the importance of assembling the right engineering team, setting expectations, and strategically planning MVPs for early wins in the fast-paced startup environment.

read more

Navigating the Startup Journey from Launch to Finish Line

Are you a launcher, or a finisher? The balance of conviction, a guiding vision, and the right team to execute it all make the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. Tom Chavez delves into his journey as a first-time CEO and the invaluable guidance he received from a key mentor.

read more

Understanding The AI “Alignment Problem”

Vivek Vaidya recaps his conversation with AI researcher and author of "The Alignment Problem" Brian Christian at the 2023 super{summit}.

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High-Velocity Personal Growth

What's the price you put on personal growth? In his most recent note to founders, super{set} Founding General Partner Vivek Vaidya outlines 7 points of advice for startup interviews and negotiations. Vivek explains his compensation philosophy and the balance between cash and the investment in personal and career growth a startup can bring. Here’s the mindset you need to reach your zenith at a startup.

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Harvard Computer Scientist James Mickens on The Ethical Tech Project

Are we walking a tightrope with AI, jeopardizing humanity's ethical core? Is AI more than just algorithms, acting as a mirror to our moral values? And when machine learning grapples with ethical dilemmas, who ultimately bears the responsibility? Harvard's Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, James Mickens, joins Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya on "The {Closed} Session."

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How Boombox Nurtures Customer Collaboration for Success

In a conversation with boombox's co-founder India Lossman, the discussion pivots to the art of fostering customer collaboration in music creation. Lossman unveils how artist-driven feedback shapes boombox's innovative platform, with a glimpse into AI's empowering potential. Understand the synergy between technology and user insights as they redefine the independent music landscape.

read more

ActiveFence Acquires super{set} Company Spectrum Labs

ActiveFence, the leading technology solution for Trust and Safety intelligence, management and content moderation, today announced its successful acquisition of Spectrum Labs, a pioneer in text-based Contextual AI Content Moderation.

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How Engineers Should Talk to Customers with Empathy

Do you get an uneasy feeling anytime you get added to a customer call? Do you ever struggle to respond to a frustrated customer? Peter Wang, Product lead at Ketch, discusses how customer feedback can help drive product development, and how engineers can use customer insights to create better products. Learn best practices for collecting and interpreting customer feedback.

read more

Tech Crunch: Answering AI’s biggest questions requires an interdisciplinary approach

Tom Chavez, writing in TechCrunch, calls for new approaches to the problems of Ethical AI: "We have to build a more responsible future where companies are trusted stewards of people’s data and where AI-driven innovation is synonymous with good. In the past, legal teams carried the water on issues like privacy, but the brightest among them recognize they can’t solve problems of ethical data use in the age of AI by themselves."

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Spectrum Co-founders Launch Nurdle AI

Justin Davis and Josh Newman, Co-founders of Spectrum Labs (acquired) launch Nurdle to get AI into production faster, cheaper & easier.

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Spotlight Series: Gal Vered, Co-founder of Checksum.ai

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio every episode. Up first: Gal Vered is co-founder and Head of Product at Checksum (checksum.ai), end to end test automation leveraging AI to test every corner of your app.

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The Product Mindset for Engineers

Ever find yourself scratching your head about product management decisions? Join India Lossman, co-founder of boombox.io, as she unpacks the product mindset for engineers. Unravel the art of synergy between PMs and engineers and delve into strategies to enhance collaboration and craft products that users will adore.

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Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health

Co-founder of Headlamp Health, Andrew Marshak, describes the frustratingly ambiguous state of mental health diagnoses - and the path forward for making mental health a precision science.

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Marketing in the Age of AI with Rex Briggs

How is AI steering the future of marketing strategy? With the convergence of AI and marketing tactics, Rex Briggs paints a compelling picture of what's possible: AI agents that revolutionize user interactions, and generative techniques that craft persuasive content. Drawing from his deep expertise in marketing measurement, Rex joins Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya to explore the cutting-edge of AI-driven marketing strategies. Listen for insights on harnessing AI's potential in modern marketing.

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Tom Chavez in Huffpost Personal for Hispanic Heritage Month

Writing in the Huffington Post: "My Mom Sent Me And My 4 Siblings To Harvard. Here's The 1 Thing I Tell People About Success."

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Developer tools that are worth their while: KEDA and Boundary in action

Running cloud platforms efficiently while keeping them secure can be challenging. In this blog post, learn how two of super{set}’s portfolio companies, MarkovML and Kapstan, are leveraging tools like KEDA for event-driven scale and Boundary for access management to remove friction for developers. Get insights into real-world use cases about optimizing resource usage and security without compromising productivity.

read more

Watch: Sandeep Bhandari Fireside Chat

Sandeep Bhandari, Former Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Risk Officer at buy now, pay later (BNPL) company Affirm, joins Vivek Vaidya, Founding General Partner of super{set}, in conversation.

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Spotlight Series: Andrew Marshak, Co-founder of Headlamp Health

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio every episode. Up now: Andrew Marshak is Co-founder and Head of Product at Headlamp Health (Headlamp.com), a healthtech company bringing greater precision to mental health care.

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Philosophy, Data, and AI Ethics with NYT Best-selling Author + Data Scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

From unpacking Google search patterns to understanding the philosophical underpinnings of big data, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz offers a unique lens. As the NYT Best-selling author of “Everybody Lies” and a renowned data scientist, he delves into the ways data mirrors societal nuances and the vast implications for tech and its intertwining with everyday life.

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Forbes: 5 Startup Studio Misconceptions

It's still early for the startup studio asset class - and we hear misconceptions about the studio model every day, ranging from the basic confusion of accelerators versus studios to downright incorrect assumptions on our deep commitment to the build-out of every company. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

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Ringside Tales from Serial Startup Champion Omar Tawakol

Like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the fiercest competitors can sometimes become friends. Omar Tawakol is a prime example. As the founder and CEO of BlueKai, he went head-to-head with Tom, Vivek, and the 'Krux mafia' for dominance in the Data Management Platform arena. A serial entrepreneur with roots in New York and Egypt, Omar eventually steered BlueKai to a successful acquisition by Oracle before creating Voicea, which Cisco acquired. Today, he's pioneering a new venture called Rembrand (rembrand.com), which innovates in product placement through generative fusion AI.

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Spotlight Series: Lindsey Meyl, Co-founder of RevAmp

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio in every episode. Today's guest is Lindsey Meyl, Co-founder at RevAmp (rev-amp.ai), a "Datadog for RevOps" platform that offers observability across the revenue engine, monitoring performance, flagging when something is amiss, and determining the root cause of how to fix it.

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Why Proprietary Data Is the Linchpin of AI Disruption

Read Vivek Vaidya's latest in CDO Magazine and learn why in this new AI landscape, those who harness the potential of proprietary data and foster a culture of collaboration will lead the way—those who don't risk obsolescence.

read more

MedCity News: It’s Time for the Tech Revolution to Come to Mental Health Diagnoses

Headlamp Health co-founder Andrew Marshak writes in the MedCity News that "We need to take inspiration from the progress in oncology over the last few decades and challenge ourselves to adapt its successful playbook to mental illness. It’s time for precision psychiatry."

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What Consumers Think of AI and Their Privacy

Everyone’s talking about AI - so The Ethical Tech Project decided to listen. Joining forces with programmatic privacy and data+AI governance platform Ketch, The Ethical Tech Project surveyed a representative sample of 2,500 U.S. consumers and asked them about AI, the companies leveraging AI, and their sentiment and expectations around AI and privacy. On the latest episode of The {Closed} Session, get an inside look at the survey results in a deep-dive conversation with the team at The Ethical Tech Project.

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Why the AI Revolution Will Be Data-Centric

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder of MarkovML, joins super{set} Chief Commercial Officer Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the role of data in gaining a competitive advantage in the AI revolution. Learn the difference between optimizing models and optimizing data in machine learning applications, and why effective collaboration will make or break the next-gen AI applications being created in businesses.

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From Watsonville To The Moon

This post was written by Habu software engineer, Martín Vargas-Vega, as part of our new #PassTheMic series.

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Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

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Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

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Spectrum Co-founders Launch Nurdle AI

Justin Davis and Josh Newman, Co-founders of Spectrum Labs (acquired) launch Nurdle to get AI into production faster, cheaper & easier.

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boombox.io Raises $7M to Build Out Creator Platform for Music Makers

super{set} startup studio portfolio company’s seed funding round was led by Forerunner Ventures with participation from Ulu Ventures Raise will enable boombox.io to accelerate product development on the way to becoming the winning creator platform for musicians globally

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The Information: The People OpenAI Should Consider for Its New Board

Tom Chavez writes in The Information that "OpenAI’s board needs a data ethicist, a philosopher of mind, a neuroscientist, a computer scientist with interdisciplinary expertise and a political strategist."

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Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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Diamonds in the Rough

Obsessive intensity. Pack animal nature. Homegrown hero vibes. Unyielding grit. A chip on the shoulder. That's who we look for to join exceptional teams.

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Why the AI Revolution Will Be Data-Centric

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder of MarkovML, joins super{set} Chief Commercial Officer Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the role of data in gaining a competitive advantage in the AI revolution. Learn the difference between optimizing models and optimizing data in machine learning applications, and why effective collaboration will make or break the next-gen AI applications being created in businesses.

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Redefining Customer Experience in Data-Driven Tech Startups

Ted Flanagan, Chief Customer Officer at super{set}-founded Habu, sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to provide insights into how Habu's strategies in customer experience set it apart in the data collaboration market. Learn how customer experience strategies helped Habu land a $200 million after being acquired by LiveRamp in January 2024.

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Lessons from the Startup Circus

super{set} Technical Lead and resident front-end engineering expert Sagar Jhobalia recaps lessons from participating in multiple product and team build-outs in our startup studio. Based on a decade of experience, Sagar emphasizes the importance of assembling the right engineering team, setting expectations, and strategically planning MVPs for early wins in the fast-paced startup environment.

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Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

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Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

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Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

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How Engineers Should Talk to Customers with Empathy

Do you get an uneasy feeling anytime you get added to a customer call? Do you ever struggle to respond to a frustrated customer? Peter Wang, Product lead at Ketch, discusses how customer feedback can help drive product development, and how engineers can use customer insights to create better products. Learn best practices for collecting and interpreting customer feedback.

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The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

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Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

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VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

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Developer tools that are worth their while: KEDA and Boundary in action

Running cloud platforms efficiently while keeping them secure can be challenging. In this blog post, learn how two of super{set}’s portfolio companies, MarkovML and Kapstan, are leveraging tools like KEDA for event-driven scale and Boundary for access management to remove friction for developers. Get insights into real-world use cases about optimizing resource usage and security without compromising productivity.

read more

CalMatters: Why visa reforms benefit not just California’s tech sector but the economy overall

Vivek Vaidya writes that America needs more H-1B workers. Common sense reforms to the program will even the playing field for startups, not Big Tech, to bring innovative talent to American's shores.

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Building Fast, Scaling Globally

Harshil Vyas joined the super{set} Hive (i.e., portfolio companies community) in March 2023 as Co-Founder of Kapstan and employee number one in India. We jumped on a Zoom recently to talk about accelerated timelines, globally distributed workforces, and what is unique about the super{set} model.

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super{set}’s Spectrum Detoxifies The Online Space

We are living in a time of extraordinary concern about the negative consequences of online platforms and social media. We worry about the damage interactive technologies cause to society; about the impact to our mental health; and about the way that these platforms and their practices play to our most destructive impulses. Too often, the experiences we have online serve only to polarize, divide, and amplify the worst of human nature.

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The RevOps Bowtie Data Problem

Go-to-market has entered a new operating environment. Enter: RevOps. We dig into the next solution space for super{set}, analyzing the paradigm shift in GTM and the data challenges a new class of company must solve.

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How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

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Tom Chavez in Huffpost Personal for Hispanic Heritage Month

Writing in the Huffington Post: "My Mom Sent Me And My 4 Siblings To Harvard. Here's The 1 Thing I Tell People About Success."

read more

Why Proprietary Data Is the Linchpin of AI Disruption

Read Vivek Vaidya's latest in CDO Magazine and learn why in this new AI landscape, those who harness the potential of proprietary data and foster a culture of collaboration will lead the way—those who don't risk obsolescence.

read more

Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

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We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

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Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

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Tech Crunch: Answering AI’s biggest questions requires an interdisciplinary approach

Tom Chavez, writing in TechCrunch, calls for new approaches to the problems of Ethical AI: "We have to build a more responsible future where companies are trusted stewards of people’s data and where AI-driven innovation is synonymous with good. In the past, legal teams carried the water on issues like privacy, but the brightest among them recognize they can’t solve problems of ethical data use in the age of AI by themselves."

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Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

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Navigating the Startup Journey from Launch to Finish Line

Are you a launcher, or a finisher? The balance of conviction, a guiding vision, and the right team to execute it all make the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. Tom Chavez delves into his journey as a first-time CEO and the invaluable guidance he received from a key mentor.

read more

Understanding The AI “Alignment Problem”

Vivek Vaidya recaps his conversation with AI researcher and author of "The Alignment Problem" Brian Christian at the 2023 super{summit}.

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When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

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Podcast: Tom Chavez on How AI Startups Can Show Us What’s Next in Marketing

Tom Chavez joins the "Decoding AI for Marketing" podcast published by MMA Global and hosted by well-respected international marketing & AI experts Greg Stuart (CEO, Author, Investor, Speaker) and Rex Briggs (Founder/CEO, Inventor, Author, Speaker).

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Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

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Forbes: Why The Biden-Xi Talks Should Put A Microscope On San Francisco

The prettifying and securing of downtown San Francisco, where super{set} is headquartered, should be the norm - not just for special state visits from the world's dictators. Here are 3 things the city of San Francisco should be doing all year round to make the city better to live, work, and invest in. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

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How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

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From Suitcases to Startups: Why Immigrants Innovate

How are immigrants like entrepreneurs? Peter Wang of Ketch arrived in the U.S. at age 7 with two suitcases and a box. Read his story in the latest "Pass The Mic."

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Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

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Not Just On Veterans Day

This post was written by Ketch Developer Advocate, Ryan Overton, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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Watch: Sandeep Bhandari Fireside Chat

Sandeep Bhandari, Former Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Risk Officer at buy now, pay later (BNPL) company Affirm, joins Vivek Vaidya, Founding General Partner of super{set}, in conversation.

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ActiveFence Acquires super{set} Company Spectrum Labs

ActiveFence, the leading technology solution for Trust and Safety intelligence, management and content moderation, today announced its successful acquisition of Spectrum Labs, a pioneer in text-based Contextual AI Content Moderation.

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The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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Forbes: Why A Collaborative Approach Trumps "Lone Genius" In Company-Building

Off the heels of super{set}'s first exit - the acquisition of data collaboration company Habu by LiveRamp for $200 Million - Tom Chavez writes how the super{set} approach to collaboration in company building leads to successful outcomes.

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7 Ways to Turn an Internship Into a Job at a Startup

Chris Fellowes, super{set} interned turned full time employee at super{set} portfolio company Kapstan, gives his 7 recommendations for how to turn an internship into a job at a startup.

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Forbes: 5 Startup Studio Misconceptions

It's still early for the startup studio asset class - and we hear misconceptions about the studio model every day, ranging from the basic confusion of accelerators versus studios to downright incorrect assumptions on our deep commitment to the build-out of every company. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

read more

super{set} Celebrates First Exit: LiveRamp to Acquire Data Collaboration Software Startup Habu for $200M

LiveRamp Enters Into Definitive Agreement to Acquire Habu, Reinforcing super{set}'s Unique Company Building Model of Founding, Funding, and Scaling Data+AI Businesses

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How Boombox Nurtures Customer Collaboration for Success

In a conversation with boombox's co-founder India Lossman, the discussion pivots to the art of fostering customer collaboration in music creation. Lossman unveils how artist-driven feedback shapes boombox's innovative platform, with a glimpse into AI's empowering potential. Understand the synergy between technology and user insights as they redefine the independent music landscape.

read more

Why CTOs Should Care About Gross Margins, Cost-to-Serve, and Product Management

Why should a tech exec care about profit and loss? Aren’t our jobs to make the product great, and someone else can figure out how to make the numbers add up? That was my attitude for a long time until I finally appreciated the significance of gross margins for SaaS businesses during the early part of my tenure as the CTO of Krux.

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Detecting Software Bugs with AI

Gal Vered is co-founder and Head of Product at Checksum (checksum.ai), an innovative company that provides end-to-end test automation that leverages AI to test every corner of an app. He sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the exciting problem that Checksum is solving with AI and what Gal likes best about working in super{set}'s startup studio model.

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Four Tips for a Distributed Workforce

This month we pass the mic to Sagar Gaur, Software Engineer at super{set} MLOps company MarkovML, who shares with us his tips for working within a global startup with teams in San Francisco and Bengaluru, India

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The Product Mindset for Engineers

Ever find yourself scratching your head about product management decisions? Join India Lossman, co-founder of boombox.io, as she unpacks the product mindset for engineers. Unravel the art of synergy between PMs and engineers and delve into strategies to enhance collaboration and craft products that users will adore.

read more

Building Tech on a Moving Regulatory Target

In an interview with Ketch co-founder Max Anderson, the focus is on data privacy laws and AI's role. Anderson discusses the global privacy landscape, highlighting Ketch's approach to helping businesses navigate regulations. The conversation also emphasizes data dignity and Ketch's unique role in the AI revolution.

read more

High-Velocity Personal Growth

What's the price you put on personal growth? In his most recent note to founders, super{set} Founding General Partner Vivek Vaidya outlines 7 points of advice for startup interviews and negotiations. Vivek explains his compensation philosophy and the balance between cash and the investment in personal and career growth a startup can bring. Here’s the mindset you need to reach your zenith at a startup.

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The Information: "TikTok Is Not the Enemy"

Tom writes a nuanced take on the TikTok controversy and outlines ethical data principles that will restore people’s sense of trust and offer them true control over how and when they grant permission for use of their data.

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Horizontal Scaling at super{summit}

Vivek gives us the rundown on what the hive is buzzing about after super{summit} 2023: how to 'horizontally scale' yourself.

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Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

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Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health

Co-founder of Headlamp Health, Andrew Marshak, describes the frustratingly ambiguous state of mental health diagnoses - and the path forward for making mental health a precision science.

read more

The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

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An Intro to Product-Led Growth from MarkovML

Want to grow your product organically? This blog post breaks down understanding costs, setting up starter plans, and pricing premium features using MarkovML as an example. Learn how to engage new users and encourage upgrades, enhancing user experience and fueling growth through actionable insights.

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Pivots and Possibilities

Discover how lessons from law enforcement shape a thriving tech career. Ketch Sr. Business Development Representative Brenda Flores shares a bold career pivot in our latest "Pass the Mic" story.

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MedCity News: It’s Time for the Tech Revolution to Come to Mental Health Diagnoses

Headlamp Health co-founder Andrew Marshak writes in the MedCity News that "We need to take inspiration from the progress in oncology over the last few decades and challenge ourselves to adapt its successful playbook to mental illness. It’s time for precision psychiatry."

read more

Jamming with Habu’s Matt Kilmartin on Partnership Strategy

Discover how Habu, a trailblazer in data clean room technology, utilizes strategic partnerships with giants like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS to expand its market reach and foster the potential of an emerging category. Learn from CEO Matt Kilmartin's insights on how collaboration is the secret sauce that brings innovation to life.

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From Chords, to Code, to Chords Again: The Story Behind Boombox.io

super{set} founding general partner Tom Chavez wasn’t always set on a life of engineering and entrepreneurship – music was his first love. For a time, he was determined to make a career out of it. With boombox.io, Tom has combined the best of both worlds into a product that inspires and delights both the engineer and the musician.

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Hold Fast: Game-Changing Wisdom from Seamus Blackley

Creator of the XBox and serial entrepreneur Seamus Blackley joined Tom Chavez on stage at the 2023 super{summit} in New Orleans, Louisiana, for a free-ranging conversation covering the intersection of creativity and technology, recovering back from setbacks to reach new heights, and a pragmatic reflection on the role of fear and regret in entrepreneurship.

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