Interview with Josh Simons
Co-Founder & CEO @ Vampr

With Vampr, you can find musicians, industry and music lovers near you and build your profile with Soundcloud and YouTube. Users can see common musical interests and make new connections by swiping right on a profile. They can then chat securely with new connections and get started on a new musical collaboration!
Hi Josh! What led to your co-founding Vampr back in 2015? How did your previous experience Managing RIPE influence your work with Vampr?
So, Baz and I started Vampr in 2015, quite simply, because as two people who had worked our whole lives in the music industry and made some money from it, we had to endure a similar pain point, which is: that it took us, in both of our cases, about seven years to find that right network; that right group of people that would propel our careers and take us forward, to allow us to make a real living from music. And it's a really, really difficult thing to do - it's the number one barriers stopping people from viewing music as a tangible career path. So we looked at the landscape of music and we said, "Well, technology has made it cheaper than ever to record. It's easy to distribute and publish your music, even grow a fan base. All of this is easy, thanks to technology." But what technology hasn't done is help solve that problem of putting you in the right network, introducing you to that magic person, or group of people, who will transform your life and really help you make a living out of music. As far as my experience from running a record label played into that, I think running my own label for 10 years absolutely prepared me just for the challenge of running a business full stop - and I'm talking about the real mundane stuff: compliance, spreadsheets, tax returns, flow through stuff, dealing in multiple jurisdictions etc.. That's what my experience running my own label prepared me for, is the almost the mundane elements of business - but also, actually, coordinating personnel. When you run a record label and you distributing, let's say a track in every country in the world - you've got press people in Europe, you've got press people in North America and Australia - so you're you're always dealing with multiple groups of people and multiple teams and, really, the role of a founder, especially of a tech startup like Vampr, is people coordination in some respects and people recruitment. So that's absolutely what my prior experience as the head of my own record label prepared me for.
How did you build the networks and partnerships that make Vampr successful today? Who were some of your first big partners?
So it probably goes without saying: building a social network is not an easy task. You have to build the technology and then somehow attract the community to the tech you've just built. Or some people build the community first, with offline events and the tech comes second - there's no right or wrong way, really. We sort of somehow straddle that line there a little bit, and we iterated the product as we were also growing the user base. But as far as important partnerships go, and the important partners that brought along users, I wouldn't point to any single one. I mean, for example we launched at a music conference in France called Maiden. Now we partnered with Sounds Australia for that, who were gracious enough to to comp our table space, so that we had a venue and a platform to launch our product. That's just one example. But we're partnering with companies all the time, and we partnered with Capital Records some months back. They had a hackathon event. We did a sort of side thing, where we did a song challenge to record a song in 24 hours, and that really motivated our L.A. users and helped us bring on some new users. It's these little partnerships that I find - it's the sum of those parts that help you build a real network, it's never just one - let's get Justin Bieber to say something on his twitter and suddenly we'll have a million users. It doesn't work like that. It's definitely the sum of the parts. We've done a lot of partnerships, a lot that we can be very proud of. We've worked with virtually every music company in the world, including the BBC in England and Atlantic Records here. But it's definitely the sum of the parts that help you build a network, and I think that's what true community building is all about.
How many users are currently on Vampr? How has the platform's user base grown since it was first launch?
So Vampr currently has half a million users. But, when we talk about the size of the community and the user base etc., it's far more responsible and accurate to talk about monthly active users. It helps you make better projections and more responsible forecasts for investors, etc.. So from a monthly active user perspective, Vampr has 75,000 monthly active users, which have been growing at a rate of about 12.2 percent, month over month the last 12 months or so. As far as how the platform has grown over time: we basically spent the first year just learning how to market. We sort of had this beta product - it wasn't even quite MVP - and in some respects it bought us the luxury of time to try out various marketing streams, and see which ones work and which ones don't. We now refine that to an absolute art. We have an incredible cost per acquisition of about nine cents, but you can see that quite - when we map our user growth over time you got that first year, version one, of the platform, and then we sort of launch Version 2 -worked out how to market - and started hockey sticking, which is a great a great outcome, obviously and that's how it's grown over time, and it's how we try to keep it growing and obviously we want to keep that hockey stick, hockey sticking. But it does require obviously hard work, and understanding of what drives growth, and it's generally a combination between improving your product and getting better at marketing - it's definitely not one or the other. Good question.
Are you planning on launching any new services in the near future? How is Vampr standing up to potential competitors?
So, as far as what features and services we're looking to launch in the next year, we've actually launched a crowdfund just this week: www.wefunder.com/Vampr where you can actually see, with your own eyes, exactly what we're what we're looking to build. One of the cool things about crowdfunding is, essentially, you're putting out your future plans to the public and you're asking the public to validate your ideas, by virtue of investing or not. So you can check it out with your own eyes - but, in summary we're looking to build something called Vampr Pro. And Vampr Pro is gonna be a suite of features that the freemium tier users won't have access to, things like: boosting your profile, giving you more real estate by virtue of having more songs, more pictures etc. verification, removing swipe limits, being able to reach out to people directly, features like that. And it's been about two years in the making. It's really really exciting and we've put a lot of information out there on the crowdfunding page about that, so we encourage you to to check that out, and see it with your own eyes and see what you think. As far as how we're standing up to our current competitors, again, on the crowdfund page we actually do a case study on how they've been growing versus us: we're about 10x ahead of the nearest start up in our space. So obviously we're not talking about companies like LinkedIn and such, a meet platform or professional network for all industries, we're just talking about the startups that are working in this music-social networking space that we're in. We're about 10 times ahead of their nearest competitor. But, again, go ahead and check out www.wefunder.com/Vampr to check out not only our future plans, but see how we stack up against the competition.
What's next for your work with Vampr? What are the main projects, partnerships, and services you'll be focusing on for the next year?
So, aside from closing down our equity crowdfunding campaign, which we've just launched on Wefunder, our focus for the next year will be on building the next version of Vampr. We call it Vampr V3, And we'll be introducing things like a feed: notifications, stuff that you've come to expect from platforms such as Facebook, but you've never seen on a music social network before. So that's going to be our main focus, and it's going to take about nine months to fully build out, but we're hoping that we can deploy feature by feature and continue to iterate, just like we have since day one as, generally speaking, it's the best way to test whether we're heading in the right direction and whether our user base agrees that what we're doing is good. And so that's what we'll be focusing on. So we've got Vampr Pro coming up, which will be our subscription premium tier, and Vampr V3 for everybody else. And so that will involve also building out our teams, sowe'll be bringing on probably salespeople for the first time. It will also mean doubling our development and technical team - so, if you're interested in joining the company, get in touch. Anyone can reach us at any time at social@vampr.me. We'll be expanding fairly rapidly and that'll be quite a process to me to manage, but also a relief that we can take a break from raising capital for a bit, and focus on making the product in the community as healthy as ever. That will be my focus for the next 12 months.