Alessia Sannazzaro’s life as an entrepreneur and co-founder of a successful, award-winning tech startup began almost as a lark among friends in their spare time.
“After graduating from university I freelanced in graphic design with no plans whatsoever to start my own business,” says the 25-year-old, who received her baccalaureate from the European School Munich and then earned a master’s degree in engineering, design and innovation from Queen Mary and Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 2012.
When she wasn’t freelancing Alessia joined Chris Underdown, a musician and composer she knew from student days, along with some other friends in pursuing his idea of recording and releasing live videos of new musical artists on YouTube. So they launched a channel and quickly gained a following.
“We had very positive feedback and decided this could be so much more than just a fun project, but first we found a problem we wanted to solve,” recalls Alessia.
Producing visual content proved time consuming, which limited the number of performers who could appear on the channel and frustrated the group’s goal of exposing the work of as many lesser-known acts as possible to a wide audience. As Alessia explains:
“I personally saw the struggle of very talented people to get their music discovered, while on the radio it’s the same popular songs played over and over again. As an answer to these limitations we realized we could make a greater impact by creating an app, so we developed the world’s first consumer music discovery service — Choosic.”
Choosic: Arts meets science
Built on an algorithm and curated content from more than 600 tastemakers and music blogs, Choosic offers an intuitive Tinder-style interface to choose one song at a time instead of scanning a list. You begin by selecting a minimum of three musical genres from which it provides recommendations. Over time the software learns your tastes to make more personalized suggestions. Swipe left to skip, swipe right to keep for fast, fun playlist building.
Choosic is designed to connect emerging music with appreciative listeners.
Although the app recommends a mix of established and emerging artists, its focus remains on finding fresh, trending music to help promote a discovery for the listener and deliver an artist’s music to those who’ll appreciate it.
Yet Alessia notes that staying true to their original mission while creating a model that would be profitable presented a challenge:
“The idea we had was to offer data on user music preferences, listener count and other useful information to record labels. Music trends are something companies are always interested in, and it means up-and-coming artists can have an effect on the direction of the music industry.”
A lack of any real business experience didn’t deter Alessia — who says she’s “a doer, not a talker” — from the daunting task of founding the startup with Chris. As one of four on the Choosic team, she serves as project manager as well as oversees the operations side of the company, including legal, financial and accounting.
“I’ve learned so much since starting Choosic that I don’t know where to begin,” she says. “I definitely improved my management and team skills and learned to focus on objectives with a limited timeframe and budget. I also believe it made me grow as a person as I became more confident.”
A trusted tech partner
One thing she did know from her previous freelancing experience was the value of GoDaddy’s web products and services as tools to benefit the business.
“I began using GoDaddy over a year ago to create my personal graphic design website, so when starting Choosic I went straight to GoDaddy again for our domain and web hosting because I knew how easy to use it is,” Alessia says. “I had everything up and running in minutes, which is extremely useful to a time-constrained startup like ours.”
Plus GoDaddy’s 24/7 customer support frees Alessia up to pay more attention to the other aspects of running the company.
“As a small team we must cover different aspects of the business. Some days I deal with marketing strategies, others with cash flow and financial forecasting. The best thing about working in a startup is that no day is ever the same — that’s what’s exciting about it!”
Entrepreneurs to watch
Their hard work and dedication has paid off, earning honors, money and users for Choosic since its founding in August 2013.
- Choosic won the 2014 London Entrepreneurs’ Challenge.
- The company garnered a finalist spot in the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards for the Duke of York Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
- Choosic was shortlisted in the UK’s largest small business competition, The Pitch.
- The company recently embarked on a partnership with Bosch Global.
“We’re looking for funding to take us to the next level, which is why opportunities to participate in such competitions as The Pitch and others are so important to us as it gets us heard and increases awareness of our brand,” Alessia says.
But right now, the most satisfying sign of success is just watching the app’s usage continue to quietly spread all over the world. “In the past year we reached 35,000 users in more than 100 countries around the globe, from Brazil to Russia.”
And that growth is music to the fledgling entrepreneur’s ears.