In 1995 I made a seed investment in a tiny company called Harmonix founded by two guys, Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy. After one meeting with them I knew I wanted to be part of their journey and made one of my early $25,000 angel investments.
The journey they went on as founders and a company was amazing. A big part of it was captured in what I think is one of the best long form magazine articles ever about the history and drama of building a company – Just Play in Inc. Magazine in 2008.
After being acquired by Viacom in 2007, Alex and Eran bought back the company in 2010. Over the past two decades they’ve created two billion dollar game franchises – Guitar Hero and Rock Band – and one multi-hundred million game franchise – Dance Central.
I joined the board and Foundry Group invested in Harmonix in 2012. The last few years have been complex and challenging as the classical video game business continues to go through massive structural changes. However, the Harmonix team has kept a steady beat of innovation going, including a recent release of Disney Fantasia and a reincarnation of one of my favorite early games of theirs, Amplitude.
But the stuff they are doing that I’m really excited about fall into two categories: (1) Rock Band 4 (which needs no explanation) and (2) Music VR.
This morning, Matt Whittaker wrote a really smart article titled Harmonix’s Music VR Might Just Bring on the Apocalypse. In it he talks about the amazingness of what Harmonix is doing and the broader societal challenge around VR and a compelling mainstream app like music.
First, the Harmonix Music VR stuff is unreal. If there is a company on the planet that can figure out the compelling music experience for VR, it’s Harmonix. And, they are working on scalable stuff – not “music specific things” – but algorithms that adopt to any music you are playing. This is technology they’ve had for several years and is part of what sets them apart from everyone else who has followed them by trying to mix video games and music since they came out with the original Guitar Hero software.
Next, while VR video games are cool, they aren’t mainstream. But music is mainstream. So the opportunity for VR in music, and music being a leading use case for VR, is enormous.
Did I say that the Harmonix Music VR stuff is unreal? Oh yeah, I did. And when I say “unreal”, I mean in an amazing way.
If you want or read science fiction, you see music + video as a central background component of everything. Sometimes it’s plot, sometimes it’s context, but it’s always there as part of the VR theme. Today’s technology is still young, but the software will outpace the hardware, as it usually does, which means that amazing software will drive users to adopt hardware early and then will push the vector of innovation on the hardware.
I’m super proud that I know and get to work with Alex, Eran, and team and have been able to over two decades. They never cease to amaze me.
I participated in the lip dub of the song Lucky Ones, created by the gang at Undrip. They did this as a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Sandy – I just contributed $900 to the effort ($300 each to Not Just Bagels, Jersey Shore Apparel, and Bungalow Bar & Restaurant). I think you’ll enjoy the song – it’s fun and, if you are so inspired, help out the fundraiser. We are – in fact – the lucky ones.
The lyrics, and the guest appearances, follow (including special guest dance that I do with my friend Pat Minotaur at 2:39).
This is the one for the ninjas and rockstars (Mick Hagen)
Waiting for their chance to come up like a pop tart (Tim Draper)
People with the vision on their way to the top
Don’t let anybody tell you when to stop, start (Brian Wong)
Doin’ what you love because time is a wasting’ (Leah Busque)
You gotta get a beta from the nascent (Josh Felser)
Stay hungry on the way to your destination
It takes determination and patience (Justin Kan)
I don’t mean it as a diss, but wishing’s a waste of time
And you’ll never reach the front if you’re waiting in line (David Hornik)
So rise and grind, if you’re inclined (Jamie Wong)
Stay strapped on your deadline, never recline (Brad Feld)
Every time — they call you crazy, that’s gnar (Paul Davison)
No shame in the game this is who we are (Alexis Ohanian)
So flex your hustle get to running like a muscle car
And catch a long tail on your shooting star (Rick Marini)
We are the lucky ones,
We are the dream,
And we’ll see it all come true, yah,
Cuz we work all day, and we play at night,
Nothing can stop, nothing can stop,
The dream of the lucky one
So let me put it on the table like Paula Deen
You wanna get that butter, gotta churn that cream (Patrick Chung)
Got a scheme and a team, better hit it with steam
Or you’ll be singing it like biggie “It was all a dream” (Will Harbin)
And you don’t wanna see it get dusty
Trust me it’s ugly you better do something (Ted Rheingold)
Whether in your element enveloped in development (Christine Tsai)
Or busting your butt trying to get that funding (Josh Kopelman)
It’s a long road, no denyin (Micah Baldwin, Jessica Alter)
You gotta keep pitchin like Nolan Ryan (David Weekly)
There is a demand for what you can supply (Josh Elman)
And the bay runs deep so the well ain’t dryin (Alfred Lin)
We say it a lot and yo it might sound funny (Emily Olson)
You’ll never keep playing this game for the money (Rob Lafave)
It’s something inside that you can’t deny (Aston Motes)
You decide your life and that’s lucky (Robert Scoble)
I’m crazy proud of my partners Jason Mendelson and Ryan McIntyre for their band Legitimate Front. In addition to being VCs, we each have a creative outlet that is super important to us. Mine is writing books; their’s is creating awesome music.
In August, their released the first album from their new band Legitimate Front. The idea of staying up until midnight on a Saturday night at The Fox Theater in Boulder is an odd thing for me, but I showed up and rocked out with them. And was totally, and completely, blown away.
Two of our old partners from Mobius Venture Capital – Greg Galanas and Carl Rosendahl – showed up to support them. And our IT Guy – Ross Carlson – made an impressive guest appearance on the sax.
They’ll have more gigs coming up in the future, including a magic top secret one in San Francisco in a few months. Guys – y’all rock.
I’m crazy proud of my partners Jason and Ryan – they are rock stars. Actual, real rock stars. Their band, Legitimate Front, is headlining at The Fox on Saturday night (8/25) at 8pm to (at this moment) an almost sell out crowd. Ross is joining them on stage and there might be some other special guests.
I’ve decided to help them sell out. I just bought 50 tickets and am giving them away to the first 50 people who comment on this blog.
If you want one ticket, comment once. If you want two (as in you have a date) comment twice. Please don’t comment three times – there’s a max of 2 free tickets a person.
The cutoff for commenting is 50 comments or 3pm on Saturday, whichever comes first. I’ll have all the tickets at Will Call with names on it – you’ll need to show your id to get them.
I’ll be there waving my arms in the air as Jason and Ryan do their thing. Come join me.
Dark Side of the Moon is my favorite album of all time. When I was a sophomore in college, I had an early NAD CD player. I put Dark Side of the Moon on at the beginning of the fall semester, pressed repeat, then play, and listened. I’d turn the volume down occasionally but not very often; usually I turned it way up. At the end of the semester, I pressed the stop button and turned my CD player off and then flew home to Dallas for winter break.
Today, a friend sent me a link to this amazing rendition of part of Dark Side of the Moon played by the Trinity Orchestra. If you are a Pink Floyd fan, it’s worth eight minutes and 24 seconds of your life.
I still listen to Dark Side of the Moon all the time. I’ve got it in my car (the only CD I have in my six CD changer) on repeat. I have it on my headphones that I swim with – my standard swim has turned into whatever I can do in 42 minutes and 59 seconds. And when I really need to grind something out, it’s what I listen to.
If you are in Boulder on August 25th, join me at the Fox Theatre at 8:30pm to see my partners Ryan and Jason debut their band’s album Off The Hook. I’ve long followed their musical exploits through their former band Soul Patch – Legitimate Front is their latest collaboration.
Off The Hook has a modern but retro-inspired sound with musical DNA from the 1970’s. I’ve heard a few of the soon-to-be released tracks, and I really like them. You will too, if you liked the 70’s music scene – their original music celebrates everything from 70’s hard rock to R&B to funk.
The $13 ticket price gets you in the door and lets you download the album for free – the tickets are available here.
I’ve been told that their special guest, Dechen Hawk is also giving away his album with the price of admission.