(From left: Patrick Esc, Mir Hwang, Jong Wook Kim)
A drummer, a saxophone player, and a clarinet player walk into a bar, what walks out? GigFinesse. GigFinesse is an online platform that streamlines the music booking process for both artists and venues. Powered by data, it cuts out the middleman, and increases exposure and revenue for both the musicians and the places they perform.
I sat down with GigFinesse to meet the men (founder & CEO Mir Hwang (CAS ‘19), CTO Jong Wook Kim (MIT ’18), and VP of Sales Patrick Esch (UNC ‘18)) behind the startup.
How did the idea for GigFinesse come about?
Mir: I’ve been playing live shows for a long time, and I've seen the issues that musicians and venues face when it comes to talent buying. It used to surprise me that no one was really doing anything to fix this, especially in high school when it felt like people were building apps for everything. I kept waiting for someone to create something that would alleviate the stress in the industry, but no one did. Eventually, I decided to take a shot at it. I felt I owed it to myself and to my fellow musicians. Thankfully, I'm doing it with a great team: a really good technical cofounder [Jong Wook Kim] and a great friend of mine who is helping scale the business [Patrick Esch].
Having a few people who love you is more valuable than having a million people who like you!
What do you think is the trickiest part of your business?
Mir: The biggest challenge for us is not having business backgrounds. I was a science major, Jong was in tech, and Patrick was a History and Philosophy major. Learning as we go is both challenging and exciting. Powerful people in the Music industry are set in their ways and resistant to change, so getting our foot in the door and establishing our platform was tough.
How do you deal with that pushback?
Patrick: We found one venue that loves us. Like Frank [Rimalovski, Executive Director of the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute] said - having a few people who love you is more valuable than having a million people who like you. Finding a venue that really agrees with our mission and is committed to seeing us grow and scale outside the realm of their own business was key for us.
What do you look for in a venue?
We pick out venues that put the interests of the artists first - giving them the most pay, visibility, and autonomy, because ultimately our core value is empowering artists.
GigFinesse has participated in a number of Entrepreneurial programs and events at NYU, including taking part in the NYU Entrepreneurs Festival showcase and winning the New Venture track of the $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge. How were those experiences for you? How has NYU been a part of your startup journey?
Jong: I was at MIT and I was not able to make use of the entrepreneurial resources there, so I recommended that Mir do so at NYU.
Mir: Initially, approaching the competitions and anything entrepreneurship related was daunting, but ultimately these experiences helped provide us with the business acumen required to create a concrete vision for GigFinesse. Everyone I’ve met here has been extremely helpful to us and is always willing to dedicate time to our team.
What are you most looking forward to during Summer Launchpad?
Mir: We are looking forward to working on our platform full-time for the first time.
Patrick: I am most excited about following the growth and experience of other startups.
Jong: The innovative community that SLP provides allows us to bounce ideas back and forth with other teams and share strategies in terms of customer acquisition and marketing.
What would you tell other NYU students who may be considering starting their own startup?
Mir: It is daunting. Entrepreneurship seems far fetched and, unlike becoming a doctor or a lawyer, there is no clear path to success. Being able to take advantage of your resources is crucial, as is finding the right team, but ultimately your startup has to be something you’re really passionate about so you don’t burnout. You need to chase after opportunities; If you don’t, you’re closing doors for yourself.
Partick: You should go out on a limb, because you will always gain something from it. There are no losses - only meaningful experiences gained.
Jong: It doesn’t have to be scary. Your startup does not have to take over your life, especially in the beginning stages. It is absolutely manageable with school. Start slow, see if it is something that you’re passionate about, then decide if you want to go all in.
As the interview came to a close, the team reminisced about their “going way back.” Jong and Mir are cousins and Patrick is an old friend. Mir describes his teammates as the essential part of a vehicle - “the engine” and his rock. Jong is described as “a superstar” and Patrick a “calm negotiator.”
If I could describe the GigFinesse dynamic, I’d say it feels like an intimate show - warm and connected, like family.