"Revolutionise performance royalties": that is what entrepreneur Ryan Edwards hopes to achieve with Audoo, which he founded in 2018. With this latest business, Ryan is bringing together his professional expertise in technology with his ultimate passion for music.
It has been a winding road for Ryan. He grew up in Wolverhampton, in a working-class family; Ryan points to being a middle child for bringing out his competitive side. Growing up, he loved music and football. But, he concedes, "I was not tall enough to be a footballer," and so he gravitated towards music as a creative outlet. In his late teens, now a drummer in a band called 'The Lines', he began to regularly play gigs at pubs and clubs.
Aged 18, Ryan signed a record deal. One night, they opened for rock band Babyshambles, at which time Pete Doherty was dating supermodel Kate Moss; there was lots of press that night. They were swept up in a whirlwind: "Next morning, in the national newspapers, we were the band to watch," he says. It seemed to happen overnight that they were on a tour through Europe and the US, recording a host of songs, one of which went Top 10 in the UK.
Less than eighteen months later, Ryan and the rest of the band were dropped: "We were no longer of the moment." He got home, aged 19. He hadn't gone to university like many of his friends: "What do I do?"
At the local Carphone Warehouse, the store manager promised him a job if he could sell a phone. Ryan sold five. In a relatively short time, Ryan went from part-time to regional manager, through "nothing but graft and hard work," he says. In Ryan's view, the ethos at Carphone Warehouse was very entrepreneurial, which suited him well: "as a store manager, it's almost like your own business." University never came back to mind and, when Carphone Warehouse was bought by Best Buy in 2010, Ryan was promoted into Best Buy.
They often say that a chance meeting can change your life. At a wedding in early 2011, Ryan sat next to someone who had just created an app development business, at a time when demand for this type of work was exploding: "You seem to know how to run a business – you should come and help me." And so he did. Ryan moved to London and joined the business, which grew and grew. He built apps for House of Fraser, B&Q and Fifa. Before long, there was an acquisition offer – "an overwhelming amount of money" – and they sold the business. Since then, Ryan has honed his skills in the tech and fintech industries.
"My passion is music and my job has been about digital innovation and tangible products that people need. That is how Audoo comes about," Ryan explains. Over the years, he has heard his music – from his days in the band – played in stores and stadiums. It got him wondering about how royalties are paid. Do royalty societies know the song is being broadcast in that store or stadium? Most of the time, with radio players and audio streaming services like Spotify being the main sources of measurement, there was little to no data to analyse public performance areas. With the arrival of smart speakers, which can hear, recognise and monitor songs, Ryan found a way to deliver accuracy and fairness into the music business.
Audoo is now 25 months old and the investors came from his previous business, a sure sign of faith in Ryan's ability. Building a right culture for the business was important from the beginning: "You want to hire people with a common vision." He wanted people who were passionate about a fair and accurate distribution of royalties – "not the 9-to-5 people, the ones out for a job and a salary, without a passion for the direction of the business." He likes all new hires to meet other people in the team, to make sure they will work together well. It's not a particularly title-oriented business, "People can almost pick their titles, allowing them to find their place and self-lead."
Ryan is pragmatic and not afraid to ask for help. Starting a business has its own challenges and he is emphatic about seeking external guidance: from bringing in accountants at the earliest possible stage to speaking to investors who have been through the experience before, even using social media to solicit opinion. On the flip side, he says, "I am naturally a control freak. One of the toughest things in your own business is that you do everything: recruitment, marketing, operations. As a business grows, you keep the responsibility, but not the task. It's difficult to let go." He finds balance in making sure that the team is always driving that vision and keeping up energy.
Launching a new business in the midst of a pandemic can't have been easy, but Ryan is quick to find the positives. He admits they were in a fortunate position having closed an investment round in February 2020 that allowed them to continue operations. "COVID has allowed us a few extra months to develop our sales pipeline," he says. "There has been good interest in the press and from royalty societies in the US, Australia and Europe." It's also been a time to take stock. "Usually in a start-up, it's all hands on deck, working early and late. But it gave us some breathing space to really work out how we bring this to life."
Amongst all of his achievements, it might be difficult to identify the proudest moment of his career. But he doesn't hesitate: "When I was at Carphone Warehouse, as store manager you get moved to a bigger store and I had six different stores. Every single deputy became a store manager, who stepped up after I left. I am still in touch with all of them, still seeing their careers develop."
He considers himself passionate and driven, energetic and hands-on: "My wife would describe me as relentless." That dedication has been necessary. Caught up in another whirlwind of life, he started the company, got a dog and his wife had a baby – all in one year. Now that the business has launched, they are projecting a very busy 2021. Long may that whirlwind continue.
.At LGT Vestra, we believe in contributing toward a society worth living in. We hope that our 'From all walks of life' series, inspires others regardless of their background to be bold and pursue their ambitions. Read more about our commitment to diversity and inclusion.
This communication is provided for information purposes only. The information presented herein provides a general update on market conditions and is not intended and should not be construed as an offer, invitation, solicitation or recommendation to buy or sell any specific investment or participate in any investment (or other) strategy. The subject of the communication is not a regulated investment. Past performance is not an indication of future performance and the value of investments and the income derived from them may fluctuate and you may not receive back the amount you originally invest. Although this document has been prepared on the basis of information we believe to be reliable, LGT Vestra LLP gives no representation or warranty in relation to the accuracy or completeness of the information presented herein. The information presented herein does not provide sufficient information on which to make an informed investment decision. No liability is accepted whatsoever by LGT Vestra LLP, employees and associated companies for any direct or consequential loss arising from this document.
LGT Vestra LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom.