Music of choice is as important to the online workforce as the right brew (and quantity!) of coffee. Hard to imagine the day without some music in the background. And, of course, music follows us everywhere, so the right beats are like good company for any occasion.
Those who love hip hop beats will be happy to discover CrateStream, a music streaming player that delivers nothing but the beats. That’s right – just the beats, with minimal vocals for work optimization. For free. Enuff said.
To bring tireless hackers nothing but the beats while they code away, founder Napoleon Suarez has driven cars for Uber, learned to take frustrations in stride and to just keep going. Napoleon tells us more about building CrateStream and the satisfaction of “being first”:
What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?
Web app that streams underground hip hop beats for free. Our users are anyone who needs hip hop production for either their albums or for productions like commercials or videos. We are also targeting people that want to have great workout music. It is also great “hacker music” for those times when you want music during code sessions but you want minimal distractions from vocals.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website? Why is it better than the competition?
It was created by a music producer who wanted to come up with a better way to share beats. While there are other sites out there that offer music discovery, none of them focus just on the production. We also have a Live from the Crates series that shows the actual music making process from finding the vinyl with the sample on it to making the beat. You can check out those videos here.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
I am old school. I sample all of my melodies from records. These records are normally carried in milk crates. The stream portion is because the beats are streamed online. The stream portion can also be compared to a river stream as we constantly keep a heavy stream of music on the site.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
I don’t remember the name of it, but it had to be around 86-87. My grandfather always hustled doing odd jobs, and one day he got a hold of all these computers that the local hospital was giving away. The computers were all DOS based with the green text on the black screen with real floppy disks. Not the floppies that are 3.5 inches, but the real floppy disks that were twice the size of the 3.5 inch ones and were paper thin. The very first program that I ran was a word processing game that taught you how to type without looking at the screen. Words fell from the top of the screen and you had to type them before they hit the bottom. I was like 5 years old when all this was going on.
Napoleon Suarez, Founder of CrateStream
What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?
8am everyday. I’m not the SUPER early bird type. My day normally starts with a workout and Sportscenter and continues until about 7. I don’t ever really stop, but 7 is the time when I try to. I am answering emails and doing promo all day and all night, but I am normally not in the office when all that is going on.
When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?
February 2014. My best friend turned 30. We went to Vegas.
What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?
Email… boring… I like to check the TechCrunch headlines, though.
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? On your third beer?
When I am hanging with friends. The best ideas are born from necessity. I can’t just sit and think of ideas. I have to be out doing something before I can think “Hey, that can be improved.”
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
It was just me, and now I work with two other people.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
Alexi Ohanian’s book With Their Permission. We sometimes think that you have to have 9 MBAs and a PhD before you can be qualified to do something to improve the world, when really all you need is an idea, passion, and a computer connected to the internet.
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
CrateStream was just a blog. There are a million instrumental blogs out there. I wasn’t getting any traction, and I had no way to separate what I was offering from everything else that was out there. I started on Posterous, which later shut down when they sold to Twitter. I thought that was a sign, but I kept going. I later moved to Tumblr and then they got bought by Yahoo. I got nervous again, but by that time, we had a platform that was built from the ground up. We didn’t have to depend on any particular site anymore.
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
Honestly, I would just take a break from it. Whenever I didn’t want to do it anymore, I just left the site alone for a while. That’s why they tell you to pick something that you are passionate about. Because I am a producer at heart, I always have a passion for listening to beats. Every now and then I would look for some site that was doing what I wanted better than CrateStream and I couldn’t find it. I was like, “I have to keep going, I can be the first guy to create something like this.” Being first is a good feeling.
What’s your office environment like? Do you listen to music? Watch movies? Play video games?
We are in straight bootstrap mode. My office is either my apartment or any coffee shop that we can find. We also do a lot of video content now, so we spend a lot of time in different record shops and different recording studios. As far as music, whenever I am working, you will find me either with my speakers blasting in my apartment or with my head underneath some Beats headphones with CrateStream beats blasting. That’s the beauty of our startup, it’s self-serving. It’s what we would listen to even if someone else created it.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
Generating revenue with a GREAT community. Our success is going to depend on the community that we build. I really like how the Reddit community has bonded. Reddit has been due for a refresh for a while – and what’s with no iOS app? The Reddit users don’t care, though. Their community is so tight knit that Reddit can go down for a month and someone in the community would just build another one until the old one comes back up. I want passionate followers like that.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?
I like to read about other tech startups that are in the same grind as me. Startup life is hard, and seeing someone going through the same thing as you gives you a sense of belonging. It makes you feel better that there are other people going crazy over users just like you are. People that sweat little details because they care so much about creating something to help people. I pay a lot of attention to Rand Fishkin because I like his transparency. I also love coconut water and beef jerky. When we get some office space, each of these are going to be heavily stocked.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded? Where’d you get the money, man?
Bootstrap all day. I have a 9-5 that I am doing to fund what I am passionate about.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Keep people around you that are in the same hustle as you and that want the same things that you do. I speak to the dudes over at The Phat Startup often. They are just grinding. They don’t have everything figured out yet, but that’s okay. Every week there is a new feature or a new interview. It inspires me to keep moving. Also, don’t get discouraged if you aren’t moving as quickly as you would like. Just remember to always be moving forward. The site started as a dinky blog back in 2011 and now I smile when I see how it has grown. It’s not where I want it to ultimately be, but a few dollars invested here, a few hours invested there, has really added up over the years.
What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?
Use your resources. You will be surprised how helpful your network can be. Someone you know wants to use what you have. Someone you know is a writer for a blog that wants to share what you have. Someone you know wants to introduce you to that person that is going to open doors for you. Just get off your ass, get out there and hustle.
What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?
All of it would go toward CrateStream. We need developers, man. Someone that is going to turn what we have into something more powerful, to help producers make better music and let the world hear it. We would also move into a modest office space. Some benefits would be nice. I hate having to turn down a basketball pickup game because I am worried about turning an ankle.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?
Not even close. I haven’t done anything aside from build a web site that just plays beats. I need to help more people first. Give me 10 years, and then ask me what’s up.
Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without and why?
- TechCrunch – inspiration
- ESPN – HUGE football fan and always have been a sports fan
- ProductHunt – they are new, but I get inspiration from seeing what other people are building
- CrateStream – duh
- Re/code – same as TechCrunch
Top 5 mobile apps you’re in love with and why?
- Instagram – when you want to see what your friends are up, you can really SEE what your friends are up to
- Uber – I not only use it, I was a driver to help me fund my startup
- Sunrise – LOVE this calendar app. Keeps me on track
- Evernote – I am absolutely hooked on this. I keep everything in there from blog posts to business ideas
- Mailbox – easiest way to manage an inbox by far
What is your music streaming player of choice, and what are you listening to right now?
CrateStream – and I really mean that. I use my own site everyday. A producer that I really like is Audible Doctor – been listening to a lot of his stuff lately. Spotify would be my 2nd choice.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet? (And why that country?)
Greece – Santorini is beautiful.
Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter?
Please share some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.
Funding: Zero. Revenue: Zero. Visitors: in the hundreds per day and growing about 10% every week.
Where else should our readers go to find you online?