I can’t think of anyone I know that doesn’t like to throw the occasional movie quote into casual conversation. Some of my friends speak mostly in film, which makes me equal parts afraid and delighted to introduce them to Hark.com, a website that collects various quotes, audio clips, and ring tones from all sources imaginable.
For the lovers of campy lines, consider that Hark offers over 786 Arnold Schwarzenegger sound bites alone, giving extended life to Total Recall (the original) gems like “If I’m not me, then who the hell am I?” Sound bites are great for quick listening, and they’re easy to share by email, social media accounts, and mobile devices.
The number of Schwarzeneggerisms is hardly the company’s most impressive statistic. Hark receives more than 85 million visits each month and has accumulated over 2 billion listens to date.
You never know where the love of movies will lead. CEO and Founder David Aronchick recently spoke with KillerStartups, divulging the film that sparked the idea for Hark and some of the creative partnerships that have fueled the company’s impressive traffic. Keep those ears open for some new Hark clips.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Hark actually began as Entertonement, which, sadly, was too creative by half. However, we knew the founders of Hark, and we had always wanted to work with a much smaller name (that everyone could spell!) and when they fell on rough times, we snapped it up!
What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?
The absolute first thing I do is go to our home page and browse around using as many features as I can. We release new code every day, and I want to see it in action, especially from the user’s perspective. Then I check the news in our industry, at sites like TechCrunch, Reddit, Mashable, KillerStartups and so on. We’re a site that depends on working with the trends in the industry, and I want to make sure I’m up to date. At that point, we get to 10 AM, which is our daily standup, and we get to plan our day as a team.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
We started the company with two people and have grown into a 10-employee organization. In addition to development, we are growing our marketing department and have a content department that is essential to the success of Hark. At the moment, we are currently looking to fill more development roles, a PR manager role, as well as a business development role.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describes the struggle you went through?
Since the inception of Hark, we were looking for a way to reach out to studios for possible partnerships. We found this opportunity when the film, “The Hangover” came out on DVD. People started uploading quotes to Hark and seeking out their favorite lines. We approached Warner Bros. and said we were seeing content from this movie come up. Instead of taking it down, we have a proposal. Why don’t we help push the DVD and help take all of this inbound search traffic and show off this content in a curated way? And it worked like gangbusters.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
The life of a startup is CONSTANTLY up and down. I have written about this myself, and here is an amazing quora thread on the subject. The direct answer to your question is #1, you power through by realizing everyone feels these frustrations, and #2, you deal with it ALL THE TIME. Nothing is more important when you are in a startup than perspective–not getting bogged down in the day-to-day, which would otherwise inevitably burn you out.
What’s your office environment like?
Our company culture is a mix of fun and work – it has to be since we deal with millions of sound bites and quotes every day. We allow dogs in the office, people listen to music on headphones and have free snacks and drinks, and, of course, there are the daily debates about pop culture across the spectrum.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
In 5 years, Hark will provide a platform for sound bites from every possible source. From movies and TV shows, to video games and live sports, to professional politicians, to kids recording themselves on their phone – we will be the easiest way to upload, find and share the sound bites that are most meaningful to people. Beyond that, we fully expect to help people take those sound bites with them. Not just in mobile applications and devices, but everywhere that you hear sound today, you will be able to interact with content from our site.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?
The most inspirational thing for us is listening to our users. When someone says that they use something, or they’re addicted to our site, it absolutely charges us up and gets us moving even faster.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded?
We were funded by Redpoint Ventures and some very thoughtful angel investors.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
The number one most important thing is ship ship ship. Paul Graham likes to say, “Unless you are building stuff or talking to customers, you are wasting your time”. It is SO cheap to roll out new products, you should be doing it constantly. Release, measure, fix stuff, and repeat.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)?
Travel EVERYWHERE. The world is so enormous; it is difficult to even comprehend. I could spend the entire year touring our state, and I probably would not see it all.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
I think that most entrepreneurs are wired to never really feel successful or satisfied. If we were, we would not have the drive to keep improving or find the next big thing to tackle.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Reddit. They have built a community that is absolutely transformative on the Web. The people on Reddit are funny, insightful, knowledgeable and opinionated; the users on the site have character and let those characters shine through.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
CloudMagic – search on the phone is terrible, and CloudMagic instantly transforms how you look for things.
Dogs or cats?
I do love them both, but I am probably more of a cat guy. There is a dignity I really like when they look down their nose at you.
iOS or Android?
Android. iOS was transformative, but there are so many great experiences and features that the walled garden is keeping users from.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
That it all sprung from a love of a single movie, War Games. Also, that feeling of loving a single quote and wanting to share it universally that it has resulted in a site that receives 75M visitors a month.
Where can our readers get a hold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog? Any other projects you’re working on that we should check out?
What do you wish I had asked you? Ask yourself and respond.
What’s the one thing you’d change if you could do it over again?
I’d shake 2007 self and say “Don’t start an entertainment startup in Seattle!” I love the engineers, community and city, but this is definitely not the center of gravity for this business. It has resulted in way too many trips to NYC and LA. But, for our hundreds of millions of users over the four years since we launched, it has been worth it.