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Dublin: 3 °C Sunday 23 November, 2014

The Irish start-up that went on a 3,000km road trip to success*

Meet the Soundwave guys whose photo travelogue shows how sometimes you have to take the road less travelled – literally – to get stuff done. *(fingers crossed)

GETTING A START-UP on the road is a tough task at the best of times and – as we know – this is not the best of times.

That’s why we were interested to hear of the recent promotional trip a new Irish venture called Soundwave carried out to go down the road less travelled.

Rather than booking US domestic flights and a hotel to attend the music and tech conference South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, they decided to do it a little differently. Soundwave founders Brendan O’Driscoll, Aidan Sliney and Craig Watson rented an RV and drove from SXSW to San Francisco in a three-week road trip making important business connections along the way.

They put together a little photo travelogue to illustrate how it worked out:

This is Brendan on top of the 28-foot camper van which the business partners would share for three weeks – sounds like a disastrous plan, right?

Soundwave is a mobile app launching soon on Android and iOS. The aim is to make the task of finding new music simple and fun. The app tracks what music you listen to on your phone, making it easy for you share your music discoveries with friends and tune into the songs your friends are currently listening to. You can also draw a circle over any location to see what songs are playing in that area. They are giving people the chance to check out the beta version by signing up at the website getsoundwave.com.

Brendan originally got the idea when he saw a Swedish girl walk into a tree because she was so engrossed in the song she was listening to. He wondered how he could find out what song had her so entranced that she literally lost track of where she was walking.

In preparation for the trip to SXSW, all Irish film, music and tech attendees were invited to a pre-SXSW meet-up (see pic below) in the Soundwave offices, hosted by Enterprise Ireland and Music From Ireland.

When attending such a large conference in a foreign country, there is safety in numbers and it was impressive to see the array of talent showcasing Ireland at SXSW. The Delorentos (now featured on the Soundwave app) attended the event and went on to win Best Album at the Meteor Choice Music Awards before going to SXSW.

On 5 March, Soundwave flew to Austin with the Enterprise Ireland SXSW delegation. SXSW is the dream for a music start-up – it is the place where you literally run into the key movers and shakers in the tech scene, from Robert Scoble of RackSpace to the founders of FourSquare and SoundCloud.

It is the equivalent of putting the top tech influencers, founders, reporters and investors into Temple Bar, adding inspirational tech talks, tacos, live music and simply letting the conversations happen.

Thanks to Enterprise Ireland, Soundwave’s Brendan O’Driscoll met with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton to discuss Irish tech enterprise. Afterwards, Soundwave pitched to a panel of judges including SVP of NASDAQ Bob McCooey and Jeff Ragovin, co-founder of Buddy Media during the Ireland@SXSW Demo Day.

Overall, the connections made at SXSW were immeasurable with many follow-up meetings scheduled in San Francisco once Soundwave road-tripped across the US. Here they are making their pitch:

To make things even more exiting in Austin, Texas, the Soundwave team asked a local dance crew to perform a dance off with no audible music, just with headphones on.

Curious spectators could only find out what songs they were dancing to by checking out the #SXDancingGuy Twitter feed or by downloading the app.

An Austin city street-cleaner even joined in on the fun and challenged the Soundwave dancers to a dance-off!


via GetSoundwave/Youtube

After a successful week at SXSW, Soundwave hit the road – and the road hit back. Cici, the beloved RV, broke down near El Paso en route to Las Vegas. After a few delays, she was back up and running – onward to Las Vegas!

Vegas was all work and lots of fun – the Soundwave Team met with Zappos.com, an innovative online shoe and apparel shop setting up a permanent headquarters in Vegas. Zappos are leading the charge with an ambitious project to build one of the leading technology hubs in the middle of the desert in conjunction with the VegasTechFund. They happily hosted Soundwave in their offices for the day and pointed them in the direction of a fun night out on the town…

In total, Soundwave drove over 1,862 miles, or 3,000 kilometers to San Francisco. The journey took four days to complete, with Brendan, Aidan and Craig driving through the night, sleeping in shifts. John Walsh from @VideoScamp, also joined Soundwave, recording video and photos along the way.

The Soundwave Team finally arrived in San Francisco on Paddy’s Day to a hero’s welcome – San Francisco even turned the fountains green to celebrate!

In San Francisco, Soundwave divided and conquered – with Aidan forging relationships with big names in music tech, Rdio and Spotify; Craig reaching out to co-working spaces and local startups Gablit, RocketSpace and General Assembly; and Brendan pitching to high-powered US investors on Sand Hill Road.

Then, Soundwave joined forces again to visit the offices of Banjo, one of the hottest social apps in the US. Damien Patton, founder of Banjo, has been a great supporter of the Soundwave app and was happy to host Soundwave in his Redwood City offices.

All in all, it was a very successful trip for Soundwave-although Brendan, Aidan and Craig have vowed to never set foot in an RV again.

Soundwave have set their sights on finding office space in San Francisco as they expand into the US marketplace, but for now they are back home safe and sound in Dublin. For more updates on Soundwave’s progress visit their website or Tumblr blog.

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