HIGH POINT, N.C., April 23, 2014 – The roar of a sold-out crowd beckoning an artist to take the stage is music to Bobby Robertson’s ears.
As a sophomore attending HPU on a voice scholarship, Robertson’s love for music is expected. He frequently performs for audiences all over campus with the Chapel Choir. But his passion extends to another side of the industry. For him, it’s also about the business model behind the artist, the venue and the crowd that brought them together in the first place.
Music and business are the creative outlets where Robertson finds the most success and freedom, but the bridge between the two fields isn’t always obvious. In his search for the right college and major, he didn’t know how to merge the two together and, ultimately, feared he would have to pick one over the other. Two short years later at HPU, faculty in the Department of Music and School of Business have shown Robertson how to thrive in both worlds by having an entrepreneurial spirit.
“One of the aspects of HPU that I wouldn’t have received anywhere else is the individualized attention professors offer their students,” says Robertson. “Even though I wasn’t pursuing a prepackaged major, they realized the value of my ideas and supported me in this endeavor. Our professors are more than teachers; they are mentors focused on helping us achieve our goals in life.”
Through impactful mentorship, Robertson co-founded an innovative business called Tunetap with childhood friend Feifan Zhou, now a student at Cornell. The company won first place and start-up funds at Cornell’s Shark Tank competition in its business school after being judged by several venture capitalists, including Morgan Beller, a partner at one of the most preeminent VC firms in Silicon Valley, Andreessen Horowitz.
Tunetap allows musicians and venues to pre-sell tickets and measure fan demand for a concert. It’s a website for artists to build a profile, create events, and pre-sell tickets to hit a funding target, with automatic refunds if the target is not met. In other words, Tunetap removes barriers to entry for performing artists so they are no longer limited by the size of their bank account, only the size of their following and talent.
“Concerts and events as are risky endeavors,” he says. “There is a diverse array of websites that help manage events. Tunetap is the only one that takes into consideration and delivers value to the whole vertical: fans, artists, promoters and venues. In doing this, Tunetap has created a single service that completely automates the booking process, and eliminates financial risk for both artists and venues.”
His days are filled with academic obligations, choir practices and plenty of meetings via Skype with his business partners. Free time is scarce. His reward, however, is seeing his work come to life and embracing the fact that the 21st Century calls upon students to create solutions to big problems in their careers, to stand out and be different. As HPU President Nido Qubein says, “You must remove yourself from an ocean of sameness and put yourself in the much smaller lake of differentiation.”
“Dr. Qubein has been an enormous inspiration for me as a student,” Robertson adds. “No matter where you are, there will always be people who say, ‘It can’t be done.’ But High Point University is a place of ‘can-doers.’ It is a university of relentless ambition, and the sky is the limit.”
Tunetap is moving forward to HPU’s Annual Business Plan Competition on April 24 to compete for start-up funds that allow the company to add SaaS (software as a service) platform for venues and promoters to find the best opportunities and analyze data at a scale they currently are not able to achieve.
It’s all become possible because Robertson and his university believe in the entrepreneurial spirit.
“If you have a goal, believe you can achieve it and pursue it fervently,” says Robertson. “Amazing opportunities will open up. The university embraces that mindset across all majors. Our attitude here is so much more progressive than other colleges. That’s why our students are going places.”
All three finalists will present their business plans to a panel of judges consisting of local business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors on April 24 at 9:30 a.m. in Norton Hall room 101. Business plans will be evaluated on multiple criteria, including financial feasibility, uniqueness of the product or service, and clarity of the business model. The winner will be awarded up to a $15,000 cash prize.
The competition is sponsored by HPU’s Phillips School of Business, the Center for Entrepreneurship and BB&T.