Nashville Creatives Get First Dibs on New Tech Startup
If you're a creative person, you would probably agree that your surroundings and environment have a substantial impact on your creativity. Cramped or noisy spaces can be problematic if you're a songwriter, and a dark basement room with no windows might be a challenge if you're a writer or an author. Conversely, many creative folk prefer quiet, relaxing environments or open spaces with lots of natural light, but finding inspirational or functional work environments such as these can be difficult (and expensive), especially if you live in a more urban area. Jon Howard is one such creative who experienced these problems and decided to do something about it, launching a new tech startup called Avvay with four of his friends last year. Recently Amplify's Forrest Brown (FB) had the opportunity to grab coffee with Jon (JH) at Bongo Java to learn a little bit more about this innovative new company.
FB: Tell me a little bit about Avvay. What is it and how does it work?
JH: Avvay started from an idea that I had. I was touring– I play guitar for Paramore– and I was on the road making a record with the drummer. I committed to doing this record, and I was thinking “This should be pretty easy, we know a lot of people from touring and we can just hit them up and use their spaces here and there as it coincides with our route,” but it turned out to be almost impossible. It was really difficult to even find commercial studios, let alone rooms like my home studio, inspirational spaces. It was really difficult, so we ended up just recording in hotel rooms. It sounds cooler than it was, as it was definitely a challenge. The drummer, Aaron, sings really loud, so we had to put a comforter over his head and we’d be getting bangs on the wall from the neighbors. It was interesting and fun, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. That was maybe a couple years ago and that’s where [Avvay] was born. We were on the road at the time with some photographers and other creative people and I was kind of just asking them about what they thought about the idea and everyone was like, “We need this!” So I decided, I’m gonna do it!
So we are a marketplace for short term creative space rentals with a focus on hidden gems and interesting places for artists of all kinds to make awesome things.
FB: How long have you been working on Avvay?
JH: We’ve been in development for about 8 months. It’s one of those things where the ideas are just a very small part of the whole process, y’know. It’s all about execution. We’ve been trying to figure out how to execute it, and really we’re solving the problem for ourselves, we’re really trying to be creative with the process. March will be our release into the world.
FB: How do you think this will benefit or change the creative community in Nashville?
JH: I think there’s a need for it, and beyond that I really believe in collaboration. I think as artists we’re better as collaborators– it’s a very important piece of the puzzle. We hope to provide people with spaces but also to provide people with connections and relationships, that’s really why we’re here; we’re here to support the creative community.
FB: Who or what types of creatives can use Avvay?
JH: Avvay is really for anyone creative. Some of the categories include recording studios, photo studios, dark rooms, and also workshops for artisans. Also just inspiration space for writing or painting. It’s uncurated– that’s what we’re really excited about. I believe each space is kind of perfect for someone. My idea of an ideal recording space might be totally different from yours. It’s creatives, it’s for everyone.
FB: Are there any costs associated with using Avvay?
JH: Yeah, there’s a cost for the host, it’s a 15% commission, and 3% of that is the transaction fee. There are no costs or fees for creatives. Our motto is “Keep creating,” so that’s really our goal. I also feel that space-owners are most often creators themselves, so I feel like when they’re making money it’s ok for us to take a piece so we can keep running. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to help the creatives who are working within a budget.
FB: Has the tech community in Nashville played any part in Avvay’s beginnings?
JH: Yeah we had some awesome counsel from the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, we’re thrilled that Nashville has a resource like that. We also have some extremely talented engineers who are a part of the Nashville tech community, so we’re kind of informed with what’s going on through them.
FB: Going off of that, do you think that Nashville is a good place for a tech startup like this? I know that San Francisco is a huge hub for that.
JH: I think that Nashville is the perfect place for something like this. A lot of people expect you to go to Silicon Valley, but the costs for operating there are so high. I think there is an absolute abundant talent pool to pull from here as far as engineers and things like that. Also, this is Music City. It’s a huge creative hub, and San Francisco is as well, but these are the people we know. There was never any question, never a thought of, “Maybe we should go to San Francisco.” So far we haven’t run into anything that feels like a negative.
FB: Is there going to be an app for Avvay? Is it all web-based or will it eventually be multi-platform?
JH: It’s web-based now and then there will be a multi-platform mobile app which we plan to launch sometime in 2016. That’s our next step for sure.
FB: Do you have any plans for the future?
JH: We’re launching in Nashville in March and then expanding to places like Portland, New York, LA, Austin, Chicago, Philly, Atlanta, New Orleans…kind of like starting with the major creative cities. We want to do that smart and build relationships in each one of those places. So that’s the goal for 2016, to iron the kinks out and to expand as far as we plan to.
Be sure to watch for Avvay's official launch in March, and follow them on social media to keep up with everything they're up to.