SongBoost: Journey of a Lockdown Startup

SongBoost Journey

Never let a good crisis go to waste – Winston Churchill.

January 2021 presented the perfect storm in Uganda; A heated national election was taking place. The country was under COVID lockdown. Facebook access had been and still remains blocked across the country. To top it all off, there was a complete internet shutdown in the country. In the midst of this storm, SongBoost was born. Here is a brief quarter-by-quarter journey.

About SongBoost

SongBoost delivers real-time analytics for radio and TV across Africa, with a keen focus on the music industry. Musicians labels and managers use SongBoost to track their airplay on over 300 stations in 9 countries.

Q1 2021: Startup Incorporation
Once internet access was restored, we instructed a law firm in Kenya to incorporate SongBoost. The concentration, political, and policy risk seemed too high to keep all eggs in Uganda. The incorporation was completed on Feb 13th, 2021.

Q2 2021: Platform Build
The beauty of lockdown is that it eliminated a lot of noise. The silence allowed us time to imagine what an analytics product for a segment that is not heavy on data would look like. Simplification was key. Less would be more. We built and tested UX over Q2 2021 to arrive at a minimum viable product (MVP).

Q3 2021: Initial App Release
In Q3 we were ready to take the fresh MVP to market. We stealth launched with both Android and iOS. Android still takes the day with over 80% of all users. That has informed how the 2 builds have evolved in our first year. At the time of launch, we covered 100 radio stations across 5 countries.

Q4 2021: Pricing Experiments
The music industry had been heavily hit by the lockdown. Pricing would have to be friendly given that context. We offered a $1 per song per month plan which strangely worked against the service. It attracted bad quality music, which in turn never got any airplay, which in turn made it look like the service didn’t work. We raised pricing and moved from song to artist-based subscriptions. The quality of music improved. We are currently at about $15 per artist per month.

Q1 2022: Joined Microsoft for Startups
In January 2022, the lockdown was lifted. As musicians got back to work, subscriptions and revenue had the first significant lift. The service was sticky, top users launch the app over 300 times per day. Musicians were demanding wider coverage, more stations. Labels wanted more countries. Along with this, Cloud costs were growing. We joined Microsoft’s Founder’s Hub and they started us off on the Develop stage package, with $5,000 in Azure credit.

Q2 2022: Microsoft Upgrade to “Grow”
The $5,000 Azure credit that came with our admission into Founders’ Hub was depleted quickly. Microsoft responded by promoting us to the “Grow” stage which unlocked $25K on Azure.

Q3 2022: App Release Anniversary
It’s now one year since the initial app release. Over 6,000 songs are being tracked by musicians, managers, and labels on the service. A few advertisers have reached out to try the service and currently, over 100 ads are being tracked by advertisers. We’ve grown coverage from 100 stations to 300 stations and expanded from 5 to 8 countries – Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, DRC. We have successfully matched over 2M plays for our users.