Ahmed started his company, then called Roundwaves, in 2011 as a side project using part of his student loan. Initially the idea was to focus on music that helps get humans to sleep, but the business expanded to serve dogs and cats.
Across YouTube, and apps for mobile devices and TVs, Ahmed says the company pulls in 6-figure revenue with the business. He aims to top $1 million (US) within the next 12 months (thats around £770,000 in UK money). Most of that is from advertising, but he has a growing subscription model that he hopes will become the core of the business.
Learning from failure
Business for Ahmed hasn’t always had quite the upward trajectory it does now. When Roundwaves was still a side-project, he launched a separate startup called Rormix. This mobile app helped music fans find new, independent artists to listen to. Despite gaining $350,000 in seed investment, and favourable press coverage (including from me when I was at The Next Web), it eventually fizzled out as it ran out of cash.
“I don’t think I was 100 percent passionate,” says Ahmed. “We got off on the wrong foot. I took investment because it was there. We should have raised more money or not done it at all. My cockiness and ego said I could do it, but it failed because of a lack of resourcefulness, not a lack of resources.”
Ahmed believes he should have quit sooner. “We started growing when we were nearly dead. We ran a competition offering $1,000 for getting to the top of the chart. It boosted growth but it was too late.”
Still, Ahmed says that a late highlight for Rormix was when Snapchat (now Snap Inc) became interested in a content partnership. However, they couldn’t cut a deal because it “required time we didn’t have.”
“I’m glad the investors and the team believed in me – I’m grateful for their loyalty. At times they were more passionate than me. That’s when I realised I should have quit.”
With the demise of Rormix, Ahmed decided to stop rely on external advisors and follow his gut and data. “I hired a life coach – a Buddhist who probed me with questions and helped me find my mission.”
That mission? He wants to benefit as many pets as possible through music.
Roundwaves is rebranding as Music For Pets, and subscriptions are the future of the business. Currently, the company only sells subscriptions via its apps for platforms like Apple TV. Ahmed says that even with no marketing, “a handful of people” subscribe every day and there’s a monthly churn rate of just 7 percent. That indicates that this is a sticky product for the kind of people that play music to their pets.
“It’s a broad customer base,” says Ahmed. “45 percent are in the US and the rest are spread around the world. South Korea and Brazil are growing fast.” A popular Music for Pets use case is leaving a playlist of tunes looping all day while owners go out to work, Ahmed says.
Beyond music, the company, which has five full-time employees and is hiring two more, has expanded into vlogs, offering advice on everything from stopping your cats from scratching furniture, to cooking organic food for dogs.
I suspect there’s a large untapped market of people who would play special music to their pets if only they knew it was ‘a thing.’ I look on with interest to see just how big Ahmed’s decidedly niche media empire can become.