Elevate your business with Stephen Hunt’s success secrets
Get to know Music Health, a venture-backed company that uses Precision Music® to enhance health and well-being. Learn about their growth strategies, the importance of a great team, and the impact of winning the Pause Awards.
In the startup landscape, it’s rare to encounter a venture that seamlessly blends music with health and well-being. Music Health, a company that has done just that, shares insights on business growth, the significance of a great team, and the influence of winning the Pause Awards in this exclusive Q&A with Stephen Hunt, Co-CEO.
Q: How did you grow your business? Any good tips?
It’s really important to identify a problem worth solving that you’re incredibly passionate about and that you are somehow best positioned to solve. It’s a true needle in a haystack that took me over a decade to find from when I started looking and for me, it ended up being the vision of my Co-Founder Nicc Johnson that stuck the right chord with me. Having the initial drive to solve a certain problem as a founder is the most important thing as the idea will almost certainly change as time goes on – especially once you get your first customers.
The other thing to work out as early as possible is whether you require venture capital to make it work. Less than 5% of companies formed are venture-backed and of those that are, most will fail. We needed venture capital to build sophisticated AI technology before we could engage customers so have been forced to grow the company on small capital raises. It’s a really hard and uncertain path to have to rely on external capital to fund your pre-revenue years and I would urge budding founders to try to find a simple way to start with paying customers if at all possible.
If you do require venture capital down the line, it will be far easier to get investment if you already have revenue traction. It goes without saying that you need to focus on hiring great people and developing them as this will give you leverage to continue growing. Hiring A-grade talent is hard when you can’t afford to pay them what they are worth so you need to go back to the start of this paragraph and have a compelling solution you are trying to bring to a problem worth solving that is strong enough to entice top-talent to believe and follow you in.
Q: What does success look like for your business?
We’re an impact business so our mission is focused on impacting as many people as possible rather than spinning up another fin-tech for the sole purpose of making people rich. Our vision is a world where anyone can leverage Precision Music® (personalised sounds that can shift a physiological or emotional state) to improve their health and well being. This means our technology needs to be available to people experiencing a variety of health challenges where music can assist such as dementia, Parkinson’s, depression, anxiety, autism, palliative and disability care.
Broader than that, we hope to expand into the wellness and fitness sectors over time addressing health from the perspective of prevention right the way through to acute care… and palliative. We actually have a fun prototype kicking around for prenatal care that I hope will see the light of day at some point in the future. I can imagine a world where Precision Music® is supporting a person’s well being from the moment they are conceived all the way until they pass.
Based on the research available and the anecdotal evidence we are seeing, we believe this life supported by music will have far superior health outcomes and enjoy a significantly improved quality of life. We have a long way to go but are seeing incredible evidence with our current focus on end of life.
Q: Any exciting business plans coming up in 2023?
We’re in beta with our API product which is going to greatly accelerate the mission by delivering reliable, repeatable revenues from our Vera product while also allowing other companies to build Precision Music® experiences. With product market fit now firmly cemented across our VeraPro product in residential aged care and hospital settings, we’re preparing to expand into the at-home setting through care plan providers.
This approach requires some product work but this market will act as a feeder for the current channel focus and is where all the government funding is being focused. Other than that, we are raising our seed round (yay) which is a tough ask in this climate but we feel that we are a unique, de-risked, bluesky opportunity creating a new (but huge) market opportunity that investors are signalling is ready for the next phase. We’re doing a lot of work to build systems and processes to handle the exponential demand our customers are forecasting as we grow with them.
Q: What’s the single most important skill in business? Why?
Hiring! Without great people, you won’t get anywhere. Learn to find, develop and retain amazing people and you will succeed at anything you focus on. It’s really time consuming to do the HR work when you’re small but there is no other element of your day that will deliver a better return for time spent.
Your culture gets less and less controllable as you grow so be extremely deliberate in establishing the structure around it that you want early on and recognise that after the first 10 people (your cultural seeds), you will largely lose control of it and it will evolve on its own within the frameworks established. So it goes without saying that those first 10 hires need to be bloody incredible as they will dictate your future success more than anything else.
Q: What have you learned in the past year that you can share as advice?
If your business plan relies solely on raising capital, you’re playing with a high degree of risk. The markets have turned this year and it’s now much harder to raise so the focus on fundamentals of revenue and true growth become paramount.
Like most companies, we are now operating as lean as we possibly can which is putting a huge strain on the team to do more and more with less and less as we grow. This has led me to focus on my own health and make some personal sacrifices to operate at the highest level I can. I’ve spent most of the year abstaining from alcohol to ensure my sleep (which often gets hammered) is as effective as possible and I can perform at my best every day. I’ve had to miss a load of family and social events (definitely not sustainable) to deliver for my team and my customers.
But I firmly believe that the companies that survive the next 12-24 months will thrive on the other side. Getting there requires superhuman effort from everyone in the team. An old friend used to always say that it takes incredible pressure to make diamonds and this is the test for those of us trying to build a sustainable, long term business right now.
Q: How did the Pause Awards impact you/ your business?
Winning in the fashion we did gave us a great deal of confidence that what we are building truly matters and had the added benefit of building awareness in the investor community and beyond. We were thrilled to be a double-winner and are working hard to impress the judges again this year.