“Rap caught on because it offered young urban New Yorkers a chance to freely express themselves. More importantly, it was an art form accessible to anyone. One didn’t need a lot of money or expensive resources to rhyme. One didn’t have to invest in lessons, or anything like that. Rapping was a verbal skill that could be practiced and honed to perfection at almost anytime.” – Davey D. Corner, The History of Hip Hop
Now, here’s your chance to practice and communicate through rap. Seth Miller, along with his partner Max Yankee, have created RapChat – an app that records your best raps and sends them to friends.
Here is a short demonstrating how RapChat works:
I interviewed Seth Miller (below) about winning Startup Weekend, the hardest part of being an entrepreneur, and why they chose rap.
1. How did RapChat come about? Was it the original idea pitched at Startup Weekend or did it transform from something else?
RapChat came about when Max Yankee (co-founder/COO) and I were on a road trip to Florida to play some golf. Being college kids and heavily intertwined in the Snapchat epidemic, we kept brainstorming app ideas the whole road trip (you know, the typical “get rich quick type brainstorming sessions). We caught ourselves freestyle rapping over Tupac’s “Ambitionz as a Ridah” for at least 2 hours straight. Then, it hit us – we should be able to send these raps to friends as messages just like Snapchat.
During Spring Semester of University, I asked my professors how to make this idea a reality. I got pointed to Startup Weekend and since Max couldn’t make it, I ended up going alone. Mind you, not knowing the atmosphere, I showed up in a suit and tie and gave the 60 second pitch as “rapping with friends” which ended up being pretty similar to what we released in the app store a few months later, RapChat – a quick communication tool like Snapchat, only instead of pictures, recorded raps over beats. The Startup Weekend staff helped a tremendous amount in developing our business model using the business model canvas.
My Startup Weekend team ended up being just me and a guy named Brandon Logan. We worked hard to prepare our pitch, get customer validation, and a business strategy. We ended up going out and recording live videos of me interviewing people who were leaving the dining hall (of all different demographic segments) asking: if they would use the app and how they would use it? We intro’d our pitch with a rap and the validation video then dove into the two massive trends we were capitalizing on which are: hip hop and social media sharing apps. We ended up taking first place.
After Startup Weekend, we founded RapChat with 4 founders and one hardcore developer. We completely bootstrapped all development until this May when we contracted an app development agency to finish the remaining 5% or so. We now have around 8 team members and it took us about a year to get in the app store.
2. What is your motivation for starting RapChat?
I’ve always had ideas but never acted on them. After getting some initial validation from family members and then more serious validation from Startup Weekend, I knew RapChat had a chance to become something big. My biggest motivation is making something cool that people will enjoy using.
3. I’m not a rapper – would I be interested in using this application?
Of course! You get to choose who receives your rap so there’s no need to be embarrassed. Again, it’s meant to be a communication tool – so even if you sing or just want to talk over a beat, that’s fine as long as you’re having fun doing so. However, we strongly encourage people to give freestyle rapping a try. It provides a good escape from reality to just let loose and say whatever you want to say. And 98% of the time, the raps don’t even make sense but again, who cares, it’s with your friends.
4. What’s the ‘coolest’ thing you can do with RapChat now or in the future?
The coolest thing we can do now is give users a chance to rap on a variety of beats. We’re in the process of nailing down agreements with artists and producers so users will be able to rap on some of their favorite artist’s beats. Also, we plan to allow users to create their own beats and add voice FX.
The coolest thing RapChat will be able to provide in the future is the ability to create songs with your friends by recording a rap and then, sending it on to your friend to record the next verse (conceptually, this will be our “rap-n-pass”) feature.
5. Who is your favorite rapper/rap group?
RapChat’s own Pat Gibson aka P-Holla is a longtime friend who now lives in Chicago. He is a rapper, producer, and one of our most valued team members (and he’s got some dope tunes). He’s the one who produced all the beats on our app right now. We’re releasing an update with beats from some up and coming rappers, one of them being Cal Scruby, one of Columbus’s favorite rappers.
I’d have to say my favorite rapper of all time is Wiz Khalifa. He was my favorite rapper when he was underground in high school and then I watched him ascend to fame throughout college. He killed it at the number fest in Ohio University too which topped it off and I’ve seen him 3 times more than any other rapper in concert.
6. What’s the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur that nobody tells you?
How hard it is to sleep when you have a live product out there!
7. How would you respond (via rap) to this text: “Bring home some pineapple.”
What a random chore but I’ll stop by the store
Or better yet, I’ll pick up a pie
Pineapple, ham, and bacon ’till I die
Rapt.fm itself was born from a freestyle. I didn’t know, nine months ago, at Startup Weekend Ann Arbor, that I would even pitch the concept, let alone pursue it full time in Detroit.
I had the idea for over a year, and thought it was good, but wasn’t sure others would agree. Well, Why Not, I thought, and grabbed the mic. Rapt.fm now hosts live video rap competitions and cyphers, where you can rap, watch, and vote for who you like best.
Today, after the competition accomplishments, after the national press, after all the excitement and learning and even though we have not yet launched — not even begun — the experience has convinced me that—
Sometimes, you just have to freestyle. Even when people are listening.
It’s the morning of the Quicken Family Reunion, where CEOs from around the country have flown in to connect, contemplate, and collaborate.
Stevie, a Rapt.fm team member, and I are in the bathroom, in adjacent stalls. He busts out the beatbox. I reply with some rhymes.
After about three minutes, we suddenly hear a voice from the other stall.
“Hey—Go do that on stage” A man says as though he owns the place. “I’m serious. That’s amazing.”
In the next stall over, hearing us freestyle and beatbox, is none other than Dan Gilbert, Chairman of Quicken Loans, who does, in fact, own the place.
“Holy shit it’s Dan Gilbert” I gasp, playing it cool.
Stevie takes over, assuring Gilbert that we can “make it”, and, by way of a rap, pitch rapt.fm.
The crowd loves the unplanned performance. Our previously empty pockets flood with business cards, potential partnership ideas, and advice for rapt.fm. This only further convinces me—
Sometimes, you just have to freestyle. You never know who’s listening.