Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Daniel Noonan


We catch up with Daniel Noonan who is the founder of Pikup, a web platform that allows artists to receive a fair cut of profits based on their fan's listening habits.

This week we caught up with Daniel Noonan from Pikup, the media platform that pays artists a fair share based on how often their fans listen to them, which we first covered in April of this year. Daniel claims there was no great ‘eureka!’ moment for the idea behind Pikup — instead it was a concept that crept up on him slowly, developing over time. Pikup runs on Macs, iPhones and iPads and allows users to input their playlists into their Pikup account so that these statistics can then be turned into royalties for the artists.

Daniel graduated from Brunel University with a BSc in Industrial Design. His route towards entrepreneurship was unusual — after graduating he started out as a designer working on corporate branding, before moving into property, working as an estate agent for just over a year. Shortly after this he took the plunge and founded Pikup in June 2011. A year in to running his own company, we put some questions to Daniel to find out how he’s finding the experience.

1. Where did the idea for Pikup come from?

I’m afraid that there’s no great story about how I was walking along and saw a busker and an iPod and thought “That’s it, I should start a company called Pikup”. As with most ideas Pikup gestated for a while and comes from a number of different sources. I wanted to have a record of the media I was playing and started work on designing a system to do that. For this part of Pikup I was inspired by the work of Gordon Bell — Microsoft — and Gina Trapani — — who have a number of projects aimed at passively recording the digital information we create every day. The idea for then using that information to allow fans to support media creators comes from podcasts such as No Agenda from Adam Curry and experiments by musicians such as Radiohead — proving that it is possible to move the pricing of media from a fixed price towards one based on the value that the fans put in it. People want to back the things they enjoy and I realised that Pikup could act as a centralised point for funding ongoing media projects.

2. Do you feel Pikup’s model could offer the music industry a more sustainable future?

I think the music industry will always have a future because live music and merchandise will always be a part of a large section of the world. What Pikup allows is for fans to support their favourite artist even if they don’t go to a live show and most importantly the payments are based purely on merit. People who produce engaging and well-crafted content will be rewarded through Pikup. When I designed Pikup I wanted to make a system that would be as good for small companies as it would be for established large companies. Therefore we structured Pikup to be completely neutral to the size of the company. Any company who signs up and is verified by Pikup is treated equally by the system. I think the biggest effect will be on podcasters. There are a few podcasters making money from advertising but it seems unlikely that advertising will be able to scale beyond the top few networks. A regular stream of income through Pikup could allow podcasters to work full time on their shows without taking advertising and I think that is really exciting.

3. Can you describe a typical working day?

There really isn’t a typical day but most of my time is spent in front of a keyboard and mouse. I start by dealing with e-mail, news etc and I tend to end the day by either going to the gym or for a walk. Anything that happens between these two points varies wildly depending on what is required that day. Working on layouts, writing code, researching solutions to problems, marketing or planning changes and improvements. You really need to be a jack of all trades or, if you want to be fancy, a renaissance man when it comes to starting a web-focused company.

4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Pikup?

I probably don’t unwind as much as I should but I do make sure that I go to the gym three times a week. It’s very easy to just keep working and when I started Pikup I would begin working at 8:00am and finish some point after midnight, only stopping to eat. I achieved a lot very quickly but it’s not possible to maintain that schedule for very long; so no matter what is going on I always finish what I’m doing and go to the gym or for a walk.

5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

I’m not sure I can call myself truly successful yet but I think it is helpful to keep redefining your personal view of success. If you set goals that you either can’t achieve or will not achieve quickly then you will lose motivation. By setting a small target for the next stage of your business you will improve your speed of development and keep yourself motivated for what comes next. Keep working hard and moving forward.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?

The biggest frustration so far has been freelancers. I know many people use freelancers a lot but I’m not sure I will ever again. Time is very important at the start of a business and the freelancers I used missed deadlines on a number of occasions. If you are deciding between using freelancers or learning how to do it yourself then do it yourself. You will learn something new and it will probably be quicker than the time the freelancers would have taken.

7. What motivates you to keep going?

I’m not finished yet. As long as you always see ways of improving the product or the business then you should always be motivated to keep going.

8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I have learnt a lot from the mistakes and missteps that I have made when starting Pikup so I don’t know that I would do anything differently. However if I were starting another company I wouldn’t use freelancers again and I would probably try and work on establishing contacts and partnerships earlier in the process. It is always difficult to arrange partnerships before the product is ready to demonstrate but I would probably spend more time trying to build relationships before launching.

9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

Five years seems like a long way off right now. By that point I hope we are well established on all the major platforms and moving Pikup towards being more interactive. Ultimately I would like to see Pikup be for fans first and for creators to work with Pikup on new ways to create products for their fans.

10. If you weren’t working on Pikup, what would you be doing?

My degree is in industrial design and starting a manufacturing business used to be very difficult, but Kickstarter is now enabling designers to fund the first run of a new product with almost no risk to the designer. Therefore I would probably start working on a prototype for a product and try launching it on Kickstarter.

11. Tell Springwise a secret…

Sorry. I don’t really have any good secrets and I don’t think companies can be as secretive as they used to be before the internet and social media.

12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

There are so few obstacles to starting something (especially on the web) that you don’t have an excuse not to try. If you have the ability and the will then try starting something new.

You can read more about Pikup here, or visit the Pikup website here.