Brandon Brooks ’15 is the perfect person to speak to a room full of student entrepreneurs. As the founder and chief promoter of the music app JYVE, Brooks knows the students’ concerns intimately. It wasn’t too long ago that he was in their shoes. Now, he’s an enterprising businessman, steadily building market traction for an app he dreamed up while studying entrepreneurship at the College.
In mid-November, Brooks addressed a packed house as the keynote speaker on Day 1 of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) at the College’s Center for Entrepreneurship. A worldwide initiative, GEW is made up of 35,000 individual events in over 125 countries. Around 400 colleges and universities in the U.S. participate each year.
In his remarks, Brooks shared his journey from music major to successful entrepreneur. He ascribed his move into entrepreneurship to a single course he took in the College’s School of Business.
“That class – Principles of Entrepreneurship – single-handedly changed my outlook on life,” Brooks told the students. “I had no idea before then that I had the abilities I discovered in that course. I didn’t know I could develop a business plan. I didn’t know I could fuse my passion for music with a need I perceived in the industry. Right away, I added a business administration major with a concentration in entrepreneurship to my academic portfolio.”
The app Brooks created – JYVE – connects music venues with musicians, enabling venue managers to book artists efficiently and allowing artists to introduce themselves to venue managers. He developed the idea and fleshed out the app working with fellow students while enrolled in the College’s ICAT Program (Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Technology). Since then, his initial partners have moved on, but Brooks stuck with his concept and has now aligned himself with new partners – one a CofC student, Michael Buhler; and the other an alumnus, William Bragunier ’16.
In the short span of time since starting JYVE, Brooks has been invited to participate in a local business accelerator program and present at two international tech conferences. The day before he addressed the students at GEW, he flew back from Lisbon, Portugal where he and his partners had traveled to participate in Web Summit, a gathering of 60,000 leading professionals from the tech and business sectors.
“That conference was amazing,” he says. “It’s a networking extravaganza; so many important players are there.”
Web Summit is famously where Uber got its start, and Brooks says he was pleased to be able to catch up with Jared Grusd, CEO of Huffington Post, and Stuart Butterfield, CEO of Slack. He also connected with musical artist and founder of SuperPhone Ryan Leslie.
“JYVE,” Brooks told the students, “now has 1,600 users in 135 cities. So, we’re growing and getting some recognition. And we’re doing that by using the lessons that we learned in our entrepreneurship classes here. Our professors taught us that startups have to be agile. You have to refine your product and your processes as you go along. For instance, we have 10 other ideas for revenue streams with JYVE.”
For Brooks, the biggest takeaway from his entrepreneurial experience is the value of persistence.
“Being persistent is the No. 1 factor in my journey as an entrepreneur,” he says. “You have to believe in what you’re doing and have a passion for it. I’ll admit, I didn’t really sleep much when we were first getting JYVE off the ground. And I was terrible about getting up in front of strangers and talking, but just doing it really helps. And having a support system that included professors here in the Center for Entrepreneurship was important.”
The other lesson, he told the students, is to harness your ambition through programs like ICAT.
“If you have an idea and you want to see it through, use that passion,” he says.