TJ Zark – 955 Dreams 2 of 2

“Design is essentially the chaos of the white canvas.” 955 Dreams allows you to discover and experience Jazz music with their History of Jazz iPad app.

Matthew: What are the most important elements that you would like to share with others in the audience that are interested in starting companies?
TJ: There are so many. I think that, particularly in certain parts of the country, there is a seduction to be an entrepreneur and in the startup business. You have to have some capacity. You better have some emotional maturity. It gets intense. And you should have some mercy on the people that you’re working with. I’ve been in environments where I have watched entrepreneurs just beat up on each other because the pressure gets intense. That hasn’t happened here. The intensity rises. We’re not shredding each other over the stress, but I think it happens.
Just trying to create an environment where you recognize not everybody in the room has got the answer and the answer may come tomorrow. Patience is a big part of this, too, where you know you’re at a crossroads, or you have a need, or there’s a situation that you have to solve. The answer’s going to come. You keep talking, you keep asking, you keep open and don’t stress out so much about stuff. It’s funny how nature abhors a vacuum, and what you need ends up coming to you if you just don’t wear yourself out over it. I think that people do that. They think they need the answer today. The answer may be okay tomorrow, or on Thursday.
Matthew: Who is an individual that has significantly impacted your career development as an entrepreneur, as a founder, and was an individual that was a mentor to you in starting 955 Dreams?
TJ: I’m going to mention one that’s a cliche, but definitely Steve Jobs. There’s never been a product guy in the world, in the history of products, with that kind of design integrity. Whether we want to admit it or not, he has been a mentor to us all. I saw an ad the other day from some of the first Apple 2, and it wasn’t very different than the ads they do today. The white base was still there, the size of the logo, the use of type. It’s like, what a vision.
I just have to say that. Certainly, he hasn’t personally been a mentor, but I’ve paid acute attention to how this story of Apple has unfolded in front of us. They struggled. They were maligned for many years.
I did work with a guy that had been in the film industry for a long time, Bill Nelson. We did many projects together. He would say these little nuggets every now and then that stuck with me. One of them was, “You know, TJ, it takes a lot of money just to make a bad movie.” There was so much wisdom in that. You can spend a lot of money to make something really bad.
Matthew: In starting 955 Dreams, have you had a mentor or anybody in particular?
TJ: This is going to be a funny response, but my partner. The creative in the production side is fairly easy for me, but I wanted to come to a new place in terms of leadership. We’re putting a team together. There are a lot of strategic decisions to make, and my partner has functioned in senior management for a long time. She’s really followed the ‘good-grade’ principles. Surprisingly, that’s the stuff that I need right now. She’s been providing me with a lot of nuggets that are really relative here.
There’s another gentleman in the area, in Monterey, Ron Elliott. He built this huge business that sells into the school systems, and he just has really practical business advice. It’s harder for me to find people, necessarily, that inspire me on the design side.
Matthew: I can clearly sense your passion for what you’re doing and it comes through in your work. Can you share with your audience your vision of 955 Dreams and how you hope it will change the world?
TJ: Certainly. Immediately, what I’d like to see us do, because the platform is still emerging, I’d like to see us connect people back to the days of poring over a record, the love of that experience, of those tactile objects. You spend time, you read all the lyrics and you immerse yourself in music in that personal, private way again. It’s become like this popcorn experience and it should be a meal again.
Matthew: That’s very beautifully put. What are your next steps?
TJ: We’re trying to be strategic. There are two pretty clear paths in terms of working with existing artists, and we need to find our way and prioritize those and make smart decisions. We’re relationship people, so the relationship is important first. If we collaborate, if we take on somebody’s content and artistry to showcase, we’re going to make sure that’s a soulful experience as much as we possibly can, and then just be really strategic.
The sky’s the limit on what you can do in the music space. It’s deep and wide. There’s a lot of need there. Most importantly it’s about making good decisions and having fun while doing it. And it’s staffing. It’s another place where soul is important. We all better resonate at the same kind of harmonic level together. We want to attract the company. People are going to have fun doing this or it’s not worth showing up every day.
Matthew: TJ, it’s been a pleasure having you as a guest on FounderLY. We hope you’ll come back. We’re rooting for your success at 955 Dreams.
For those in our audience who want to learn more, you can visit their website at HYPERLINK “” Thank you.
TJ: Thank you.


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