Founders’ Fridays: Bjorn Barja, TuneWolf

Hey Rachael here again! Today’s featured Friday founder is Bjorn Barja from TuneWolf.  I got the chance to sit down and talk to him about his jukebox inspired music app that will shortly be hitting college bars around the Southeast.

Founder: Bjorn Barja (                                              

Company Name: TuneWolf

Hey Rachael here again! Today’s featured Friday founder is Bjorn Barja from TuneWolf.  I got the chance to sit down and talk to him about his jukebox inspired music app that will shortly be hitting college bars around the Southeast.

RP: Tell me a little bit about TuneWolf:

BB: It’s a music app that allows customers to use their phones to view and play songs over the big speakers at their favorite watering hole.  For the owners of said watering holes, it will provide them a cool, new way to create happier customers as well as create a new source of revenue as it works on a pay per play model, and each song played will bring them money.

RP: What motivated you to get started?

BB: I came to Athens, and there was no method for playing music that customers want to hear in most of the bars downtown. I came from a jukebox heavy city and it was disappointing to for me to see that the only people who were hearing the music they wanted were the folks who either had a connection with or were tipping their bartender. So my partner, Matt McClure, and I began conceptualizing what it would be like to play songs from your phone.

RP: Where did you come up with the name “TuneWolf”?

BB: This story starts back at beach bar in Wilmington, NC called Lagerheads. They have a phenomenal jukebox that is straight old school, and I came to realize that there were times I would put in a song and notice I was the only one who would want to hear that song, and I felt like a “lone-wolf”. Then sometimes I would put in a song and the whole place would go wild, and I felt that I was leading a pack of crazies. So I started thinking wolf, lone-wolf, pack leader, wolf-pack, all of the above; that’s where the wolf aspect came in. Then we started thinking of music, and that’s where the tune came in.

RP: What has been one of the biggest challenges in the development TuneWolf?

BB: Aligning all the different assets. There’s a mobile application, desktop management application, and a cloud server. Developing all of those independently and then bringing them all together to work synchronously is challenging.  Development and engineering in general is just crazy.  I’m not the tech arm of this venture, so I don’t understand code, and watching them program all the time and understanding the challenges they go through has been a learning experience.

RP: What is the most important thing you have learned in the process of building TuneWolf?

BB: Patience, and trying to continually lean forward in the saddle.  In taking the bootstrap approach, it rarely is the case of getting something done in an expeditious time manner since many times you are relying on the goodwill and time constraints of others.

RP: Where do you see TuneWolf being in the next year?

BB:  We hope to have a presence in every college town in the SEC, heck, we may even include a few ACC ones as well.  Our big push though, will be to also show a presence in the larger urban areas throughout the country, such as Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

RP: What were you doing before you came up with the idea of TuneWolf?

BB:  I was a Naval Officer for almost 7 years on the West Coast, and then I went to work for corporate Home Depot in Atlanta.  Through a leadership program of theirs, it became apparent to me that the office environment was not for me, so I transferred out to the stores and became the store manager of a few stores in the Wilmington, NC area.  I really thank Home Depot for the experience, but I always knew I wanted to pursue a few ideas of my own, and that’s what got me here.

RP: What has been the high point in your journey of building your startup? Low point?

BB: The most exciting moments we have are when we talk with people within the music and entertainment industries, as well as bars and restaurants, and they give us nothing but positive feedback and complements on having a great idea. Low points are always around the development side and the struggles of taking a concept to something physically operable. Seeing the thing work, and then it doesn’t work, and then it works; it’s like riding a seesaw, and it ultimately plays with your emotions.

RP: What do you do to relax, to get away from everything?

BB: I like going out to my parents’ farm.  It’s just over an hour away, has lots of land to fish, shoot, whatever, and you can easily “unplug”.  I love the outdoors or anything having to do with water, specifically white water!  I also love trail running with my dog, Abe, and of course finding a good jukebox in any town!

RP: What would you say to someone who is considering building their own startup?

BB: Put it on paper. I know people who have some really good ideas, but their ideas continue to float around, and they never get any traction.  First step toward making them a reality is you actually have to put it on paper and then take ownership of it. Whip out the laptop; put your thoughts into a Word Document or a PowerPoint. Start thinking who’s your customer, what’s the problem, what’s the solution, what’s your market. Then you may be able to take something from paper to reality.  But you have to remember, you’ll never have all the answers upfront, but you gotta start knowing what you don’t know, and that’s a good way to get going and build momentum.

RP: What is your biggest strength? Weakness?

BB: I’m tend to keep a very level head and be a strong leader through adversity, as well as keep many balls in the air at once. My biggest weakness is that I tend to get short with people when doing multiple things at once, and I guess sometimes I’m a little too trusting of folks to get the job done.

RP: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about TuneWolf?

BB: It’s gonna be fun! Entertaining! And it will impress your friends when you can pull out your phone and play a song!  Join the Pack!

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