Aaron ‘AD’ Davis here and I just rounded the sun for the 38th time. This is my 2015 annual report (2012, 2013, 2014 didn’t get a personal account…only via my company). It is more of a life and times of Aaron than anything else and you’re receiving it because our paths have crossed at some point.
Please do get in touch if it has been too long since we shared a laugh.
The past couple of years have been exciting to say the least! Highlights featured here include:
- Exploration – I’ve founded a new media company with a friend
- BusinessFrame – I continue to operate this software consulting company
- LA Hacker New – I continue to organize the LA Hacker News Meetup
- How to Start a Startup – I facilitated a class via Stanford University and Y Combinator
- Traffic Light – An 8 year project is reaching culmination
- Travel – Morocco, Chile/Peru, London, New York, San Francisco, Miami, Black Rock City
- Rugby – The ball still bounces
- William – I adopted a most furry and gentle beast, known to the world as William the Terrible
- Resources – Blogs/podcasts/videos I’m loving – tools that will save you money
Exploration is a media management and technology company. It exists to help media companies get the most from the copyrights they control.
My friend Rene Merideth and I co-founded the company and officially fired up the engine on January 6th, 2014.
The short story is that she (Rene) brought me a round of beers immediately upon my arriving home with a very broken leg. I was thrilled to see an old friend and we immediately got into all of the goings on of life. In addition to all of the excitement of life in general, she informed me of her work managing the efforts of music publishers on YouTube. The process utilized by the industry to find these videos involved a room of humans searching YouTube.com. There was no software to aid the process.
I had a bit of time on my hands and with the help of an engineering friend, decided to build it.
The software initially was pretty janky, but it worked!! The core functionality was syntax based search at regular intervals. The idea was to use software to identify videos that might contain the music controlled by the publisher, as they were being uploaded. A person could then confirm and apply ownership and then tell YouTube to place ads on the video in order to generate revenue as a result of that video being viewed.
I reached out to several of the players in the space and no one wanted anything to do with my janky robot.
Perhaps a bit of context helps…
A song has a few layers of copyright to consider. Take Jailhouse Rock, for instance. It was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1957 and made very famous by Elvis of that same year. Those written lyrics, melody, and notes of the song are what is referred to as a composition, which is owned by a music publisher. The unique recording that Elvis made in the studio is called a master recording, as they go in and make sure all of the levels are just right and mastered. Master recordings are owned by record labels. A ton of other folks would go on to cover this song, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Motley Crue, and Queen, wherein new master recordings were created using the original composition.
In the past, one would find it very difficult to create a cover of material value. The home studio was rare and getting a song on the radio or performed was a task left to only the “Stars.”
You see where this is going…
Then YouTube and the iPhone happened.
Everyone on planet earth can create a cover or interpret a song and distribute it globally to produce real money with the click of a mouse.
YouTube’s Content ID system works similar to Shazam, the popular iPhone app. It uses a known digital signature to identify, claim, and apply a match policy to any video that contains matched media. YouTube knows about that particular version of Jailhouse Rock because the original owner previously uploaded Elvis’s version and told YouTube – “Hey! This is Elvis! If you find another title with this same sound please claim it to our benefit with all of these particular settings.”
Here’s where it gets funky.
I don’t sound like Elvis so that cover might not get identified by YouTube’s system. And rightfully so! I have created a new master recording, so I likely have no obligation to Elvis’s label. I’m an indie artist. However, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller still deserve to be paid and attributed. The same is true for remixes, mashups, remashes, and mixups.
And all of this media is making it’s way online.
That’s where the simple syntax based search application came in. I architected the software to continually search YouTube’s database using words – in the titles (ie Jailhouse Rock Cover), descriptions, tags, and comments of videos to locate those titles missed by Content ID’s digital fingerprint search.
We realized we had a tiger by the tail, Rene gave her notice, and we began to plot world domination. I mean, why not?
Rene had literally grown up in the music business and has a wealth of knowledge about the industry, those in it, and specifically the nuances of the music publishing business. I committed to architecting the software and selling the idea.
Bing bang boom! We’re open for business!
It wasn’t very long after announcing publicly that we were a growing concern before we were offered venture capital. We thought that if someone were keen to give us real money before we even had clients, even though our technology was pretty solid, that perhaps we were on to something. We turned the money down and it has proven to have been a good decision.
My apartment morphed into an office, as couches were replaced with solid core doors set atop filing cabinets. Several kids from Music Institute came on as interns and we ate ramen noodles more than once. Looking back, I’m not sure of many friends that didn’t lend a hand in the attempt to help me breath a bit of life into the beast.
2 years later and we are one of the largest managers (by # of copyrights and play volume) of music publishing rights on YouTube and SoundCloud in the world. A week rarely goes by without adding new clients and we have now added master recordings, film, and TV to the asset classes we control. We are being considered thought leaders in the space.
The coolest part is that our best days are yet to come!
We are very close to debuting completely new software that we believe will be a boon for the entirety of the music business and beyond – all will benefit. The digital media creation and consumption sector is relatively young yet continues to explode globally. We are enjoying solid growth in revenue and profits in addition to market share and brand equity.
I wrote an Annual Report for the company last year and have another set to be published in the next couple months.
In any case, I find it incredibly exciting to be working with creators, artists, and writers as well as their managers from the periphery and behind the scenes. I get a rush being able to help them better manage their businesses and get the most from the creative assets they own and control.
The future looks extremely bright for this company.
BusinessFrame is a software development and digital marketing company founded in 2009.
This business has contracted significantly since the founding of Exploration and will likely continue to do so moving forward. I keep the lights on as the company remains a solid channel to discuss gigs, ideas, and events that I have a capital interest in, but are not directly related to my core business.
Despite custom work not scaling very well, the fees are still great. I also expect an intimate knowledge of software development will prove to be valuable moving forward.
Story time and a free tool that will save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.
Aaron once used WordPress to quickly build a few mockups and test sites.
One day he got an email that a few of these test sites had been hacked and the automatic backups had been overwritten with corrupt files.
Then Aaron was angry and wanted to break all the things.
**Proceed to scream expletives at all animate and inanimate objects for the next 30 minutes at top of lungs followed by silence for several hours followed by gorging on all food I get my fat hands on followed by depression for the evening.**
The enormity of the task was not lost on him. It was going to take FOREVER. But he had to do it.
Aaron restored all of the sites from piecemeal folders on his computer, Dropbox, Google cache, and the Way Back Machine.
It took a long time. Aaron was sad because he wanted to go outside and play.
It was extremely expensive, extremely time consuming, and extremely soul sapping.
Then he resolved to never have to do this again.
Aaron feels no one should have to do this either.
And they don’t have to.
If you have a WordPress site, download and install this plugin right now. There is a free version and takes about 4.3 minutes to set up. It takes all of the files (text, pics, etc.) and databases (file organization of your WordPress core and theme) and backs them up in their entirety at regular intervals. (I backup my sites weekly and monthly where there is a copy that never gets overwritten and versioning on other copies that don’t start to get overwritten for 6 months). It will send you an email with all the files on a regular basis.
If you ever get hacked, delete your files accidentally, install a theme that has crummy code, your host isn’t all that good, or any number of reasons that read ‘user error'(and you will) then it may be a good thing to be in control of a copy of your site.
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to install this plugin and it costs exactly zero dollars.
If you personally don’t have the tools to backup your business websites and critical files, perhaps zap your IT gal or web designer that link or a quick note:
Where do we have all of our files backed up? Mind sending me a copy of the databases and files in a zip file to my email?
Thanks a lot!
I am very keen to learn more about data backup and redundancy. It’s no surprise that businesses and professionals are creating files and data at rates that are simply staggering. To me, being involved in the data storage industry is fascinating! Expect more on this topic in the future.
LA Hacker News
LA Hacker News is a salon for interesting people to connect and learn.
Y Combinator is the most prolific startup incubator in the world. They are the funding source/advisor to a few companies you may have heard of – Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit…and about 800 more that are less known.
Hacker News is their online community and news aggregator portal. It is one of the most respected destinations online to learn and discuss the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship.
I am the organizer of the Los Angeles Hacker News meetup. We meet every so often to hear, learn, and debate with an expert on a particular topic. Most commonly about building a tech company or having created technology / art.
Andrew Cholakian created the group about 6 years ago. Originally, I was a volunteer and took over the leadership reigns after about 3 years.
In fairness we haven’t met a whole lot this year. I was on the clock facilitating a class twice a week for four months in the fall of 2014 and found myself a bit burned out in the wake of the experience. At the time of publishing this report we have 1,598 members! These are some of the most brilliant and focused software engineers and entrepreneurs in the greater Los Angeles region.
If you are keen to hire an engineer or are looking for work, these meetups can be a good spot to find a fit.
The events we create and organize are really only contingent upon finding interesting speakers to discuss compelling topics. If you would like to speak or know of someone who is, please do not hesitate to reach out!
I buy the beer and soda and attendance is always free.
Join the group for updates.
How to Start a Startup
How to Start a Startup was produced by Y Combinator and taught at Stanford University in the Fall of 2014. I facilitated the Los Angeles class at General Assembly in Santa Monica and nearly 250 people participated.
The course highlights many aspects to breathing life into an idea. Each class was filmed and shared online for free. All of this material is highly recommended for anyone curious about what it takes to build a technology company, focusing mostly on software.
|9/23/14||Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator
Dustin Moskovitz, Cofounder, Facebook, Cofounder, Asana, Cofounder, Good Ventures
|Welcome, and Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part I|
|9/25/14||Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator||Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part II|
|9/30/14||Paul Graham, Founder, Y Combinator||Before the Startup|
|10/2/14||Adora Cheung, Founder, Homejoy||Building Product, Talking to Users, and Growing|
|10/7/14||Peter Thiel, Founder, Paypal, Founder, Palantir, and Founder, Founders Fund||Competition is For Losers|
|10/9/14||Alex Schultz, VP Growth, Facebook||Growth|
|10/14/14||Kevin Hale, Founder, Wufoo and Partner, Y Combinator||How to Build Products Users Love|
|10/16/14||Walker Williams, Founder, Teespring
Justin Kan, Founder, Twitch and Partner, Y Combinator
Stanley Tang, Founder, DoorDash
|Doing Things That Don’t Scale|
|10/21/14||Marc Andreessen, Founder, Andreessen Horowitz and Founder, Netscape
Ron Conway, Founder, SV Angel
Parker Conrad, Founder, Zenefits
|How to Raise Money|
|10/23/14||Alfred Lin, Former COO, Zappos and Partner, Sequoia Capital
Brian Chesky, Founder, Airbnb
|10/28/14||Patrick Collison, Co-Founder, Stripe
John Collison, Co-Founder, Stripe
Ben Silbermann, Founder & CEO, Pinterest
|Hiring and Culture, Part II|
|10/30/14||Aaron Levie, Founder, Box||Building for the Enterprise|
|11/4/14||Reid Hoffman, Partner, Greylock Ventures and Founder, LinkedIn||How To Be A Great Founder|
|11/6/14||Keith Rabois, Partner, Khosla Ventures||How to Operate|
|11/11/14||Ben Horowitz, Founder, Andreessen Horowitz, and Founder, and Opsware||How to Manage|
|11/13/14||Emmett Shear, Founder and CEO, Twitch||How to Run a User Interview|
|11/18/14||Hosain Rahman, Founder, Jawbone||How to Design Hardware Products|
|11/20/14||Kirsty Nathoo, Carolynn Levy,Partners, Y Combinator||Legal and Accounting Basics for Startups|
|12/2/14||Tyler Bosmeny, Founder and CEO, Clever
Michael Seibel, Partner, Y Combinator
Qasar Younis, Dalton Caldwell,Partners, Y Combinator
|Sales and Marketing|
|12/4/14||Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator||Later-Stage Advice|
I’ve lived in Venice Beach for 10 years and for 8 of those I have been urging the city to install a traffic light in front of my house.
I finally got it 🙂
Thank you Venice Neighborhood Council for giving me an opportunity to speak and supporting this good idea! #keepvenicemellow
The full monty can be read here – https://www.change.org/p/mike-bonin-install-traffic-light-on-pacific-ave-sunset-ave-venice-ca-90291
The capsule summary is here:
Miami – 100% work – Billboard Awards and Conference – Speaker – Facilitated workshop
New York – 100% work – Multiple visits to Google offices and clients
San Francisco – 80% work – YouTube Offices – Tech partners – Phage
Ensenada, Mexico – Yacht race – Aboard Merlin with a bunch of bilge rats that deserve to be in Davy Jones’ locker
Morocco – 100% vacation – Marrakesh, Fancy party, Atlas mountains hiking, Essaouira, Casablanca
Black Rock City – 100% vacation – Burning Man. Saw all the things. Had all the fun. Danced to all the songs.
London – 60% Vacation 40% Work – 2015 Rugby World Cup – WeWork Soho – Piccalilli Circus – Devon – Londongram
Chile/Peru – 100% vacation – Pan American Maccabi Games – Coach – Machu Picchu
You may know that I love rugby. I fell in love with the game the very day I learned of it and not a lot has changed since. As the years have swept by, my relationship with the sport has changed. I really do consider my career to have been amazing! This included winning championships and traveling the world as a player, making friends with guys that are truly some of the most wonderful humans that exist, and learning about life through an oval ball.
Then I got hurt.
I wrote about how gutted I was when I broke my leg in my final tournament over two years ago. Reading it now makes me cringe a bit as I b!tched and moaned all grades of displeasure. I wished I’d had a bit more patience and gratitude for what was right instead of focusing so much on what was wrong. Alas, hindsight is 20/20. In a fraction of a second, I went from being an avid player to not.
Writing about the experience did have some positives. I was able to organize what happened and observe why it bothered me so much. I also got tons of feedback and advice on ways to move forward. My perspective might be different were the same thing to happen to me again today.
In any case, I shied away from rugby after my injury. I came to grips about not being a competitive player anymore and that made me sad. A lot of my best friends were players so I didn’t see them all that much and the discussion at the pitch to watch on Saturday wasn’t exactly unicorns and kittens. Santa Monica Rugby Club has been having a rough time at the office and been in a bit of a slump the last couple years. It was a gloomy period for Aaron and rugby.
Sunnier skies are upon us now!
I sometimes join the Beachboks for a dash of touch rugby on the beach. Tuesday, Thursday @ 90 minutes before sunset, Sundays at 11am. All are welcome. Expect to be shredded by the lot in attendance if you are a car door or have flippers.
Robert Knox has a knack for convincing me to participate in activities that some might consider bad for one’s health, but I’ll join that whirling dervish just about anywhere. We met as a result of my frequent closeness to his excellently shaped posterior, as he was my prop and I was his lock. Our first two seasons together at Santa Monica RFC had us winning back to back National Championships.
Our shadows now weigh more than we did back then.
In any case, Rob and I set the island on fire at the Catalina Old Boys Tournament and broke records / nearly drowned in an international yacht race aboard Merlin. We would also meet up for tea and crumpets in a most fancy castle in Devon and big belly roll laugh at Twickenham during the Rugby World Cup finals in London. So much fun!
I went to the RWC with Dallen Stanford, naming the adventure the #poisontour. The sheer volume of shenanigans we got up to was unprecedented. It was perhaps the best trip I’ve taken in a very long time. “It’s going off like a frog in a sock!!” ~ DS
I will be coaching for the very first time! I have accepted the head coach position of the United States team to compete in the Maccabi Pan American games this December in Santiago, Chile. The Maccabi games are a multi-sport event for Jewish athletes from around the world held in Israel every 4 years, with ancillary events taking place in the the Americas, Europe, and Australia. I have competed as an athlete 3 times and this will be my first as a coach. We leave in less than 3 weeks as of this writing!!! Mayhem!!
If you’d like to contribute to our effort I would be most thankful – https://www.gofundme.com/rugby-chile
Here is a quick video (2m) with a special thanks!
It’s been two years since this beautiful and gentle beast nuzzled his way into my life. I rely on his kindness on a daily basis. He’s awesome.
I’ve been enjoying these resources.
– Tim Ferris Blog – Lifestyle design and personal performance enhancement – Weekly
– Radio Lab – Incredibly well produced radio show on interesting topics – Monthly
– Brain Pickings – Beautifully constructed reviews of important books and articles – Monthly
– Hacker News – News and think pieces on technology and entrepreneurship – Daily
– Okdork – Marketing – As often as he publishes
– Andreesen Horowitz Newsletter – Macro level economics and business guidance – Weekly
– The Macro – Curated topics from partners and founders of Y Combinator – Its new…
– Paul Graham Essays – Some of the most valuable advice on building a software company – Every few months I like to revisit this catalog
– Kalzumeus – Transparent perspective on running a small software company – As often as he publishes
– Gatesnotes – Thoughts from Bill Gates – As often as he publishes
– SOMAFM – The best ambient electronic station around – Groove Salad – Daily
I’m thrilled about life and ever grateful for the journey!
My health is good. My circle of family and friends is interesting and diverse and supportive. My work is meaningful and making an impact. Several really good ideas are percolating. Adventures abound. I’m still learning. I’m listening more.
In the spirit of being transparent, it’s important to note that the contents of this report are the highlights. I do my best to leave the lowlights out, as focus on them tends to exacerbate depression and fuel prolonged rumination. My life is anything but sunshine and rainbows but I’m proud of my rather recent ability to better acknowledge and compartmentalize those facets that are unfortunate and cause the blues. I’m also choosing to leave out some of the more intimate details of my life including particulars about my family. If you’re really interested in those bits, I’d prefer to share in person.
I really appreciate you for your interest in the musings of my life! If you are curious to learn more about any of it you’re welcome to reach out. You can simply reply to this email, ping me on Facebook, or drop me a line – 310-663-2865.
I hope that all that is beautiful in this world is illuminated for you and yours and that it will not be too long before we’re able to share a laugh in person.
PS – Here’s the link to the fundraising drive to take my team to Chile – any support is greatly appreciated – https://www.gofundme.com/rugby-chile – we’ve nearly reached our goal!!!
PPS – Here’s a link to 3 bulldogs surfing to some Ethiopian jazz – https://www.facebook.com/TheInertia/videos/1057424477630703/
Aaron Loring Davis