How a sophomore launched an app in four months

Jenner Chapman wasn’t the first college kid to dream up an idea for an app while hanging out with friends. But he didn’t write off his vision as impossible or watch it fade amid the demands of classes and campus life.

Four months after he envisioned a new social music app called Wav, 20-year-old Chapman had formed a company and launched a beta version. And within a year of his flash of inspiration, he’s on track to introduce a full product.

The Vision: A Social Network For Sharing Music

The roots of Chapman’s idea date back even further. As a music lover in high school, he sent a long email to leading streaming services asking the digital music services to collaborate on a social platform that would let him discuss tracks with his friends. He didn’t get a reply.

The concept came back to him when he was a sophomore majoring in marketing at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. He was sitting around with friends, including one who was a music producer, debating how technology was changing the music industry. They spent a lot of time discussing music, perusing music blogs and curating playlists.

Suddenly, Chapman’s high-school epiphany resurfaced: What if there were a microblogging platform for music? “There’s definitely room in the music space for a social app that allows for the sharing and discussing of music, beyond what you could do on Twitter and Soundcloud,” he thought.

After his friends left, Chapman fueled up on energy drinks and pulled an all-nighter. Putting pen to paper, he sketched out how the app would feel and flow. After going through nearly 100 sheets of paper, he ended up with a few ideas he liked. He mapped out some basic designs and wireframes using Photoshop.

The next day, Chapman went home to Sacramento, Calif. for winter break. It was a busy vacation. Working out of his bedroom, he reached out to a friend with connections in Silicon Valley and got feedback and legal advice. On the first day of 2016, Chapman incorporated his startup. He raised money from his family, eventually collecting $200,000. “It was very surreal,” he recalls.

Next Chapman needed to actually build the technology. He had taught himself a bit of the Swift programming language, but not enough to create the product he wanted. “I needed some seriously talented engineers,” he says.

From Dreamer To Founder

Some of Chapman’s connections in the tech industry referred him to Gigster. When he called in, his idea was still in its infancy. “It wasn’t at all fleshed out or polished. We did a lot of brainstorming, and the product started to shape itself,” Chapman says.

After he was paired with a product manager, they sketched out plans for a beta version of Wav. “She was able to articulate complicated technical items very elegantly and clearly to me so I could make educated decisions,” he says.

Gigster’s engineers built a barebones version of the app to demonstrate Chapman’s concept and allow for testing. It let users share music from Soundcloud and Spotify, post comments, known as “Wavs,” about songs, and connect with likeminded people. The emphasis was on the curator — the person sharing and commenting on the song — rather than the artist or the song itself.

In April 2016, Chapman launched the beta version of Wav at his university. In the first few days, 2,500 people downloaded it. He held focus groups to learn what was working and what had to improve. He was no longer a college sophomore with a pie-in-the-sky vision — he was a tech founder.

“It was extremely empowering as someone who is quite young and inexperienced. Instead of having to have all the knowledge beforehand to hire the right people, Gigster bridged that gap,” Chapman says. “It allowed me to go from being a guy with an idea to a guy with a company.”

The Sound Of Success

Chapman has put school on hold and now works full-time out of his apartment in Hollywood, Calif. He’s preparing to raise a funding round from venture capital firms and applying to tech incubators. The full version of Wav — complete with an interactive map of trending music — is scheduled to launch this fall or next spring.

All these years later, he plans to approach Soundcloud and Spotify again. His app has the potential to drive up their subscriptions, and he’s hoping to partner with them. Chances are he’ll get a response this time.