Digital theatre for live concerts

A client with a dream. We like that at Q42. So when we were asked to help set up a new music video service, we didn't hesitate. Not even when it became clear that there was no plan at all. And it really was about a dream that had to be built from scratch into a successful start-up. In short: not really your average project...

Thomas' dream
Video producer Thomas De Vrij and his company Badbirds recorded live performances by well-known artists. Until corona broke out and events fell out piece by piece. With an empty agenda in front of him, Thomas devised a video production with the famous Dutch DJ Martin Garrix. On a sailing boat through a typical Dutch water landscape. Result: millions of views on YouTube.

That made him dream. What if you could translate the live experience of a performance to remote? So, not just a registration on YouTube, but a real online stage. A digital theater where artists can release high quality video productions. This is how the concept was born to offer music lovers special paid content from world stars from a digital first approach. Artists who want to tell a real story. A story around a theme, as if the production were an ode to it. The name followed naturally: HYMN. And an investor who also believed in Thomas' dream.

Helping make a dream come true
So Thomas knocked on our door. He was looking for a tech firm to build the new platform from scratch. Our advice: if technology is such a crucial part of your start-up, you should not outsource it. "Okay," said Thomas, "can you help build an internal development team and set up the architecture for the platform?" In short: the question was whether we wanted to take on the role of (interim) CTO. Although we don't normally do that, we got so excited about Thomas' dream that we stepped in to bootstrap everything around tech. Goal: to set up the development process in such a way that we could transfer it afterwards - as we had done before with another start-up, Primephonic.

Joining as a technology partner
So, there was a dream but not really a plan yet. From the very beginning, we have been involved as a technology partner to do everything necessary to set up this start-up. Not only building the dev team, but also choosing the design agency and determining architecture choices. Most important question: the choice of the video stack. And above all: buy or build yourself. There are several ready-made video streaming services. But Thomas' ambition has been higher from the start: to offer not just a video platform for world-renowned artists, but a live stream with interactive elements so that spectators can really get involved. You can't just pull that off the shelf. Moreover, you are then tied to that supplier, and ticket payments also go through that pay-per-view platform. So the conclusion was to build it ourselves.

Framing and context
Other decisions also had to be made. Unlike with other clients, there was no clear path: there was no fixed budget, no deadline, no design or house style, no content and no existing code. So we started by creating frameworks and context. We made a plan to start with the website and an iOS app, and selected Momkai as the design party. That turned out to be a golden opportunity: Harald Dunnink, founder of Momkai and co-founder of De Correspondent, became enthusiastic about Thomas' dream, just like us, and stepped in as co-founder of HYMN.

Thomas de Vrij and Harald Dunnink

During this start-up phase, the two Q-ers involved fulfilled multiple roles: not only those of CTO/architect and developer, but also of scrum master, product owner, project leader and HR manager. That flexibility is part of the challenges of a young start-up. The same goes for flexibility in technical decisions. Everything is in motion. We had to make the drastic choice several times to start all over again, because that would be better for HYMN. We have been able to do that because our focus has always been to create value, not just build software.

Fixing things
The broad interest and expertise plus the hands-on mentality of Q-ers also proved to be of great added value during the start-up phase. Not only did we think about what needs to be built, but we also really got down to work on helping the company, the team and the product get started. Thomas has given us full confidence to fix this.

Different than usual
This thinking and acting when setting up a start-up has taught us that in more standard projects a lot of things happen naturally. Normally there is a team of engineers that are well attuned to each other and who know exactly what needs to be done. The speed of development is therefore very high in such situations. Keeping a team running well just takes time, as does figuring out what technology needs to be done to develop a product.

Do you have the next challenge for us?
Being able to help build a product like HYMN from the very beginning has been a fantastic adventure. Our hearts beat faster when we are challenged to work together as a technology partner. So, do you have a great idea for a new product or start-up? Please contact Chris: +31 6 16170184. We like to help make your dreams come true.