Today is a special day for High Alpha as Mandolin, a High Alpha Studio company, is announcing the successful completion of their Series A financing. As a way to commemorate the occasion, I thought it might be fun to share their origin story and my own personal connection to the company.
I have a very special connection to Mandolin because of my love for live music. My love for live shows didn’t start here, but by the late-90s, I could often be found trading “bootleg” concert recordings, which was probably one of my first “entrepreneurial” stints. I loved being able to take the experience of in-person music with me wherever I went. That passion has only grown stronger over the years and eventually led me to attend hundreds of shows and ultimately led me to purchase an iconic live music venue in Indianapolis, The Vogue, alongside two partners in 2019.
Since we founded High Alpha, I’ve been looking for the opportunity to blend my passion for technology with my love of music. That proposed marriage became an unexpected reality at the beginning of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic was spreading like wildfire and was upending lives, businesses, and the way we all live and work. The live music industry in particular, though, was decimated and to many, the future of live music looked bleak. Venues and artists faced the complete loss of ticket sales, concession sales, and in-person merchandise, while also losing one of their only ways to connect with their fans.
Through a couple introductions and luck, we were introduced to Robert Meitus, a tenured and accomplished entertainment attorney who knew there had to be a way to bring live music back. We quickly met Steve Caldwell, an incredible CTO and technology leader, and immediately started building an MVP for a livestreaming platform. We brought the idea for Mandolin through High Alpha’s May 2020 Sprint Week and ended the presentation with a live performance from Carrie Newcomer and Lily & Madeleine on the very first version of our software.
The live concert was definitely a first for a Sprint Week, but it was also one of the only times we’ve exited Sprint Week with an MVP. What was even more exciting about Mandolin, though, was the opportunity ahead of us. Within the next week, we had partnered with long-time friend and colleague, Mary Kay Huse, a seasoned SaaS executive, to officially found the company and we were off to the races. You can hear more on Mandolin’s founding story by Mary Kay herself in the video below.
The market opportunity was unprecedented. Livestreaming was the only opportunity the music industry had to continue to connect to fans and stay alive. People didn’t have another option to experience music, which worked as a forcing function for fans to adopt and try a product like Mandolin. And for the very first time, artists had access to their fans through digital experiences and the powerful data associated with those experiences.
Mandolin officially launched in June of 2020, months after the lockdown began, yet they accomplished a plethora of milestones that would’ve taken five to 10 years to accomplish without such an acute need in the market. Since the launch in June 2020, they’ve hosted more than 1,500 shows and served over 305K fans, including events like the #iVoted Election Day 2020 festival, the largest virtual concert on record, and the Tibet House benefit at Carnegie Hall.
Today, as music venues start to reopen their doors, Mandolin is poised to help artists and venues offer hybrid live events through Live+, their new product aimed at in-person fans and digital experiences. Just before the launch of Live+ Mandolin was named the best streaming platform at the 2021 Pollstar Awards.
Mandolin’s hybrid music revolution is not only a major milestone for the live music industry, but also for Indianapolis and the midwest tech ecosystem as a whole. Mandolin’s success in such a short period of time is yet another signal of the opportunity in Indianapolis and validation that it is one of the best places to launch a SaaS company.
Mandolin’s $12M Series A Funding Round financing is also validation that the venture studio model is capable of producing world-class, high-growth startups. We’re proud to be a part of the Mandolin origin story and to continue investing in their successes alongside our friends at 645 Ventures and Foundry Group. Our entire team is excited to continue to build similar successes here at High Alpha.
On behalf of High Alpha, I would like to officially congratulate Mary Kay and the entire Mandolin team on this tremendous accomplishment. But more importantly, I want to congratulate them on the incredible company they are building and the impact they’ll make on the future of the live music industry. We are thrilled to be on the journey with them as they are only getting started.