A single course in Stevens’ Computer Science master’s program prepared Brad Bershad to found a company.
Bershad – who is currently on a leave of absence from Stevens, where he was pursuing his M.S. in Service Oriented Computing – was enrolled last spring in a Human Computer Interaction course taught by Dr. Gregg Vesonder, adjunct professor of Computer Science at Stevens. For his final group project, Bershad worked with four classmates to build a personalized music news aggregation website.
Not long after, the 2006 Cornell University graduate was well on his way to realizing the technology start-up dream. Using the software engineering skills he learned at Stevens, he secured an angel investment in Zumic Entertainment – a company he founded based on the ideas from the class project – and this month launched a Beta version of Zumic.com, a completely unique interface for discovering new music and music news.
“My number one objective is to raise awareness of all the great things that are happening in the music industry for casual fans who don't want to spend hours every day crawling through multiple websites and RSS and Twitter feeds,” Bershad said.
Bershad’s introduction to the music industry began at Cornell, where he worked at a student-run radio station in a variety of roles, including music programmer, deejay, news reporter and music director. He also performed in a few rock bands during college as a bass player.
After graduating, Bershad worked for nugs.net, which sells concert recordings authorized by musicians; studied audio engineering at the Musician’s Institute; worked as a music librarian for CBS Radio; and headed production, marketing and distribution of vinyl records for a Los Angeles record store.
After so much exposure, Bershad realized a problem facing the music industry.
“I feel like mainstream television and radio are not playing music and artists that people like me want to hear,” said Bershad. “There is a lot of good stuff on the Internet, but there’s no good filter between high quality content and low quality content.”
Bershad set out to develop his own state-of-the-art music website, enrolling in Stevens’ graduate program to gain the web programming skills he would need, as well as an introduction to the process of developing software through an iterative approach with market research, design, development and testing.
“The biggest thing I got from Stevens was a basic understanding in computer programming,” Bershad said. “I had tried learning that from books and educational websites, but having a teacher who I could talk to 1-on-1 was what I needed to truly learn and understand the fundamental concepts.”
With his newfound knowledge, Bershad was able to launch Zumic.com, his first entrepreneurial venture.
Zumic.com is a website for passionate music lovers like Bershad which identifies, organizes and shares high quality music content, insights and analysis in a range of categories – from production to performance to songwriting to music theory. The company’s mission is to “make musicians and their work more accessible to people who might enjoy it.”
“I feel that there is a need for a music news service that’s personalized and easy-to-use,” said Bershad, who expects college students and other 20-somethings to be his primary audience.
Just a few weeks after launch, Bershad, the chief executive officer, and his business partner, Brad Zomick, chief marketing officer, are working 70 hours per week with “a bunch of fellow dreamers” to build their audience and take the company forward. Their current focus is fine tuning the Zumic.com page design and building additional features, including enabling sources of revenue other than online advertising, such as a Zumic merchandise section, as well as platforms to earn commissions on album or concert ticket sales that come to third party vendors through Zumic.
“We’ve been growing at a steady rate through purely organic marketing,” Bershad said. “The music industry is one of the most competitive fields out there, but that drives us to work very hard.”
Bershad said his ultimate goal is to build a great company that really connects the best musicians with their fans.
“I believe strongly in the mission,” he said.