2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Green Room, Rice University (Jones)

Green Room

Rice University, Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business

Industry: Music Tech / Fintech / B2B SaaS

Founding Student Name(s): Sophie Randolph, Rice MBA 2022

Brief Description of Solution: Green Room is building a suite of business tools to power the live music industry starting by simplifying payments and tax compliance.

Funding Dollars: $35,000

What led you to launch this venture? In 2019, I founded Crescendo Management as a side hustle, providing marketing and management services for independent artists and venues. I quickly became frustrated with how inefficient the industry was and continues to be. I have had artists literally lose revenue, by which I mean misplacing a check before getting the chance to deposit it. While starting Crescendo Management, my full-time job was working for a B2B SaaS in the travel space where I worked in operations and then customer success. I saw an opportunity to combine my passion for empowering artists and my tech background to solve those inefficiencies.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Placing 2nd at the Napier Rice Launch Challenge, Rice’s student startup competition, and taking home $20,000. There were over 80 teams in the initial pool, and it was truly an exciting experience to end up taking home a check. It was also really encouraging to get that validation after months of hard work, being that “crazy gal” working on a startup instead of pursuing a mainstream recruiting path, and bugging everyone I know to help me drum up customer interviews. This check also provided the funding needed to build out an MVP to start testing with actual customers later this year.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? I chose to start working on Green Room right as I started at Rice and the co-curricular programming through the Lilie Lab at Rice has been crucial to my progress. Especially in the first-year fall semester, filled with challenging core classes, it is easy to be pulled away from entrepreneurship. Co-curriculars were crucial in keeping me on track. The second semester I was able to take The New Enterprise and build a team to work on Green Room, conducting more customer interviews, testing hypotheses, creating validity, and realizing Green Room’s potential. Finally, the Rice network has been amazing. I’ve met inspiring mentors who help me get unstuck, find the right people to work with, and even offer up office space to incubate for the summer.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Scott Zimmerman is crucial to my entrepreneurial origin story. He is the founder and CEO of Xola, the company where I worked before I came to Rice. The beginnings of Xola are deeply rooted in understanding customer pain points, tackling unsexy problems in underserved industries, and being able to see and work toward the crazy big picture goals. That is very much how I came to understand that Green Room was a needed solution in a complicated problem space. By keeping a customer-centric approach, I have been able to hone in on the first steps and best opportunities to go to market.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? New Enterprise, for sure. This opportunity to walk step-by-step through recommended procedures from world-class professors and entrepreneurs gave us a step ladder to begin climbing the huge entrepreneurial wall. Coupling New Enterprise with marketing, finance, and data analysis put the world at Green Room’s fingertips.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Kyle Judah, executive director of the Lilie, has been such a tremendous support from day one of my time at Rice. With experience as both a founder and a funder, Kyle speaks from deep experience. His passion for helping students is boundless and I have been one grateful recipient of mentorship, introductions, dad jokes, and moral support. One of the biggest challenges I face is that I don’t know what I don’t know. Kyle has been a huge help in asking the right questions, pushing back in the right places, and making sure I’m as best setup for success as possible on the wildly unpredictable entrepreneurial journey.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? The goal is to become the backbone of the live music industry, providing a holistic set of business tools that make it so artists can spend more time doing what they love and venues can spend more time focusing on their customers and less time doing administrative work.


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