If there is one thing that I admire about Sajan Sanghvi, it is how he is breaking down barriers of what is expected from a startup founder and what are the assumptions of being a musician. The college dropout is following in the footsteps of other great entrepreneurs before him, yet also is staying true to his soul by following his passion for music. By creating his own path into the unknown, Sajan is leading the way in showing how two seemingly incomparable ventures can compliment each other graceful. I had the chance to speak with Sajan to further inquire about his future plans.
So tell me Sajan, what’s your story? How would you describe yourself to people?
I’m just a pretty regular kid. I grew up in a beach town in San Diego called Encinitas. I played guitar and piano and was largely shaped into who I am now by musicians and tracks that resonated with me at the time. Musically, I had a punk phase, screamo phase, hip-hop phase, EDM phase, now I’m in the pretty much anything phase. The song “Miracle” by Blackmill was the one song that really changed the course of my life. I studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UCLA for 2 years, and am now on a leave of absence pursuing the startup dream with my company, Sylo, and the musician dream with my band no suits.
What do you think you learned most during your time at UCLA? How do you think you have grown as a person?
At UCLA the greatest thing I learned was actually how to learn. UCLA taught me how to figure things out by myself, which is in my opinion the one real skill I have. I learned how to make music and how to build apps through the internet. I might have dropped out of college, but I still attend the school of YouTube tutorials and Stack Overflow. UCLA helped me mature as a person – there were a lot of mistakes that I was allowed to make in college that I’m glad I got out of the way before entering the real world. I do recommend that aspiring entrepreneurs attend at least one year of college just to see what it’s like. Even though during the 2 years I spent there I wanted to leave the whole time, now that I’m looking back on it, I’m glad I did my time.
What is Sylo? How did you come up with the idea for Sylo?
Sylo is a music app where all music in the world is legally accessible. Sylo aggregates the catalogs from Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube, and iTunes into one streamlined interface where users can play, collect, and share. There is no song, album, or artist left behind, no matter how big or how small the artist may be.
I got the idea from being a musician in the first place. Originally, it was tough for me to get my tunes on sites like Spotify and Pandora because I was making mostly remixes. At the same time, big artists that are on the radio don’t want to put their records on YouTube and SoundCloud now because it’s difficult for them to monetize. Naturally, I built Sylo as a bridge to help both music fans and artists alike overcome the problem of music fragmentation. With Sylo, consumers can get all the music they want, and artists can put their music wherever they prefer.
What progress has Sylo made since you had started it? Where do you see Sylo in a few years?
I’ve coded the platform for both Mac OSX and iOS, as well as a web player. We’ve taken investment, and recently secured a partnership with a major record label.
In a few years, I hope to have built Sylo on every operating system and have several million users engaging with the platform. I plan to build universal artist pages, where artists can link all their accounts as well as social media profiles and fully customize their brand. I also hope I’ll be able to start using data we collect on listening habits to find unsigned artists and sign them to a label. The ultimate goal for Sylo is to offer the platform for free and monetize off the content we are creating…similar to how Netflix pivoted to creating original TV shows.
Who is no suits? What kind of music do you guys make?
no suits is a band including me, Max Pierro, and Ed Hill. We make mostly chill electronic tunes, but I can’t say we make any one type of music. We have produced tracks ranging from chill-trap, to synth-pop, to hip-hop, to R&B. Our sound incorporates the vibes of modern day electronic music with authentic, live instruments in every track.
In our live set, we all play our instruments live – Ed is a dope drummer, Max is on DJ and synth bass, and I’m on rhythm guitar and keys. We also have a wicked guitar player who absolutely shreds, Reed Hallums, on lead. We’re about to finish 2016 with a few more original songs, and start playing shows towards the start of 2017.
How did you come up with the name no suits? Any reason why you spell your name in all lower-case?
My current bandmate, Max Pierro, and I have been best friends since Kindergarten and we always said since we were kids that when we grew up we’d be entrepreneurs and never wear a suit to work. no suits is a philosophy – it means we don’t want to be a cog in a machine, we don’t want to conform to a genre, we don’t want to make the same music everyone else does, and of course we really hate suits. So many sounds we hear in electronic music have been exhausted and copied, and some artists even recycle the same sound in every song. We make every song different: different BPMs, different instruments, different vibes. I hope no suits can inspire more artists to think outside the box rather than copying sounds from successful DJs and recreating music that already exists. Outside of artists, we hope the no suits philosophy can inspire more people to dream big, rather than aspiring to be just another number at a corporation. The lower case spelling of no suits just follows our guidelines of doing the unconventional. Don’t be a suit. Suits suck.
Who are your influences musically and professionally?
Seven Lions and Blackmill were the artists that inspired me to get into music in the first place. Seven Lions has the best sound design I’ve heard, and Blackmill’s mission for his music is one that I related to. In terms of the music we currently make in no suits, we really dig SOULECTION, Gallant, Stwo, Cashmere Cat to name a few. Professionally, I love Troy Carter, Scooter Braun, Mark Cuban, and Elon Musk. If I could get a chance to just have a conversation with one of them, I’d be stoked.
Although both fields are polar opposites of each other, how do you see your passion for music overlaps with your passion for technology?
What I love about music is that anyone can make a hit song with just a computer and literally change the lives of people across the world. The same goes for tech – I built an app in my dorm room, and they’re people in Asia and Europe hitting me up saying that it’s the best music app they’ve ever used. Music and tech are so cool because anyone can create something amazing from scratch, and give it to the world with almost no monetary investment. Literally all it takes is a computer, time, a bit of drive, and some inspiration.
Do you want to focus on music or Sylo more in the future?
A lot of people have asked which one I would choose and told me that I couldn’t do both forever. But the reality is I couldn’t do one without the other. All I can really say is that in the long run, I hope to be on more of the music side of Sylo, rather than coding it – working on building out the record label, working with artists, planning events, etc. Once, I was in a meeting with one of the first investors of Google and he asked me that question – “If Sylo gets big are you going to give up no suits? Or are you trying to be the next Tiesto?” I said “No way, there are so many synergies that exist between them.” and he agreed. I’ll stick with that answer.
What are your goals for your career? Do you have a plan or are you just going to wing it?
The goal is obviously to be the biggest music streaming service in the world for Sylo, and have a Billboard #1 for no suits. Or at least have a stage dive moment… I talked about this a bit earlier, but the more realistic goal for me is to start a record label, that could weave both of my “ventures” together. I intend to use the data we are collecting with Sylo to scout up and coming unsigned artists and sign them to our ‘Sylo Records’ label. There are already a lot of artists no suits and I have met that we’d love to be in a collective with.
I wouldn’t say I have a plan, but I have a lot of things I want to accomplish with Sylo and no suits, and I decide the best way to achieve them at the moment. If I happen to think of how to build the next best feature in Sylo, I’ll usually just stop what’s on the roadmap and just build it. Not to say I’m really unorganized, but you always have to do what you have fresh inspiration for. That’s how I write music too.
Where can people learn more about Sylo and no suits?
So do you have any last words to end this interview? Anyone you want to call out or shout out?
Of course. I have to shoutout my Sylo cofounder Misha Sallee, and my no suits bandmates Max Pierro and Ed Hill. Also my friends and family for all the support. Gonna make you all proud. And last but not least, the baus himself, Miles Anthony for setting up this interview.