As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert A. Rositano.
Robert A. Rositano, Jr. is a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and the Chief Executive Officer of Fan Pass Live, a mobile platform that makes it easier for artists to connect with their fans, providing artists more freedom and control over the content they create and share. Mr. Rositano is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in technology and bringing in more than $60M in liquidity events for the companies he has hatched or managed. Prior to starting the Company, Mr. Rositano was a founding member of the Internet’s first IPO in 1993, Netcom Online Communications, Inc., which was sold to EarthLink in 1995. Mr. Rositano has co-founded a number of successful ventures, including Simply Internet, Inc., Nettaxi.com, America’s Biggest, Inc., Zippi Networks, Inc. (an eBay partner) and CheckMate Mobile, a mobile app developer. He has also authored one of the first Web Directory’s for Macmillan Publishers.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Thinking back to my early teenage years it’s easy to understand why…other than my obvious love for music and discovering new artists in general. Just a quick background, my brother (and now business partner), Dean Rositano, formed a band when he was in Jr. High, which included having our cousin as the lead singer. I was about 15 years old at the time and had the luxury of being involved in small productions, performances and eventually watching their band perform at some very well-known spots on Sunset Strip in Hollywood “The Roxy” and “Whiskey”- and the entire band were all under 18! This experience led me to know I/we would always have music or entertainment of some kind in our careers, no matter what.
This said, my brother and I began partnering with music industry executives and talent in late 1998 when we had an online community that was a Myspace competitor. Our partners included “Herbie Herbert (Founder and Manager of Journey, Mr. Big, Guns & Roses and many others) as well as Bill Graham (Herbie’s partner). We were filing bands in a San Francisco studio back then so we could archive video and share with fans of our music community.
This venture led to our launch of “America’s Biggest,” launched on July 4, 2005, a company that was all about “America’s Biggest Band, Solo artist etc.” which was the first and only video community…launched 2 weeks prior to any of us knowing about “YouTube”. This company was sold 90 days following its launch, and $5k monthly paid out to Bands in Prize money!
Fan Pass Live is the evolution of all we have brought to the market in the past and was envisioned as a behind the scenes “Livestream app” for fans around the world to have that backstage and exclusive content feel. But the Pandemic created the need for Fan Pass to become much more than a “Backstage application,” which is why it was our main goal to build Fan Pass into an all-inclusive virtual stage, latform, streaming and music distribution platform that would support artists at any stage of their career and assist in building/launching careers.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
In the 15 months leading up to the Pandemic we (Dean and our team) had been continuing to work on a social app that allowed social connections and meet ups. Our strategy included using celebrities as a catalyst to drive awareness and traffic to the app stores to increase downloads. Our efforts led to agreements with Jennifer Lopez, Meghan Trainer, Fetty Wap, Fifth Harmony and others, creating strategic alliances to promote this social application.
As with any relationship, we began digging into the artists’ revenue streams, how they create additional income sources and more because our venture was paying the artist as a strategic marketing partner, and this was obviously a revenue stream outside of traditional touring etc. One thing led to the next and we came to understand these big artists were earning a big percentage of their annual tour revenue from the sale of backstage passes and meet and greet (more than 18% of annual tour revenue in some cases).
Immediately, a light bulb went off and we understood the amount of lost revenue each artist has, simply based on a limited number of fans who can afford or be in a particular city to attend a Backstage meet & greet. So we went back to these artists with our invention of Fan Pass Live as the “Fly on the Wall” for backstage experiences and Livestream content their fans could view right from the palm of their hands/mobile device.
The concept was sound, the artists loved it and it was envisioned as a $2.99 monthly subscription (about the cost of a few songs from your favorite artist) this would create an entirely new revenue stream, as Fan Pass would be sharing a portion of the $2.99 with each artist on a recurring monthly basis.
WELL…the Pandemic hit and we expanded our vision of course but this was the most interesting story I can recall, as it set us back on our path in the music industry and truly allowed us to pick up where we left off with “America’s Biggest,” only this time the technology had caught up to our dreams and streaming was a reality, and with so much power in mobile devices as well, we could actually perform on the dream in a big way!!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest story I can think of is taking me way back to the mid-1990’s when I had left Netcom Online Communications to start my first venture (instructional and tutorial videos — How to Use the Internet, features, functions, email etc.) and we had landed interest from a Cable Provider in Colorado that wanted to create a short-form commercial, sell our videos and share the revenues/profits.
I remember is sitting at a desk made of a hollow wooden door purchased at a hardware store, sitting on 2 short stack metal file cabinets, with an IBM PS1 computer that sounded like I was breaking pieces off the keyboard every time I typed. We dialed into the call, couldn’t field any of the questions being thrown at us and simply bombed on the meeting. The day following the horrific call, the first order of business was to listen to the recording of our call so we could dissect what went wrong. Needless to say, we laughed and cried together the rest of the day because it was that bad.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There have been countless people, role models and supporters at each step of my/our careers, and I am grateful for each of them. I was fortunate (not always easy or the case) to grow up around a father, uncle and others close to me that were all entrepreneurial, which was oftentimes scary (such as hearing my father come home talking about having to move and sell our house) yet, no matter how much I worried about the unknown, it never seemed to come to this because he was so dedicated.
It takes many people and situations to truly help you get to where you think you are going. Often times those people simply open your eyes to a direction that they can see is a dead end, but because you have such limited experience, you would’ve never seen it unless you’ve already hit the wall. And to all my friends, family and colleagues, I THANK YOU ALL. It’s a collection of guidance and advice at various stages that have been the guiding light!
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
It is never about one idea, one train of thought, message or voice. As I have heard all of my life when it comes to raising children, “It takes a village,” but this is really what it’s like to build a business as well and without a very diverse understanding of various economic, cultural, educational or geographical inputs, a management team can only see so much and so far.
My experiences have taught me some tough lessons when working with other groups and management teams that don’t have the collective diversity needed to see a problem or a solution to a particular need that a Company or its customers may have. In my opinion, it’s very much like real life, and without specific individual experiences, diversity and ideas that expand our thinking, we will never find success or happiness, no matter how much money a company is making from a product or service. It’s more than that for me, my partner/brother and our entire team — we love helping people, and artists are our focus!
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive for Fan Pass Live does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
I think the best way to describe what I do as a CEO is to remember that as the CEO I wear many hats, always staying out in front of the operations and actionable items that need to happen daily, yet being hands on enough to ensure they are being executed.
- Painting the picture and projection of the Company’s vision to our customers and/or investors/shareholders.
- Seeking partners and new opportunities always.
- Vetting new concepts and ideas that spark testing and creativity within our teams.
- Managing fund raising/capital raising efforts.
- Driving new initiatives that deliver revenue generating results.
- Constantly reviewing and monitoring budgets/spending.
- Tracking and monitoring results.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The most striking difference is simple… from the outside looking in it seems that a CEO is the one you hear from when the Company’s employees and team have succeeded in one form or another and now it’s time for the CEO to tell you about it. In fact, I am much more than a mouthpiece and do actually get involved in every aspect of the business (even technology) so I understand how and when certain initiatives can be started or sometimes stopped. And when everyone leaves to go home, I still take out the trash and simply prepare for the next day’s events in a way that keeps us all on track. We are a family here as well.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
People are people and never a title. I think it’s all about giving everyone a voice and sometimes testing an idea that may seem out of the box, off the wall or simply may sound like a bad idea. In my opinion, if it’s not going to hurt the Company’s chances of success, defame the Company or product in any way, it’s oftentimes the best decision to test an idea from a team member just to boost morale at that particular moment in time. I find this creates additional initiative the next time and sometimes it surprises everyone because it actually worked, creating an even closer bond that builds success.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Projections are simply that, projections — Don’t start a business on an idea you put into a spreadsheet and plucked numbers from air to show how fast you could make millions.
- Nothing ever goes as fast as you want it to go (tech, design, execution, revenue).
- Even if your attorney tells you, “You will have it tomorrow,” give it an additional week.
- Test your product or service on several small audiences and continue to iterate until everything you desire is in working order.
- Never attempt to have everything on your wish list of a product or service offering completed prior to launch…you will never get off the ground or out the door with anything.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am big on inspiration and movements that bring good to a person, community or more importantly, the world. Having lived in California all my adult life, I have unfortunately seen the continued rise of homelessness and relative inability to afford general living expenses for many.
I have always wanted to see or develop a community housing development that could be replicated around the world or in areas affected. Having a self-sufficient community with services that support the various factors that led to homelessness is vital, as well as providing paid benefits for working/supporting the community at the location with transportation and more. I am not a socialist by any means, but I believe that there are some basic human rights that all of us should have. The suffering we continue to see across all walks of life is disheartening and must come to an end.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“IF YOU DON’T QUIT…YOU CAN’T FAIL” — Unfortunately, the business I referred to earlier, “America’s Biggest,” was sold for $35,000,000, yet the Banker that completed the transaction only paid us $500,000 and stole over $88,000,000 from the public company who purchased our business. We were taken by a mini Bernie Madoff and could have very easily. In which case, we would’ve failed. But we did not, and here we are today!
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Michael Rapino — CEO of Live Nation and Taylor Swift, whose loyal followers listen to disruptive ideas!