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The story behind launching the social music app, LuckyPennie.


Co-founders of LuckyPennie; John Wolanin and Jonathan Lane

Having difficulties finding good music and events? Want to find out who’s at the music events when you’re in town? Jonathan Lane, John Wolanin and Joe Landon have come up with the solution to the problem by building the IPhone app, LuckyPennie.

LuckyPennie is a social music app that connects people all around the world and allows them to share music and concert information. LuckyPennie was launched in 2014 and Jonathan says that they see themselves as a playlist of people rather than a playlist of songs. They decided to build LuckyPennie to fulfill the need of finding new songs and events to attend.

Visit their website on to find out more.

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Co-founder Jonathan Lane explains the following about LuckyPennie:

Imagine visiting Los Angeles. Locals in the LA music scene, who are passionate about music, post songs and concerts that are relevant to their music scene. These are bands that you probably don’t know about. But once you fire up LuckyPennie, you can get a glimpse of the scene here in LA and get leads on what bands to see, where to see them and almost just as important, who to see them with, while in you’re in town.

Watch the interview to learn more about the story behind LuckyPennie.
PS: I would like to apologize for the echoing sound, the mistake was on my part when converting the raw video material.

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Raw Transcript

Hajar:  Welcome to, the place for the ambitious. Today we’re going to talk to Jonathan Lane and John Wolanin, I hope I pronounced that right?

John Wolanin:  Yes.

Hajar:  Alright. Welcome, guys, and thanks for joining me on Skype today.

Jonathan Lane:  Thank you very much.

Hajar:  My first question to you guys, and I’m very curious. First, tell me about LuckyPennie. What is it, and how did you guys come up with the idea?

Jonathan Lane:  Lucky Pennie is a social music app that connects people all around the world and allows them to share music and concert information. We kind of think of ourselves as a playlist of people versus just a playlist of songs. It’s really important to us to connect people in the community around music. And sort of similar, we like to think of it like our early days, Napster . . .

Hajar:  . . . yeah . . .

Jonathan Lane:  . . . where you go to the website and you put in a song name, and then you find that the song is actually in someone’s library. We think that that connection to that person’s library was the most viable thing there is. Today, everyone’s so focused on – ‘Oh, this song sounds like this song,’ which is great, but it gets old after a while. It’s really about that song, and that person who had it in their library, opens doors. As far as how we got started, it started under the humorous concept of the original muse, is Penny Lane. It’s from the ’60s and ’70s . . .

John Wolanin:  . . . From Almost Famous [inaudible] remember.

Jonathan Lane:  Almost Famous. Yeah, the movie Almost Famous. So, she was like the original muse. That’s sort of where we got the idea.

John Wolanin:  Inspiration actually that, you know, at the end of the movie, the band Stillwater faded from memory, but she actually was more important than the music itself. That’s kind of what we’re trying to get out – that people, the fans, the people who actually listen to music, are often times more important and influential than even the music itself. So we’re trying to facilitate that connections with people as gateways for discovery, then, into different genres, into different songs. We’re using people as that gateway.

Hajar:  All right. So, who came up with the idea first to start LuckyPennie? Which one of you was that?

John Wolanin:  You know what, it was actually a Fourth of July barbecue, drinking at [inaudible 00:02:32] house. I used to be in a band as a touring musician, and Jonathan used to play music as well, and this was back in the days where Myspace was popular. We’re looking, ‘How come since Myspace has died, no one’s really taken over in terms of establishing a great community around music and giving power back to these people?’ and we just sort of went from there.

Jonathan Lane:  Taking it back from the robots and giving it back to the hands of the people. [laugh]

Hajar:  That’s what you said, great, great. From planning it to making that, how long did it take you guys? Was it 24-7 work days?

John Wolanin:  Yeah, so I’m the designer, and we typically we talk about this high-level concept for a while. It wasn’t even anything formalized in the company, but it was like, how can we go about this, just chatting over coffee, over beers, or whatever. Then it got into putting together wire-frames I designed, and then assembling a team, into which our third co-founder, who’s actually working right now, he’s the engineer. We really had to assemble the team first, because that’s the most important. So that took us a couple months. Our co-founder and I, we had the development studio where we build and ship apps all the time. So once we really nailed down what this product is, from that time frame of starting to work on it to shipping in the app store was about four months. We got it to beta probably in about three months, and then we let a hundred people in to be able to test it, and then probably sent out a hundred different versions in about a month, and then shipped to Apple.

Hajar:  So, how many downloads and users are there today?

John Wolanin:  To date, within the past . . . So we launched on January 9th. Right now we’re over 40,000 downloads, and then there’s about 20,000 users on the app.

Hajar:  And still growing, right?

John Wolanin:  Yeah.

Jonathan Lane:  Still growing. Every day. We’ve actually bounced around the Apple Store. We were on the home page as Best New App, then we got a banner, and now we’ve been placed in Music Discovery number three, next to Pandora, which is a pretty exciting place for us to have.

Hajar:  That’s great, that’s great. What does your work day look like now, from waking up to going to sleep? How do you guys work?

Jonathan Lane:  [laugh] Well, we work out of this office [inaudible 00:05:31], and we meet here every day, and we plan what our week looks like in the beginning of the week, and we try to prioritize what we’re going to be working on, and it’s usually . . .

John Wolanin:  We go through different sprints, in terms of development sprints. We’ll have a weekly meeting every Monday morning, and just go through the laundry list of features, or laundry list of objectives, stuff that we have to do, and then really refine it and say, ‘Okay, what can we accomplish this week?’ and then we delegate tasks within that. And then we have a weekly review meeting every Monday. In terms of everything we do mission-wise as a company, we’re developing different personas or different [inaudible 00:06:19] for these people to run everything back to our mission statement, which is connecting people, finding good music with people you trust. Really, we’re finding everything we do to boil back down to that.

Hajar:  Do you have a lot of Norwegian users? Do you know that?

John Wolanin:  We have a lot of . . . You know, this is where I say I’m really embarrassed by my lack of geography, by using our app, that I’m finding a lot of different users from all around the world. And I think it’s because we’ve been featured in app stores around the world, on their main page and then on their main page discovery. So we have a lot of users in a lot of different countries.

Hajar:  Of course, of course.

John Wolanin:  Yeah. As a result of that – and I think what’s interesting for me is how you’re finding out how small the world has become, because we’re finding out that us living in Los Angeles, we’re actually listening to some of the same music that someone is listening to in Dubai, for example, where I probably wouldn’t have thought of that.

Jonathan Lane:  The music is sort of the universal language, and it’s so cool to see people are listening to some of the same music, and then at the same time, to be able to follow someone in Turkey and find that some music that’s more local for them, and to find out new music that way, as well, it’s pretty cool.

Hajar:  That sounds great. That’s why I wanted to interview you guys. I live in Norway. I run from Norway. It was such a great idea that I really wanted to interview you guys about it, so we Norwegians could hear about it.

John Wolanin:  Yeah. [laugh]

Hajar:  Tell me one thing. Do you have any advice for people that want to become successful? In my eyes, you guys are successful. So, what advice do you have for people, up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

John Wolanin:  Well, I think that, Fred [SP], there’s so many times where you’re thinking, like, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ and to make that normal, and to understand that anyone who’s successful is always going through, and I don’t think ever stops going through that phase of ‘What the hell am I doing’ It’s about being more open to what you’re doing wrong. I was talking about it with Jonathan when we were in South by Southwest. We were asking each other what did we learn from it, and my answer was like, I learned that I was doing everything wrong. And I think the more you can be open to just learning and trying to understand where you’re doing wrong, the better it is you can be, than trying to be more stubborn and to say that you know your answer is right. Because I feel like if you do that, you automatically put a blindfold on. So, even like we were talking to our different users . . . Instead of me telling them about the app, I am learning from them every day by having them tell me about the app.

Jonathan Lane:  That’s actually a really good point. We put it in the app so that they actually receive a message from me right in the beginning, saying, ‘Hey, we want you to feel at home. Please let me know if you have any feedback.’ And we get feedback every day from our users that is really valuable to us. It’s working that into our product and learning from our users has been really helpful, too.

John Wolanin:  There’s a caveat with that [inaudible 00:09:58] that it’s almost about looking about what you don’t do, as opposed to what you do. Because we have probably a thousand different feature requests, and we would kill ourselves if we were trying to [inaudible 00:10:14] every one of those into the product and trying to please everyone. But it’s about being diligent, about taking that information and then refining it into what are . . . It’s almost more important what you don’t don’t do, as opposed to what you’re trying to do to please everyone.

Jonathan Lane:  And it should always come back to that, that problem you’re trying to solve. And that problem you’re trying to solve, and what is your mission statement. And if it can run through that, then you know that’s worthwhile.

Hajar:  Right. That’s a smart thing to do. You guys are getting feedback. Instead of publishing your application and just letting it be, you guys are actually getting feedback and learning from the feedback. Great, great.

Jonathan Lane:  Absolutely.

Hajar:  What time is it? Is it 2 p.m.? 2:15?

Jonathan Lane:  Yep.

John Wolanin:  Yeah.

Jonathan Lane:  2:15.

Hajar:  In Los Angeles?

Jonathan Lane:  Yeah.

Hajar:  How is the weather?

John Wolanin:  Sunny and mid-seventies every day. [laughs]

Hajar:  Right. You know how it is here? Winter storm.

Jonathan Lane:  Really! [laughs]

John Wolanin:  Wow! Yeah.

Hajar:  Freezing my butt off here. You guys have never been to Norway, right?

Jonathan Lane:  No, never.

John Wolanin:  I want to, but I never have.

Hajar:  If you want to, don’t come in winter time.

John Wolanin:  Okay, yeah. [laughs]

Hajar:  If you like, go skiing, you know, come in winter time, no problem. But if you don’t like skiing, keep away from Norway when it’s winter.

John Wolanin:  [laughs]

Hajar:  You know, guys, I would like to thank you once more for letting me interview you guys. Thank you once again. I’m not going to keep you. I know you’re busy. I hope LuckyPennie grows even more.

John Wolanin:  Take care.

Jonathan Lane:  Thank you. We looking forward to seeing more people from Norway on LuckyPennie.

Hajar:  Me too, me too. I can blame myself for it, maybe.

John Wolanin:  Yeah.

Jonathan Lane:  I want to know what music’s popular there, I’m so curious.

Hajar:  You know, it’s . . . I don’t know. Personally, I love hip hop. Actually, I love every kind of music. But 50 Cent, you know, that’s my thing. What about you guys?

Jonathan Lane:  It’s popular on the app, absolutely.

John Wolanin:  [laughs]

Jonathan Lane:  [laughs]

Hajar:  All right, guys.  Thank you once again.

End of Transcript

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