by Mike Williams
One evening in March 2015, Mike Williams set himself a simple rule. The time spent building a fully functional prototype of his marketplace idea should not exceed one evening. "I'm going to cancel dinner plans and instead build the Airbnb for music studios," he decided.
For a while before, Mike Williams had been paying attention to how his friends in the music industry tried to find, compare, and book music studios. They relied heavily on their networks and sent text messages to find out about available studios, equipment, rates, and so on. He knew there had to be a better way to do it and set out to build it.
Mike did some initial industry research, which revealed that to his surprise, he couldn't find anyone trying to solve the same problem. That’s when he came up with an ambitious concept: "Studiotime, an Airbnb for music studios."
As the founder of a few fast-growing marketplace startups, Mike had lots of other obligations and knew that Studiotime would need to be a passion project.
"That's why I decided I could only spend one evening building it. Even though I had no idea if setting up a fully functional marketplace in one evening would even be possible."
After deciding to skip the dinner that evening, Mike found Sharetribe. Amazingly, he was able to achieve exactly what he had wanted: his site was up and running the same evening.
On Sunday of the same week, Mike purchased the domain studiotime.io, and minutes later he launched his site by posting it to Product Hunt, an online community for discovering new products.
What happened afterward surprised him completely. It turned out that Product Hunt users loved Mike's concept.
In a matter of hours, more than 1,000 users had signed up on Studiotime.
Mike’s artist community kept growing quickly. Soon, studios all around the world were contacting him, asking to be featured on his site.
"I even had people asking to volunteer to become ambassadors, and others in the music industry asking for jobs!"
You can read more about Studiotime’s launch from Mike's article on Medium.
After the successful launch and initial validation of his idea, Mike focused more on the development of the site and on increasing the marketplace functionality. He started emailing his users and asking them questions: what problems were they having, what could be improved on the site, and so on.
Mike also started iterating on the business model. His initial idea was to charge a commission from each booking, Airbnb style.
However, he soon discovered that studios had their own, complex invoicing processes that were not well suited for this. He decided to lower his commission and add a subscription model.
"I already had hundreds of studios listed on Studiotime. I found out the market wasn't supply-constrained and that it was in such a need for Studiotime that studios would be willing to pay a monthly subscription fee simply for visibility on the site."
This prediction turned out to be correct, and most studios were happy to pay Mike's fees.
After validating his idea with Sharetribe Go, Mike moved his platform to Sharetribe Flex.
"Flex allowed me to expand my platform and my feature set based on the learnings that came after my early success," Mike says.
"I was able to build a completely custom marketplace user experience at one-tenth of the time and cost compared to building from scratch."
Powered by Flex, Studiotime became the largest online marketplace community to rent music studios. The platform listed studios in over 35 countries and was featured in publications such as VICE Brasil and Forbes, and even on the BBC news.
Studiotime was successfully acquired in 2021 and the marketplace eventually closed in 2022. After running and growing Studiotime for several years and following the acquisition, Mike decided it was time for the next stage in working with other marketplace founders.
"I want to take all of my learnings and lessons from building and scaling marketplaces to now help other entrepreneurs succeed with their own marketplace businesses. My goal is to do this through now focusing on building the Everything Marketplaces community."
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