5 Startup Tips From a Musical Entrepreneur

December 12, 2017

Steven Dourmashkin has learned a thing or two about launching a successful startup. Specdrums, the musical app-based technology which Dourmashkin co-founded, raised over 12 times its initial Kickstarter goal and won Red Bull’s 2017 Launchpad competition. Here, the Specdrums CEO shares the five most important lessons he learned along the musical road to success.

1. Find something you love.

All startups take a tremendous amount of work. So, according to Dourmashkin, it helps to love what you do. In the early days of Specdrums, he was a full-time Ph.D. student of aerospace engineering at the University of Boulder. Along with this full-time doctorate course load, Dourmashkin was also putting in 40 hours a week to develop Specdrums. He says this would not have been possible had he not loved what he was doing. “I love working on the hardware,” he says. “I love coding the app. It’s something I love doing. So it’s fine when things don’t go perfectly, because I want to keep working on them.”

2. Don’t underestimate community and networking.

After developing the first prototype for Specdrums in 2014, Dourmashkin attended several business accelerator programs where he networked with like-minded entrepreneurs and shared his future plans for the company. When Specdrums’ Kickstarter campaign launched in August 2017, those early contacts became instrumental in raising awareness for the cause. Soon, Specdrums’ Kickstarter had easily surpassed its $15,000 goal. Today, the campaign has raised over $188,000. Dourmashkin views the ability to expand and leverage his network as key to that campaign’s success. Through contacts made at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, Specdrums also found a potential partner for distribution to retail outlets. None of this would have been possible were it not for the opportunities afforded to him through outreach, community engagement and networking.

Related: 8 Proven Networking Strategies of Successful Entrepreneurs

3. Be open to feedback.

Initially, Specdrums was intended to be used by musicians. However, after field-testing the product, Dourmashkin soon learned that many parents were interested in having Specdrums for their kids. As a result, the Specdrums consumer marketing targets shifted. Before that decision was made, Steven consulted with his several of his closest mentors and advisors. When they all agreed the shift was wise, the decision was made easily. According to Dourmashkin, such consensus is not always available. “At the end of the day, you know the most about your company, so it comes down to what makes sense to you.”

4. Learn new skills.

In developing the proprietary technology for Specdrums, Dourmashkin faced a steep uphill learning curve. Before developing the technology, he had little experience with designing an electronic board, programming an app or developing USB-enabled devices. Dourmashkin says he was able to learn most of this through web-based tutorials. According to Dourmashkin, there are enough resources available today that anyone can teach themselves just about anything.

5. Don’t give up.

Dourmashkin’s last piece of advice is all about dealing with adversity. For him, challenges arise simply as the indication of the need to adjust his strategy. According to Dourmashkin, the ability to overcome a challenge reflects your ability to re-evaluate the current approach, and weigh your different options available for moving forward. “You have to be open to pivots,” he says. “And you have to mold your idea after what’s going right.”

While Specdrums is currently in production, Dourmashkin says the company continues to innovate. In the future, the lifelong drummer hopes to develop a drumstick that utilizes color-sensing technology. This would allow users to essentially carry an entire drum kit around in their pocket. The future sounds bright for Specdrums.

Related: 7 Ways to Keep Yourself Motivated for Entrepreneurial Success


Steven Dourmashkin is a Cornell University graduate and the co-founder and CEO of the hot new startup Specdrums. Specdrums uses an app-connected ring to turn color into sound and transform the whole world into your personal sound machine.