Timing is everything! Natasha Soleil shares her startup journey leading up to Univhers.
My introduction to technology started at San Jose State University. I was a radio DJ playing punk rock music on KSJS. One day, the manager said, “You’re going to be the first DJ ever on the Internet” and I replied, “What’s’ the Internet?” Within a few minutes, I received song requests from various countries like China, Germany and Sweden. This experience ignited an excitement in me to be a part of the tech revolution happening in front of me.
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I spent my 20’s in Silicon Valley working as a publicist launching tech start-ups. We were always working on the next generation of consumer experience. I loved being surrounded by such innovation and creative people. One time, I was sitting next to the founder of a music startup on a flight from SF to LA. En route, he designed on a napkin his new program that would later revolutionize the music industry. I was present in that creative moment, sitting next to him and talking about the functions and the navigation. We went to Warner Bros for a meeting but Neil Young was at the office the same day and technology for the record industry was on the back burner. We were ahead of our time and too early to meet with the record labels. After launching over 15 products and startups I had outgrown my position as a publicist but wanted to continue launching the next big tech products. As a long time painter, I felt I was also an artist and I could use mobile phones as my new canvas.
In 2006, I had a concept to create a mobile application for magazines. I thought there was no need to buy paper when you could read it on a cell phone. And off I went to New York City with my pink Razor phone. An angel investor helped me build the demo so I could pitch the publishers. Within a few days, I was able to secure meetings with the top five publishers; Time Inc, Hachette Filipacchi, Rodale Publishing, Martha Stewart Living and Simon & Schuster. I went to all the meetings with a burst of enthusiasm, excited to show off the new way to publish a magazine. The results were awesome except for a few who didn’t believe that mobile content would ever happen. However, most of them wanted a mobile application and I was the first meeting they ever had to talk about it! I thought I would close all the deals and start a company developing for the publishing industry. The golden ticket was in front of me.
Upon my return back to California, I confirmed my first client, a large publisher. Less than a week later, I received a dreadful call with an explanation that, “Everyone in the digital department was laid off and we can’t move forward.” How can a publisher lay off the digital folks when mobile is ready to take the publishing experience to the next level? The calls started rolling in with the same tone, mostly because of lack of budget, team and time. All those publishers ended up launching mobile applications four years after my initial meetings. I was just too early!
I met with an investor and he gave me great advice: it’s best to build the software tool and license it to the publishers. Looking back, I should have just created a platform for publishers. My next project was right on time. I developed a mobile app called Soleil Organics. I received a personal call from a VP at Google to congratulate me for building one of the first shopping apps on their store. At the same time, I was developing a self-publishing social network based online and would later extend it to mobile. But the tide had turned and my female demographic went from spending 60% of their time on laptops to 95% solely on mobile within a year. I now had competitors with millions of dollars of investment. They had the agility to adapt much faster than I with my shoe string budget. I cut my losses with the web site and focused on making a great mobile application. Currently, Univhers is available on Apple’s app store. It’s the first version but the ultimate goal is to create the next generation of television experience. I believe there’s a time and place for everything.
Natasha Soleil designed Univhers to make it easier to share and save all the great recipes and DIY projects with girlfriends. She has a long history in New Media; Publicity and Business Development with a specialty is consumer content publishing. Recently, Natasha produced a mobile application called Soleil Organics, an organic shopping guide currently available on iphone, ipad and Android/Google handsets.
In Natasha Soleil’s 12-year history in PR and Business Development, she has worked with ground-breaking start-ups as well as industry leaders, such as Intel, Levi’s Co., Creative Labs and Walt Disney. At Estudio (now Blitz Agency), a new media animation studio, Natasha launched “Regurge,” an interactive music program which was broadcast on Shockwave.com. It received over 5 million viewers a month and garnered many Macromedia Flash Awards. Other programs included “Gary the Rat,” with actor Kelsey Grammar, and “The Kelly’s,” with actor Nancy Cartwright. At Mixman Technology, a music software company, Natasha launched over a dozen music programs with record labels such as Warner Bros., Tommy Boy Records, Virgin Records, EMI/Capitol Records and Interscope Records featuring artists such as Snoop Dogg, Smash Mouth, Rockers Hi-Fi, Gus Gus and George Clinton and the P-funk All Stars among others. In 1995 Natasha moved to San Jose, CA, and became the first radio DJ to broadcast live over the Internet with CUCME Technology at KSJS 90.5 FM. @natshasoleil