(EDITOR’S NOTE: Street Jelly’s Frank Podlaha is one of the participants in next week’s “4th Annual Business and Education Showcase” hosted by the Tennessee Veterans Business Association.)
By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Street Jelly Media is its name, and enabling musicians to perform before a worldwide audience for virtual tokens is its game.
The 18-month old company is the brainchild of Frank Podlaha, a local computer consultant, who admits that he is “no stranger to start-ups.” In fact, he says, “I’ve been in start-ups since the dot com days.”
By day, Podlaha is President of Carp Data Service, LLC, where he is a consultant to enterprises needing his expertise as a cloud solution architect. By night, he continues to enhance Street Jelly, the Internet-based service that he launched in August 2012.
“The concept is that musicians perform and viewers purchase virtual tokens,” Podlaha says in explaining that Street Jelly is an electronic performance venue for everyday musicians, music teachers, professionals and hobbyists. They are not the top entertainers or the bands that regularly tour.
Those who use Street Jelly get access to anyone watching on the web, but they also earn cash, the equivalent of tossing coins or bills into the hat of a street musician. In this case, Podlaha distributes the “tip” monthly via PayPal after taking a small percentage for operations.
This approach explains the word “street” in the name, but what about the word “jelly”?
Podlaha says a Scottish musician friend of his contributed the word. “He always felt like jelly when he went to perform,” Podlaha explains.
“I completely boot-strapped the effort,” he says. “We’ve had steady growth since launch. We’re cash flow positive for operations.”
The cloud-based application provides musicians the opportunity to play for anyone, and Podlaha says he has users from across the world although 95 percent are in the U.S. and Canada.
“We’ve built a really strong community of musicians,” he notes proudly. One such example was a South African singer who wanted to do a show for friends in Australia.
“There’s a one-button click for musicians to start a show,” Podlaha said. Followers can indicate their favorite musicians and receive an email when they are performing. The site also includes interactive chat between the musician and viewers.
Podlaha says Street Jelly holds special events throughout the year, such as at Halloween when all of the performers dressed-up in costumes and a recent Christmas event where all of the participating musicians played holiday carols.
Quality is also important to Podlaha, a self-described music lover who hung-out with musicians in college.
“Nothing is recorded on the site,” he explained. “It’s always live and spontaneous.”
Podlaha says he has a laundry list of enhancements he wants to make and an unusual philosophy about raising outside capital.
“I have this crazy notion to have a business that works before I seek investors,” he explains, but quickly adds, “I know I have something valuable.”
No doubt, the musicians looking for a performance outlet feel the same way.