Combining the Arts and Tech – meet Gabriel and Tutti

This week we interview Gabriel Isserlis and he talks us through his business Tutti.

How did this startup come about?

My family have been in music since the early 1800s, and I have always been fascinated by
technology. I went to a tech university and studied film & IT. During that time, I also worked
in theatre tech, audio engineering, photography, film, music, and UX/UI design. Near the end
of my IT degree, something clicked in my brain and I started seeing endless ways that
technology and the arts could be combined. I came up with literally hundreds of ideas, most
of which interconnect in some way and when combined would be more valuable than the
sum of the parts. After receiving some solid advice that I couldn’t start them all at once, I
spent some time analysing the different ideas and designing a multi-year path to make as
many of them a reality as possible. I settled on a first idea that required no initial R&D, did
not require a large upfront investment, and had not been done before in the UK.

What problem are you solving and why is that important to you?

Our initial problem is a simple concept: There are thousands of amazing venues sitting
empty at various hours across the UK and thousands of creatives looking for spaces at
unusual times. We’re here to connect the two.
For example: choirs with churches, theatre troupes with pub function rooms or schools,
filmmakers with homes, and dance companies with fitness studios.
Within my personal experience in multiple sectors of the arts over the past decade, I have
experienced the struggle to find space in every one of those sectors. There are sites that
help find venues for large companies and weddings, but there was nothing that helped
creatives find interesting spaces at an affordable price, that could be compared based on
filters that creatives care about, so Tutti was born.
Of course, COVID has impacted us significantly so our bookings are smaller than usual right
now, but we’re still growing, despite everything and we’re actively building the technology
that will support our services for years to come.

If you weren’t solving this, what would you be doing instead?

Hopefully product management at another small startup or building a different startup of my own – I absolutely love coming up with features, working with designers, developers, and clients and figuring out what features to work on and when. Before Tutti, I had some experience in UX and UI design, as well as my degree in IT. And I have always been good at seeing existing technologies and imagining how they could be used in new ways or for different sectors. I’m happiest when I’m applying all of those skills at the same time.

What are 3 big lessons for you personally in building a startup?

Work ethic – I had to build my personal drive and work ethic from scratch. I had worked in
theatre tech through university which had insane hours but was extremely active. Switching
from that to sitting at a computer and having the personal drive to work hours on end and be
motivated by my own deadlines was not something I could switch on overnight. It took me a
couple of years to develop.

Productive procrastination – There are so many jobs as a founder, you will always come
across work that you do not want to do. At the start of this journey, that was a lot of it, and I
would procrastinate with YouTube and Netflix. Now, over time I have perfected the art of
productive procrastination, by which I mean, I will find work that I enjoy, to avoid spending
time on work I don’t enjoy (until I have a looming deadline). I feel this is a great improvement
in my life as I am still pushing the company forward, even when I’m procrastinating…
Experiments & tests – Everything in building a startup should be quantified, tested, and
improved. It’s a hard lesson to learn but once you do a few key tests and see an impressive
outcome, you don’t truly appreciate the power of breaking everything you do into little
experiments. Examples that made me appreciate these tests included: running two ads with
tiny tweaks in language; and posting very similar social media posts at the same time on
different days. In both those cases, the results were outstanding and have helped us narrow
down the choices we have to make in the future. The simpler your choices can get, the
faster you’ll move, which is everything in startup land.

What do you consider your biggest successes so far?

I’m extremely proud of what my team has accomplished with our website. COVID stopped
our previous progress in its tracks so we put all our focus into our technology and have built
a powerful site with a professional tech stack. For the tech savvy out there, we have a Vue
frontend using the Nuxt.js framework and Node.js backend. Our tech stack is supported by
companies, all of which have accepted us into their startup programs: AWS, Mongo,
Pre-COVID our biggest success was our user growth. In our open beta, during 2019, we
listed 200 venues and registered over 1000 artists.

What would you go back and fix/change if you could and why?

Not much. I would certainly do a lot of things differently if I was to build a second company
from scratch now, because I have learned so much. But in order to have learned, I needed
to screw up and there’s not much I would change in my past as I wouldn’t have learned
those valuable lessons if I had done certain things differently and not screwed up.
There are a couple of things I kick myself for not investing more time into in the past,
because they take time to mature and show their value. One tech example of this is SEO,
and a non-tech example is investing time into relationships. You never know who might be
able to help you in the future.

Imagine all the things you want to happen, happened, what would that look like?

Tutti as a company would help a lot of people. I have such a backlog of ideas that if we had
unlimited funds for the next 10 years, we would not run out of inventions that merge
technology and the arts, and all interconnect nicely. For some of those, the technologies to
make them a reality don’t quite exist yet. For some, they are ready to be worked on but as a
company we simply don’t have the resources. And that’s just my personal ideas – add in the
ideas of the amazing people around me and we could extend that time to 20 years of non-
stop building.
Tutti would expand to support individuals and companies in every sector of the creative
industries, in almost every aspect of their career.

What are you missing in your startup now, what are the implications of that?

An individual dedicated to customer success. Direct sales and customer support is a
collective effort so often our clients will speak to different individuals which is ok in early days
but it’s inconsistent. We make sure our customers know who they are speaking to at all
times, whether it’s the human team members or our friendly little bot who asks simple
questions, promotes our newsletter, and sends our automated emails. But most of our
customers speak to each of us at different steps of their journey. There’s no consistency,
and if there’s one thing customers love, it’s consistency.
If we had a dedicated customer success manager, they would be the go-to contact person,
and relationships would be easier to nurture.

Aside from money, what single thing would help you
achieve your goals faster?

Not a thing, but people. We’ve optimised a lot of the business with our new site – automated
systems running a lot of it. But we’re a tiny team with limited time, and we need time for
projects that basic automations can’t handle. There’s only so much we can do right now. If
our focus of the week or month is fundraising, product slows down. If our focus is direct
sales, social takes a hit. Having more people, and therefore more time available in a day to
us as a collective team, would be enormously valuable. Not everything can be handled by
automations – so much of our business is qualitative and requires a human touch.

Where do you see the biggest risks in your industry right now ?

The obvious but true answers here are COVID & Brexit. COVID put our industry on hold and
made a fair few artists reconsider their lines of work (60% according to some studies).
Although I believe that many artists will reconsider & reflect, and then choose to stay.
People don’t get into the arts because it’s easy – it has never been that. They get into the
arts because they’re passionate about creating and their passion makes the trials of getting
into the industry worth it in the long run. And those trials are only going to get harder with
Brexit thrown into the mix. The creative industries are very much an international job. My
dad is a cellist and when I was growing up, he was rarely in the same country for more than
2-3 weeks. EU’s simplified borders were a massive headache reliever for him. But despite
everything thrown at them, creatives are resilient and always find a way to make things
work. Pre-COVID the creative industries were one of the largest and fastest growing global
industries – I expect they’ll return to that status in a few years.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities?

Technology powering the back end of the creative industries.
Many creative sectors have been notoriously slow at adopting new technology to help them
work. It doesn’t help that a lot of technology for this industry is either built by technologists
who don’t fully understand the intricacies & nuances of the arts, or by creatives who don’t
truly understand the potential and power of technology when correctly applied. The best
solutions are built by those who have an intimate understanding of both technology and the
arts and are able to interweave the two naturally.

So before now, creatives have generally stuck with their old ways of doing things, but one
outcome of COVID has been forcing creatives to adapt. Concerts went from never
considering online as an option, to completely online, to a mix of the two (now). While
creatives are eager to return as much to the normality they remember, I believe that
technology having been there to support them in this time of need will leave a lasting
impression. They will be far more open to technological solutions they would never have
considered before.

What do you think would help startups like yours be more successful in the UK /
your country / the world?

Something I love about the US is their positive approach to everything, especially startups. I
spent 8 years there (2008-2016) and so many of my friends were reaching for the stars and
finding ways to make their dreams a reality, whether that meant living in the ideal place,
working at a big tech company, or starting their own business. It’s not a tangible thing you
can touch or immediately change, but you can certainly feel a difference in attitude in the
UK. It’s something I miss from my time there and is one thing I would love for the UK to
adopt from the US, that would have a positive, albeit small, effect on building a startup here.

How can the Decksender community help you? 

Three key ways:

1 We are fundraising so if you know anyone who might be interested in an SEIS
round into a tech company focused on the creative industries, let us know. My email
is [email protected]
2 If you know any artists, amateur or professional, just starting or 10,000 hours of
practice in, please tell them about Tutti. We have some amazing spaces, including
churches, theatres, studios, pubs, and even a couple boats, available for a creative
use, starting from £10/hr.
3 Additionally, if you need an interesting backdrop for a video interview or want a
cool space for your next company photo shoot, all of our spaces can accommodate
those needs too. And some of our hosts are even happy to host company away days
or team building events. Our spaces can help get the creative ideas flowing.
So if you or anyone you know is looking for an amazing space to be inspired, have a
look on Tutti: Here

Join great companies like Tutti on Decksender.

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