Entrepreneurs pay back Runway Loan
Two blocks from Belmont University’s campus, alumni Kurt Nelson and Tyler Seymour have created a magical place where music festivals are shrunk into interactive features that glide beneath the fingertips of smart phone users.
Smart phone application building company Aloompa grew from Nelson and Seymour’s video production company start up, Just Kidding. Aloompa’s free apps provide festival goers with information on schedules and bands with separate applications for Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Outside Lands Music Festival and Treasure Island Music Festival, among others.
“The transformation is taking that giant chocolate bar throwing it through the air and bringing it back into your television set as a smaller, real life component. That is really what we were envisioning with what we were doing,” Nelson said. “(Smart phone applications) are the closest experience a fan could have with a celebrity.”
Among the company’s first productions was a Kenny Chesney app with 24-hour radio streaming of the country music singer’s iPod, an interactive store, concert photos, tour dates and links to purchase tickets.
Most of its smart phone applications are free to download, excluding Table Topics, which begins at $2.99. Nelson said the founders of Table Topics, a game that uses question cards as conversations starters, were excited to get into the mobile world. With the help of Aloompa, Table Topics has been able to reach a younger demographic of customers.
Aloompa also produced an app for comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, and their product used Four Square integration that became the location-based social networking website’s biggest event in 2010.
“They are turning into a couple of the leading entrepreneurs in the technology space within the entertainment industry in town,” said Dr. Jeff Cornwall, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. “What is remarkable is that they are working two companies and are always eager to give back. They are tremendous role models of the success of our entrepreneurship program.”
Nelson and Seymour remain involved on Belmont’s campus near their 1,200-square-foot Edgehill Village office. During the spring semester, they spoke to Media Studies Associate Professor Dr. Sybril Bennett’s Business of News class.
Aloompa, a spin-off of the still functional Just Kidding Productions, is co-owned by Nelson and Seymour as well as Middle Tennessee State University alumnus Drew Burchfield. Ohio transplant Andy Merrick serves as the privately-held company’s system architect. Aloompa also has a up to a dozen freelancers working on smart phone applications at any given time as the company hires more workers into full-time positions.
Three years earlier, Nelson and Seymour were audio and video production students seeking minors in entrepreneurship and received a loan from Belmont’s Runway Loan program to help their first company, Just Kidding Productions, which creates high end music videos, commercials and concert tour graphics. This spring Nelson and Seymour repaid the $25,000 Runway Loan in its entirety to the University.
“It is a really neat launch program for entrepreneurship students at Belmont because it came at a time when we were doing our pilot program and allowed us to purchase equipment,” Seymour said.
The Center for Entrepreneurship’s Runway Loan Program, funded by a gift from Preston and Beth Ingram, provides seed financing for Belmont students and alumni to grow new ventures. Once entrepreneurs have paid back the interest-free loans, they agree to give one percent of their companies’ annual net revenues to mature the program for future entrepreneurs.
“When I first proposed this program at a national conference, most of my colleges at other schools really doubted the interest of students at schools. They said the gift agreement would deter students,” Cornwall said. “But the demand far exceeds our ability to fund these loans, and these entrepreneurs are anxious to give back when they have the ability to do so.”