Note: The Original interview was conducted by Georgia
An entrepreneur for more than half his life, Brent McCrossen is a pro at building businesses, which serves him well as Managing Director for Revelry’s newest venture Startup Studio (more on this later). When Brent moved to Seattle in his early twenties he was working as a hairstylist with a dream of starting a retreat spa on Vashon Island. “Turns out I was too hyperactive to do that,” Brent teased.
Instead, he decided to start his own Mardi Gras party, unimpressed by the one that was already there. Brent’s party was a huge success, and it eventually led him to the music industry. Local venues and artists began reaching out for Brent’s booking and management services, which evolved into a talent-buying and artist-management company. From there the idea for his first media tech company, Audiosocket, was born. And soon thereafter came LIDCORE.
It’s really so fitting that Brent’s career had its genesis in music. A self-professed music fanatic, Brent started playing the drums at the ripe age of four when his beloved PaPaw gifted him a drum kit for Christmas. “He was a bit of a prankster,” explained Brent. “My parents, being academics, were really quiet. He bought it to drive them crazy.” Brent played and played until he broke the drums, and sure enough, the next Christmas, and every Christmas thereafter, his PaPaw would give him another set. He’s been playing ever since.
“43 of my 47 years I’ve been drumming. I’m just a music fanatic. I’m very picky about it. I want to hear music that challenges me, music that inspires me emotionally…Growing up, I never had rockstar ambitions when I was playing in bands. I never cared if we broke out or got a record deal. I just loved the challenge of moving all four limbs independently and creating rhythms that people wanted to move their bodies to.”
Brent channeled that passion into launching not one but two successful media tech companies, Audiosocket and LIDCORE. Twelve years of running both businesses eventually caught up to him. “I was burnt out, my health was suffering—both physical and mental—and I needed a change,” Brent shared with refreshing candor. With the support of his colleagues, Brent stepped down as CEO of both companies in early 2019, ready for the next chapter.
Just a few months later, Gerard approached him about coming on board to help out with Startup Studio. (The two met almost a decade ago through Launch Pad and have remained friends through the years.) “I was still just getting my mind straight and needed some more time, but G kept poking me about the idea.” It didn’t take long for Brent to come around, and by June he was jumping in to help evaluate the business opportunity. Not long after, September rolled around, and Gerard asked him to run with it. “I was honored.”
Fast-forward to today, Startup Studio is rocking and rolling with more than 15 viable business ideas in the pipeline, three of which are ready to go to market. The future is looking bright for Brent and Revelry Startup Studio!
And now, for the Q&A!
Who are your favorite drummers?
I have too many favorite drummers to name. Off the top of my head I would list: Carter Beauford from Dave Matthews, Dave Grohl, Neil Peart, Danny Carey from Tool Buddy Rich, and David Garibaldi. The list could go on and on, but those are some super heavy hitters right there.
What music puts you ‘in the zone’ while you work?
No, I could not listen to music while I’m working, because as a drummer, I get extremely into the rhythms and I start to obsess over the drumbeat itself and thinking through it. Start tapping out the rhythm. It’s extremely distracting for me to have music on because I focus on the music and not the work. So what gets me in the zone is a clean, quiet room that is uncluttered and void of distraction.
You’re clearly a very successful entrepreneur.
Have you always had that entrepreneurial spirit in you?
And where do you think it comes from?
As a kid I never really thought about entrepreneurship as anything…When I was in high school playing in bands, I always had the motivation to get our shows booked and get them promoted. That was pretty entrepreneurial, but I never really thought about it like that…It was a natural evolution. I had things that I wanted to exist in the world, and I didn’t want to wait for anybody else to do them, so I did them. I wasn’t thinking “Oh, I’m an entrepreneur.” I was just thinking “I want this thing to exist, so I’m gonna go give it a shot, and if it fails, then oh well, I guess I’ll go do something else.”
“What I always knew from a very young age was that I was going to carve my own path wherever I went in the world because the standard tracks that were out there never resonated with me as challenging or creative enough. To carve my own path was really to create my own world, and absent of that, I was miserable.”
What do you do as Managing Director for Startup Studio?
At the end of the day, my job is to build companies. At Startup Studio, we come up with ideas, test those ideas, validate them, build products, and launch companies. As Managing Director, I oversee all of that. When an idea is proven and viable, then part of my role is to build up a network of operators who can come run the business. It’s attaching the right leadership to the right companies and empowering those people with the tech tools, financial resources, and the advisory they need to make those businesses successful.
Why do you manage a startup studio?
Oh, that’s a great question. I fundamentally believe that the world needs advancements, that we’re not done as a society, and that people need a platform to get viable ideas out in the market. Entrepreneurship is really friggin’ tough, and the people who have the willingness to step up and do it need the support. I want to support the leaders who are endeavoring to make the world a better place.
What advice would you give a new entrepreneur?
Where is a good place to start?
Start with whatever idea you can’t get out of your head. If it’s keeping you up at night and you can’t stop thinking about it, start there. Scratch that itch. All I know is there are a lot of paths up the mountain. At the peak, they all become one. The only general advice I can give is to keep hiking up that mountain. Take moments to stop and enjoy the view. When you see someone on the path, tell them hello, ask how they’re doing, and help where you can.
What is the greatest advice you have ever received?
Believe in yourself, keep your heart open, and give others the benefit of the doubt.
Who inspired your love of cooking?
(Side note: Brent is a stellar cook and has prepared a couple of meals for fellow Revelers to enjoy during his Lunch & Learn sessions.) Two of the best ladies I’ve ever known. My Grandma (mom’s mom) and my Mammy (dad’s mom). Those ladies could friggin’ cook. One of the main things I learned from them: if you wanna make people feel loved, happy, and at home, cook them a good meal. They were angels in the flesh who cooked with humility. I’d put them against any top chef out there. Lights out. I miss those ladies so much.
What mobile device do you use and what apps are on your home screen?
I have an Apple iPhone 8. I’m very pragmatic about my home screen. The main apps on my home screen besides the ones that are already installed…I have a Metronome app, and a Kite Surf app to check the wind—I fancy becoming a good kitesurfer one day. And iGrill, which is a Bluetooth temperature gauge. All my social media is on the last screen (pro tip!) because I try not to look at that shit. I don’t want it on the home screen.
What non-digital product could you not live without?
My kitchen knives. My really nice Keflon pots and pans. I’m not a material-driven guy. You know, as long as I had a pair of drumsticks, some cutlery and some pots and pans, I could go anywhere in the world and entertain myself forever.
Who inspires you and why?
That definitely comes back to my PaPaw. He is literally the man that I’m trying to grow up to be. He was wiser than anyone I’ve ever met. What I really admire about him, and it’s certainly a trait that I don’t have, is that he was very quiet. He wasn’t a very talkative guy, but when he said something, it was profound. And he loved everybody with an open heart. I don’t think the man knew a stranger. Again, he’d never talk your ear off, but he’d always be present, for whoever you were. Rich or poor, it didn’t matter. If you were a good person, he was open.
What could you talk about for days if you climbed up on your soapbox?
Beyond anything related to business? Climate change and our eroding coasts.
What’s your favorite Slack channel at Revelry?
Without a doubt #startupstudio. Outside of that, it’s #watercooler. I laugh my ass off in there. Second, behind that is #revbeats.
What’s your favorite emoji in the Revelry Slack?
(Laughs.) I think it’s the :fistbump:—the animated one.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I get to create companies and support other people who want to build those alongside me.
Anything else you want to share?
It’s only been a couple of months of doing this full-time, and I just love the company. I truly love G as a friend, but I’m so proud of what he’s built as a culture. And the way he’s structured the business, as far as how we enable technology delivery, and all of our systems, and the team that’s involved…it’s admirable. I really enjoy it.
How can aspiring entrepreneurs best ask you questions?