Human Connection at the Heart of Innovation

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Making Waves With Jessica Rosenbluth

Building the Brand: The Art of Authenticity and Impact of Culture and Influence

In this episode, we delve into the remarkable journey of a driven entrepreneur, Jess Rosenbluth, whose story transcends mere familial ties. Far from being a product of nepotism, Jess has charted her path from the fields of Penn State’s soccer team to the halls of Nike’s marketing and communications team, and eventually co-founding her own venture. Join us as we explore her unconventional trajectory and the profound impact she aims to make with at El3ment, one of the music industry’s most promising startups. What does her way look like, and what impact is she hoping to create with one of the hottest and most recognized startups in the music industry? Let’s hear directly from her.

Making Waves is a series of conversations between New Ocean Health Solutions CEO Hal Rosenbluth and a variety of executives from a wide range of industries and areas of expertise. The below article has been edited for length and clarity from the podcast version of Hal’s interview with his daughter Jess Rosenbluth, Co-founder at el3ment linked here.

Hal: So, explain to me Jess, what was it like going from playing soccer to working at Nike, and what you learned there that helped you go to The Robot Company, and eventually start your own company?

Jess: Well, I wasn’t initially into marketing per se. I graduated from Penn State with a degree in security and risk analysis, but truthfully, I was more passionate about trying to win soccer games and compete for national championships than maybe my education at the time. But soccer did lead me to Nike.

And I think it was at that time that it even hit me that Nike was a company and more than just the cleats that I wore every day. I knew I wanted to work there one day, and it came a lot sooner than I had anticipated.

I was granted the opportunity to apply to an internship through the athletic department, and I was accepted. And so that summer I went to Nike and basically had a three-month boot camp on marketing. And that’s when I started to fall in love with storytelling.

My biggest takeaways from Nike that stayed with me are the importance of networking, the importance of company culture, the impact that the globe has on supply chain and then service. That’s really been the foundation of our company that we built today. My business partner and I, Leslie, also a former Nike employee, worked together for the past eight years and moved over to Robot.

Hal: So you co-founded el3ment. What the heck is el3ment?

Jess: We serve musicians and companies looking to discover and work with talent. We’re a closed network right now of musicians across 60 countries, and it’s a digital app, but we’re in the process of building something that will open up our B2B side, which we’re quite excited about. Basically, we want to bring overall discoverability and access to talent around the world.

Hal: But from my understanding, you created a solution to an unmet need for independent artists around the world. What made you think about that?

Jess: We wanted to help grow independent talent originally in L.A., because artist development had kind of gone by the wayside. Artist development was something that labels would pay and hire staff to help develop a musician, not just the sound, but also their brand.

One of our company values is “be human.” Humans to us are very important. So, we started that way, and we hit a lot of roadblocks. And one of the stories that helped inspire el3ment, the current product, is when we were working with a musician in L.A., and she was quite good. She was an emerging talent, wanted to remain independent, which is quite hard.

The labels provide a lot of resources to allow you to get discovered. But she noticed that she was being “Shazam-ed” in Brazil. And that fans were finding her in Brazil, which is a massive country. And she asked Leslie and me to find her a producer that was at her level in Brazil, which there’s no platform set up to do that.

We recognized as a group how much connecting talent and eliminating language barriers around the world could impact an artist’s career. Working with talent around the world, it helps you grow your fan base in a very authentic way. If you are working with a producer, you’re working with another individual, maybe another vocalist, you share in those fans, and so therefore your music can travel and you don’t necessarily have to.

Hal: Are artists the same? Do they have the same needs?

Jess: They want to be able to make music from money or they want to be able to make money for music. That’s what they want to do right now. I mean, the way that they’re paid out for streaming, it’s just it’s nearly impossible unless you are backed by a giant label and you’re within the top 1%.

We travel around the world because we’re focused on emerging markets. We feel like there’s a massive renaissance happening across the music industry, and more musicians want to remain independent. And for the longest time, if you think back to the beginning of the industry, it was really led by countries that could afford CDs and had larger GDP. So it was the UK, the U.S. and Japan, and outside of that, everyone else was kind of forgotten about.

So you would find, even today, musicians in Africa, once they start to bubble up, they’ll move to London because that’s where the resources are. And it was silly to us. Our company is a pandemic baby. We were built in in 2020. We started ideating on this idea and we just started calling all musicians from around the world that could speak English, and we would ask them what their pain points were.

And a lot of that came down to discoverability. So our app and the technologies that we’re building to advance the product will allow musicians to be discovered and have their music heard and be successful at doing that, while on the backend maybe helping their local economies, too.

Hal: So Jess, if you’re in an emerging market working with an emerging musician, double emerging, what are the steps you need to take to emerge?

Jess: There’s many stages to an artist. There’s playing the piano for the first time. There’s actually writing music. And of course, within music creation, there’s many different steps in order to make a song. Connection is a huge leap over that chasm, like in any industry, networking is so important. It helps you grow, and it allows you to enter new markets.

And so for us, if you’re your own element, one of my favorite stories to share is when we were in Colombia, we launched the product in Spanish, we’re localizing the product across languages. Spanish was one, and we found ourselves in another tough neighborhood in Colombia. But there’s insane talent. None of them have cell phones and they can’t stream music, so they do a lot of YouTube videos.

But we got a few of them on the app and there’s a translation device embedded in the app so that people can actually communicate with each other. And the musician was texting me one day like, “I never leave my area of Colombia, and I’m now working on a collaboration with a producer in Guadalajara, Mexico.”

Hal: So basically, whatever language you speak, you’re speaking the language of music.

Jess:  Our tagline is “Meet people who speak music,” and it’s also the ethos of our company. We believe that regardless of your language, where you live, the culture, your background, music is a universal connector.

Hal: Well, that’s quite impressive, I must say. Of course, I’m a little biased. So now, with the advent of artificial intelligence, people think it’s going to think for us. How is that going to affect el3ment and what you do—where do you think all this is going in the music industry?

Jess: Well, in its current state, I think it’s an incredibly valuable tool in terms of efficiency. A.I. can be your best assistant in brainstorming. If you have creative blockers, it can help you quite literally outline strategies and target consumers in such unique ways. But I think it can also cause laziness and lack of original thought, which I think is important.

There always needs to be a human element behind it feeding that data. And right now in the industry, what we’re most concerned about is just the diversity of thought. If the humans behind the language models that it’s learning from and the data endpoints aren’t diverse, then the outputs won’t be diverse either. And that’s really concerning for many reasons.

Our whole mission is to discover diversity. It’s to export culture. That’s something that we believe in strongly; we’re in the service and business of connecting humans.

Hal: Where are you going to take el3ment next?

Jess: We’re working on a few things right now that we’re excited about. Opening up the B2B side of our business we think will create tremendous value for companies as well as musicians. The technology we’re working on is a matchmaking technology, so it incorporates audio analysis, sound analysis, classifications, and in theory, when it’s created, we’ll be able to discover talent and hits before it hits the market, which is something that Leslie and I with our brand backgrounds are constantly trying to do.

Hal: So Jess, you’ve worked at a lot of great companies, but what inspired you to go out and start your own?

Jess: Experiencing pain points. On the brand side, discovering talent for sure is something that’s hard to come by and keeps your own brand relevant and authentic. That was one. And then working with musicians, there were many. Especially from an independent and emerging standpoint, but many of these we felt on both sides.And so we’re building the products now to help bridge those gaps and just make it a lot easier for other companies and musicians to discover each other.

Hal: So you’re fulfilling an unmet need.

Jess: That we found on our own.

Hal: Nothing’s better than that. Somebody else finding an unmet need for you is not an unmet need anymore. You recently received quite a bit of recognition and accolades from both AngelList and Wellfound as one of the top startups in the music industry. That’s amazing.

Jess: Thank you. Yeah, it was amazing to be recognized.

Hal: A lot of that usually has to do with culture in a company. What’s it mean to you to have the right culture at el3ment?

Jess: Well, culture is your brand. So we take it very seriously, and it’s something that’s super important to us. There are three quotes that have stayed with me personally. “The Customer Comes Second,” which is the title of a book that that you’ve written, and makes a lot of sense.

And I took a lot of that to heart when building el3ment, that if your team is not happy, it’s representative of your brand, and your consumers feel that. The second is famously stated by Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” But I heard it first at Nike from one of my mentors, Renee Federico, who was moderating a panel at the time on culture.

And that also makes a lot of sense—if you are in a toxic environment, if you’re negative, your output is the same. And consumers feel that more now than ever. They’re looking for authenticity and positive brands with certain missions. And so we hold both of those things close to heart. And the one that I don’t like, though, I feel like many companies try to sucker you into is “We are a family.”

To me, that’s never made sense. And it’s quite weird because once you’re there, you don’t treat your family members the way that a company is run, and there’s some really weird families out there if that’s the case.

We focus on teamwork. We’re a competitive team, certain processes we’ve incorporated, we have a brand bible, we call it, but this is really like a brand guideline before you even apply to the company, you can read through it, and it has our mission, our values, pillars, what we do, what we don’t do.

Hal:Well congratulations. Thank you. I’ve certainly learned a lot. I hope our readers learned a lot as well, and quite frankly, as your dad, I’m very proud of you.

 Jess: Thank you. Dad


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