From the Outside Looking in: Ty Morse & Songwhale

Minnesota-kaleidoscopeFrom the outside looking in is a dual-purpose interview series with former Minnesota tech entrepreneurs pursuing their startup companies elsewhere.  It’s great to see homegrown talent making it happen — but why not here and what can we learn from their perspectives?

Entrepreneur: Ty Morse

Roots:Twin Cities, Minnesota

Venture: Songwhale

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

What’s your background as it relates to Minnesota? Where are you from originally?

I’m originally from Milwaukee Wisconsin, but I currently own a record label in the the Twin Cities and still record music there in my free time. My business partner Jon Greenlee went to the U of M and settled down in the Twin Cities after school. I’m 7 years younger than him so when we first started working together on projects 10 years ago it was natural for us to use Twin Cities as a staging area since Jon had developed a talented network there of artists, programmers, and friends.

What prompted the departure from Minnesota?

Jon and I had built Royalty, Etc. Records in the Twin Cities. We were new to the record business and had found success putting out records, booking tours, getting publicity, etc…but we hadn’t found financial success. I had an opportunity to head to NYC to work for Virgin Records in collegiate marketing and promotion — Jon and I thought it would be a good idea of I got inside the belly of the beast so we built Songwhale while I was in NYC and he was in Minnesota (it’s still technically incorporated there).

What has been your startup experience to date? What are you currently pursuing?

Action packed! Currently building Songwhale.

How do you and others in your current tech community perceive Minnesota in terms of tech talent and startups in general?

When I think of Minnesota I think of some of my favorite rock bands and an awesome music scene. Of course Medtronic, Best Buy, Target and a bunch of huge companies are there…but I don’t think of a startup community.

What’s are some of the cultural differences you’ve seen between the two markets (as it relates to early stage tech)?

Carnegie Mellon university has prompted tons of startups and VC capitol in the Pittsburgh area. It’s a budding little Silicon Valley with low cost of living and tons of talent. The region has done an amazing job incubating cool startups and creating collaboration and synergy in a small big city.

What is your opinion on the value of incubators/seed capital?

Of course it’s invaluable. You need money to start/grow and if you have a good idea, are organized, and are willing to work harder than everyone else money will find you, I believe.

What would be one thing MN could do, right now, to foster a better startup culture and to retain talent?

Create more accessible networking for startups. The minute I got to Pittsburgh the tech council reached out — they held our hand and made us feel welcome from the start. To this day we network with them and they are great friends!

When will all the accomplished (former) Minnesota geeks get together and start a fund to invest in local startups?

I’m in. Let’s start it.

Anything else you would like to add?

When is the lightrail going to start running down University Ave? And go to Turf Club for good tunes!

Previous posts in this series: Dave Fowler & | John Sheehan & Twilio