Founder Stories: Ric Yerbury, Springer

September 22, 2023

Ric Yerbury is the co-founder of Springer, an MTP portfolio company and major disrupter of the music industry’s traditional financial and legal frameworks. Springer are raising £1m to supercharge their product and help the next generation of music and creative talent sign equitable agreements that make commercial sense but protect their long-term interests.

Ric co-founded Springer in December 2019 alongside Alex Pilkington. Their collaborative efforts are marked by clear delineation of roles: Alex primarily oversees the day-to-day relationship with musicians and industry professionals, while Ric’s main focus as Chairman is on the strategic evolution of the business model and commercial operations. They have been joined by Jeff Bacon as CMO who brings global experience in the music tech world.

Their collective experience in the music industry is multifaceted, with backgrounds as music artists, producers, and managers. Whilst Ric has always been on the independent side, Alex was signed to a major label before moving into the indie world. Ric also spent time away from music in major PLCs and SMEs. This diversity of perspective has been invaluable when building Springer, in both its initial focus on the music industry and with future applications planned across the broader creative landscape.

Away from work, Ric maintains his creative involvement in the music industry as a writer and musician, allowing him to stay current with trends and innovations in music commercialisation. He is a DIY artist releasing his own music using revenue share agreements to help fund everything from creation to marketing, an experience that significantly contributes to the Springer concept.

Ric and his wife share a passion for walking. They are also the proud owners of a Cockapoo, which adds to the daily exercise! Additionally, they share a love for travel and try to explore new places and experiences together whenever their work lives allow.

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1. How has progress been at Springer?

Progress has been positive thus far. We are at a crucial juncture, poised to secure new investment that will accelerate the next phase of development. Our journey began with the creation of a platform, which served as the litmus test for our Springer concept and its reception in the market.

Prior to Springer’s inception, Alex and I formed a record label and management company specifically to prove our revenue share model and disrupt the music industry’s conventional legal and financial frameworks. Using our revenue share model, artists can reduce their upfront costs by offering industry professionals the prospect of a wider share in future earnings in return for them accepting a lower initial fee.

During our time at the record label, we signed approximately forty revenue share agreements, collaborating with seventeen artists and world class professionals. This laid the foundation for the Springer business.

When Springer came into existence in 2019, we had a well-vetted revenue share model that had gained traction within the industry. However, we lacked the essential technical infrastructure to facilitate contract creation and scale the business globally. Our initial breakthrough occurred when we secured two rounds of

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grant funding from Innovate UK, a notoriously competitive achievement. Using the grant funding, we developed the MVP which can be accessed here. Using the platform, artists and music professionals can establish revenue share agreements through a user-friendly Web2 interface. It proved invaluable in demonstrating the product to artists and professionals alike, while simultaneously raising awareness about revenue share agreements as an alternative payment structure within the music and other creative industries.

Recognising the need to enhance Springer’s capabilities, we plan to integrate the financial transactions with the revenue share agreements created within Springer.

To unlock the next phase of Springer we need substantial financial resources to build and market an effective next version of the Springer product.

2. What inspired you to start Springer? Was there a specific moment or event that ignited your passion to solve the problems you’re addressing?

Springer’s inspiration stems from our unhappiness with how the music industry has historically treated and compensated creative talent. My journey to Springer began with my early career as an artist and writer. I took a hiatus from the music industry, and began my career in the corporate world, returning to music fifteen years later.

In that time, very little progress was made within the mechanics of the music industry. The digital revolution, seen in the emergence of platforms like Spotify over the past decade, radically transformed music consumption, distribution, and the competitive landscape where artists promote themselves. Yet, despite these technological evolutions, the legal and financial frameworks have evolved at a glacial pace.

The conventional practice of record labels advancing funds to artists in exchange for the assignment of copyright—a profoundly inequitable and unsustainable model favouring labels and penalising artists—remained unchanged.

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Our frustration with this lack of progress inspired the creation of the record label I alluded to earlier. In this time, we initiated a complete paradigm shift by replacing traditional rights acquisition with revenue share agreements, fundamentally altering how the label generated revenue.

The vision for Springer is to encapsulate this ground-breaking legal and financial framework within a FinTech/LegalTech product, making it accessible to a broader spectrum of music artists and industry professionals. Our mission is to facilitate the creation of equitable partnerships within the music industry, particularly targeting unsigned, independent DIY music artists. It was also very clear that similar challenges existed across the wider creator economy.

It's important to emphasise that Springer operates as a technology company, distinct from a traditional record label. We do not engage in artist signings or promotional decisions. Rather, our core focus lies in providing a specialised set of tools tailored to the industry. These tools empower artists to secure support for their careers and establish agreements that are mutually beneficial for all stakeholders.

3. As a non-technical founder, what was the biggest challenge you encountered when building Springer? How is MTP supporting you in your journey?

One of the greatest challenges we have encountered has been navigating the complexities of software development not least balancing the relative merits of different technologies, such as Web2 vs Web3. Despite prior experience in tech ventures, and the fact that we successfully crafted the initial version of Springer, we are continually looking to find the best external expertise, particularly from specialists in music and media technology.

In preparation for our next funding round, we have identified potential partners who add substantial value while aligning with our vision for Springer. It was through this rigorous evaluation that we determined that MTP was the right partner to support Springer’s next phase. MTP’s Venture Studio will act as a vital support system in our journey by not only aiding our fundraising efforts but also leading the subsequent phases of product development.

Our partnership with MTP signifies a pivotal step forward in our mission to revolutionise the music industry and empower artists and industry professionals to adopt equitable agreements.

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4. Did you experience any unexpected turning points or breakthrough moments? What valuable lessons have you learned as a founder that you could pass onto our readers?

We made the conscious decision to bring in experienced industry advisors. Alison Wenham OBE,

a seasoned veteran of the independent music industry and the current COO of Chrysalis Records, brings with her a wealth of music industry-relevant legal and financial knowledge. Alison’s support provided crucial market validation for the Springer concept. Having UK grime pioneer, DaVinChe, on our wider team marked another pivotal moment. His involvement has been valuable in refining the Springer product set and provided real-world credibility to our concept.

Endorsement from such influential and successful music industry professionals instilled a confidence to continue our development and promotion of the Springer concept. We have also added technology specialists including our NED, Matt Brooks, who has extensive experience in developing and exiting software businesses and Mark Pannay, a leading voice on the opportunities in future technologies.

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Aligning with experts who not only understand the industry intricacies but are also genuinely dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by your target audience is pivotal to the development of a successful business venture.

I've learned as a founder, drawing from previous experiences, that the discerning selection of individuals to join your team or partner with your venture is of great importance to business success. In every industry, there are individuals who offer enticing promises but deliver minimal value. It is easy to surround oneself with such individuals, but it can be detrimental to the success of your business.

The most critical skill a founder can possess, therefore, is the ability to assess who can truly make a substantial impact on the business. A business' trajectory is shaped by its people, and its failure can often be attributed to the involvement of the wrong individuals. It's imperative to evaluate factors such as chemistry, comfort in working together, the potential for significant value addition, and the capacity to drive tangible progress. By making judicious decisions in assembling your team and partners, you enhance your business’ chances of success and resilience in the face of challenges.

5. Work-life balance is often a challenge for early entrepreneurs. How have you navigated this and maintained your wellbeing while building Springer?

Balancing the demands of building a business with personal wellbeing is a challenge, especially in the earlier stages. I have found these methods to be particularly effective whilst building Springer:

  • Prioritise self-care:

    stress is part of the life of an entrepreneur. Recognising this, and how you deal with it, is fundamental to not only the success of the business but also your own wellbeing. While unwavering dedication to your business is crucial, it's equally important to prioritise self-care. Investors do value your commitment and passion, but they also understand the importance of maintaining your physical and mental health. A healthy, rested, and focussed founder can more effectively grow a business.

  • Nature and music as outlets:

    spending time in nature offers a mental break and allows me to gain a fresh perspective on the challenge ahead. Music has also been a powerful outlet for creativity and a source of inspiration for the Springer project. Having outlets provides the energy and enthusiasm needed to drive your business forward.

  • Exercise for mental clarity:

    do not to underestimate the power of exercise. Physical activity not only promotes physical health but also enhances mental clarity and creativity. My most creative moments often occur while I'm out walking. Changing your environment can reignite inspiration and enthusiasm for building your concept.

Striking a balance between work and personal wellbeing is an ongoing process. Recognising the importance of self-care, leveraging personal outlets, and incorporating exercise into your routine are all strategies that can help you navigate the demands of entrepreneurship while maintaining your overall wellbeing.

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6. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are considering starting their own companies? Are there any key principles or strategies you believe are essential for success?

Market testing and validation:

before fully committing to your venture, rigorously test your product or concept within your chosen market. It's imperative that your idea resonates with potential customers and industry stakeholders. Engage with these individuals not only to gauge their interest but also to establish valuable connections for advice, guidance, and feedback. The insights you gather during this phase will be instrumental in refining your proposition and building a stronger product, thereby maximising your chances of success. MTP leads a worthwhile concept incubation and validation service, which optimises the chances of success.

Embrace the entrepreneurial journey:

understand that the entrepreneurial path has its highs and lows. It can be an incredibly rewarding journey, but it's essential to be prepared for the challenges and uncertainties your will encounter. Stamina, passion, and tenacity are prerequisites for embarking on this journey. Without these qualities, overcoming obstacles and persevering through tough times can be difficult. Additionally, be financially prepared for the business’ initial stages, as most founders must sacrifice a steady salary until the business is in a position to support the expense.

Learn from failure:

accept that setbacks and failures are an inherent part of the entrepreneurial journey. What sets successful entrepreneurs apart is their ability to internalise failure and emerge stronger from it. Every failure is an opportunity for learning and growth. Use these experiences to refine your strategies, make necessary adjustments, and adapt to changing circumstances. Ultimately, it's your ability to bounce back from failures that can pave the way for long-term success.

7. What are your plans and aspirations for Springer’s future? Are there any new initiatives or projects in the pipeline that you're excited about?

Our vision for the future of Springer is underpinned by the mission to bring about transformative change in the music industry and the wider creator economy. While we have already made waves within the industry, we recognise that the next phase is pivotal in fully realising Springer’s potential.

We have successfully demonstrated that our model works, and we have streamlined the process of creating contracts and agreements within the Springer platform. Our immediate focus is on instilling confidence and trust in the product among our target end-users. To do this, our primary objective is to connect the revenue generated by assets with the agreements created in the Springer platform.

Initial focus is on digital music revenues, where we have seen and experienced significant potential for disruption and innovation. We are also working to add the other main revenue streams. The applicability of the Springer model extends beyond music into the broader spectrum of creative industries and the burgeoning creator economy.

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As we continue to develop and refine our platform, there is an exciting opportunity to introduce Web3 architecture, blockchain payment, and smart contracts. These advancements hold the promise of enhancing the security and reliability of Springer contracts while simultaneously reducing the administrative burden associated with agreement management.

We are resolved on the fortification and expansion of the Springer platform to serve the needs of creative professionals and industries more comprehensively. We are driven by the prospect of facilitating equitable partnerships, enabling creators to finance their careers fairly and sustainably, revolutionising the way contracts are administered and executed.

8. What value will your planned fundraise deliver to the company and investors?

The planned fundraise for Springer holds significant value for both the company and its investors, with a focus on three key areas of improvement for the company:

  • Technical platform enhancement:

    we will refine and expand the platform's capabilities, ensuring it remains at the forefront of innovation in the digital music and creator economy space. The result will be a more robust, feature-rich, and user-friendly platform that can better meet the needs of our users.

  • Talent acquisition:

    we will strengthen our team over the next eighteen months. This means attracting talent with specialised expertise in technology, music, legal, and finance. Having the right team in place is essential for delivering on our objectives and maximising the potential of the Springer platform.

  • Marketing campaigns and user acquisition:

    funding for strategic marketing campaigns aimed at accelerating user adoption and revenue generation. Effective marketing efforts will help us expand our user base and increase the platform’s overall reach and impact.

From an investor's perspective, this fundraise is strategically designed to deliver key value creation:

  • Sustainable growth:

    investors will see their capital used to facilitate sustainable and profitable growth for the company. This approach not only enhances the long-term prospects of Springer but also attracts future investment opportunities.

  • Value appreciation:

    fuelling the development of the platform and strengthening the team not only benefits existing investors by increasing the value of their investment but also better positions the company for future rounds of funding at a higher valuation. This offers new investors a well-defined liquidity event should they wish to exit their investment in Springer at that point.

In essence, this fundraise is a pivotal step in Springer's journey, positioning the company for continued growth, value appreciation, and future investment opportunities. It enables us to execute on our vision, deliver enhanced value to our users, and create an attractive proposition for investors seeking to be part of our success story.

If you would like to hear more about the Springer investment opportunity, please contact the MTP team at [email protected].