episode 3 – entrepreneurial musician | Matthew Shifrin
In this episode, we speak with Elon Ganor, an Israeli entrepreneur and artist known mainly for his role as one of the world’s first VoIP pioneers. He served as Chairman and CEO of VocalTec Ltd (Nasdaq CALL), the company behind the creation of “Internet Phone,” the world’s first commercial software product that enabled voice communication over the internet. Ganor is an art photographer whose works have been exhibited in various places, including the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. In this talk, we discuss entrepreneurship, art, and what each can learn from each other.
This episode was recorded in Google For Startups Creator Studios Madrid.
Resources and links
Artworks and other topics mentioned during the podcast can be seen in the following links:
*the transcript was produced with the help of AI, mistakes might appear.
Nir Hindi: Hey, podcast listeners. And thank you for joining us today The Artian podcast, where we explore the relationships between art, artists and the world of business technology and entrepreneurship. And today we say hello from Madrid to Boston, to Matthew Shifrin. Welcome, Matthew.
Mattew Shifrin: It’s a pleasure to be here.
Nir Hindi: Matthew, can you take a moment to introduce yourself to our listeners?
Mattew Shifrin: Sure. So my name is Matthew Shifrin and I study singing and accordion at the New England Conservatory in Boston. [inaudible]
Nir Hindi: Great Matthew, you and me, I actually got to know each other through Sam McGee, who was the manager of student program for the arts at MIT, where today I’m also a mentoring. So first of all, Sam, if you’re hearing us today, thank you for doing this introduction because of you that we are here. And before I kind of will ask you, Matthew, what you did at MIT and how you ended up being there, participating in this program.
I think it’s worth mentioning a bit about this office, the arts at MIT, which is an office that oversees coordinate support and facilitates out activities inside the MIT, which I find it fascinating bringing how to bring out into the world of technology engineering in a school like MIT. And one of the initiatives that MIT runs is actually the MIT creative arts competition, which is an annual contest designed to encourage art-focused startup at the institute, which you won with your project there David.
Mattew Shifrin: That was really an incredible experience. That creative arts competition. It happened accidentally in the sense that I was doing conservatory. And some people there said, Hey, you know, I might actually have a creative arts competition and you should join it and kind of see what happens. And I was skeptical because I mean, MIT is known for their sciences.
And then I thought, you know, it’s, it’s worth joining. And it was really, that whole experience was a really pivotal experience for me. Because at first we had all of these workshops that introduced artists to entrepreneurship, and it really trained artists in the ins and outs of starting a startup and acquiring customers and keeping them engaged and all of these very entrepreneurial things.
But what was wonderful was that it was still grounded in art. And then when the competition came, it was a very nerve-wracking experience because, Dan Levine, my cofounder and I, we basically to backtrack what project Daredevil does is we’re a startup creating virtual reality experiences for blind people using a 3D sound radio drama, where the sound is all around your head behind you, above you, below you.
And we are building a motion simulating helmet, and this helmet uses gyroscopes to affect the vestibular system to make you feel different emotions like falling fly. And we initially started this project so that blind people could access mediums that were inaccessible to them, like video games or movies or comic books so that they could really feel like they were a part of this experience.
Nir Hindi: So, I mean, you started to speak and gave so much information and I think we are missing kind of two important parts. Why you started Daredevil? I think our listeners are not familiar with your background in that context.
Mattew Shifrin: I started the project out about it because I am blind myself. And I’ve been reading comic books since I was a child that my dad used to read comic books about Dare Devil, the blind superhero. And I was really fascinated by them because they were so visually rich, they had so many details in depth from a visual standpoint, to tell a story.
And as I grew older, I wondered how blind people could read comic books on their own. And I realized that they really couldn’t because the audiobook versions of comic books that exist are intended for sighted people and that they lack a lot of the details needed to keep blind people engaged.
Nir Hindi: Matthew I’m disturbing all the time. I’m sorry because you know, those conversations get me excited and you know, I have to ask a lot of questions. And I remember in our first conversation when you described how your father read to you these comics, I felt inspired is because, you know, you just spoke about how those comics books are rich with details and visuals, but you are blind and you, you needed someone to transmit this experience to you. That’s what motivated you. Correct?
Mattew Shifrin: These comic books are intended for sighted people. So the pictures there’s so much detail. A picture is the size of a matchbox, each panel where things happen and there’s so much detail and so much action.
So much story happening in each of these panels, but to a blind person, it’s just a book. You can’t read it. It’s in print, blind people can’t read print. And so my dad would sit next to me, and this would be kind of our bedtime story, instead of telling you a bedtime story, he would say, and he would read me this comic book about Daredevil and describe the different pictures.
And it was a really immersive experience because there was a lot of action happening and Daredevil was like climbing down buildings and getting thrown out of windows and all of this very Hollywood action movie stuff. And this was really the first moment when my dad was describing these images to me, that I was really able to engage with this medium, that previously I had never known existed. I knew comic books existed, but I never, before Dad read me that Daredevil comic, I never really thought that that would be a medium that can be accessible to blind people at all.
Nir Hindi: And that’s what you try to do with Daredevil, which by the way, why Daredevil? I don’t think anyone and not everyone probably familiar with Daredevil. I think I didn’t read the whole comics books, but the Netflix show is excellent. So why did you just, first of all, Daredevil?
Mattew Shifrin: I chose Daredevil because Daredevil was the only blind superhero. And I found it very, very ironic that all of the media about Daredevil, the comic books about Daredevil that have been running since the sixties are completely inaccessible to blind people, blind people cannot read them at all.
And I found it very ironic that this character. Who one of his defining traits is the fact that he’s blind and we see him navigating the world using a cane, and we see him using all of his senses to their utmost capacity that he has presented in a medium that is completely inaccessible to the blind people.
I found this kind of humorous and ironic. And so I started project Daredevil to really figure out how to make the comic book, immersive experience for the blind. That was my goal. And generally, when we talk about visual media, video games are inaccessible to blind people in the sense that a blind person can play a video game if they learn what buttons to press, but the cinematic nature of contemporary media, video games, movies, comic books, whatever is lost on blind people, because the access that they have to this media is very limited.
They don’t understand the full scope and cannot appreciate the full scope of the media that they’re presented. Even with, for example, there’s something called audio description, which is when a narrator will describe what is happening while you are watching a movie or a film, and this is a feature for blind people.
The audio description is wonderful. It allows blind people to engage somewhat in the mediums in film or in television, but it does not engage blind people enough. Because the describers do not have a chance to tell you about everything. They only have five seconds to tell you that the monkey hit the person.
It doesn’t matter that the person flew backward into the window and broken, the monkey hit the person is the only thing they have time to say. Because they only have a very short amount of time to tell.
Nir Hindi: Can you describe us? I mean, the helmet, I mean, obviously later on what we’ll do is that we put some of the pictures in, on our webpage of this show. So the audience can see the listeners can see as well, how it looks, but can you describe how this helmet maybe works or what it activates and how you create experiences?
Mattew Shifrin: So the vestibular system is, they’re too small kind of balls if you think of it in our inner ear, and these are they’re in liquid and they control our belts.
And if the vestibular system can be manipulated and effective, then our balance can be tricked. So our helmet tricks, the vestibular system using spinning gyroscopes, depending on how quickly these gyroscopes spin, that is able to send different signals to the vestibular system. And to trick it. So let’s say you’re sitting down and you put on this helmet and the wheels spin in a certain way.
Then you will feel like you are floating in the air. Like you are just suspended there. Or if the wheels spin in a different way, then you could feel like you’re flying. Like there’s very fast motion up and down, for example, or some more complex motions, like a flip, can also be demonstrated using these gyroscopes.
A certain way they spin and they stop spinning. Then you will feel like you have left the ground. Done a flip in the air, a very fast motion where the entire body has gone upside down and then right side up.
Nir Hindi: I think it’s incredible. I mean, thinking about experiences and taking it one step further than just, you know, if it’s for sighted people, just visual and then just adding out your, you actually activated the way we feel around flying and maybe seating and everything that come from your experience with comics book in your example is kind of, I think it’s a wakeup call to every business professional that normally stays away from creative and devils. You know, what’s funny is that businesses always think that unicorns can be found at the tech firms only, but there is so much innovation in artistic spaces from people like you or in the mix between the two.
Taken out there. And I’m wondering from your experiences being at the arts at MIT, the creative arts competition, getting to know other, other creative entrepreneurs, why you will recommend business professional to actually get exposed to those artists just like yourself doing, in my opinion amazing stuff?
Mattew Shifrin: Engage. The artists for business professionals is key because the artists have a very different perspective on life than the business professionals. The artists are trained from day one to think outside the box, to come up with solutions that people never thought of, because that is the job of the artist. The job of the artist is to engage their audience in a way that the audience does not expect to surprise the audience to wow the audience to really make whoever you’re engaging with think. Wow, I’d never thought of that before. That is the goal of the artists in no matter in which medium they are. They could be in ceramics. They could be in painting. They could be in video. It doesn’t matter. The job of the artist is always to make the audience, leave an experience with a new emotion to make, to provoke the audience, to think in a different way.
And to look at their experiences and their life in a different way. Once they’ve left the gallery of performance space or wherever it is that these artists have been exhibited.
Nir Hindi: I couldn’t agree more. I always say, you know, everyone talks about the experience economy and what people I think missing in the business, the world of businesses that artists are experience driven, not product driven, and that’s why they can take any product and make it a much better experience.
You know, one of the things I think you, we started with your intro, but you are a very humble person. From what I perceive now, and you are a creator, you didn’t stop with Daredevil. And one of your projects that at least inspire me and touch me in is actually Lego for the blind. And in a way, you set yourself emission to make Lego play accessible, to vision impaired children around the globe.
What is it? Lego for the blind?
Mattew Shifrin: Lego for the blind is the project that I started with a friend of mine many years ago. And my friend Nina Finkle started this project because she, it was my 13th birthday and she came over and she brought me this big cardboard box and this big fat binder. And this binder is thick, like full book thick.
And so I opened up this box and in this box is a middle Eastern Lego pals, 830 pieces. And in the binder were instructions that Nina had grab by hand on a braille typewriter. And these instructions let me know about the different pieces that I need and where to place them and how to orient them. And she gave me all these directions over and over until the set was finished.
And when I built that first set, it was really a pivotal moment for me, because I knew before this point, before my 13th birthday, I knew for a fact, that Lego was something that sighted children played with because they could see the instructions and they could build what was on the box. And as a blind child, I knew that I would never be able to build those on the box because I wouldn’t be able to see.
And my parents built with me and that was fine, but parents are busy. They didn’t have time to build everything. So a lot of the sets that they would purchase for us to build together ended up in shambles, just in a box somewhere. And when Nina brought me that first set, that really was an eye-opening moment for me, because I understood that the impossible was now possible.
Nir Hindi: How does it feel I have to take you to the sentence because I listen to you in few different podcasts, in a few different videos. How does it feel to understand that what you thought is impossible now is actually possible?
Mattew Shifrin: The whole world opens up and it’s just this, surge of energy and joy and power and you feel so, you feel so energized and you feel so inspired and engaged with the world around you in a way that you had not felt before.
And as soon as I felt this engagement, I knew that I had to give this experience to other blind children. Other blind children don’t have Nina thinkers in their life. To make these instructions for them. And so when we, after that first set, we started a website called Legofortheblinds.com
Nir Hindi: Is it still available? Legofortheblinds.com?
Mattew Shifrin: very much. Absolutely.
Nir Hindi: So I encourage our listeners, go check it Legofortheblind.com.
Mattew Shifrin: I’m hoping to update it same with more sets that we’ve made accessible.
Nir Hindi: So stay tuned.
Mattew Shifrin: Please do. And that website really was, a fascinating experience because we started it and we put instructions for every single Lego set that we could get our hands on.
We would buy a set, she would write out the instructions and sort the pieces into little bags so that I wouldn’t mix the pieces up. And then I would build the set and check her instructions for errors. And then we would post that to the website.
Nir Hindi: Day in day out experimenting.
Mattew Shifrin: Very much. And it was something we did in our free time.
She was working. I was in school, but we’d meet up in the evenings and on weekends. And whenever we had time, that would be our time to build and engage with Lego and make instructions. And when our website launched, we got hundreds of emails from parents of blind children and blind children themselves saying, Hey, this is great.
And I have this, that, can you make it accessible? And I have this train that I got. Can you make that accessible? And this airplane and this bus then, all these different things and the trouble was we have to turn these people away. We had to turn them down and say, we’re sorry, we can’t do this. Cause we were just two people in the living room doing this in our spare time.
And at that point when those parents and those children came calling, that was really a wonderful moment, a moment of joy, and a moment of understanding and engagement for me because I was, my theory was correct. These blind children had never had access to Lego, as I built it with these instructions.
Nir Hindi: Mathew, it’s not only for like, one of the things that you mentioned is that you cannot climb the Eiffel tower or the statue of Liberty, and you cannot understand how they feel, but the moment you built it with Lego, you already understood what does it mean? Can you elaborate from that? I mean, because
Mattew Shifrin: Very much. Very much. Lego’s incredibly valuable as a teaching tool for blind children. Because touch is sequential. You can’t touch it entire building. You are not able to really understand the world as it goes by. And these landmarks, you know, they exist, you know, the empire state building was in New York.
You know, it is big, you know, King Colin sat on it. But besides that, you don’t really know that much, you know, it’s a big, expensive skyscraper, that’s it? But. When you’re able to build that same building out of Lego, then you are able to become intimately familiar with how it feels. And then you are able to understand the parts of the world that are untouchable to you as a blind person, the same goes for movies.
For example, let’s say we’re watching Star Wars and there’s a, they’re trying to blow up the death star. For example, I know that the death star is a giant planet size, the ball thing, where the laser on. But that’s all I know because the describers in the movie only had time to tell me that, but if I build the death star out of Lego, then I’m able to really understand the points of the movie that took place.
Nir Hindi: in a different dimension.
Mattew Shifrin: and very much, Oh, this is the monster that tried to eat Luke and laya.
Oh, this is, this is the laser that destroyed a planet. Oh, this is the, the trench that they flew through to try and blow it up. For example, and that different dimensions really helps blind people and blind children engage with the world in a way that otherwise would be impossible for them because these things don’t exist in real life.
You can’t drive the Batmobile. It does not exist, but. Being able to build these things out of Lego really helps blind children engage with it in a way that is new and energizing to them.
Nir Hindi: So there is an element of joy of happiness. There is an element of a teaching element of open possibilities for the blind people.
So you decide, I cannot leave it for myself. I opened this website, but you didn’t stop on in this website. You took it one step further.
Mattew Shifrin: I knew that the website, the website was good, but the website was not enough. And I thought to myself, you know, I have to take it to the big guys. I have to take it to Lego and I have to convince them to make this a part of their process.
I need to convince them to make this a part of the way they create toys and incorporate these instructions into their building sense so that a blind child could go to a store, buy a set, download the instructions and be able to build it on their own. Just like sighted kids.
Nir Hindi: So, wait, now that you decide to go to the big guys, how old were you?
Mattew Shifrin: I tried to go to the big guys multiple times when our project started, I was 13 or 14 and the trouble was when you try to go to big guys in general, you need to know someone with clouds in the big guys. Otherwise you’re not going to go anywhere. So I sent them emails and customer service said, Oh, you know, that’s great.
Can’t really help you. We’re just customer service.
Nir Hindi: So that’s what, at the age of 13, 14.
Mattew Shifrin: Yeah, 13, 14. But then I, when Lego for the blind launched, I was at MIT and in the media lab, in the lifelong kindergarten group, there was an acquaintance of mine who I told him, you know, I, I’m doing this project Lego for the blind.
Do you know anyone who works for Lego? Because people in the lifelong kindergarten group have a very strong connection to the Lego. And he said, oh yeah, I have a friend who moved to Denmark two weeks ago. I’ll put you in touch. And I said, this is the way to do it. This is my golden ticket.
And so this guy from Denmark emails me and he says, yeah, I can put you in touch with the head of the creative play lab in Lego.
And to create a play lab was a group which was working on very experimental new projects where
Nir Hindi: and you were how old? 16 and you know, I’m wondering how we get at the age of 16. Find the courage to go to the big guys, because not only that you went there, it actually became a reality. Tell us?
Mattew Shifrin: I think the courage came from, from the fact that Nina, my friend with whom I was working on this project, who was very sick and she was dying.
And then in 2017, she died and I knew. That this project had to continue. I knew that I had to keep going and I had to get this project to Lego because we had dreamed both of us. We had hoped that one day we could get it there, but in our lifetime it didn’t happen. And then she died and I thought, okay, now is your shot.
Now you have the experience. You have the website. You have the memory of the person who made this happen for you now go to Lego and now convinced them go, go, go.
Nir Hindi: and you went? and you convinced them?
Mattew Shifrin: And it worked. That was the miraculous thing. Keep in mind, these big guys Lego owe me nothing. I am a blind kid with instructions and an idea. But the energy and with which Lego took up this project is incredible. Mind you, these are total strangers, these are not my friends, these are not my relatives, these people do not know me, but they took this project up with such Gusto and zeal and commitment.
And they loved it because in a sense, this project connected them back with their childhood and with why they were working with Lego in the first place. [NAME] the guy who got this whole project started at Lego, he told me, you know, I’ve been working at Lego for 40 years, He said, and I had never thought about how blind people build with Lego and whether they can actually build our sets.
And you, he said, you made me think about this. You made me engage with this idea. And really expand upon it in a way that I had never thought about
Nir Hindi: So at the age of 20 you started to work with Lego, helping them making Lego for the blind on a global scale.
Mattew Shifrin: And that’s really been such a thrilling experience because Lego have been writing their own text base instructions for their sets.
And I basically provide feedback quality assurance, if you will. And I build their sets and I give them feedback. And the wonderful thing is to see this feedback incorporate, this is not feedback that they said, Oh, yeah, this is good that they put it away. Never to be heard of. Again, these instructions that they make are edited and revised and improved, according to my feedback.
And what’s wonderful is the level of detail that the instructional writers use. So when Nina and I made our own instructions, we wanted blind children to have the complete play experience. So we described the pictures on the box, we described the advertisements in the back of the manuals, what each little Lego person looked like.
We described all of that because we wanted blind children to be able to have a full experience. And what’s wonderful is that Lego has taken on that same, like new level of detail. They have descriptions for everything. The box, the instructions, the little people, this stickers and mind you, a sighted person may say, Oh, stickers that doesn’t really matter.
But the goal is to give a full and engaging play experience to blind children and adults and Lego are doing that and it is so, it is such an honor to work with them because they are approaching it with the same energy that Nina and I used, I didn’t think that strangers people who, I don’t know, people could approach it with the same level of energy, but it is so energizing and rejuvenating and thrilling to see that
Nir Hindi: Matthew I’ll tell you something. I know, I know how they continue listening to you. I’m positive that all the listeners will get your enthusiasm and your passion and your inspiration and take part in something like that.
So I think. It’s you over here that, push us all to think different on the world, around us. And for that out of the context, I just want to say thank you for giving us a different perspective. And those sets will be available starting from April, 2020, the spring story of 2020 instores.
Mattew Shifrin: Instructions for four of these sets are available on Lego audio instructions.com and the sets themselves are already available.
So you can, for the sets you can buy and you can build using the instructions on their website. We’re going to add about 25 to 30 new instructions, maybe more, maybe 50. I don’t know, whatever Lego says, in the spring.
Nir Hindi: Amazing. So, based on your story, like at the age of 16, 17, you going to the big guys, you convince them to fulfill a dream of you as a kid, and actually take your idea to the global arena.
And based on this experience, what are the, your tips and recommendations for entrepreneurs that listening to us who are listening to us now and struggling to pursue their own dreams? What are the trips that you will give them two or three trips?
Mattew Shifrin: It’s always important to think about where your motivation comes from.
And whenever you are trying to achieve your entrepreneurial goals, just write out an outline for yourself. I am doing this because of X, Y, and Z. Then use that to craft a story that will engage whoever you’re trying to connect. So once you make an outline and craft your story, make sure that that story is as human as possible.
I don’t care if it’s, if it’s a hat for a dog or whatever, whatever product it is, whatever venture, whatever endeavor. I think a key thing to any entrepreneurial experience is story. Because without a story, it’s just a thing. People will have no idea why they should care about the thing, that you’re trying to market or engage them.
And so when it comes to pursuing your dreams, first of all, think about story. Second of all, think about specific impact. In my case, it was fairly easy because I knew blind children. One of the wonderful things about Lego for the blind was being able to go and build these sets with blind children and a thrill was seeing the joy on their faces.
And they were telling me, you know, I, now I can build with Lego. They said, I never thought I could do this before. And now I can. And I thought to myself, yes, blind children’s care about this. I’m black, but no matter what your venture is, think about specific customers, think about specific people and how they’d benefit.
And then thirdly always, always engage with as many different people in as many different disciplines and arenas as possible because this guy at MIT. I met him because, he had built a musical instrument called the naked naked. And it’s this device that you clip to a computer and it allows you to control your computer in different ways using household objects.
And I’ve just worked this guy in email and I said, Hey, do you know, I could we meet and talk? And I love your device. And I have an idea about how to make it accessible for blind people. And then the Lego thing kind of came out of my interest in this person and their technology. So never, always engaged with every single random person you meet, because you never know how you can help them or how they can help you.
Nir Hindi: So if I summarize it cut the story, make it impactful, engage with different people, which I always say it’s the intersection between disciplines that will drive innovation forward. Matthew, what they like about you is your background, because you are an artist. You sing, you compose the right musicals and play the Codion you are successful in what you are doing and you, in what you’re doing as an artist, and as a young student, you already won the Boston and new England competition of the national association of teacher singing.
And you will be a national semifinalist competing at the national level in the US. I probably missed a few more titles that you got. And in all of this, and you are still in junior years, and you’re still student and you are studying actually a day neck and new England conservatory of music. And what’s beautiful is that one of the questions that I’m interested in, what brings an artist into an entrepreneurial venture till now we only discussed the entrepreneurial ventures and creations, and I’m interested what brings you into this world of entrepreneurship?
Mattew Shifrin: Entrepreneurship is an extension of artistry. Artists have to be entrepreneurs, whether they like it or not. Let’s say I’m planning a concert, my goal, and I need someone to play with me on this concert. My entrepreneurial goal will be to engage my friends and make sure that some of them come to the concert and that some of them play in the concert.
And so from an artistic standpoint, I think that as a singer, you always craft stories when you sing songs, each song is a story about something. And I went into entrepreneurship as an artist because a large portion of entrepreneurship is crafting stories and telling stories in such a way that they engage people.
And I thought it would be a very interesting, intersection of disciplines to go from singing to kind of from the arts to entrepreneurship. A really pivotal moment was when, when we won the 15 K creative arts competition at MIT, because Dan and I, we were pitching and we were pitching against very serious people.
These people were, people with MBAs at the Sloan school of management. They were very intense. They were very well trained. They were, they knew all the stuff that we did it. And the thrill of winning that competition. I think the reason that we won was because of the story that we were able to tell and the impact that we were able to, to, for, to foretell and as an artist, story happens to you no matter what.
And I thought that entrepreneurship would be a way, not only to create different stories, but create different reasons for being artistic.
Nir Hindi: It’s kind of, you know, you’re touching things that for me, and I’d be happy to get your input here. It relates to the way artists are being trained and you started to speak about it in the beginning and often, they are kind of prepared to challenge the status quo and go beyond the familiar boundaries.
And as a preparation for our podcast, I went to new England conservatory of music website to read what is their mission. And I quote net contemporary improvisations program addresses the needs of musician six to move beyond traditional boundaries. NEC brings together a diverse group of worlds of finest young artists in a setting where they can grow as a community with an emphasis on ear training technique, conceptual ideas, interdisciplinary collaboration, and a whole wide range of improvisional traditions.
The CEI program is uniquely positioned to produce the complete 21st century music. And so many things that they wrote in their mission, you already talked and you prove through your experiences. And this is one of the things I want to hear from you. How this artistic training prepares you for entrepreneurial ventures?
Mattew Shifrin: As an improviser, this contemporary improvisation program.
Basically what it does is we studied music from all over the world. We studied class, we studied Persian music. We study Armenian music, we study any and every kind of music that you can think of, we study, it is a class that we take. And as an improviser, you need to think of things very quickly. And so when I sit down to write a song, first I write out texts, but sometimes I will just sit at the piano and just kind of say what comes into my head and the song will be crafted from that improvisation as an entrepreneur improvisation and the ability to quickly change what you’re thinking about is key.
And by quicker change. I mean, let’s say something, something doesn’t work out, you lose a team member, for example, your goal is not to go, oh no, I lost the team member. What do I do? You need to make a 180 degree turn and think about, okay, I lost the team member. They can’t work on this project now, how am I going to fix this?
You need to improvise as an entrepreneur and as a musician equal. The only difference is that one is musical and the other one, the entrepreneurial one is life base and social and human base.
Nir Hindi: In art in that context, I would say that music and art is also a social based. It’s also human based. Maybe the value proposition or the benefits are different.
Mattew Shifrin: Yes. The benefits are different. And the humans, I think, who are impacted by the art are impacted in a different way, because in entrepreneurship, your relationship with humans is very personal. As supposed to an artist, let’s say you’re performing a piece in a recital, you’re on stage, you’re singing and then you leave, the audience claps.
That is the only interaction you’re going to have with those people. But as an entrepreneur, when you’re pitching something or talking to team members, your goal is to make sure that all of these people who you’re talking to are engaged and energized and want to collaborate on this with you. It’s like when you’re an artist performing in a recital, then it’s a very static way of interacting with humans.
But if you’re an artist who’s in a band with other members that is like being an entrepreneur, because when you’re in a band, you need to make sure that everyone is on board, everyone is happy, everyone is engaged, everyone is interested. Same thing with the team for a startup as
Nir Hindi: well, team building, team, spirit, team engagement, team alignment.
Yeah. So many things to learn from just playing music with other people. Another thing that you’re working on is a musical, not only that you have your entrepreneurial technology-oriented tech startups, and not only that you’re working with the Lego, you’re also working on musical.
Mattew Shifrin: I’m a big fan of musical theater.
And I, I wrote a short musical at 16 or 17. And I thought, you know, now is the time I’m a junior and it’s time to write something more substantial.
Nir Hindi: What is the topic of it? I think it’s crucial to our of the conversation.
Mattew Shifrin: I think the topic is how people change when dealing with grief and how they energize themselves to move forward as people after traumatic situation.
And how their outlook and their perspective changes and how they’re able to energize themselves after, after traumatic events.
Nir Hindi: And now that you’re working on that, I mean, when are you planning? When are you planning to launch it or to produce it or
Mattew Shifrin: Hopefully in the fall would be when it would be produced.
I’m still writing it now. And, in the fall or next spring at the Lakes,
Nir Hindi: And one of the things that you mentioned, I cannot recall if it was in the context of that musical over another musical, you’re working on was the story. I think of a student that actually in school kind of bringing back or after school, bringing back the hair or his creativity and kind of tapping back into this creative spirit that they had as a kid.
Mattew Shifrin: And that is essential for this student, because in this musical, the student realizes that their creativity is not where it was as a kid. And they’ve lost it because they’ve been bombarded with assignments in school. School’s goal, even at conservatory. Sometimes the goal is not necessarily creativity.
And so the student goes on this quest to understand themselves and to engage with their creativity and really get it back from where it was, to where it was, when they work here.
Nir Hindi: Why do you find it essential to remind people how important creativity is for us?
Mattew Shifrin: Creativity has helped me so much throughout my life.
And without creativity, there would be no Lego for the blind. There would be no blind guy travels. None of these, there would be no motion simulating helmet and project Daredevil. And I just think creativity is so important because it is what drives fascinating ideas. And the more we are able to use it, and the more we are able to engage with it and not just say, Oh, I’m going to be creative.
The more we are able to flex those muscles and use it the better, and more interesting things we will produce as artists and as entrepreneurial.
Nir Hindi: So I have another request for you, please. Matthew, what is the one or two tips that you will give our listeners to maintain maybe, or nourish or kind of develop and not to lose their creative spirit?
What do you do? Or maybe what you can suggest them to do?
Mattew Shifrin: when you’re focusing on an entrepreneurial venture, it’s important to always take breaks and in those breaks, do something creative. Draw a picture, write a poem, write a song. It doesn’t matter what, but something to flex the other part of the brain, the part of the brain that is not thinking about slide decks and emails and team building, the part of the brain that is focused on funny rhyme and interesting melodies and interesting mixes of color and shape and texture.
And I think these creative breaks are really important. Because they can lead to ideas that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, because they’re entrepreneurial part of the brain is working too hard. When you take a creative break, then your creative part starts working and it has a better chance of connecting and linking with the entrepreneurial part to produce more intriguing and interesting results.
Nir Hindi: And you have other either thoughts, either things people can do. If they want to kind of maintain this creative beside taking a break and trying something creative, maybe that they normally don’t do.
Mattew Shifrin: I think it’s sometimes important to do. If you’re trying to think of something and be creative and it’s not working, a physical break is really valuable.
So I don’t know, do some pushups, run around your house, jump up and down something for a couple of minutes, and that really gets the creative juices flowing, and that really engages their creativity in a way it’s because the brain is getting energized through the physical activity. And when you have time as an entrepreneur to focus on not only things you wouldn’t normally do, but read some articles about music, you would normally listen to, listen to things that you usually don’t listen to or read some weird novels that you, usually wouldn’t read because the more, the more foreign disciplines you engage with the more ideas you will get from whatever discipline you’re taking a break with. Not only is it important
Nir Hindi: Intersections of disciplines,
Mattew Shifrin: not only is it important to be creative and write and create that content, but it’s also important to engage with other disciplines as an entrepreneur.
Nir Hindi: Matthew, I’m impressed by all the things that you are doing and you are how old?
Mattew Shifrin: 22
Nir Hindi: At 22 and 22, you already started few projects. You run a podcast, you have worked with Lego. You spoke at TEDx conferences. You’ve been interviewed by major media, such as for boy there’s, NBC Washington, post CBC NPR. And this is just to name a few.
As you know, at The Artian we advocate for the role of art and artists in innovation and entrepreneurship, you are an excellent example of that. And I’m interested to hear from you, what music taught you that you find relevant to your different ventures, beside the creativity that we mentioned beside the fact that you already know how to tell a story? Are there angles that you think of?
Mattew Shifrin: Music taught me to always think about things from a different perspective? I always, when I write this musical, my goal is always to write funny things. And rhyme, rhyme things in a way that people wouldn’t expect. One of my favorite composers is Stephen Sankey and his musicals are famous for the way that they use texts in creative ways, the way they run things that you wouldn’t expect, the way that they use words in a way that makes you go, huh?
I never thought of that. And I think as a musician, always trying to be humorous, always trying to be energetic and the pieces that I write. And always trying to make things, some pieces are fun, some pieces are sad, whatever that might be, but always trying to make sure that the audience is with the audience is engaged, but the audience is feeling what I want them to feel, is valuable in any field, always remembering and considering your audience.
No matter what presentation you’re doing is really valuable because the more you consider your audience, the more, whatever it be, music or entrepreneurship. The more, your entrepreneurship will grow and blend with what the audience seeks and the easier it will be for you to market whatever product or service, because you know, your audience, you have engaged with them.
That’s one of the most valuable things you can do. Doesn’t matter if you’re a musician and have fun with. That’s also very important as entrepreneurs we get so caught up in the daily stuff and you forget the joy of it.
Nir Hindi: And if I go back to your first part of the answer, I mean, I would summarize it into words, customer centric. You always think about your audience. And most of the time entrepreneurs are required to be customer centric, for you it’s come natural because what you do in your world of art, which led me to a question that, you know, kind of make me all the time, wonder when I’m interviewing artists. Do you think that art and specifically in your case music make you a better entrepreneurial?
Mattew Shifrin: I think that music has taught me to craft my work in a way that has made me a better entrepreneur, because music requires you to be a craftsman and requires you to be a storyteller. And the way that I’ve engaged with music has really helped me understand my audience, as an entrepreneur, but also really engage with them from a storytelling standpoint, from a creativity standpoint, from an artist you step, to treat them not just as people who will be buying a thing that I will be trying to sell them.
But as people to whom I can tell a story and who I can engage in my story and my experience and thus get them interested in what I created.
Nir Hindi: So I’m wondering as well, you know, we kind of, obviously we get each other, how art is embodied in entrepreneurship, but you know voting in society, not everyone understands.
What are the misconceptions that society has around artists or creatives and creative entrepreneurs in your opinion or things that you probably encountered in your different ventures?
Mattew Shifrin: I think it’s sometimes really important. I find this with some musicians that musicians who are trying to go into entrepreneurship, they think only about musicians.
So they try to make products for musicians and services for music, everything for musicians. And they’re not thinking about the wider audience, and they’re not thinking about their talents and skills as a musician that could be applied to other fields. And I think it’s really important for, creatives, when going into entrepreneurship to cast their net as wide as possible to write out a list of all their skills and all their abilities.
And think and make a list of all the different fields that these abilities can be applied to.
Nir Hindi: Are you kind of encountering? Like I would say, yeah. Misconceptions or pre, maybe pre-justice around art. Why artists are irrelevant for business? People say that, Oh, those artists, they don’t understand business.
How can they help me?
Mattew Shifrin: People think that because they haven’t seen artists doing business because artists are busy doing art. So people assume that artists can’t do business, which is unfortunate because when artists make art, they do it for a business, they do it to survive. It’s kind of funny, but if, if people were to give artists a chance, they would see that when artists approach things from an entrepreneurial standpoint, they approach it from a much more creative and a brainstorming standpoint.
What I mean by that is when an artist tries to solve a problem. They think about the most outlandish and wildest ways to solve it. And most of the time, those wildest waves are the most effective. Entrepreneurs don’t think about that because entrepreneurs are focused on the most effective way, the most cost-effective way, the most kind of customer satisfactory way while the artist wants to get it done as quickly and energetically as possible.
Nir Hindi: You know, you mentioned these wild ideas and, you know, I saw, Kanye West in the David Letterman show, then, you know, he said, yeah, he openly spoke about them his disease and he says, you know, society wants crazy ideas. And if society wants crazy ideas, most likely they will come from crazy people. Even though I don’t, I don’t want to kind of put a stereotype on artists as a crazy people, I just think that what art is bringing us is many, many things, but one of the things is actually to think about those wild ideas. Matthew, I think it was wonderful conversation and I know we need to finish as soon and before we finish, I want to give you the opportunity to share with us your last thoughts.
Give one tip. Or say one comment to our listeners around art and artists, entrepreneurship or your different ventures.
Mattew Shifrin: Just one thing. I have a podcast called blind guy travels and that podcast will be coming out in the next couple of weeks. And it’s an interesting endeavor just because it takes experiences that sighted people are used to, and it turns them upside down.
For example, our first episode is about what blind people can learn from movies. And so our first episode is about going to the movie theater as a blind person and what that experience is like. And the reason that I started that podcast was to make people really think about the world from a different perspective and say, I’d never thought of that.
And that is the goal of the artists. The artists must always think about the world from a different perspective. So does the entrepreneur, but when the artist meets with the entrepreneur, just solve a problem, that is when things work best because we have the very product project centered mind of the entrepreneur.
And then we have the very outlandish, energized mind of the artist. And when those minds connect, that is when , amazing things happened,
Nir Hindi: Matthew, it was such an inspiring conversation. Really? You are musician technology, innovator. You have a blind singer. You have accordion is your composer. Y’all an entrepreneurial young, a Lego, enthusiastic.
You are such an inspiration and I wish you all the best in your adventures. And I’m positive. We end the listeners of the, and we’ll hear about you more. Much more in the future. Thank you very, very, very much. Have a great day in Boston.
Mattew Shifrin: Oh, It’s such a pleasure, thank you, thank you so much.
Nir Hindi: We are producing a whole podcast without any ads, and we are relaying on our communities, direct support people like you, our listeners. So if you find it valuable, I will be super grateful. If you could spread the word by leaving a rating and maybe a review, it will take you just 30 seconds to do so.
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This episode was recorded from Google for startups, create studio in Madrid, check out Google for startups website to learn more about their support for entrepreneurs. The episode was mixed and mastered by Danielle Dwan. You can subscribe to Artian podcast on Spotify, Apple podcast, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Our previous shows are available on our website, www.theartian.com/podcast. Each episode includes show notes, guest recommendations, videos, and other materials. We can also be found on our LinkedIn page, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and you can reach us directly via email at [email protected]. So I’ll be waiting here for you in the next episode with me Nir Hindi.
Once again. Thanks for listening.