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Zane Barbao, Founder & CEO, Feature Finder
Zane Barbao, a senior Management and Entrepreneurship student at the Harbert College of Business, spent his high school years feeling as though school and the work he was doing was meaningless. Zane felt he had no outlet to apply himself.
One place that he did find solace, however, was in music. Much of his childhood was spent singing with his parents in the car and teaching himself how to play guitar. As his love for music continued to grow, he says he developed a special appreciation for songs with multiple artists on one track.
With note that Zane made the decision to attend college only in the summer after graduating high school, he began to find meaning in his classwork, and realized that starting a business was his calling. That revelation came during an entrepreneurship class his junior year, where he was challenged to ideate and generate the concept of a new business in a class project. An idea, which in Zane’s case, has since evolved into a company for which he is the founder and CEO.
Zane took this as the perfect opportunity to bring his love for music into his newfound passion for business. The assignment had been to come up with a new business idea, formulate a business plan, and get feedback from the class. As he began brainstorming, he made note of the fact that the most successful songs in the R&B and HipHop genre are when two or more artists collaborate and feature each other on their songs. But he also identified an unmet need, “Featuring is so desired, but the process of collaboration is expensive, difficult, and risky - especially for amateur artists.” From this, came the idea of Feature Finder, a social music platform that makes the featuring process more accessible, entertaining, and competitive. With the creation of an app, artists would be able to upload their completed tracks with a 30-60 second gap in the vocals for other members of the app to record a verse and submit their vocals as an “Attempt.” All other users on the platform, both artists and non-artists, could then vote on their favorite attempts with the original artist then being allowed to select 1 out of the top 3 to use as the featured verse on their song.
Once the assignment was complete, Zane continued to formulate his idea as he realized that the concept of an app that could potentially revolutionize the featuring process was not something that should just remain an idea for a class assignment. This was an idea that could develop into something incredible. “I became so obsessed with what Feature Finder could become that I sent emails to everybody I could think of and texted all of my friends asking for somebody with a background in software. On top of that, I literally went door to door asking people in the Computer Science building on campus if they could build me a prototype,” says Barbao.
After his initial search, however, he was still unable to find someone with the technical skills needed to bring his idea to life.
When asked about his fears following his initial lack of success in finding software development support and his understanding of the statistical odds that most business startups face, Zane said,
“The thought of not taking the risk sounded much scarier!”
This drive and passion that Zane carries for his business led him to find the New Venture Accelerator, a space for students, faculty, and recent graduates to cultivate and develop their entrepreneurial research, skills, and techniques. A place where new ideas can be tested, evaluated, and potentially turned into successful businesses. Within days, Zane was connected to a software developer who was able to create a prototype for his app and within weeks, he had his own office in the New Venture Accelerator as well.
To download the Feature Finder app, click HERE.
From there, Feature Finder has grown from a concept to reality. Today, Zane is running his business out of the offices provided for student entrepreneurs and is surrounded by like-minded individuals who share the same passion for their businesses as he does for his. He also has daily access to entrepreneurs-in-residence who have ample experience in building businesses that he can go to for advice and support. Zane has built a team of software developers, industry specialists, and data and financial analysts who have been able to make his idea come to life, and as of April 14, 2022, Feature Finder is now available to download on the Apple App Store.
He has also pitched his business ideas to industry professional judges and so far, has competed and placed in the Top 5 for the Harbert College of Business’ Halloween Pitch competition and tied for 3rd place in the 2022 Tiger Cage Pitch Competition. He came home with $7,500 to fund and further develop his business.
Zane’s journey started with his contemplation of not going to college at all, to taking part in a class project that led him to the thrilling concept of creating something that was entirely his own. In a matter of two college semesters, Zane has managed to take an idea that started as a class project to a fully functioning technology company. His ambition and passion for business is truly inspiring and his story is just one of many in the New Venture Accelerator.
If you have a business idea but do not know where to begin cultivating it or are looking for advice on growing your existing business, contact Lou Bifano at the New Venture Accelerator.