Rap has grown in popularity over the years to become the most popular genre of music in the U.S. It’s a form of artistic expression that relies on quick wit and creativity more than complex instrumentation, making it accessible to the general public. Younger generations are increasingly listening to, and participating in rap in larger numbers than any generation before, while adopting social media as part of their daily lives. Two students from Columbus, Ohio, recognized these trends and built Rapchat, a platform for their peers to easily record and share freestyle raps online.
“I got into rapping in high school and taught myself how to make beats. My friends and I took it pretty seriously, but we also knew a lot of other people who liked to rap casually at parties or wherever,” said Pat Gibson, co-founder and CMO of Rapchat. “Studio time, recording equipment and beats are all huge hurdles to recording music. We eliminated all those costs with Rapchat to make recording freestyles possible for everyone.”
Rapchat is free for users with the beats available on the platform all uploaded by other users, avoiding any copyright issues. You record and make minor edits right inside the app, eliminating the need to buy complex, expensive software or know how to work it. Marketing your work is easy and free, too, as there are trending charts within the app that are populated by songs with the most plays and likes from the community.
Most of Rapchat’s 160,000-plus active monthly users are not aspiring rap artists, but instead like to freestyle with friends for fun as a creative outlet, like co-founder and CEO Seth Miller.
“I don’t rap seriously, and I don’t have the skills Pat and his friends had, but I was in business school at Ohio University and I did notice I was one of many kids who liked doing it for fun. I started to look at my hobby as an opportunity, and started to form a business concept around it,” said Miller. “Pat told me he’d supply the beats to prevent any copyright issues and we jumped right into building the software. As we added features to promote shareability, the app really took off.”
Miller and Gibson focus on the community aspect of the platform to grow their user base with features enabling rappers to share their short freestyles easily via text, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and SoundCloud. They also entice users with contests and prizes including concert tickets, beats from well-known DJs and studio time. They get about 150,000 plays on their beat library every day.
Rapchat receives support from Rev1 Ventures, a central Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier. They have access to mentorship from successful entrepreneurs, technical coaching and connections with investors. They’re excited to be part of the thriving startup community in Columbus, and hope to keep the momentum growing.
“We’ve traveled a bunch promoting the app, participating in conferences and whatnot. But we see Ohio as huge for us. We have access to young talent here, especially with Ohio State graduating 10,000 or so students a year into the workforce,” said Gibson. “We have resources helping us at every step, and a community of people who want to help each other win. We’re committed to being part of the growth of the startup community and to helping put Columbus on the map.”