Pulse Co-Founder And CEO Mehdi Cherif On How Blockchain Changes Brand Engagement In The Music Industry
Mehdi Cherif, co-founder and CEO of Pulse, on using the power of blockchain to disrupt how brands use music to engage with their followers.
From starting his career at a Virgin Megastore to founding a B2B music streaming technology that services big brands, to spending a decade consulting for the likes of BeIn Media Group, Samsung, and GT Bank, Mehdi Cherif, co-founder and CEO of social music platform Pulse, has brought a wealth of experience into his new venture.
Although Pulse -as a social music platform that facilitates meaningful brand engagement by integrating brands into listeners' music discovery experience- seems as a natural consequence of Cherif's knowledge and experience in the industry, he nevertheless invested three long years in researching and fine-tuning the concept before eventually launching it. "We teamed up with a couple of top tier universities and a team of high-level computer scientists, scholars and researchers from different parts of the world and covering different expertise to make sure we tackle all the challenges that Pulse needed to address," Cherif explains. After the research phase, Cherif conducted a peer-to-peer review in order to validate the idea and develop a business plan. "The biggest lessons we learned in the process is that you need to be patient, extremely focused, and to take it one day at a time," he says. "For me personally, the process of getting the team in place and working alongside them was the most fun part."
Today, Pulse offers a platform for brands to interact, engage, and advertise to their target audiences on a subscription model. It capitalizes on a shift in the structure of the recorded music industry from personal consumption revenue to commercial revenue which has risen from 2.5% in 2001 to 29% in 2021, as well as from a change in social media users' journey from a search-based experience to a discovery experience. The Pulse team backs this explanation with some recent survey results- 62% of people on Tik-Tok find music central to what they enjoy in terms of content, while 45% of people aged 16 to 24 years in the UK consumed music on Facebook or Instagram.
Pulse combines this demand with a backend management system leveraging digital identities and smart contracts to solve a set of issues the music industry has faced for decades, such as transparency over intellectual property rights and the division of value amongst intermediaries.
In a nutshell, Pulse utilizes the power of blockchain to provide a suite of benefits to all stakeholders. For brands, it provides a transparent system for rights management, allowing them to invest in music as part of their branding and marketing strategies; for content creators, it enables a better, faster, and more transparent payment structure; and for consumers, it allows for automatic payments for the creation and curation of popular playlists, as well as payments for engagement with sponsored brand actions. Among all of these improvements, Cherif points out implementing decentralized identity as his favorite feature of Pulse. "I am excited about it the most as I believe that allowing everyone on the platform to be in full control of their data is really empowering, and it will eventually be a game changer and lead to setting up a new shared economy model," he explains. "Micro-payment and the high-level of transparency are also an integral part of Pulse, and of course, not to forget that the user journey, discovery experience, and the engagement and validation mechanism on the platform are also fundamental to user retention, growth, and the success of Pulse."
To learn more about Cherif's thoughts on entrepreneurial opportunities available at the intersection of the blockchain and music industries in MENA, check out the video.
Building the Pulse solution from scratch was difficult as it is based on the blockchain technology that was an uncharted territory for Cherif. "It was new and immature with a lot of limitation when it comes to scalability, and on top of that, it was hard to find or evaluate qualified people as everyone was still learning about this space," he explains. Nevertheless, he persevered, one step at a time, which is also his advice for other entrepreneurs. "Don't wait for the perfect opportunity, but start taking action based on what you have readily available," Cherif says. "Also, evaluate opportunities based on whether the downside is acceptable, rather than on the attractiveness of the predicted upside. And lastly, embrace surprises that arise from uncertain situations, remaining flexible rather than tethered to existing goals."
While Pulse is aiming to be a global brand, Cherif's future plans are predominantly focused on connecting to users on a local level. "We are focused on emerging markets where penetration rate for digital service providers is low due to the limitations in accessing payments and connectivity, and where communities cannot afford subscriptions," he says. "We are seeing a major global shift in young people's behavior towards interacting with all the different services and we aim to capitalize on that."
One more thing that Cherif and the Pulse team are also capitalizing on is the UAE's position as a new major hub for decentralized technologies and blockchain. "There must be a reason why we are seeing so many of the big players and startups looking at establishing or operating their companies from here in the UAE," Cherif concludes. "From what I can see, the UAE is one of the best jurisdictions for all Web3 businesses- from established platforms to startups."