New York to Austin: The Risky Move that Saved GigFinesse During the Pandemic

GigFinesse logo.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, live entertainment took a major hit, with venues shut down across the globe as the population sheltered in place. Unfortunately for Mir Hwang, this spelled trouble for GigFinesse, his music tech startup founded in 2019 that facilitates the booking of live entertainment between performers and venues. 

This is the origin story of GigFinesse.

Connecting Performers With Venues that Pay

GigFinesse is a music tech startup founded by Mir Hwang and Ryan Kim. A former session drummer, Hwang is no stranger to the plights of performers, especially when it comes to booking venues. “Believe it or not, to this day, artists are still cold calling, cold emailing, dropping off demos.” Hwang says, “These venues are processing 1099s by hand.”

With this information in hand, Hwang and his co-founder began to develop a better solution for all parties, “we’ve been transforming the booking process for artists and venues by leveraging live show data.” Hwang says, “It’s an easy-to-use platform that connects music venues of all sizes, tastes with thousands of artists from all across the country, and it allows them to curate shows that are perfectly suited to their music preference.” 

From this platform, artists and venues are also able to leverage the data from event goers, giving them valuable information about the success of each performance. 

“I was telling myself if I commit to medical school now, realistically by the time I’m out of my residency program and I’m, you know, in a position where I’m happy, realistically I’m going to be in my mid to late thirties at the earliest, and it’s only going to get harder and harder for either of us to take the leap of faith. And you know, I think working on your own Idea, we’re starting a company, is very risky. So we wanted to do it when we were both young. You know when we could afford to make mistakes.”

The Big Move

When the pandemic struck the US in early 2020, GigFinesse’s business model posed important questions for the founders and potential investors as well, “During the pandemic questioning, Are people really going to come back to live events? Is that even a reality? Is this something where you guys want to pivot into live streaming?” However, this type of pivot wasn’t an option in the minds of the founders, who were determined to follow through with the original concept. 

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic and with no end in sight for the shutdowns of venues, acquiring funding became nearly impossible for the startup, a change had to be made. “That’s when we decided to deploy the little kind of capital we had left in a last-ditch effort,” Hwang says. “We wanted to see it through, even if it meant just for a few more months, so just the suitcase and a backpack, drove down to Austin, Texas.” 

The founder sublet a dorm room in the area and went, on foot, door-to-door to attempt to secure more clients. “This was really almost a do-or-die moment for our team, and the question we had was, ‘Can we grow in a completely new market with no connections? No understanding and no proof of concept?’” Hwang recalls, “And I think, luckily for us, you know, our product resonated with several key partners in Austin, and many of those who took a chance on us then.”

The Future of GigFinesse Post-Pandemic

With venues open and the live entertainment industry back in full force, GigFinesse has plans for expansion in the US. “This year, we have a lot of exciting things in the pipeline. We’re really excited to scale nationwide.” Hwang shared, “I think up until last year, we were very focused in our key markets where we had a bigger presence. Now we’re slowly finally being able to go out and expand and meet the demand.” 

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