from-bandmates-to-cofounders

From Band Mates To Co-Founders – Stackerdecks’ Journey to #StartupCincy

Born out of the idea that the slideshow is a fantastic way to more deeply engage audiences, Stackerdecks is a format to easily create those slideshows from not only images, but content found on social media and the web. But Stackerdecks doesn’t just make slideshows, they also make them distributable and embeddable – much like a web-based media player. In fact, you may notice the format powering our This Week in #StartupCincy series.

Jon Weiner and Billy Bowin, co-founders of Stackerdecks, had a long, winding and, in Billy’s case, international route to Cincinnati’s startup ecosystem. The pair first met in Hollywood, Florida where Billy was a member of the band Brendan O’Hara and The Humble Ones and Jon owned a recording studio. During a recording session, when their drummer didn’t show up, Jon stepped in, both engineering the session and playing on the track. Soon after, he joined as the official drummer with the band touring up and down the east coast and making records over the next 5 years.

“To say that we were professional musicians is a bit of a stretch,” Jon explained. “We never got to a place where we could make music independent of everything else. But during that time Billy and I shared interest in things like connectivity, the web and music and that’s really where our really friendship began.”

In Turkey you don’t get YouTube and Netflix. So I had to figure out how to get those and that’s really how I started learning to program.
Billy Bowin, Stackerdecks’ CTO

After a five year stretch Billy and Jon went their separate ways. The band had broken up right around the same time the recession hit and Billy’s wife had been offered a job teaching at Tarsus American College in Turkey. So, Billy, his wife and kids packed up and moved to Turkey. While they were there, Billy took it upon himself to learn how to code.

“I was used to doing graphic design and I was familiar with that,” Billy said. “But in Turkey you don’t get YouTube and Netflix. So I had to figure out how to get those and that’s really how I started learning to program.”

Around that same time, back in the U.S., Jon had started working with 50 Cent and G-Unit. A couple of old friends he worked with in the 90’s building websites had built thisis50.com. As part of promoting the website 50 took a wrapped bus through the 5 boroughs of New York throwing BBQs. Before they knew it, thisis50.com had 3 million people a month visiting the website looking at nearly 10 million pages.

“They needed someone to monetize thisis50.com and thought I might be able to help,” Jon said. “When they called and asked if I could do it I said ‘Of course I can!’”

While working with 50 Cent, Jon noticed the conversations consistently revolved around two things –  the power of vertically orientated social networks and the slideshows 50 called “Flipbooks”.  So when Billy came back from Turkey he and Jon began working on the first iteration of Stackerdecks. And, what started out as a simple gallery plugin for WordPress has in less than three years grown into a format that helps publishers and brands build and publish slideshows made from any content on the web.

I feel comfortable raising my son here and if anyone asks why would you have a startup here I’d say it’s a warm and inviting and supportive place that has all the things you would want out of any major city.
Jon Weiner, Stackerdecks’ CEO

And, what began as band in Florida wound up in an office in Loveland. Today, the Stackerdecks platform is a growing community of contributors who share over 50,000 pieces of content each month to nearly 500,000 visitors who generate over 6 million views.

Both founders have their reasons for coming to and staying in Cincinnati but, in the end, it all comes back to one thing – community.

“I’ve never felt more welcome and I never felt safer than I do here,” Jon said. “I feel comfortable raising my son here and if anyone asks why would you have a startup here I’d say it’s a warm and inviting and supportive place that has all the things you would want out of any major city.”

 

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