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Northwestern Business Class Sparks the Next Big Sound

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April 7, 2009
EVANSTON, Ill. --- After taking an entrepreneurship class at Northwestern University last winter, four students developed The Next Big Sound, an online community that lets users play record mogul and sign unsigned bands onto a fantasy record label.

Current seniors David Hoffman, Samir Rayani and Jason Sosnovsky, as well as alumnus Alex White, took the Business Institutions Program's Entrepreneurship class with Adjunct Professor Troy Henikoff during winter academic quarter 2008. It was in the classroom that the idea came together for The Next Big Sound, which is now a successful website with several thousand users and hundreds of bands that has been featured in the New York Times.

Before taking the entrepreneurship class, White said he had a rough idea for The Next Big Sound. "But it wasn't a business yet. It wasn't well thought out."

During the quarter, the team of four came up with a 50-page business plan and a full working financial model for their idea. "I've never worked harder in a course for my entire time at Northwestern," White said. "The course and the professor were really instrumental."

At the end of the school year, the group took the $25,000 it raised and spent the summer in Champaign, where they could get office space, building up the Web site. Now past the six-month anniversary of its launch, the founders want to keep it going. "They don't have it all figured out yet," said Henikoff. "They're doing well but it's not a wildly profitable business."

"For students who are even considering starting a business," Henikoff said, "the ability to learn about this as an undergraduate is phenomenal."

Henikoff said that the class attempts to give students the structure they need for thinking about new business formation, how to evaluate ideas, form a financial model, and analytical thinking tools, all in a "real-world" atmosphere.

"It's a very hard class," he said. "It takes a lot of time, energy and passion, which is exactly what it takes to start a business -- and a little luck doesn't hurt."

(Lauren Knight is a senior in the Medill School of Journalism)
Topics: People