Ari Evans is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Maestro, a global leader in interactive live streaming experiences. In his role, Evans leads the strategic direction of Maestro’s platform and oversees its portfolio of brands and creators, including Fortnite, Apple, Microsoft, Pandora, Billie Eilish, Coachella, and VidCon. Under his leadership, Maestro ranked number 7 on Fast Company’s list of “The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies With Fewer Than 100 Employees.” Prior to founding Maestro in 2015, Evans embarked on a number of successful entrepreneurial ventures.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I grew up in Maryland, in the suburbs north of Washington, D.C. My neighborhood was known for having some of the top school systems in this country. Growing up in this area set me up for success since I was motivated by being surrounded by a community of education-focused individuals. My interests and hobbies were quite diverse as a child. I was very into sports, especially track and soccer, and gaming has always been a huge passion of mine. I was such a big gamer and my mom wanted me to game as a kid. But she couldn’t really complain because I was getting good grades and I was the captain of my sports teams. Gaming led to other passions that eventually brought me to where I am today. I started programming and designed my first video game with a friend in sixth grade. The common ground to all of my accomplishments throughout childhood and beyond is that I’ve always had the ability to see an opportunity and have had the confidence to go after it.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
With two go-getting parents, entrepreneurship came very naturally. It’s in my blood. Every chapter of my life has had some sort of entrepreneurial activity embedded into it. My earliest entrepreneurial endeavor was selling pogs on the playground in elementary school. Soon after that, I began paying friends to make thread bracelets at recess to sell. As I got a little older, I’d burn custom CDs for friends. I also dabbled in building custom PCs for my friends’ parents. My first scaled-up entrepreneurial experience was selling Pokemon cards on eBay around 1997. I was inspired by a vendor outside of a baseball game who was selling entire boxes of Pokemon card packs. My dad bought me the first box of cards and encouraged me to test the waters and learn how to use eBay. My system involved buying entire boxes, opening the packs, and arranging the cards by rarity. I resold the new rare cards and offered combinations of the less rare cards, as well. I was one of eBay’s first sellers, and being at the forefront of e-commerce was exhilarating. This is truly where I caught the entrepreneurial bug.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Don’t build anything until you’ve thoroughly validated the pain around the solution you want to develop. There is a pattern to success, and the more you focus on nailing this fundamental pattern, the better growth opportunity you will find. The pattern is this: Identify a very painful pain point Make sure there is a large audience/market with that pain Identify if the market is willing to pay you to solve the pain Find a very clear way to get in front of the target market with your solution