On a warm, sunny day in Aliso Viejo, things are looking just the way Justin Mason had always envisioned. The soft-spoken, former Air Force Intelligence Officer has never been one to be told what he can and can't accomplish. After the opportunity to pitch his invention to a panel of investors on an attempt to win on an unaired episode of the ABC reality show "Shark Tank," Mason did what he always has done - put his head down and persevered even when a chorus of others told him to stop.
Now, his sincerity and unending drive to perfect Vela, a voice controlled music app that controls the likes of Spotify and Rdio, has him on the cusp of a very large coming out party in Austin, Texas.
Now in it's fifth year, the Music Accelerator portion of the South By Southwest mega-conference is a budding enterprise and a promising one for Mason. One of eight finalists, Vela–an idea developed here in South County–is finally on the big stage. "I'm just trying to grow and take advantage of this opportunity as much as possible," he says.
According to statistics provided by Chris Valentine– event producer for SXSW Accelerator– 47 percent of finalists have received funding while 10 percent have realized the ultimate goal and been absorbed by much richer entities. When asked if cashing in was what it was all about, all Mason could do is laugh.
What all of this has taught him is one thing: Everyone has good ideas, but only a select few have the fortitude to carry out their vision. Even fewer have the gall to press forward when many have told them to quit. Even though the current business model doesn't seem profitable at this point, Mason doesn't seemed concerned. Developing an invention is almost always a slow going process. Why should his project be any different?
What started as an idea when fumbling through many a playlist on the road, Mason really almost got into a car accident when trying to put on some music on his smart phone. "I can't believe this is the best technology we have for music in the car right now." He says. What came afterward was Mason's vision of how to simplify and perhaps more importantly make a safer way to control how consumers play and control music.
His idea, which pre-dates Siri, came at a time when voice controlled anything was not an already existing feature on smartphones. The hand-free convenience of Vela is what Mason is hoping to draw the market toward and with his being the only app of its kind to control the most popular third-party music apps there appears to be some staying power in the land of applications.
Things have been moving fast for Mason. As he takes a bite of his sandwich, he says now that he has a legit spot in the upcoming conference it's time to figure out how he is going to make his way out to Texas. Since he was announced as a finalist last week, as luck would have it, all the designated rooms for SXSW participants are currently booked. No matter, really. The upcoming weeks are all about prep ahead of Vela's showcase. Rooms will be figured out. For now, it's nice to finally show the public what can happen when someone doesn't give up on a dream.