Juniors’ musical startup skyrockets after competition

Nina Jang

Transporting a bass guitar on a cramped Peter Pan Bus is no easy feat, which is why Stern junior Rohit Mittal and CAS junior Lindsay Heatley created Mitley. The online rental service where musicians can rent out their equipment for a daily fee, launching last spring, earned Mittal and Heatley an invitation to the Harvard Innovation  in Business Competition on Oct. 18. They competed as finalists against a Columbia University and Harvard University joint-team and a Harvard graduate team. The competition was part of the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Conference.

Mittal and Heatley took second place at the conference, and said there was a surge of interest in their site among the finalists and judges alike.

“Our website traffic skyrocketed because all the people we met were genuinely interested in our idea,” Mittal said.

Heatley knew the nature of the competition would be competitive, but was surprised by the other participants’ cooperative and kind nature.

“Everybody was so nice and so welcoming,” Heatley said. “Rohit set the tone by going up to the other finalists and introducing himself to all teams, which is great since we were all a bit nervous but we got to let go.”

The idea for the site came from Heatley’s personal blog, Crimson, as a platform for musicians to have access to equipment without breaking the bank.

“Mitley was actually incarnated as something else in the beginning based on a blog I started when I was a freshman,” Heatley said. “I reached out for an IT person and [Mittal] responded … We’re total opposites, but I think that’s why it works.”

Mittal and Heatley work together in each aspect of their site, beginning with the musicians renting out equipment. After filling out an online form, Heatley approves the gear and lists it online. Mittal and Heatley then leave the exchange to the buyer and seller, providing the option for a Mitley Protection Plan in which the equipment owner will be reimbursed if the equipment is returned damaged.

Mitley is a response to the difficulty of bringing equipment to the city, which may resonate with many out-of-state NYU students and anyone on a student budget. Heatley realized this while working as a DJ in the city.

“Equipment costs so much on its own, so from a DJ’s point of view like Heatley — you’re essentially losing money when you turn down gig opportunities because you don’t have all the equipment,” Mittal said.

Heatley and Mittal have spoken about expanding Mitley’s presence locally and gradually building up to other large cities, such as Los Angeles. Both students agree, however, that any future expansion will only be likely after first creating a solid community among NYU students and New York City musicians.

“Featured Musicians” is a developing segment on the site, and showcases videos of local bands. Merchandise is also an area they want to expand into. Heatley and Mittal want to ensure that with each step toward expansion, quality is always the priority.

“Until we get it right, we won’t stop trying to make the site better,” Heatley said.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 17 print edition. Email Nina Jang at [email protected].