We caught up with Gabriel Isserlis ’08, founder of recently launched online platform Tutti, which connects musicians in need of rehearsal space to people who want to hire out affordable and convenient venues. Find out how Gabriel went from being an ASL student convinced he was going to be a filmmaker, to a Founder’s Institute graduate and entrepreneur leading an exciting new startup.
You are British-Canadian, grew up in London and attended a British School until the age of 12, how did you end up at ASL?
I’ve actually lived down the road from ASL my entire life. I attended a British school up until my family and I started looking ahead to my GCSE exams. I knew at an early age that I was not a fan of exams. That style of learning, where everything is judged by a grade on an exam, was really not for me! It was my parents who actually decided to transfer me to ASL. I visited the School several times before joining and remember seeing students having fun in their classes! English and social studies teacher Alice Leader (ASL 1975-2009) was a family friend, so I had the chance to sit in on some classes in Grade 6 and I also enrolled in ASL summer camp before starting ASL in Grade 7. I loved summer camp and actually met Ian Kupitz ’08, Ben Langford ’10 and his brother Will Langford ’08 in tennis camp, who remained some of my best friends throughout ASL!
What are some of your favorite ASL experiences?
The Grade 7 and 8 adventure trips really stand out for me! I remember chickening out of doing some of the tasks. We did orienteering and there were a lot of fun bonding experiences. I also remember beating everyone at pool...I didn’t tell the other kids I had a pool table at home! I also had a great time on my high school alternatives trips, especially Florence with Terry Gladis (ASL 1998-present). Aside from trips and extracurricular activities, I really loved the breadth of education I received at ASL. I had the opportunity to try so many different things. I loved all my film classes and I have fond memories of Colin Bridgewater (ASL 2000-present) and Stephan Potchatek’s (ASL 2004-present) English and social studies classes, but one of my favorite classes was actually woodworking...I still eat breakfast from the table I made in my woodworking class!
Tell me about your journey post ASL. Did you go straight to college?
I actually went to a post-graduate high school in the middle of nowhere in Northwest Massachusetts! I really wanted to go to college in the States, but my parents were a little apprehensive since I had never spent a long time away from home. It was my college counselors at ASL who suggested the post-graduate high school. I am really grateful for their advice because the school helped me get my grades up and ensure I got into the perfect college for me. I ended up attending Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), where I began studying my first passion, film. At the time, I thought I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a filmmaker...But about three years in, I decided I couldn't make a career out of it. I always wished I had taken AP Computer Science at ASL and learned programming, so I decided to switch my focus to IT. I actually ended up spending seven years at RIT and completed two degrees, IT, and Film and Animation!
Wow that’s a long time! You must have really loved it...How did you go from studying full time to starting a company?
Yes, I love learning! But I think at that stage I loved school for all the wrong reasons! Socializing, hanging out with friends and the sense of community were all great, but I got to a stage where I had to stop and get out (or I might have ended up spending the rest of my life there!) In my final year at RIT, I had started working as a user-experience designer for a startup based out of the university. I wasn’t passionate about the company, so I asked the web developer, Chuck, to join me on a separate venture and he agreed. He was in Silicon Valley, while I was in Rochester. We worked together for three years before actually meeting in person! My first idea was to start a music database, kind of like an IMDb for music. There were a few other companies out there but none of them were really working and the data wasn’t great. I wanted to create a music ecosystem that gathers user data like Facebook (but with people’s permission!). This spawned a lot of ideas, I actually had more than 275 different ideas and was starting to get a little overwhelmed. In 2016, after finishing my studies at RIT, I decided to return home to London. I had family and friends who were musicians, so I knew they would be able to help. At the time I don’t think I realized how much work I would have to put in.
That sounds like a lot of ideas! How did you decide which one to take forward?
Well, I was trying to get my idea off the ground, but it really wasn’t gaining much traction so I decided to try a different tactic. I started applying to startup incubators and was fortunate enough to be accepted to Founder Institute (FI), an amazing organization based out of Silicon Valley, started by successful entrepreneur and investor Adeo Ressi. It was an interesting application, I had to take a personality test as well as a pattern recognition test. Entrepreneurs have to be good at recognizing patterns in order to be successful...I guess we have to know how to adapt to survive! Only 10% of applications to the Institute are accepted and only 25% of those actually graduate! It was tough but the program really kicked me into gear and I realized I had to devote all my time and focus in order to make my company a success. The first thing they had me do was narrow down my list of ideas. I had to choose three of my favorites and with the help of family and friends eventually narrowed it down to one: “Airbnb for rehearsal space” and that’s how Tutti was born!
Amazing! So how is it going so far?
We officially launched a basic version of the product on 1 November 2018 with 14 venues and 50 musicians already signed up. Of course there have been some setbacks along the way, but overall I am really happy with our progress. I have had some great people working on the project in the US and I just started working with an amazing designer and a great copywriter. What I love most about being an entrepreneur is being able to do something different every day...I also get to avoid doing some of the things I don’t enjoy as much! I call it “productive procrastination!” As an FI graduate, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to meet other incredible entrepreneurs from all over the world. Seeing everything starting to come together is really exciting!
Final question, where does the name “Tutti” come from?
Tutti means “all” in Italian. It’s also an orchestral phrase used in music internationally that signals the musicians to all come in together. Music uses the same terminology all over the world and I wanted a name that would be universal and fit in with my ultimate ambition to create a global ecosystem that can support people in the arts all over the world! I realize this is no small feat, but I truly believe it is possible.