Spartan Entrepreneur Spotlight: Shariq Shah of Ambii

By Julia Halprin Jackson

L-R: Bill Barton, ’67 Business, with Ambii founders Jacob Motta and Shariq Shah, and fellow Ambii participant Jeremy Mitchell, ’19 Business Administration, at the 2018 Business Plan Competition. Photo by Anu Basu.

In honor of National Entrepreneur Day (Nov. 19), SJSU is highlighting the stories of Spartan founders who got their start at San Jose State.

Shariq Shah, ’18 Computer Science, remembers the day he first approached the Ideas Club at San Jose State. A group of aspiring student entrepreneurs were tabling on the paseo, sporting a sign that read “Got an idea?” Not only did Shah have an idea—within two years, he had created a music sharing platform, Ambii, complete with a business-to-consumer app and a business-to-business model designed to provide licensed music free of charge to customer-facing establishments.

Since that day, Shah and his two co-founders, Jacob Motta, ’17 Computer Science, and Alora Frederick, ’18 Marketing, have secured the interest of music tech generators that offered initial rounds of funding, residencies to network with industry giants, and the time and space to fine-tune their business plan.

Shah says it’s unlikely that Ambii would have found success so quickly without the support of San Jose State’s IDEAS Lab and the ZinnStarter Program, supported by Silicon Valley’s longest-running CEO, Ray Zinn, ’68 MS Business, and conceived by Anu Basu, global innovation and leadership professor and director of the Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship. Shah can still be found at the IDEAS Lab in SJSU’s Diaz Compean Student Union, where he meets with Motta and Frederick, prepares case studies, applies for funding and manages a never-ending to-do list.

As of fall 2019, Ambii’s B2C sharing platform has 3,000 active monthly users and more than 100 business pre-registered to use its new B2B app. In essence, he came to SJSU with an idea and graduated as an entrepreneur.

“The IDEAS Lab is one of the reasons I am where I am today,” says Shah.


Founded: 2017, product launch in 2019

Staff: Shariq Shah, CEO, Jacob Motta, COO, Alora Frederick, CMO

Mission: To provide licensed music free of charge to customer-facing businesses.

Problems they solve: Businesses are liable for copyright infringement when they stream licensed music in establishments using personal accounts. This means that artists and labels miss out on roughly $1.2 billion in revenue.

Biggest accomplishments: Earning a residency with the gBETA Musictech Accelerator in Hollywood, winning the 2017 Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge and the 2018 Business Plan Competition.

Challenges faced: Before starting their accelerator program, the team pivoted their product and revamped their business model. Also, they have to raise the capital needed to pay music licensing fees.

Revenue streams: Ads and add-on features that businesses can pay for that give them increased data about customer music preferences, buying patterns, etc.

Vision for the future: Provide licensed music free of charge to all customer-facing businesses in the United States.

Phase of development: Pre-launch, seeking funding

Advice for entrepreneurs: “Be ready to work. It’s not about motivation. Everybody is motivated in the beginning. Once your motivation runs out—and it will, eventually—what you have left is endurance. You need to be ready to be kicked in the butt repeatedly and just keep going.” —Shariq Shah, ’18 Computer Science


Julia Halprin Jackson

Julia Halprin Jackson is a writer on San Jose State University's Strategic Communications and Marketing team.

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