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Local duo created platform for online rap battles.
MARIELLE TEMKIN I SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
Thomas RapperPooh Jones is done.
Post topics for the next round!
graduate of the University of Michigan
he music scene in Detroit
a degree in economics, Torenberg
has never lacked variety or
seem like the typical rap fan.
creativity, but until
he explained it, "I was also
recently it was lacking
something that Erik Torenberg
but I'd also always been reading
and Jamie Pitts now provide. The
writing and rhyming. Rap was
duo created the website rapt.
fun and something that I
fm, which allows rappers, fans
doing, and I thought I had
of rap and anyone interested to
participate in and view live rap
of supporters in
started to take
Torenberg, 22, of Detroit is
in love with
the co-founder and CEO of
rapt.fm . "I came up with the
Rapt.fm began at Startup
idea during my senior year of
in Ann Arbor in January
college because I got into rap
pretty seriously, but I didn't have
people to rap with," he said.
"So, I thought I could find them
online. You can find anything
Pitts, 39, said, "Erik did this
Jamie Pi tts
at the Startup Weekend and
A New Jersey native and
Sabrina Poon: lAlhoah111
19 players in this room
t ill Stank Pace Records
screenshot of one of rapt.fm's battles shows the stage the rappers take to duel.
his idea for real-time freestyle competitions
stole the show. I was intrigued because of
my interest in club culture, so I joined his
team to build a demo that weekend."
Pitts is now rapt.fm's chief technology
He added, "I think that the industry is
on the brink of something huge with fully
interactive TV shows. So Erik walks in with
the perfect idea to make use of it, and I
jumped onto the project."
Rapt.fm grabbed the attention of
Bizdom, a tech-based startup accelerator,
which was a judge at the Startup
"They told us that we need to be here,
in Detroit. They showed us the M@dison
Building and the community, and they
offered us a spot in the accelerator,"
He and Pitts, who is from Los Angeles
and lives in Ann Arbor, were exploring
their options on the East and West Coasts
before Bizdom reached out to them.
"The idea of being a big fish in a small
pond combined with the music scene here
appealed to us, so we decided to stay here
for three months, and that was a year and
three months ago," Torenberg said.
So far, rapt.fm has focused on building
buzz and getting rappers to join the
site for rap battles. "A lot of it initially,"
Torenberg said, "has been reaching out to
rappers who have followings and saying
'Hip And Modern'
Son leads contemporary furniture store into the digital age.
LESLIE SPECTOR I JN INTERN
e all have crazy ideas of
what we want to be when
we grow up, which usually
change, but for Jeff Selik,
his dream as an 8-year-old became reality.
While he loves to travel and do yoga, his
heart really lies in the furniture industry,
where he has been
in business with his
father since his
the University of
August 22 • 2013
"I sold my first mattress when I was 8
years old," said Selik of Troy. "I remember
being in my dad's store [Hillside Furniture]
talking to this couple about a mattress, and
they ended up buying it. I didn't realize what
I was doing, but I loved it.
"I knew from a young age that I really
enjoyed being in sales, working with my
family and certainly staying in Detroit.
Staying in Detroit has always been very
important to me."
Post-graduation, Selik landed an interview
with his dad, Bruce Selik, to work for the
family business at Hillside Furniture in
"With anything in life you have to be
optimistic and positive. I loved having the
opportunity to work alongside my father, but
nothing was guaranteed," Selik said.
Selik started off as merchandising
assistant, and about five years ago he was
named president. While being part of a
family business can be challenging, the Seliks
have it all figured out.
"He brings the experience, and I bring a
fresh perspective," Selik said. "My dad and
I are always on the same page. We both
know what the other is thinking in terms
of buying or negotiations. You only get that
Selik has won a multitude of awards
including dBusiness magazine's 30 in
their 30s, L. Brooks Patterson's 2013 Elite
40 under Forty for Oakland County, two
nationwide competitions regarding furniture
sales presentations and, for two consecutive
years, Hillside Furniture has won best
furniture store in Detroit.
He is also part of the Contemporary
Design Group, a national association of
retail furniture showrooms. The group hosts
a yearly "best idea contest" for member
"I'm really technology savvy so all
my employees use iPads," Selik said. "I
entered this contest demonstrating how
the employees at our store are using iPads
to be different not only in our city, but in
Jeff Selik and his father, Bruce
our industry. Hillside is the only store in our
Contemporary Design Group that uses this
"We don't use catalogs anymore. We do
everything on our iPads. We use Dropbox,
an application allowing users to share files
and folders with others across the Internet
Not only are Selik and his staff up to date
on the latest technology, but on furniture as
Contemporary furniture is known to
be "hip and modern" and Selik believes
technology is a big part of that.
Hillside sells furniture with Bluetooth and