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PSS Winter '09 - Bruce Springsteen Photo

Patterns

Dave Kaplan

In the last stage of a thriving career as a partner at Goldman Sachs, one marked by successive accomplishments in equities and trading, Dave Kaplan ’83 decided to trust, and follow, his instincts; he retired from the bank.

“I was in a great position at Goldman Sachs and there weren’t necessarily any reasons why I should leave,” Kaplan explains. “But something had been brewing in my thoughts over the last couple of years.”

Imagine taking over the guitar solo to Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, playing sax to Cole Porter’s Night and Day or playing the violin to Haydn’s Violin Concerto. One of Kaplan’s ideas, a Web site called PureSolo – www.puresolo.com, allows users to do just that from the comfort of their homes.

“With PureSolo, you download our free audio recording software and then choose from thousands of backing tracks,” says Kaplan. “Within minutes you can be playing and recording your instrument or singing with the best musicians in the world. It’s a totally new experience in music.”

Kaplan had always been interested in music but never as a career. He started at Hobart as a pre-med major before switching to psychology. “I learned a lot about what fascinates me during my progression from pre med to psychology.

It turns out I was interested in the makeup of people but not necessarily in dissecting them,” he says, laughing. “Between that and Pat McGuire’s macroeconomics course, my HWS education helped me develop a managerial perspective that guided me through a successful career at Goldman Sachs.”

During his 22 years with Goldman Sachs, Kaplan got the kind of on-the-job training that most people only dream about. He was able to work in five different businesses, three Dave Kaplan ’83 divisions and two countries. He’s filled up more than a few passports, owns a home in Brazil and has lived in London since 1989.

“Over time I’ve found that experience gives you the ability to recognize and anticipate patterns and relationships, whether in the financial market or in life. When you get an instinct that there is too much of an extreme, you have to act,” he explains. “I decided that if I stayed at Goldman Sachs, I would have a comfortable and happy life, but that if I wanted to grow as a person, if I wanted to change, then I needed to take a chance.”

That chance resulted in PureSolo, an idea Kaplan developed with a renowned British trumpet player and a former colleague from Goldman Sachs. In addition to allowing users to download, practice and record with more than 10,000 professionally-produced backing tracks, the Web site allows users to share their creations by posting them on their PureSolo profile page, the site’s social networking component, as well as emailing them to friends, creating CD’s or using them as ringtones.

“Many of the skills learned as a manager and business builder at a large investment bank are transferable in the development of a start-up,” Kaplan says. “Business processes, legal requirements, and thinking about the client are all essential, as are managing the risks and opportunities. If anything, the enjoyment of being able to move swiftly to new opportunities in a small business is electrifying.”

The site went live in beta form in the UK on September 26 and in mid-November in the US. It has received significant coverage in the UK and positive reviews from a number of major bloggers. But exactly where PureSolo— and his instincts—will take Kaplan is still very much up in the air.

“It’s easier to make decisions when you are relaxed in the consequences yet understand the risks. In some ways, right now, there is more uncertainty in my career than I’ve ever experienced,” he says. “But life is all about surviving the cycles of good and bad and finding the patterns by enjoying what you do.”