Pandora Internet Radio’s Misadventure to Success
There is nothing like hearing a song you love for the first time. It resonates with you immediately. It creates a feeling of peace, joy, happiness, excitement, fun, or even sadness (yes, I like to listen to sad songs sometimes). I love music. I mean, who doesn’t?
One of my favorite childhood memories was listening to some second-hand music from my brother’s room as I played with my Legos in the room next to his. One day it would be Green Day, the next it would be No Doubt. My taste in music changed with whatever music he happened to be listening to.
We both have grown up and now have somewhat of a different taste in music. When he moved out I needed a new source for the latest up-and-coming artist or song. Pandora Internet Radio has filled this void for me. I need to thank Tim Westergren, the co-founder and chief strategy officer, for Pandora.
After reading Inc.com’s article, “10 Questions for Pandora’s Tim Westergren” and watching TheStreet.com’s video, “A Conversation With Pandora’s Tim Westergren: ‘TheBeach Meets TheStreet’ Startup Founder Series” I knew that Westergren was the entrepreneur I wanted to focus on this week. Here is what I learned from him and Pandora’s road to success:
Good ideas come naturally
Sitting down trying to think of the next big idea for a successful company won’t get you anywhere. Good ideas come from experiencing day-to-day problems that need a solution.
Westergren credits the idea of Pandora to the years of dealing with music. He played in many rock bands and later worked a job as a film composer for movies. He spent years trying to understand and profile peoples taste of music to better create a score for the movie. This sparked the idea of creating a radio that was specifically tailored to someone’s taste in music.
Work through the storm
There are many storms that may come your way. One of the biggest is trying to find financing to start or expand your business. Westergren admits he and his co-founders had to go through their own personal Rolodex to find people to invest in their idea. Pandora’s starting funding was mostly from friends and family.
The company really struggled for the first four years of business. In 2004 they receive more capital which allowed them to repurpose the business and officially launch as Pandora. Westergren admits Pandora’s success was more luck, “Given where we started and what we went through to get here, it’s very unlikely.”
No executive office?
Westergren doesn’t have an office at Pandora’s headquarters. When asked why he has a cubicle and not an office he responds by saying, “[There is] no reason to. Offices are bad for company culture. I think it’s intermixing and leveling the organization that is really vital.”
He isn’t the only entrepreneur I have read about that has this belief. CEO/Founder of Hubspot, Brian Halligan and CEO/Founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey have the same belief. Company culture is more important than having a fancy office to alienate you from the rest of the company.
Live in the moment
Westergren doesn’t believe that you have to make sacrifices in order to be successful. By his definition,8 to make a sacrifice means there has to be some regret in the decision(s) you make. He doesn’t regret his decisions.
You make decisions every day. Good or bad. Big or small. They affect you, your friends, your family, your company, and even random people you don’t know. He shares this insight by telling us, “[I wanna be] right where I am. I don’t want to know the future, and I want the past to remain the thing of history and memories.”
Pandora wasn’t made overnight. It has been around for 13+ years now. There are so many variables to running a successful business that I think the real key is to stick to your guns. It can be hard to find the right business plan or obtain financing. There is always going to be something trying to hold you and your business back. You need to not give up like the old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Thanks for reading! What Pandora station do you listen to that you would recommend?
Mike Alder is a University of Utah business marketing student and marketing specialist at Lendio. Passionate about entrepreneurship, small businesses, and inbound marketing. Mike shows his passion by sharing stories of successful entrepreneurs and companies with small business owners on the Lendio blog. He makes these big success stories easy-to-apply in simple and easy to read language for the everyday small business owner and entrepreneur.