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Spotify Founder: How A 23 Year Old Introvert Built A $31 Billion Business! | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Spotify Founder: How A 23 Year Old Introvert Built A $31 Billion Business!".
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I'm an introvert, not amazing academically. Didn't feel like a belong anywhere. Average, at best. And yet, you created Spotify. Yeah. Daniel, back? Spotify founder and CEO. He's not only saved the music industry, he's created a $50 billion company, and he himself is worth more than $4 billion. I flunked high school, then started on my first company, and that later got acquired. And you retired at 23. Yeah. First month was fun, nightclubs, sports car. 20 or 30 girls throwing around money, six months in, realized that this thing I thought I wanted, I just didn't want it all. I was just empty. Just thinking, "Am I ever going to get out of this depression?" And what to do in life? What if you can work on something you actually care about? What would you pick? Music. But the industry's going down the drain. I honestly did not think we would succeed. But if we succeed, I knew it was going to be a big thing. Spotify is here, a one-stop shop for music. Pickens you use Spotify? I love it. I read the journey to that success. Had multiple near-death experiences. It was awful. I ran out of money. I lost all of the hair. I gained 30 pounds. And the problem was to model myself on the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, run every meaning. I did the best product person, and it just wasn't me. Share the burner with someone. It is so important. We tend to believe the world is more logical than what it is, but it's based on relationships. Be the easiest person to deal with, and you'd be surprised how many problems it solves. One of those problems was Apple. What's your opinion on Apple? Daniel, what is the most important context that I need to know about you to understand the man that sits in front of me today? And when I ask about context, I want to go right back to where you come from and that earliest environment that I almost see it like an oven. I see it our earliest context is like an oven that baked us into who we are today. What is that context? I'm a product of a very, very strong single mom. A woman that probably had a ship on her shoulder against her sibling, her brother, her older brother, who kind of said you can't do this, you can't raise a child to be productive. And I think she kind of just well hell bent on making a point of showing that I was going to be successful in her definition and successful meant well-educated, well-read and be able to handle almost anything thrown at me.
Daniel Ek'S Journey And Business Philosophy
The Influence of Daniel Ek's Upbringing: A Single Mother's Determination (02:16)
Just to give you an example of that, while I was brought up in the suburb of Stockholm very much I work in a class of rough neighbourhood, one of the big things that my mother did was she had me doing a pentatlon and the pentatlon was like the classic pentatlon. So that means fencing, horseback riding, shooting, running and swimming. It doesn't sound like what someone basically from the projects in Stockholm would do, but she thought that would be a good sort of wide education for me. And pretty much my entire life has been around that. I was kind of clumsy as a kid. My fine motor skills was pretty good. My rough motor skills wasn't very good. So she enrolled me in like an all female gymnastics group. I'm an introvert so she enrolled me in a theatre group to have me learn how to express myself. And so an eclectic childhood by one where she heavily influenced me, brought me along in almost every context with adults, with professors at a very early age and just had me sit along or with just the person from next door who's struggling, getting to the next paycheck. And I really saw all of those contracts in life from a very young age. Did she have any desire for you to become any specific thing? I'm honestly not sure, but I think she wanted me to be broad, just in general. And I think in many families you kind of have this maybe educational pressure where you have to be a doctor, you have to be a lawyer. None of that mattered to my mom. The only thing that mattered and she kept repeating this was that you need to become a good human being. And for her, if I wanted to study, sure, she thought education mattered and it was important. But not like in other families, and the only thing in fact, probably influenced Spotify later on was I very much come from a music family. My grandfather was an opera singer, my grandmother was an actress in theatre, but also jazz pianist. So music education was weirdly enough, like the premier education that was focused on for me. And then all the other stuff, she was basically only important that I showed effort. I had a pretty easy time in school, and so she constantly kept pushing me because she felt that I wasn't making enough of an effort no matter what. So it wasn't about the great, I could come home with a straight A, she would still be like, "Well, did you really make an effort?" I don't think so. And so for her, it was always that thing about pushing and making the real effort. So she cared less about the outcome and more about how much of your potential you were realizing. Yes. Very much so. So on school then, you referenced that she identified you were an introvert early on. But then I think you said you had an easy time in school. Typically people that are introverted, that are an only child at the time that they go off to school, often they struggle a little bit. Because finding friends and fitting into social groups. And I read somewhere else that you don't love small talk, you tend to gravitate towards the people that you know. What was school like for a kid like that? Well, I think there are many types of introverts. Let's begin with that. And I can switch it on when I have to. And certainly I think the theater helped me. I can be very, project a lot of things if I like to and be a force of nature. But it doesn't come easy. That requires tons of energy, whereas others get energy from like the room. And they're like very excited. It's just not me. For me, anything with anyone I'm not comfortable with is really taking a lot of energy. But I think the easy time in school was just I love learning. I've always loved learning. So you know, you be putting in an environment where you're constantly being forced to learn new things wasn't a very hard thing for me. And I have a very good, I used to have a very good memory. I don't have it anymore. But I was able to memorize very easily the concepts and the things that we talked about in school. And so I think in that end, it was very easy for me. And then again, because my mother tried to make me very broad, the positive and the negative of that aspect is I could kind of be in any social group. I could be with the athletes. I wasn't the best athlete by any stretch of the imagination. But it worked. I could be in the musicians group as well with any of the people who were really good at arts. And I probably wasn't the best at any of that stuff either, but it was pretty decent. But I could also be in the math group. I probably wasn't the best of math, but I was pretty decent. And that to be honest, is kind of the story of my life. You can kind of plug me in anywhere. I won't excel at practically anything, but I'll hold my fort. And that's I think both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it's very easy for people to, for me to be able to relate to other people enough where I'm accepted in the group. But it's hard in the sense, the downside with that is that I never really belong anywhere. Because I'm not that one-sided as an individual. I'm not an artist. I'm not a technologist. I'm not a business person. I'm all of that and probably a few other things as well. And you can see that very clearly with my friend group too. You'll have artists on the one set and you have entrepreneurs on the other end. And it's very hard for them to speak to each other most times. But I love it. I love seeing very creative people. I love business people and scientists mixed together, whereas the scientists get very, you know, have a hard time of speaking to an artist. And quite often they're talking past each other. For me, it's just I love it. And that's the blessing and curse. When I speak to people that know you and work with you, they describe you as ambitious. Now ambition and being ambitious is an interesting word because it's often loaded with this presumption that someone has a desire for a certain outcome. Yeah, like they're ambitious because they want to be really successful or they want gazillion pounds. Are you ambitious and what does that actually mean to you? Yeah, I'm ambitious, but I probably am ambitious in the way my mother taught me to be ambitious, which is the inputs, right? Which is, you know, if I see someone with incredible potential, the squanders, that potential. I ask myself, why? Why are you doing this? Why not strive for the great thing? And in so many cases in life, I found that the difference between, you know, aiming super high versus aiming just a little bit higher than where you are from an effort perspective is about the same effort. So you might just as well aim higher, you know, this saying of you shoot for the stars and you land on the moon.
Paths to Success: University vs. Startup Experience (10:55)
That is very much kind of my life philosophy. Why not try to do it bigger? Why not try to do it even more interesting? And maybe you have to settle for something less, but is it more interesting and more fun to try to do the really big hairy audacious thing? Not for everyone. Maybe not. But you don't know that because you work with so many people that maybe don't lean into ambition. Yeah, that's true. And I also wonder if that's true or whether they're just worried about really testing themselves and understanding whether limits are. So many people are more afraid of failure than they are of success. And that stops them from even beginning to try. Right. And I find that so many times, like the amount of people I'm sure came to you is like, oh, it's really good for you. But I had the same idea. So, okay, well, why didn't you do anything about it? And oftentimes it's like, well, for this and that and that reason, and they talk themselves out of it. But at the very core, I believe it comes down to that they're actually more worried about failing than they are about the prospects of succeeding. Your kids then, what would you advise them to do if they wanted to follow in your footsteps, in particular, started business, at that juncture where we kind of leave high school and we can either go into like work or university. Would you do you think the university system is a little bit outdated? Yeah, I do. But as with many things, you know, I don't think it's bad. I don't think it's good either. I think it depends. There are certain people that do well in that structure and need that kind of rigor of that sort of path to go down and do incredibly well against the essays and the ASIT and they're really good and they're really good with the lectures and then taking the notes and just have that sort of discipline in that area of their life where they do well in that circumstance. And then that education then sets them up for a greater thing. So I think it depends. I mean, if your dream is to become a lawyer, then I think you have to go through that path, right? Because it's impossible otherwise. I think if you want to be an entrepreneur, the single best thing you can do is to probably study as many businesses as you can and get as much business exposure in that. So what do I mean by that? Well, it can come in by working for businesses that are great, but more importantly, probably working for great individuals and learning from them, right? So if you are fortunate enough to be able to do, you know, we're talking about this, but you're behind the scenes version and being able to like work for you in that and see you up close, it's going to be invaluable for that individual to get to do that because you get to see entrepreneurship from the first row. You get to see what it's like, what business aspect, what's, you know, how do you do that, how much admin do you need to carry it? And even if you're just a fly on the wall, you're going to learn so many skills that are quite diverse. And that's the, I think the biggest trick about entrepreneurship is like the, for me, everyone, when they think about the word innovation, they think that it's something entirely novel. Yet for me, innovation, I don't know of a single thing that just someone came up with that had no prior grounds. Understanding is about putting two or more things together in a new context. So studying many different things, understanding a little bit about business, understanding a little bit about product and how to make that product, understanding whatever it is that our drivers from that, I think is important. And that's not to say that university can't do that and it can't be helpful to learning sales and the theory of it, et cetera. But I think that there is many other paths you could take that may even if you're, you know, if you have enough grits and kind of like are able to put yourself in a situation where you can get in front of the right person and start working for them. So much is in life is around people believing in you and giving you the right place to grow. And it's really serendipitous, to be honest. And I'm certainly a product of all that. So I think it is not right or wrong. It's just a dislike how we're talking about it as it is the way or, you know, it's not the way. And it's like, no, I think it's more like it works sometimes for certain individuals. And then for other individuals, it is not the best use of their time. And there are other paths you can take, but educating yourself, even if that's outside of a university and getting a degree concept, that I think is invaluable. And it's the most important thing you can be doing as a young individual about anything you're interested in. I think that's one of the big misconceptions people have about me when they hear jobs out of university. They think I don't like education. No, no, no, no. Yeah. I spend all day like an all night till 2 a.m. learning about rockets and AI and that stuff. I'm a self-educated, but the institution of education that is university, for me, I just couldn't stay awake in that experience. Same here. But for another person, it is exactly what they need because they may not even know what they're interested in. And they feel like I want to have a foundation that gives me a broad base. So again, if a master's of science degree, if you know you want to be an engineer, but you're not entirely sure what type of engineer, it's a very broad foundation that will teach you elemental skills that you probably will use at some point in time. I'm not saying you can't go outside of that realm too, but it's great stuff. And if you're wired, that way you do well in that type of environment. Great. And there's certain types of people that do that. When young people come up to me and ask me this question about what I should be doing with my life at that early stage, the advice I've started to give, and I want to check how you would change or add all to this advice, is to try and go and join a startup. So just for context, I'm talking about people that want to be entrepreneurier. To try and go and join a startup that's doing something at the very cutting edge of the world, or a wave that's currently coming into short. So I would say to young kids, like, go and join an AI startup. And the reason I say startup is because you're going to be closer to the decision making. You're going to learn more, you're going to have more exposure than if you went and worked at a Google or something. And also it's the cheapest way to fail when you're young. You can observe the company fall into the graveyard without there being a huge cost to you. Yeah. I would agree. I mean, I think that is a tremendous opportunity to do that. But again, I've seen all the paths work too. I've seen people join bigger companies and move around inside of that company and get super valuable skills. And then eventually kind of break out as an entrepreneur as well. And maybe you wanted to save up some money. And obviously if you're doing a little bit of a bigger company, you're able to do that and prioritize doing both. And then once you have that kind of nest egg of sorts, you can then break out. And so I don't know. It's like the, I used to think, and you and I, we were talking about this before, I used to think that, you know, hey, I've got all this advice. I'm just going to give it. And the more and more on a personal basis, I'm not sure I'm in a great position to give advice on many things. And so I try to stay away from it. I can't help myself when I feel like people are doing it. But I try to not do it as much as I do. And it's actually something I'm deeply conscious about because I don't think that there's one path in life. I think that there are many paths in life. And of course there are really bad ones. But some of the more amazing life stories aren't the obvious ones. It is not the people even doing the sort of, hey, I joined a startup where I did this and that it may be the person who spent entire life in a lab to only get so frustrated in the end that they end up breaking out and then forming a company because no one else wanted to do the idea that they had in mind or maybe the person who was the least likely to solve that problem, but had really been spending all this time thinking about it and developed this really odd skill while doing their normal day job that then turned out to be really useful to solving this particular problem. I find it incredibly fascinating that when we look at the back end of Spotify and Apple and our audio channels, the majority of people that watch this podcast haven't yet hit the follow button or the subscribe button wherever you're listening to this. I would like to make a deal with you. If you could do me a huge favor and hit that subscribe button, I will work tirelessly from now until forever to make the show better and better and better and better. I can't tell you how much it helps when you hit that subscribe button. The show gets bigger, which means we can expand the production, bring in all the guests you want to see and continue to do in this thing we love. If you could do me that small favor and hit the follow button, whatever you're listening to this, that would mean the world to me. That is the only favor I will ever ask you. Thank you so much for your time. Back to this episode. And going back to that first company that was acquired, I'd heard to go. That was acquired, I read that you retired at 23. I'm guessing that made you enough money to retire. And you're 23, which is in 2006, and you're a retired man living what one can only describe as any 23 year old's dream. Lots of money, I'm guessing there was some champagne there. I think there was a red Ferrari. How was that for you? That was amazing. No, all jokes aside, I grew up. And as I said, I was kind of like always socially accepted, but didn't feel like it belonged anywhere. And I never had an easy time with girls. Not a bad time, just not as good as if I was widely successful in music or widely successful in sports or any of that stuff. And I kind of had odd interest because I kept, as I said, kind of moving from group to group. And so I had this idea in my head that I wanted to be financially independent. I thought that once I got to that point, I would start living life. And I thought that I would be more socially accepted and I would find my tribe. And it's embarrassing to talk about it now. But that was really what I thought. So I thought that if I was lucky and worked really hard, I might be able to retire in my 40s if I worked really hard, but 50s for sure. And so getting to that point when I was 22, actually not 23, it was just mind-boggling to me. And I had that financial target in mind. And I thought, well, once I hit that, I'm just going to do something else. And so as you said, I kind of started frequenting all the nightclubs, bought a sports car, tried to get the girls I could never get before realizing that, yes, I could get them, but for all the wrong reasons. And they didn't really care about me. And it was kind of a hollowing thing because it was this kind of, oh, was this what I worked for for such a long period of time? And then only to find out that it was quite depressing, honestly.
Daniel Ek's Wake-Up Call After Retiring At 22 (23:33)
I had all these new friends. They weren't really great friends at all. Luckily, I was able to keep my old friends as well. But I realized that this thing I thought I wanted, I just didn't want it all. And what was the symptom? When we say realize there's typically symptoms, psychological symptoms or? No, I realized it because I started getting all these phone calls from people asking me to come out on Friday evenings and Saturday evenings. And I was just empty. I just had no energy to do that. And I thought to myself, oh, this is odd because the old me thought this was what life was all about. And I had girls call me and like, hey, you should really come out. We miss you, all of that stuff. And I realized that I just didn't care. And I thought that that was this magical moment. And in fact, putting on my computer or playing my guitar was kind of, yeah, this is more me. And so something on the back of my head started forming around like, who am I? What do I care about? And it's actually in that process I met my co-founder because he was the founder of Trade Double. And who bought my company. And he too, the company had IPO'd. He got kicked out of the company. He was like a hundred times more wealthier than I was. He had the biggest success in tech suite and at the time and had everything going for him, but he didn't know what to do with life. And so that was kind of how we bonded. And we were watching old Godfather movies, eating crisps and talking about what to do in life. And that was like a real friendship moment, a real turning point. And he saw the same thing that I saw. And that was when I realized that I've been approaching this all wrong. In fact, I always loved working.
Finding Passion in Work (25:45)
It was never about money. I always liked learning. And I would pay to go learn for someone rather than getting paid for it. And at the same time, I thought works should be hard. That was the thing that I had programmed into me. So work has to be clearly something you don't enjoy doing. So I thought, well, what if you change all of these parameters? What if you create an environment where you can come in and learn from really smart people all the time? What if you can work on something you actually care about opposed to something that makes money? And if you can have a lot of fun while doing it and not take it to series. And we started talking and we were bouncing ideas and Martin, my co-founder was asking me, well, if you really could pick anything, what would you pick? And I said to him, well, I'd probably pick music, but that's a terrible idea. And he said, well, why is that a terrible idea? And I said, well, it's a terrible idea because the industry is going down the drains. It just doesn't work. It's piracy. It's all of these reasons. And he said, OK, but if one would fix it, how would one do? Well, it can kind of stupid. They're trying to regulate it. Clearly you need to build a better product. That's the only thing that's going to work. He said, OK, well, how are you going to do that?
The Unlikely Start: Daniel Ek's Vision for Spotify (27:10)
And I was like, well, I don't know. But maybe you could do this or that. OK, well, how would that work? I said, well, I don't know, but maybe you could do this and that. And how would you make money? Well, I think maybe you could pay out based on how much people were listening. I don't know. And then literally I have to go through why not 100 times, I started realizing that, yeah, why not? And why not give this a shot? And I told him from the beginning that, hey, this is probably going to lose us a lot of money. I have a hard time seeing this ever being a sustainable business. But I'm in. Let's do this. And it's a great let's do it. And while I was hesitating for some reason, he wasn't. So he was like, this seems fun. Let's do it. And that gave me enough confidence where I kind of had found a new purpose again. And instantly I stopped responding to all the people who were trying to get me out in the evenings. And I said, well, I got something to do. And then I went back to work again. And it was like pretty much a week from that moment where I felt like I'm happy again. I haven't felt this happy for the better part of a year because it was about a year when I was going through this transition of just having fun being retired. First month was fun, six months in depressing, nine months in. Am I ever going to get out of this depression to then kind of a year in finding something else that I truly look forward to that felt crazy? And I honestly did not think we would succeed. But if we succeed, I knew it was going to be a big thing. Something really interesting now that I could relate to a lot was this idea that you had a hypothesis about your happiness that had to fail you to know that it was not a valid hypothesis about happiness. And there's so many people obviously, I mean, I assume it was more than half the population are currently pursuing a hypothesis they have about what will make them happy. That probably, and this is the thing always wonder is, does it have to fail them for them to know that that's not the right pursuit? In my case, it did had to fail me. Yeah. I was in the anti-climax and then I had to go and buy the big house and then it was there for nine months and got out of it as quickly as I could and bought the car and then got rid of the car and then just moved as close to the offices I could in a one bedroom studio apartment. Yeah, yeah. But for a lot of people, I'm like, is there a way for them not to have to go all that way and have it fail them? Well, I think that there are certain life experiences that you can't learn from other people. They just have to live it and I think it's not so much about sort of the monetary thing or the status thing. Although I would probably say status, whether or not you should really seek it, I think is one of those things that we all have to go through. I think everyone can talk about it. Don't seek attention, don't seek fame, don't seek all of these things. But we're human beings. We want to be well-liked by other people. And so I think that is probably one of them. But in general, I think the further away it is from anything you know and can relate to, I think we have to experience parts of it. So one of the most amazing things that I get to do these days for my friends is from like back when I take them on these crazy experiences, right? I'm fortunate enough that I get to see some of the coolest people in the world, whether it's musicians, but athletes and so on, that they're able to get a glimpse of my life. And I love it because they're looking at it with this kind of shy imagination and wonder about some things that I'm going through. But I also see the other side when they're like, is it really that much work? Wow, I would never want to do this. And it's quite helpful because as we started out saying, they have this idea of what the life is. So I kind of like bringing them along on the journey where they get to see it. And then you can see that there are aspects of it that they like and then other aspects that they would never ever want to get into. So you know, I think it might be possible to kind of simulate that experience. But I think you have to experience it very much up close. Certainly when you're talking about wealth and if you come from having none, I think almost everyone then would instantly need to experience a little bit of it, to at least kind of understand whether that's important or not, especially if you get it. Like we both did probably in our 20s and so on. Had I worked up until my 40s, I may have kind of realized, hey, this isn't life. I'm having children, I'm having my wife, this is amazing. I got this experience being a single guy trying to chase girls. And all I'd seen was on MTV, how all of the rappers were throwing around money and having 20 or 30 girls at the nightclub and, you know, hey, I wanted that too. One thing I'm really interested in is you said you got to nine months and you were depressed nine months after this. Yeah. There are so many people now. And this is why I asked about what the symptoms of that were. It's hard to know when we're drifting down the wrong path because it creeps up on us like a frog and a frying pan. I remember a time working seven days a week and this feeling in my chest, I would describe it as like a subtle growing emptiness. And that was for me in hindsight, I was lonely and I didn't know I was. So those symptoms that you encountered at nine months in, in a way that someone might relate to them, what were those feelings? I think my entire life, as I mentioned, I've been struggling to fit in. And I think it's something we probably share and have in common. And I somehow thought that this would help. And when the situation was new, it did feel like I found my new tribe and it did feel like the early excitement, everyone's calling you, everyone wants you to be part of something that you before may not have been able to enjoy and may not have got those phone calls and may not get into the hottest nightclubs and the club promoters putting you on the list plus 10 and all that stuff, the social currency. So it was thrilling. It was absolutely amazing. And it truly was this kind of like, wow, I've made it kind of feeling. But after you experienced the 10th time and I somehow had this idea that it would translate into this continuous feeling of that thing or translate into something more meaningful, I sort of realized that no, wait a minute, it's the same experience again, but it's lost a little bit of a charm and I started now getting the hangarounds that were trying to get in with me because they realized that maybe I would buy the bottles. I was seeing people at the table come up and grab a glass and then run away, all of that kind of thing. And it's slowly sort of dawn upon me that you could replace me by just anyone else that had the money and the connection that I had at that time, thereby the status and it really wouldn't matter. And I was listening to, I think it's his name is Morgan Housselt, the author who talks about psychology and money and he kind of talked about it, the Ferrari syndrome and he basically describes that everyone who aspires to buy a Ferrari thinks of themselves and say, oh, well, one day when I'm in this Ferrari, everyone's going to look at this Ferrari and they're going to be amazed with me. Yet what we all do is we look at the Ferrari and we want to sit there. We actually don't care about the individual that's currently sitting in there. So this kind of, you know, paradox, so to speak. And that's very much how I felt about my life. And as you're right, right, you pushed that to a side and say, well, surely this, you know, this is fun and you have all these other people coming out and then you kind of bury it. And then it keeps coming up and then it comes up again and then it comes up more and more and more. And I didn't realize what it was at first because I was like, surely I'm just being foolish. This is life and everyone was rewarding me on the outside to say, well, I didn't life if you lived this amazing, how cool is not to be retired and just not having to do anything. But I wasn't learning and I wasn't forming general connections with people. I was just being and yes, I got status, but I realized I never did anything for status and I actually didn't care in the end from being status. I cared about belonging, but not in that group.
Balancing Love and Alone Time in Entrepreneurship (36:27)
I wanted to be in another group that cared about me for being me. And you must have learned a lot now in hindsight about what the core components of you being sufficiently happy are you've used a few of them there, like learning was one of them belonging. What are the other core components of you think for someone just it's easier to just talk about ourselves here for you to be stable? I realized that I also need to be allowed to be by myself. So I used to in prior relationships before meeting my wife. I used to think you know, your relationship, you constantly need to do something with your other party and it was draining me. And I used to think it was something wrong with me because I wanted to be by myself for most of the time. And being comfortable with that I am that way that I thrive on loneliness not all the time because I can feel lonely, but for quite a lot of time, perhaps more so than most normal people like being lonely. I'm just finding myself in that place where I just pursue whatever is top of mind for me. I am sort of in my own thoughts, wandering, dreaming, scheming. That's been very important too because I used to think there was something wrong with that. And then my wife, luckily she's kind of the same. She does her thing and I do my thing and we love that we can do stuff with each other, but we're also perfectly happy doing things on our own. And that kind of taught me also quite a lot about myself in that because again, we are social animals and I am too, by the way, I love hanging out with my friends, but I also love being by myself. So I think having a positive impact, not just on myself, I have to feel good about what I'm doing and know that it helps someone, being able to learn, being able to have fun while doing it, and then be in an environment where I can be lonely and then can come back without that being sort of socially awkward. Like one of my favorite things that I can do with my close friends is I can literally, say I would host a dinner, I can host a dinner and I get an idea, it's very uncommon, but I get an idea and I will walk away and disappear for an hour and I'll come back. And that's like something that's kind of socially unacceptable in most situations. I do realize that. So I try to not do that if I'm with strangers because they won't understand, but my real friends, they know that about me and they're like totally cool. So they just hang out and then when I come back, I love that they're there and I love that they're hanging out with my kids or hanging out with my wife and doing other stuff and just being comfortable in that that for me is like a perfect dinner, is one where I would be social, I would get an idea, walk away, think about it for a moment, collect my thoughts, get energy, write it down and come back filled with energy from that and then continue the conversation. That's a great example of something I love doing. So that's actually happened where you've been at a dinner party with friends and then you've had an idea and you've left and then you've, my thing there is if I'd left, so the first thing is that I'm not sure my girlfriend would be very happy. She understands that I'm like that, she understands that I love being alone, she understands that I get ideas at predictable times and that idea might suck me away. She probably would be that happy about it, probably need to have a conversation about that. But also if I went away, I would need to start working on the idea because I'd get so energized about the thing that I'd then spend all night like, sorry guys, sorry. Yeah, that happens by the way. It happens that I like finish halfway through the dinner and just disappear. Don't come back to, I will say my friends usually, even my close friends are like, "Hey, we came to hang out with you, not like to see if we're half an hour than you disappearing." But it happens. But I can obviously equally be there for all the dinner too. And yeah, it is one of the social oddities I think that I do with my close friends. And again, I know it's highly socially unacceptable in most situations. But if you really think about it as an introvert, as I said, I'd usually thrive on, I need social elements, but I get most of my energy being by myself. And so then from an energy balance perspective, being with people, it gives me a lot of ideas. It's great, but it also empties my energy reserves and going away, filling them up again, coming back. It is probably the ideal way for me. If you ask me, what would a perfect night look like, it would probably be that. How do you then balance romance and relationships? My partner, I think her attachment style and her love language is like quality time. So I often violate that love language because of what you've just described. We could be Saturday in a park and then I think about something or get an email and then I'm off away on my own little world. Yeah, I mean, that's certainly the risk. Again, I'm fortunate enough that my wife is kind of very similar to me in that regard. So she too leaves dinners and has her ideas and do that. So I think we're more similar. We try to make sure that one of us thinks it gets very awkward otherwise. But if you're both like that, do you have to have rules though for when you do put it? Yeah. That's the thing that's actually the harder thing for us is finding that quality time. So I mean, there's two parts. You can either have, I like defaults. So you can have like the default this we spend time together or the default this we're in a relationship but we don't spend time together. And so you have to make time where you're actively finding something you both are interested in and you want to spend time on together. And I think we're more that. And I think most people probably with kids would recognize that because the kids come first in the relationship anyway. So your relationship to your significant other is probably the second priority and that relationship and your wants to kids are the first. So I don't think that's uncommon but I think changing that default could be really important. And again, if it's something that's really important to my wife, of course I'm going to be present. She's really into horse riding. I'm not. But I know it matters to her greatly. So not only will I try to speak to her every morning when she wants to talk about that, but I also show up for her competitions or I show up for important practices that she has as well. And there are aspects of the coursing thing where we can bond and have great quality time as well. As it is, she loves hearing about my entrepreneurial endeavors as well. And we find quality time through that and then we have date nights like most couples do. And yeah, I mean, if you're at the restaurant, you just really walk up and get away. Of course, you're going to spend that quality time as well. Starting Spotify. When I heard the Spotify story, I really wanted to meet you because I consider myself to be ambitious. But there are some challenges that I would just view as impossible. And at the time when you consider how the music industry was, that it's ran by these big record labels predominantly and they own the music to be a young kid from Sweden and believe that you could change that, for me, it's a special type of delusion. It's like, it's just an impossible task. It's what I just would have thought, OK, some things are the way they are. They're removable objects. That is one of them. Why didn't you think that was an impossible task? Well, I think for several reasons, but I think that is the beautiful narrative of an entrepreneur as well, right? We move mountains.
Innovative Problem-Solving: Daniel Ek's Approach to Challenges (45:28)
I'm sure Elon was even more insurmountable thing, electric cars and hadn't been a successful car companies for, I think, a century or something. Or at least many, many decades in the US. And he managed to do that. So I think it's part delusion, delusion, sorry. But the other part I think also is that what I realized is before even committing to this idea, so that the why not part, I probably spent 500 hours learning about this problem. And the scarce resource we have in the world today by far is time. And when you have high quality people that spend thousands of hours on a problem, you find new solutions. And so the biggest thing for humanity, I believe, is simply that.
Pursuing Opportunities When They Present themselves (46:28)
I believe we're capable of doing practically anything. But there aren't that many people that can see these multi-dimensional things with that right experience that happens to me at that right time, that are spending thousands of hours of trying to needle in a haystack, see that opportunity through that very, very tiny prism. And even today, when I think about some of my other businesses, it kind of worked the same way. So I started a health care business about five years ago. But I was spending, I think, the first interview when I mentioned it was in 2009. And I started the company five years ago, 2018. So I probably spent a decade thinking about this problem. And I couldn't figure out a solution. 2008. Yeah. You started the company in 2008. No, no, I started the company, the health care company in 2018. But I started thinking about it 2008. Oh, OK. So I have a notebook with all my crazy ideas. Most of them amount to nothing. Quite often, someone else comes along and dust them, and I'm happy, and it's amazing. But every now and then, nothing happens for a great period of time. And I kind of feel that itch to maybe make a difference myself. And I say that because the realization there was high, it's been up until that point, thousands of hours understanding the health care system, why it is, where the way it is, the incentive schemes, and what the NHS is doing, and what someone else is doing, and the public health care system, insurance, business, direct-to-consumer things, the longevity curves of human beings, the disease curves, the costs curves, all of those aspects about it, similar to how you're describing looking at rockets. But imagine you're spending a thousand hours of rocket, not just kind of casually researching it. I am sure you will find novel ways of how to attack the problem. It may not be because if you're not a physicist, you may not come up with the next rocket engine, but you may find another twist on how to attack this problem. And I don't really think it comes down to that. And so in the space of music, I don't know anything about the music industry going into it, but I would argue a few years into it, I was probably one of the most foremost experts on copyright in the world around the DMCA and what the US copyright regime looked like and what other regimes looked like, and how performance rights societies, label rights, and what kind of rights, mechanical rights, performing rights, all of those different aspects, all the different code I see numbers, ISBN numbers, and how they related and so on and so forth. And I find people either get too muddled in on the details and don't see the bigger picture or they stay too top-level picture to really see the new ones. And the question is how do you dive deep enough where you see it and figure out which problems to solve and what order. And I was at that point by probably 2007 having spent a year on Spotify, but the team was super small so it really wasn't a big commit at that time. And I wasn't sure at that time, but then I realized that, hey, this is actually possible because we built the product that showcase the technology of what we're doing and it felt like if you had all the world's music on your hard drive, so then the real problem ended up being can we get the music industry to accept this. And to that I had no idea, but I felt like this is so obviously if this came out in the marketplace what consumers would ask for.
Surviving Apple Music's Challenge: Spotify's Focus on User Experience (50:23)
Now the only question is is the music industry going to allow this? And that took me another year and a half, 18 months to learn the answer. And it was completely binary. We almost died probably four times in that process and ran out of money and a record company saying no, this is not going to happen until eventually one day the stars aligned and we were able to launch. But that was not a given, but it felt like the right bet to make because it was a binary outcome. Either we failed, the price wasn't all too bad. If we would succeed, it was clearly so that at least this would resonate very well with the consumers. Was there any moments where you thought that it wasn't going to happen? Are you conversations you had with record labels where someone very high up says absolutely no way? Many times. I would say probably once every month or two over a two year period, I thought that this probably won't pan out. And it was incredibly demoralizing. I usually joke, but in the beginning of that process, I had hair and then in the end of it, I lost all of the hair. I probably gained 30 pounds in weight during that period of time. It was awful. But through it all, my co-founder Martin, probably a factor of just who he is as an individual, but also probably because he didn't participate in these meetings, kept being really upbeat, kept being amazing support and said, "Don't worry about it. You're going to figure it out." And he just kept believing in me. And then he also said, "The few times when that was in life, he said, "Don't worry about it. We'll figure out something else if this doesn't work out." It felt to me like I always had that safety net. It was just the amount the push that I needed to do this. And again, talking about not giving advice, but the advice that I do give to other people is to share the burden with someone.
The Strength of Co-founders: Supporting Each Other in Tough Times (52:30)
It is so important. And I know I get most of the credit for Spotify, but it is really a team effort from the Gustav Sennalex and all those people. But then also in the early days from Martin in believing in me and knowing this kind of supernatural ability that I'm going to pull it off somehow. I must have told you a story which I guess has stayed with you about perseverance and the power of perseverance. The double edged sword to that is sometimes it's right to quit as well. And knowing when to persevere and knowing when you're just wasting your time, which is as you said, the most important currency of all. That's where art meets science. There is no scientific answer because it depends. It's an art to know when something is futile and when something is worth doing. But I call it that sort of binary outcome, but with uneven distribution. So if you think about it as a curve, even if it's 50/50 whether you succeed, but on the upside you can win a lot more than you can lose and all you can really lose is one time and the upside may be 100. It's probably worth persuading. Obviously that's the science part. The art thing is okay, well is it really 100 times? It's 10 times and have I already lost, but I'm just not aware of it. That's the art. And also in that I hear an optimism bias from two co-founders. The constant, we'll figure it out. We'll figure it out. How important do you think that is? Especially you hire a lot of people. Is that something you're looking for and the people that you work with that bias towards we'll figure it out? I think again, it depends on the role you're hiring for. You need a team. I think it's really important that you just don't surround yourself with just yes people or optimists. You need the naysayer in the room as well. You need the people who will balance it out and be the one who says, "I'm not sure this is going to work out." So often I think that's the important part. We keep talking about it with the CFO or salespeople, but again, you can have deal-making, CFO and salesperson that's happy, go lucky. It may not be a great combo. You may want the CFO to be skeptical about the sales pipeline and a happy, go lucky sales person or the inverse. Maybe like really diligent that and the CFO that maybe don't worry about it, we will sort it out. But I think so much about that is the subtleties. We don't have a perfect model of the world. And the more experience I have, it's a cheesy thing to say, but the lesser realize that I actually know. And so much of these are actually down in the nuances and most people are above the nuances, don't really understand the issues well enough or to bog down into details to understand the bigger picture. And going that sort of up and down, that's sort of super detail oriented, but also being able to go up and see the big pictures. That is, and simplifying, very complex concepts. I think some of the most amazing entrepreneurs in the world are experts at. And that is super power. And that is certainly one that I'm trying to hone and work on. But when you see it like Steve Jobs, when you think very complex things, people say he didn't understand engineering and technical problems, it's not true. Yes, he may not have been an engineer.
Networking for Business Success: Building Relationships with Assistants (56:12)
He may not have known how to write code, but he certainly could empathize with what made an amazing engineer tick empathize with different technical solutions, what have different inputs and outputs. And he understood it. And he was brilliant in taking very complex ideas and understanding how to make that resonate for the everyday person. These tales are here of you sort of being outside record labels and waiting for the CEO to come out so that you could catch them or try to, I don't know, the assistant outside and asking when the CEO was coming outside so that you could get a meeting with them. Are these tales true? As with many, they're probably exaggerated a little bit. Whereas the truth is, that's certainly happened, but I've heard people recount it as that I slept outside of the record labels kind of in a sleeping bag. That didn't happen. That happened another time in my career, but it didn't happen there. But it certainly happened that I'd book a week, fly to New York with no meeting booked, with basically an open calendar and about 20 phone calls a day just trying to figure out any time to get on the schedule of a scene with VP or a CEO, etc. That certainly happened. And that taught me another thing too, which is that these assistants, like you better befriend them because they are the keys to the kingdom. And most people don't care about them at all, but they're very influential. They're very powerful. And that was hard in the beginning, but then I realized that they got to see me as an individual. I saw them as an individual. And eventually, this is not, we tend to believe the world is more logical than what it is, but a lot of it is based on relationships. So eventually, some of them started taking a liking to me. So when there was the opportunity and they could prioritize 10 other things for that CEO to do, but I was there. I was friendly and easy to work with, show up, but no moments notice, even if it was 20 minutes before finding out about it, I would show up. And so I was easy to deal with, so take away all that complexity in order to achieve the outcome that I wanted to do. And sometimes that is as simple as it is, just be consistent, be the easiest person to deal with, and you'd be surprised how many problems it solves. Did you invest your personal capital into starting Spotify? Because I read again that you'd spend pretty much all of your personal wealth to start the company. Yeah, I did. So I invested not all of it, but quite substantial amounts of it. And my co-founder invested even more, but he obviously had a much larger sum of money from the beginning. So all in all, I think we invested about $10 million into this by ourselves, which was also crazy because back then, today, $10 million into a startup, which isn't a big number. Many startups that have done that before. But doing that on a seed stage back in 2007, that just was unheard of. It was usually 500k seed, check, sums, etc. What if it hadn't worked out? What would have been the personal implications for you financially? The personal implications I went from not having to have a job to then probably having to go back to having a job.
Financial Risk in Entrepreneurship: Daniel Ek's $10 Million Investment (59:38)
So I basically took that security that I built up, that 22 I'm set for life, and I gave that up in a moment's notice. And yeah, I mean, I don't know what to say. I think from a purely logical point of view, it was probably a terrible decision. But betting on myself and betting on yourself would probably be, again, I say I should give advice, but it is probably the best advice I could give many people. Because especially those that want to invest in various startups, etc. But they may not have a lot of money. And then I would say, well, why don't you just better yourself instead? Why don't you just try to work for one of these startups, like you said, and maybe take a little bit more equity and a little bit less pay and take out of your cash instead? Because that way you increase the likelihood, hopefully if you know you're good, of the company being a success. And it just feels like the more prudent thing to do. So I had a sneaky feeling that that was the right thing to do, but investing as much probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. A new podcast sponsor that I'm super excited to talk about with all of you is LinkedIn jobs. Hiring, as I would know, is one of the most important steps in your business. Without good people, there is no company. Trust me, I found out along the way that your business is nothing without good people. You want to be 100% certain, though, that you have access to the best candidates available. And that's why you have to check out LinkedIn jobs. LinkedIn jobs helps you to find the right people for your team faster and for free. So when I'm expanding my team, LinkedIn is my first port of call. I highly recommend it. On LinkedIn jobs, posting a job is super easy, and you can add a purple hashtag hiring frame around your LinkedIn profile to spread the word. LinkedIn jobs helps you find the qualified candidates you want to talk to faster, post your job for free at linkedin.com/d-o-a-c. To post your job for free, terms and conditions apply. As you may know, this podcast is sponsored by Heule. If you're living under a rock, you might have missed that. I've come to learn over time, not all of the products they have are for me, but the ones that are for me have really, really changed my life in a profound way. All of the products are designed for different use cases and different people. For me, as you'll probably know, the Ready to Drink bottles are a staple of my life at the moment, and they have been for many, many years. But for a lot of other people, they have the Hot and Savory, which is a five-minute hot meal that's nutritionally complete, and contains all the good stuff that all Heule products contain, which is the 23 vitamins and minerals, and the wonderful balance of sort of nutritional completeness. And then you have the bars as well. If you've heard about Heule on this podcast, you've heard me talking about it a lot, you're aware that I'm an investor in the company, you're aware that I'm on the board of the company, and you're not sure where to start. I would highly recommend starting with the best salabundal. Basically, we'll send you a package in the post containing all of the favorite products that people love, and then you try them all and stick with the ones that really, really fit you. The link is in the description below to try the best salabundal. Spotify goes on to be, I mean, success is probably an understatement. I know the journey to that success had multiple near-death experiences to get there. One of the key things key moments I reflect on as a Spotify customer is when Apple launched their competing product, Apple Music, in 2015, I believe it was. And there was lots of articles saying that this would be the death of Spotify. I think I was even concerned. As a very loyal Spotify user, I thought, "They have all the phones, they're kind of like the mafia, they could just squash you." Most companies, when Apple comes into their territory, shake in their boots. What was it like in your office that day when Apple Music launched a competing product? When you live in the thick of the fire, you're not concerned about the things that everyone else is concerned about. I usually say public perception lacks about six to 12 months. What's actually going on? In our case, we'd known that Apple was going to launch something for probably the better part of a year because they had the Beats acquisition beforehand, and we were hearing all sorts of rumors, et cetera about what it was. Absolutely, you have to be worried when one of the greatest companies on the earth decides to compete with you. We were concerned about it, and we were kind of doubling down on what our positioning was going to be. You kind of doubled and triple checked whether or not you were deluding yourself into believing things to be true. For instance, in our case, one of the big things, we had some strategic pillars that we were focusing on. One of them we called Ubiquity because we always knew this would eventually be the case. We thought that consumers would value the ability to work across all devices and all ecosystem. Our bet would be that any competitor we might have had would actually focus on reinforcing their own ecosystem and not care about all the other stuff. The primary reason they were into a music service would be to make their own devices better, not to make the world's best music service. That's why we made such an effort of integrating into cars, integrating into all sorts of weird devices, smart fridges, whatever you might think. It was kind of like reiterating that, but I felt pretty good about that position and going back. Then there's always this sort of like, what if they figured out something that we just wouldn't have thought about? I remember we were constantly talking to the product teams about this and I was like, what if they come up with this? We're literally trying this game theorizing every possible angle on it. But I think at the end of the day, we went through the thousand scenarios kind of thing. We knew we'd prepared as well as we could. We anticipated a certain type of product. It was this kind of 1% or 10% chance, whatever you want to quantify it as, where we would just be wrong. They'd come up with something that widely superseded any of our expectations. That very day, remember we'd been preparing for that day for so long. The first reaction was kind of them announcing it, which we expected them to do. Then seeing the walkthrough of the product and realizing that, okay, well, we prepared for this. We thought about this, et cetera. Really enough, as the rest of the world gasped for air, we were thinking about it, okay, well, this was what we expected. Back to that point, distribution was the amazing thing. They hadn't come up with something on the product side that we just didn't anticipate. It was really just about distribution. There was nothing we could do to guard ourselves against it. We felt like we had a superior experience on the personalization side. The fact that if you have a Windows machine and an iPhone, Spotify would work, but Apple Music wouldn't at that time. There were many of those things that I thought had a better positioning than they had. I've long thought that. I've tried both. I tried it when it came out and I couldn't stick to it. I think me and my friends who are in my music group, we all concluded that the personalization, how Spotify understands me is really the thing. It's hard to know why you do what you do as a consumer, but from analyzing it a bit more deeply, it just felt like I built -- there was a lot of investment I'd done to my playlists and all those things. Spotify just knew me better. It seems to have much more data than data on me and understands me and is more of a bespoke solution to me than Apple was. I also -- the user experience is not great and I just can't get past that. I tried it and I bounced it. I just stuck with Spotify. Apple -- I used the word "mathier" early on. A lot of people don't know this, but they take 30% revenues on pretty much every new app in the store. They've rejected your audio, book app multiple times. There's a rumor going around that they even delay how quickly you can release new updates of your app and delay how that reaches phones. What's your opinion on Apple and what they do and how they conduct themselves? Well, as a consumer, let's start off with Apple as a fantastic company and to make amazing products. I really do believe that.
Cultural Aspects Of Business And Personal Growth Insights
Personal Growth Journey: How Daniel Ek Has Evolved (01:08:27)
I've been a Mac user since I can't even remember probably the late '90s when I first the Ford one all the way to now and obviously used the iPhone and Apple watches and all that stuff. Let's start with that. I think that's hard to square than that there's this other company that's fiercely focused on just itself and constantly trying to do things by itself and not working well with others. Those are perhaps two different sides of the same coin, but the way that manifests itself, I think that it's a company in many cases that still sees itself as an underdog but don't realize that they become Goliath. Many of the tactics that made it the rebel kind of thing are now stifling innovation and it's really hurting consumers to great extent. With the 30% you talked about, with the fact that a Spotify can't or any developer, if you don't pay the 30% you can't even speak to your consumers, it is kind of absurd. There's a ruthlessness on the business side of Apple and perhaps it's always been so, I don't know, I never got the opportunity to meet Steve Jobs but where just from an ethos point of view it's just not me. I have a hard time squaring that with me as the consumer and me as the business leader and needless to say, I do believe that Apple can and should play fair and I think it would be way better for the world if they did. I think that it would actually help them in many regards to switch their tactics and realize that they are the Goliath at this point and not David. One of the things I want to close on is your philosophy. I guess it's the same answer because Spotify's philosophy towards what's made it successful will probably be in many respects a reflection of your philosophies towards business and more broadly towards life. When I sit here and I think a lot of people will sit here and say, there's clearly something unique about you, about the way you approach problem solving, problems, life, business, all of those things that has defined you and set you apart. Are you aware of what that is, what those principles are? No, I don't think so but I think you're right in that the way I would describe Spotify to people. You're right that it is scary sometimes watching Spotify, trying to watch it from a distance and not just be in it because sometimes it's doing things where I'm like, how did people know that we were supposed to do it this way? It would be how I would approach solving a problem and it's how we've internalized certain things. But the best way is it's 17 years old now and it is a teenager that's liberating itself so it's not 100% me. In fact, it is this much broader different being. There are aspects of it that hasn't taken after me at all in product development. Gustave is a formidable product leader as an example and Alex is a formidable business leader and the two of them are now leading more of the day today and they're certainly instilling their personal values and their personal perspective of the company too which I think they're totally entitled to doing and having been with the company for 12 plus years, both of them. But it is interesting seeing it because we're approaching things now in a way I wouldn't always do. It's not inconsistent with important principles of mine but it's certainly not directed. The other part is I started as a 23 year old and the 23 year old Daniel while many parts are the same, the 40 year old Daniel with two kids having seen that have changed perspectives as well. I have a different feeling about work and the importance of that in my life. Still very important but may not be the sole most important thing that I do just to mention one. It has similarities but there's differences to me as an individual too but I think if you compare me to 23 year old Daniel to 30 year old Daniel to 40 year old Daniel, I've evolved too and candidly I'm in that period at the moment where I'm perhaps trying to figure out who the 40 year old Daniel really is because it's a different one than the 30 year old one, maybe it's subtleties but I think in quite a big way also I'm just thinking about something like culture.
The Role of Culture in a Successful Business (01:13:05)
The 23 year old Daniel culture was having a ping-pong table. 30 year old Daniel would have said yeah culture is important but didn't really understand why and the 40 year old Daniel would be, you know, the 30 year old Daniel would be more strategy than culture actually and the 40 year old Daniel is all about culture almost to the point where strategy is secondary if not even tertiary to that. 40 year old Daniel is all about culture. Yeah way more so. What is the culture? Well that's the amazing thing because it is the most scalable thing done right of a company and it's the hardest thing right because it is everything and nothing. It is every positive action that's happening in the company, it's every negative action in the company, every person that's joining every person that's leaving is impacting culture. And so in its essence I believe culture is about rewarding the positive behaviors you want to see in the company and obviously dissuade the negative. For the positive behaviors you want to see. Well one of them is taking risks, failing and how do you do that when you have 8 or 9,000 people inside of a company responsibly? How do you, when the common status quo is we don't like failure? You don't get promoted based on failure, you get promoted based on being successful. Annie Duke has this thinking in bets, she talks about, I love that, is thinking about poker ships on the table and she said one time when we spoke she said to me it's like a company is like everyone has ships at the table, we just don't know how many we have. And so the people that have been successful have way more. So they have leniency and the allowance in the culture of any organizations to do more than someone who just started and perhaps have less or less ones. And if you failed enough times what's naturally going to happen is that you won't have the same agency in a large organization to impact things too. So then the counterpoint to that would be well how do you then create an environment where people are allowed to take risks and then balance that with say a Spotify at this point where we have a huge amount of responsibility too. We have tens of millions of creators that have their livelihood of them platform. We can just experiment with how we're paying out and so on and so forth right and 550 million consumers we have to be responsible with their data we can't put new things in front of them without testing them and so on and so forth. And so there's this constant tension between being innovative, taking risks and at the same time obviously being responsible and that's hard but that's all about culture. I'm absolutely obsessed with the subject of culture because I really think it's an under appreciated factor in why businesses are the way they are. I think you could basically take a person off the street and the culture you drop them into terms of the behaviour you'll get from them. And having sat here in an interview like Sir Alex Ferguson's ex-team mates you just come to learn that Sir Alex Ferguson's greatness wasn't a strategy. They all say to me I remember Patrice and Everett said to me that he walked in on a wheel plane arsenal on a Sunday in London and he walked in and just said lads listen beautiful weather outside don't fuck up my Sunday and walked out because his thing was about management. He just had this culture. The other thing they said to me which has always stayed with me is Rio Ferdinand said to me how many times do you think he came into the training ground dressing room in 26 years? I don't know he said twice. Really? Didn't need to come in there the culture was in there? Yeah.
From Sports to Business: Daniel Ek on Fostering Collaborative Culture (01:17:30)
And it was self policing when it's strong right? Yeah. But you're right sports teams the ones that do really well. I was being told an arsenal story that probably can't share but you could see bits and pieces of Michael's you know how he's pushing that team culture at the moment too which seems very fascinating with some of the almost antics he seems to be doing this all or nothing season that was I think last season as well. So you can see that and I love studying that with sports teams because you know it's 11 players on the pitch how do you make these people gel together and form a team. Hugely important thing so I agree but also like imagine if you had 11 new players you know can't even form or Chelsea in these days. Can you even create a culture that way or is it something that should be done intentional? I mean if you growing a company growing the number of employees by 50% two years in a row most of your employees probably won't have been here even for a year. It will change things whereas if you make something where it's more of a gradual change it will it's easier I'm not saying it's trivial but to kind of have the same culture and I think many founders make that mistake when they over how they don't understand the implication of culture they just look at sort of more warm bodies but it's all these other subtle things that starts breaking. Daniel we've got a closing tradition on this podcast where the last guest leaves a question for the next guest and I love this question because you don't like giving advice so yeah this is a perfect one for you. What is the advice that someone could have but didn't give you at 21 years old that would have made you more successful at the thing you now do? I think we spoke about it. I've gone through iterations of trying to learn from other people and model that a huge part of that has been kind of optimizing for my strengths and not covering my weaknesses and I wish that I realized much earlier on that perhaps my superpower is that I'm pretty good all around her and not particularly good at anything. So I used to think for instance that I had this brilliant model myself on the Mark Zuckerberg so the world of I need to run every product meeting I need to be the best product person in the world just wasn't me and it took me a while to realize that and be comfortable saying that right.
Embrace Your Superpower: Daniel Ek's Advice for Entrepreneurs (01:20:10)
But I have realized that I do like a lot of different things. I love learning about new things and perhaps that is my superpower to realize that the person who is doing PR is quite an interesting thing to learn about. There are interesting things about employment law, how that came to be and trying to understand that and the list goes on and on and on and I love that and I wish I would have probably understood that earlier about myself because that would have allowed myself to not model so much on other people but somehow be more introspective and listen to myself. I think that's really one of the things I take away from you said very eloquently is that your proof that entrepreneurs can buck a number of different trends and still be wildly successful and that evidence means to someone like me that there's no such thing as an entrepreneur in terms of how they operate, what they're interested in and that there's many ways to be a successful entrepreneur and it really from what you've just said that the most sure fire way of becoming a successful entrepreneur is actually looking inward versus looking outwards at like oh how does Elon do it or how does Daniel do it. Which stays with me a lot because it's really changed my thinking on a few really important things that I think I've been limiting myself on. Daniel thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me. Thank you for building such a great business and building a business that is I guess even though you're number one still embodies the first principle underdog mentality. There's something about Spotify which is it feels, I know people don't like this word but I don't know if you do but it feels more like a family because I've met a lot of the people there and I know a lot of them and they're like really nice people that are very open books. It doesn't feel like a big corporate to me. It's very humble in its approach but it's also very ambitious and it strikes that balance really wonderfully well and it's a company and a brand that I deeply resonate with for that reason. It's a wonderful thing and I think you talked about wanting to do work that brings good to the world. The good to the world that Spotify has done in my view is unquantifiable because music is a wonderful thing but what you're doing now and podcasting as well and how you've really owned and driven that industry forward for people like me to have these longer form more contextual conversations. I think it's hard to measure the good that's done to the world but it's certainly an important one. Thank you, that means a lot to me and you're right. It's about being humble while doing it but ambition and humbleness may not seem like they go hand in hand. So I think you've captured the essence of what we like Spotify to be at its best which is super ambition but yet humble with all of its past success all of that stuff that we're still learning. Super curious. I never told the story before but when I went on a trip to Sweden and I was there with some of your colleagues so Gustave who's head of product right and Alex who's head of business everything that makes money and I was there with Shaquille as well who's a good friend and colleague of yours and has been for a long time and they sat me down at a table for about 30 minutes or an hour and said you're a podcaster Steve. Tell us everything we need to know about podcasting.
Company Culture At Spotify
Spotify's Culture of Success: Learning and Adapting from Creators (01:23:55)
How can we make Spotify better for you as a podcaster and for the very people at the top of Spotify to sit and listen so intently to me and then to act upon what I said and then give me feedback weeks later and say okay we're now working on this, have you listened to you, it's not something that a big corporate that was arrogant or very sure of themselves or had lost that mentality would ever do that stayed with me because it's hard to do that when you get big to really be curious and humble and that's exactly what Spotify is so I wish you all the luck in the world and I'm sure you won't need it because you've got a wonderful culture of people and great people around you but just wanted to say thank you for that. Well no thank you and I mean again yes we listen but it's also because you are innovating on your side and with all the aspects even seeing your studio here today it's kind of like bringing it to the next level so that's amazing to see that you're able to do that amazing to bring these conversations to the world and we all get the benefits to learn from them as well without maybe having the opportunity like you have to meet all these individuals too and that's going to bring a lot of growth journeys for a lot of people too so thank you. We've got an exciting news bounce friends podcast and I couldn't be more excited to announce that we're now working with Shopify and if there's one tool that I use pretty much every single day in my businesses that is certainly Shopify. I'm sure you've all heard about Shopify but for some reason if you haven't then Shopify is the commerce platform that is revolutionizing millions of businesses worldwide whether you're starting a side hustle, a new project with a friend or a global business Shopify has you covered. You guys may know that we recently sold a product on this platform called the Derivosio conversation cards which featured questions from the guests in these episodes and from start to finish from launching that product we used Shopify. A total game changer makes life incredibly incredibly smooth when it relates to business and a tool that my team have absolutely loved using which is not always the case with technology. We couldn't have launched those conversation cards without it and if you guys haven't tried Shopify out for yourself then I highly suggest you do. Head to Shopify.com/Bartlet to take your business to the next level today and let me know how you get on that. Shopify.com/Bartlet let me know how you get on.