Pandora Co-founders Tim Westergren and Tom Conrad recently sat down with PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy for a PandoMonthly Fireside Chat. The series is ongoing, featuring major figures in tech, and Lacy typically includes some difficult questions in the process of giving entrepreneurs a platform to open up. Tim Westergren's responses are currently being featured and he discusses the difficult early days, the isolation of the entrepreneur and answers the question, "Who's really screwing artists?"
PandoDaily typically shares some highlights of their Fireside Chats before eventually releasing the whole event. Highlights to date from the Pandora Chat feature Tim Westergren:
On Facing Seemingly Insurmountable Odds
Pandora's success to date has been against tremendous odds. It took four and a half years before getting serious outside funding:
"The founders had 11 maxed out credit cards, were $500,000 in personal debt, and were on the verge of being evicted. Across the company, 50 people had been working for several years without salaries, five of which were suing the company for back wages."
Tim Westergren pitched VCs 348 times before getting to yes:
"I got told no by every living VC, and understandably. It was a completely fucked up idea to hire 40 musicians and have them come in with a pair of headphones and writing numbers with pencil and paper and then transfer them to spreadsheets."
Eventually they got funded but they also had to take their case to Congress multiple times.
On Being An Entrepreneur
Tim Westergren discussed some of the weird psychological aspects of being an entrepreneur that tend to get downplayed in media worship. For example, as Westergren pointed out in an exchange with moderator Sarah Lacy:
Westergren: “I’m telling you something you’re familiar with now, first-hand...You’re gonna borrow investment money, you’re gonna borrow goodwill, you’re gonna borrow time.”
Lacy: "You’re always selling and asking for things."
Westergren: "You can start to feel like a big mooch."
But Westergren clarified that it goes beyond just feeling like a mooch describing a complex that emerges for entrepreneurs in which they often feel completely out of touch with the rest of society.
So Who's Screwing Artists?
Westergren responded to the question with:
“I don’t think there’s a bad guy,”
But he also noted:
"The industry has for a long time been propped up by a product where you’re paying $20 for something you really wanted to pay $1 for. Maybe you could argue that the bad guy was the one who made that possible?”
“The key is for artists to begin thinking of themselves as small businesses: I gotta develop my audience, I gotta find ways to make that audience large and get them to contribute in small ways to patronize me...I think the Web is well suited for that, but it’s not easy.”
The full evening is likely to be available at PandoDaily by end of next week. Until then they'll continue to drop juicy morsels so checking back will likely be worth the effort.
[Thumbnail of Tim Westergren by David Shankbone via Wikipedia.]
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