This interview is a part of our new sequence of Progress Tales, during which we interview the founders and CEOs of 20 of the quickest rising startups in Europe. We requested them about their corporations, their corporations’ tradition, and their lives, attempting to know how these components play a task in attaining development. The sequence is among the initiatives that may construct as much as Tech 5 – the annual competitors we manage in collaboration with Adyen.
Ola Sars (CEO of Soundtrack your Model): “Working lengthy hours is unprofessional and inefficient”
The primary time I discuss with Ola Sars – CEO and co-founder of Swedish startup Soundtrack your model – is over the cellphone. It’s four.30 pm and Ola is in Stockholm, strolling to select up his youngsters after college. “I attempt to end at 4 PM no less than 3 times per week,” he tells me. “Now we have just one life and household is extra necessary than job.”
This doesn’t come as a shock to me: getting ready for the interview, I scrolled via Ola Sars’ LinkedIn profile, the place he proudly defines “parental go away” as “managing a very powerful crew ever.” In fact, that job is listed amongst a sequence of extra conventional positions: a number of years in consultancy, some expertise in promoting, after which the large leap to the music trade. He launched Tonium Pacemaker and co-founded Beats Music, that he left eight months earlier than Apple’s acquisition. However for Ola Sars it was not sufficient. He noticed that the streaming revolution was occurring not only for customers but in addition on the B2B facet. That’s why in 2013, he teamed up with Andreas Liffgarden and Joel Brosjo to discovered ‘Soundtrack your Model,’ principally a B2B model of Spotify. “The chance was straightforward to know,” Ola tells me on the cellphone, “however the actually tough half is execution.”
Co-founders Andreas Liffgarden (left) & Ola Sars (proper)
After four years, SYB has taken off. It’s obtainable in 102 international locations worldwide and goals at turning into world chief within the section. Final yr, the corporate grew customers and income between 300-400 p.c. Its providers run the gamut from plain licensing for small companies (35$ a month) to curated soundtracks for high-profile clients that want a tailored options. “What we wish to develop into, is the platform of alternative for all manufacturers, we wish to give them the facility of information by way of understanding what music play when and the place,” provides Ola. There’s not a lot time for extra dialog: the SYB’s CEO arrives at his youngsters’ college and I go away him to his well-deserved household time.
After few days, I meet Ola nose to nose in Amsterdam. He’s in The Netherlands for an enormous music occasion the place he’ll evangelize the general public on the significance of background music for companies. Sitting down in entrance of a espresso in a crowded bar, we chat in regards to the causes behind SYB’s spectacular development.
What do you do higher than your rivals?Background music has all the time been bought with a subscription mannequin and our rivals are nonetheless serving 1000’s of CDs and satellite tv for pc receivers. What we’re constructing is software program that doesn’t offer you a playlist, however a service that brings you the correct music on the proper time. We’re the clear disruptors on this market. Moreover, we’re giving small companies the chance to have options to the illicit use of Spotify.
What are the principle components of SYB’s recipe for development?We’re a product firm. We attempt to mix software program, design, and science. The elemental part of software program is “scalability,” and it’s intriguing to consider scalability as the principle driver of attempting to use software program to enterprise. Then, there’s design, as a result of with out it you simply don’t have nice merchandise. Lastly, there are additionally very fascinating scientific challenges in what we’re doing. For instance, how can music assist us be happier? We’ve been funding analysis on this sense. In all of this, our love for music is our purple thread, our blood vein.
How do you match into the larger image of the music market?Music was a 35 billion greenback trade, then it plummeted to 11. Spotify and the streaming revolution have been driving the comeback since then, however background music remains to be largely untapped potential. A median retailer reaches round 700 to 1500 customers per day and if you happen to do the maths, retail shortly turns into the world’s greatest music outlet. We simply began to scrape the floor of this market.
What’s the function of Spotify in SYB?They’re a passive shareholder [holding approximately 20%, ed.] and so they’re planning to maneuver an increasing number of to the again scene. They’re an excellent associate!
All of a sudden, music begins to play within the background of the bar we’re sitting. It’s an vague pop combination. I can’t assist however noticing it out loud.It tells me that they don’t actually care about their model, that they’re simply one other customary vacationer cafe. We consider that soundtracks are elementary for manufacturers, as a result of they convey their tales.
How does it work in apply? Let’s say that I wish to buy your service for my newly opened spa.Properly, first we’ll ask you to offer us 10 tracks that signify your model. On that foundation, we’ll provide the soundtrack of your model and also you’ll by no means have to the touch the service once more till you shut. Your employees won’t ever be bored by listening to the identical songs again and again. Your clients will really feel nice and so they’ll be capable to carry house and share your soundtrack. And this after all is fascinating for your corporation as a result of it stretches the connection with them past the precise level of transaction.
Merchandise apart, we’d additionally to know the way your organization tradition works as fertile floor for the achievement of development. Are you able to identify three core values that distinguish SYB?Positive: transparency, duty, and customary sense. I’ve been in entrance of the entire crew and informed the crew that I had cash within the financial institution to pay only one extra wage. We stepped up our sport and we solved the issue. That’s transparency. Accountability implies that it’s important to be an expert. It’s not OK to be 5 minutes late at a gathering. Once we go to work, we go to work, there’s no fucking round. Lastly, in a really complicated world, the arduous factor is to simplify, to be pushed by frequent sense and a sensible angle. For instance, in our conferences we don’t care about opinions, what we wish are data-driven insights. So, once you come to a gathering, you come ready. That’s one other factor that distinguishes us from our rivals: we’re very, very disciplined.
To be so decided, you definitely want a robust motivation.I’m tremendous pragmatic as an individual, so I’m not saying that we’re attempting to avoid wasting the world or something. However sure, there’s a small trigger that drives us, and that’s that the background music trade is dysfunctional. For us, what we do can be about paying the artists, it’s additionally a type of honest commerce music. The trigger helps to get up within the morning and be fired up.
How do you reconcile this “fired-up” strategy along with your need to “go away work at four no less than three days every week”?Properly, I would like the job to be the enabler for my life, even when I run an organization, and I would like everybody else in my crew to have the identical alternative. As an expert, it implies that I’ve to be higher, I’ve to be smarter, I’ve to get extra out of each hour. We wish to keep away from further hours and nonetheless dominate the worldwide market. Once we are at work, we play ‘sequence A,’ once we go house we take pleasure in our lives. We’re not caught within the stereotypical concept of startups working lengthy hours. I’m not enthusiastic about people who say to me that they work quite a bit. For me it implies that you’re not being environment friendly, you’re not being skilled. I do know that’s subjective, however that’s how we play.
I suppose that this angle has penalties for the best way you execute your function as CEO of the corporate?Sure, as a result of to be environment friendly I have to delegate. My job is placing the correct folks engaged on the correct stuff. And I’m very pleased with the elite crew I created. On this regard, we don’t have any HR and I feel we’re by no means gonna have it. As a result of it’s my job to rent and hearth. It’s my duty on the finish of the day. And since this isn’t a 12-months-Silicon-Valley-gig, I’m right here for the long run.
Talking of ecosystems, what do you consider the Nordics and particularly Swedish one?The Nordics are a extremely good testing floor for companies as a result of they’re small and low danger however with the complexities of larger markets. As for Sweden, properly…I actually prefer it! You could have the infrastructure in place, nice schooling and cutting-edge know-how. The DNA of the ecosystem has all the time been to construct to scale, to win on a worldwide scale.
OK, throughout these interviews, every thing appears all the time great and excellent. Are you able to identify some extra detrimental or simply difficult elements of your time at SYB?Properly, it has all the time been difficult! 99 out of 100 of those concepts fail. In the intervening time, it’s wanting good however I do know that it may possibly nonetheless go any approach. There’s a number of luck concerned and it’s all about attempting once more, once more, once more, and once more. So possibly on the finish it’s statistics, not luck. However sure, I’ve additionally been very unsuccessful in my life. You gotta personal it.
What’s a query you’d wish to ask to the opposite CEOs and founders we’re going to interview for these Progress Tales?One fascinating query, for my part, is that if they’re pondering in any respect about an exit, or the place they are going to be in 5-10 years from now? It’s simply fascinating to listen to if they’re pondering past what they’re doing proper now.