Sep 30, 2016 Pauliina Martikainen
Chris Barton, the co-founder and board director of the music discovery company Shazam, led the creation of the company with three other co-founders, inventing a new pattern recognition technology and launching the world’s first mobile music recognition service that today has more than 450 million users and generates more than $300 million in digital downloads. The app that all us music lovers have today was founded already in 1999, giving Barton a position of a true visionary and the person to share insights on how to always stay one step ahead.
Chris Barton came up with the idea of Shazam while he was still finishing his business studies. As groundbreaking as the idea without a doubt was, what Barton sees as key for making the business bloom was actually continuously questioning his own concept. “It is relatively easy to come up with an idea and have a great conviction for building it. It is way more difficult to constantly reflect on your own idea while at the same time taking so much personal risk to see it through,“ Barton explains.
He feels, however, that encouraging feedback from others that question your ideas can be the most valuable source to help you improve your approach. “During my early years at Shazam I had a number of business mentors ranging from VCs to friends to colleagues. Some of the most valuable insights for me came from other entrepreneurs,” he says. “For example my friend and Shazam advisor Josh Hannah who had founded Flutter (merged into Betfair) often provided very insightful advice when I had a particularly challenging question.”
As a successful entrepreneur himself, what Barton would like to say to those aspiring to become one is therefore to above all approach everything without constraints, “Try to see around the corner what your next biggest risks are and get ahead of them with possible solutions. This will help you leap ahead to find what you would otherwise learn only in hindsight.”
“I have never once felt like giving up despite many years of challenging times, particularly in the early days.” Barton has been part of building up a company from scratch to being worth a billion dollars. Yet, he doesn’t recall a single moment he would have felt like giving up.
According to him, instead of focusing on the negative side, he has always felt like the answer to the challenges is right around the corner. And that solution is what differs you from the competitors. “Strangely, I have found that the barriers which to some can be so frustrating, have in fact often been even more motivating for me. If a technical problem seems insurmountable, I get excited about the fact that our ability to conquer it will be that much more difficult for others to replicate. When investors or partners passed on Shazam, I was drawn to the chance to open their eyes at a later time. Brick walls are great because it is fun to break them down, and see what is on the other side!”
It is no surprise that even though Barton is seen as a wizard of the music tech scene, there are also other business areas that the relentless mind is after. “I think the next big area for progress of music tech will be in frictionless personalization resulting in creation of more playlists per user. However, since I feel over invested in the music space, my new interest areas have broadened to include such areas as health technology and other areas that can improve the lives of people,“ he tells.
When it comes to Slush 2016, Barton, one of the speakers unveiling the mind of an entrepreneur on stage, is therefore excited, “I look most forward to the serendipity that comes from stumbling across people, teams, ideas, technologies and finding what resonates with me.”
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