Pandora: Tim Westergren (Co-founder & CEO)
Imagine a world in which any song isn’t available to us at the click of a button. Now, wake up from your apocalyptic hellmare and start streaming. Before starting Pandora in 2000, the former musician, Tim Westergren, was living out of a van, probably down by the river, when he co-founded one of the first widely adopted music streaming services. Maybe Westergren was inspired to create a music streaming service because his car radio wouldn’t allow him to listen to the music he wanted. The inspiration of Pandora aside, Westergren was an integral part in the growth of Pandora (and by extension your 2008 party playlist). Tim guided the development of the Music Genome Project, “a unique hybrid recommendation engine utilized musicologists’ analyses of recordings in order to better recommend music to its users.”  Believing so much in the “radio on the internet’  concept, Westergren channeled his inner Matt Foley motivational speaker (in case you missed it above), and (in)famously convinced his 50-person team to work without pay for 2 years after initial funding ran out. For those that were able to keep the faith, they clearly didn’t fear what was inside Pandora’s Box. At its peak, Pandora streamed to 81 million active users, more than the number of national subscribers of HBO and Showtime combined. Westergren’s departure comes at a turbulent time for the company, which faces stiff competition from Spotify, Apple music, Google play, and industry imploding Amazon. For his swan song, Westergren helped the company receive a recent boost in the form $480 million investment from SiriusXM. Westergren, and by extension Pandora, represented a changing of the guard from terrestrial radio to streaming and is no longer there to guide Pandora as its competitors continue to increase. As for what is next for Westergren, that still remains to be seen, but I think it safe to assume he will not be living out of a van.