At one point, promising startups had to move to Silicon Valley to succeed; reasons being to attract talent, pursue funding opportunities and take advantage of a dense, entrepreneurial environment. How did you succeed in Berlin (specifically)? Why were you such an emphatic exception?
We visited a number of different cities across Europe when looking to set up SoundCloud’s HQ, but Berlin felt the most natural to us. We sometimes label it ‘Punk meets Tech’, to describe the alternative lifestyle feel of ‘going your own way’ that is still present in the city.
Drew Houston of Dropbox has stated, “Don’t worry about failure. You only have to be right once.” What one thing were you right about? What did you know or recognize that perhaps nobody in the world knew when you created SoundCloud.
Eric and I both felt that sound was an untapped territory on the Web compared to images, video, and text. We wanted to make it as easy to share audio as it was with pictures on Flickr, and there was a clear deficiency in the tools that were available for sharing audio, so we focused on changing that. We certainly were not the first to identify this pain point, but we were the first to view sound as a solid platform and build it with the community in mind.
Your platform currently reaches over 200 million people every month, but who were your first adopters? How did you find them?
The first people to start using the platform were artists, DJs and electronic musicians — many of whom were our friends. Over the years, we have organically expanded to every type of audio imaginable. It’s a platform for people to discover new, original music & audio, for creators to build audiences, and for everyone to share what they hear whether online or on mobile.
Our community of sound creators spans a huge range of artists, producers and organizations. From independent artists like Cyra Morgan to Grammy-winning bands like Deftones. From news outlets like The Economist to rapper/producers like Big Boi. From comedians like John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman of The Bugle to The White House to politicians like Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And from storytellers such as 99% Invisible to R&B artists like John Legend. Plus everyday creators of music and audio, sharing everything from passing thoughts to life-changing moments.
4. What is the future of sound?
Sound has always been an underrepresented form of content on the web, but we feel that it has the potential to be bigger than video. Sound is fundamental to all humans, easier to create and experience, plus you can consume it in parallel. Currently, the Internet is a very silent place. We want to continue to unmute the web by helping anyone create and share their sounds to the world.
5. What’s your favorite sound on SoundCloud?
There is so much audio on SoundCloud, it’s hard for me to choose my favorite sound. But from a personal perspective, when my cousin had his first child – instead of sending me a picture – he recorded the sound of the baby’s voice and sent that to me via SoundCloud. That was amazing.