A Q&A with Soundrop CEO and co-founder Inge Andre Sandvik. The Oslo–based company was founded in February, 2011, and recently raised $3 million in Series A funding from Northzone.
SUB: Please describe what Soundrop is, and the value proposition you bring to mobile music.
Sandvik: Soundrop’s vision is to help people discover and listen to more music. We aim to change the way music is discovered, shared and experienced by making it easier to find music through friends and directly from their favorite artists. We offer a new way to collaborate in real time within Spotify to find the best music experience. Our core focus at the moment is to make our vision happen within Spotify. We will then later most likely scale this to other platforms. Users can join a social listening room devoted to artists or different genres of music. They can even create their own rooms and share it with their friends or the whole world.
Our value proposition is simple. Soundrop is the easiest way to share and discover music on Spotify.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Sandvik: Soundrop wants to make music much more available for anyone who wants to listen, but do not have the time or the skills to create extensive playlists. Since Soundrop is very much a personal experience it is able to cover everyone’s needs. We see that our app is flexible enough to accommodate all musical tastes, and with more than 7,000 rooms made each month, there’s something for everyone.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Sandvik: You will probably find elements in Soundrop that would be found elsewhere, and that will from that perspective put Soundrop in direct competition with these solutions. If you use Soundrop you will soon see that it’s really unique in the way it works. The players we compete with are where music is consumed today in large scale. That’s probably traditional radio and YouTube.
SUB: What differentiates Soundrop from the competition?
Sandvik: Many applications target the concept of group listening. We think we have the inside track because of Soundrop’s simplicity and fun. Most people use music as a background activity, so Soundrop can be a passive service. But Soundrop is also an incredibly engaging social playlist curation platform. This versatility is another strength for us to build upon.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Sandvik: We formally launched in November, when Spotify unveiled their App Finder. It was a revolutionary moment for music. But Soundrop actually began life much earlier, in February of 2011. I met my other co-founders just after they did a hack at Oslo Startup Weekend. They had just won the competition with their idea for a mobile jukebox built on top of Spotify. It was an impressive hack, but it was not scalable in the Internet model and we had to scrap that idea to build what is now Soundrop.
I had been working with some ideas around social music before and their technical knowledge of building a real-time platform triggered me to contact them. We decided to work together. I had a friend in Spotify that is the chief product officer and I met him in Stockholm to present what we were thinking on doing. It was perfect timing with introduction of the new Spotify platform. We were invited to be a launch partner and immediately decided to bet it all and go all in.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Soundrop? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Sandvik: Most successful products are a result of processes with a lot of iterations—it’s very similar to sailing. It’s not a linear line to follow. You have to cross against the wind and navigate wisely in an ocean that is full of both opportunities and threats.
We started out with knowing that we were able to build a really powerful real-time platform and that we had a unique opportunity being invited in to join Spotify launching one of the biggest digital music transformations ever. In 2009 I had already started thinking about social music and it was a perfect match when I met my co-founders. They are the most talented developers I have ever met and they can build almost anything. We did have, however, an ‘aha’ moment in this process after a conference we were invited to speak at here in Oslo.
After the event, I was walking to my car with two of my co-founders. The social jukebox solution we had was great, but it was dependent on being physically in a location in order to listen. I asked my co-founders if it was technically possible to use each other’s individual Spotify client to play music from a ‘virtual playlist space’ that we had set up. Being the technical wizards they are, they quickly told me that that was possible and we all got really excited and decided to go full speed in that direction.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Sandvik: Being able to find equally great people on areas that we are dependent on has really been a challenge. Building a product and platform like Soundrop without having our own designers and dedicated front-end developers on the team has been probably the biggest challenge. We have now been able to get these people on the team and we are really excited about what that can bring to the team.
SUB: You recently raised $3 million in Series A funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Sandvik: It’s a dream come true for any entrepreneur to see a vision and idea be loved by real users. It’s also a dream come true to have VCs believe in that vision and be able to back it up with funding. I am very proud of what the team has accomplished, but we have to admit that we are not wizards that can do it all. The biggest challenge is being able to scale the team and get more world class people to join us on our quest. We feel lucky and thankful to have a great team that works so well together and will continue to strengthen and take care of the team. With the funding in place can we really chase our dreams and get more hands to execute on our ambitious road map.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Sandvik: We’ve raised enough money that will enable us to focus on many opportunities that we have. So that’s the focus for the near future. Execute, strengthen the team and make our users proud.
SUB: What are your goals for Soundrop over the next year or so?
Sandvik: Just those above. I’d like to see us grow the team so we can execute on our roadmap, capitalize on numerous opportunities that we see in the market and continue to delight our users with meaningful updates that make the Soundrop experience even better.
Soundrop – www.soundrop.com
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