When he was a kid, Swedish-born Alex Ljung never had a lemonade stand or dreamed of becoming a startup entrepreneur. But the founder of SoundCloud, a social sound platform, has quickly become a leading pioneer in our new wired world. That’s due to the ease of collaboration, social interactivity, and iconic orange waveform that SoundCloud enables.
“Sound,” he says, “is a fundamental part of how people are social with each other.”
As a result, SoundCloud’s platform is democratic and open by design, allowing users to interact and collaborate with the likes of the Deftones or 50 Cent, who broadcast and trade tips with the general community.
SoundCloud breaks down barriers between musicians and fans, which is the key advancement in the disruption of entertainment across all of the arts. Artists like Beyonce are using SoundCloud to hold remix competitions and encouraging fans to perform over their tracks. The platform also challenges the traditional music distribution model by giving users the ability to monetize their creations.
Initially, SoundCloud offered users the ability to share tracks and give feedback. From this core idea, the platform has grown to over 180 million users. sharing, connecting, commenting, remixing, listening to, and contributing to all kinds of sounds from all over the world. There’s ambient noise from the International Space Station, White House press conferences, up-and-coming indie labels, and, in Ljung’s case, the very first cries of his cousin’s baby, all mingled in a polyphonic aural symphony.
As engineering students in Stockholm, Ljung and his co-founder Eric Wahlforss, were dissatisfied with existing platforms and tools available to musicians who wanted to collaborate remotely. They struggled to describe what part of the song they wished to edit and how they wanted it to sound, unless they were sitting right next to each other. There was Vimeo for video sharing and Flickr for photo sharing, but nothing for sound sharing. Further, for Ljung, the existing audio platforms simply replicated the model and character of old media.
As with many startups, the platform emerged out of a real need to solve a problem. So it’s no wonder that SoundCloud was created by musicians seeking not money or fame, but simply a way to make music collaboration easier. The unique insight and vision of the SoundCloud founders was not to tie themselves down to offering a service that just felt like pressing play on a cassette or DVD player, but harnessing and combining the deeply social essence of music and the Internet.
The advice Ljung gives to budding entrepreneurs is to stop thinking and worrying so much. Instead, get out there and do it no matter how crazy or outlandish your idea, because you never know where it can lead. Hackathons, for example, are vital in keeping the stream of innovation flowing at SoundCloud HQ. Ljung and and his team built a ping-pong table, for example, that doubles as a musical instrument to build stronger team relationships.
Find out more in the video.