By Nenad Marovac, founder and CEO of DN Capital.
It’s not often in this industry that you can say your mother helped source one of your most successful and high profile investments – but that was exactly what happened with Shazam.
I grew up in La Jolla, San Diego, as did Chris Barton, one of Shazam’s co-founders, where our mothers were close friends. Back in 2004, my mother told me that I should catch up with Chris because “he was up to something interesting” and that was how I first heard about the company. When Chris demoed the app to me one night in the back of a London taxi, I was blown away. Remember this was pre-iPhone and I had never come across anything like it before. And pretty much everyone who used Shazam for the first time back then had the same reaction.
It took me a little while to convince my fellow team-members, but once they were in, we became one of Shazam’s earliest backers, investing at a $1m valuation in 2004. It’s been a long road from that taxi ride to Apple’s acquisition today – and I’ve been on Shazam’s Board throughout. Over the years, we have helped make a number of key appointments including recruiting Andrew Fisher, now executive chairman, as CEO; Keith Lovell their first CFO and COO; as well as their first marketing lead, Stuart Patterson, who created the Shazam logo, which is still used today. We also helped with their launch in the United States by introducing Kathie McMahon, who was the company’s first key US hire.
Back in the early days it’s fair to say there were some technical issues – not least surrounding the somewhat clunky IVR technology they were using at the time, which involved users dialling a phone number (‘2580’), and holding their phone up to the burst of music they wanted to identify. They would then get the song title and artist via SMS. Yet as rudimentary as the tech was by today’s standards, there was some genuine magic, even mystery, to Shazam and the scale of the opportunity was undeniable.
First, came the deals with Verizon and AT&T, where you could just hit a button to identify a song, and then in 2009, Apple called us to ask: ‘Can you guys create an app over the weekend to be featured in the iTunes store?’. It turned out we could. Rahul Powar, who was the lead engineer at the company at the time, created the Apple Shazam app, which was essentially very similar to the version in use today. It became one of the very first apps on the App Store – and one of its most popular.
We’re delighted for Andrew, Rich, Chris and all the founders, and the rest of the team, and wish them well on the next stage of their journey. I must admit there is some sadness in closing this chapter for me, as I have loved working with this company. Now I need to find my new Shazam. Perhaps I’ll get my mother on the case 🙂
Bloomberg – Apple buys Shazam to boost Apple Music