In 2007, an Inc. cover story said that Tim Westergren's great challenge was to get Pandora, his Internet radio business, "out of perpetual start-up mode." It took a while. But Pandora is now a public company with 560 employees. As told to Max Chafkin.
The vast majority of our employees weren't here when we couldn't pay salaries in 2002, and they weren't here during our royalty battle with the record labels in 2007, which was another low point. Now, when people join, we give them a two-day orientation in which they learn some of that history, but we try to balance it by celebrating change and new people. I'm not nostalgic about our past. I'm proud of it, but I wouldn't wish it on anybody. There was nothing rewarding about it at all.
There's a perception that when you're a public company, all of a sudden life becomes really scary. But that hasn't been my experience at all. Most people, even analysts, don't want to know whether you're going to miss your earnings; they want to understand your mission and your vision and the trends in your industry.
I've always spent a lot of my time talking about those things. The main difference now is that I'm doing it in the context of a company with 150 million registered listeners. We're one of the biggest radio stations--if not the biggest--in every market in the U.S.
There's not a day that I don't think, Man, I can't believe all that's happening.