November 19, 2013

An interview with Tom Conrad

Tom Conrad (his twitter) is the CTO of Pandora - an automated music recommendation service that has been at iTunes's top-25 list since the launch of the first iPhone. The service plays musical selections of a certain genre based on the user's artist selection. The user then provides positive or negative feedback for songs chosen by the service, which are taken into account when Pandora selects future songs. The interview is from 2012.

Lessons learned
  • Tom Conrad did everything he could to buy an Apple computer after watching the 1984 advertisement. He became inspired by the Apple employees who wanted to change the world, so with a computer science degree, he moved to California to work for Apple as an intern. This was during Apple's "dark days" when Steve Jobs had been forced to leave the company.
  • After leaving Apple, Tom Conrad worked for various companies, including a company that sold dog food. To get dog food, you could order it online and pay a shipping cost of around $10. What they realized was that one customer took advantage of the system and ordered 2.5 tonnes of dog food to Hawaii. The company would have to pay $10,000 in fees to get it delivered to Hawaii and the customer had to pay only $10. So a lesson learned is: if your customers can take advantage of the system, someone will find out how to do it. 
  • Pandora has never spent money on marketing.
  • Work with people you like and solve a problem you really want to solve. Never tackle a problem for financial reasons only. 

More articles in the same series: Lessons learned from the Foundation interviews