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Grow your business with 6 tips from Shazam

Over recent months we have partnered with Enterprise Nation to deliver our #ScaleUpSeries events, where five of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs share their tips and practical advice for scale up success.

At this month’s event we heard from Dhiraj Mukherjee, Co-founder of Shazam, the music and media identification service. Shazam was launched in the UK in 2002 and has become one of the top 20 most downloaded apps of all time. Shazam was bought by Apple last year in a deal worth $400m.

We caught up with Dhiraj before the event to hear his top tips for scaling up.

  • Work with excellent people who share your values. It’s easy to say but much harder to implement. When you are busy, and the business is growing rapidly, the temptation is simply to make do and hire whoever is the best candidate available at the time.

One of the most important lessons I learned from my first boss was try to hire people who are smarter than you. It sets the bar high because as you grow yourself you have to recruit ever more experienced and smarter people. But we have never regretted it at Shazam, and we always look at people in terms of the contribution they can make to the business as well as their personal values.

  • Plan for the future. Shazam would not be the business it is today without the evolution of mobile technology. When we launched in 2002, the Shazam experience required a phone call to an interactive voice response system, and our users had to wait for a text message giving them the name of the song and artist.

The launch of smartphones in 2007 and the App Store in 2008 changed everything. They enabled us to deliver a much easier and more intuitive user experience, and the popularity and usage of Shazam grew dramatically as a result.

  • Be methodical about anticipating challenges and opportunities. Shazam was very much a business to consumer service at launch. It wasn’t until 2005 that we identified a number of B2B opportunities, such as the calculation of royalties due to artists for music played in bars, clubs and on the radio. As a result we were able to license our technology to a number of third parties, and the income from those licenses helped Shazam to survive for many years.

However single minded you are as an entrepreneur, and however focused on your initial idea, you need to be open to related or parallel opportunities that could accelerate the growth of your business.

  • Focus on keeping the business afloat. The biggest challenge that Shazam faced for a number of years was the lack of business capital when we were growing during some pretty tough financial times. Running out of cash can be the downfall of even successful businesses, and there were many times when we felt on the brink of bankruptcy.

Once the internet bubble burst towards the end of 2000 raising capital became all but impossible, and we had to focus on making sure that we never ran out of cash. All of us at Shazam took collective responsibility, and every business expense was justified by whether it helped us to live to fight another day.

  • Be creative with the resources you have. In the early days we didn’t have the capital to invest in the high-powered computers we really needed for our most processor-hungry task, which was the music recognition. So we built a series of custom machines ourselves to help us to scale up quickly. Looking back you could argue that we were pioneers in distributed computing but we weren’t trying to be particularly clever, we just had to improvise through lack of funds.

I would encourage every entrepreneur to consider how they can be creative even if they don’t have all the resources they ideally need.

  • Work in an ethical way. I think that it is no longer acceptable to be in business just to create wealth and turn a profit. You have to have a purpose behind the business, and you need to make a contribution to society. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s what our customers have come to expect, and what creates the loyalty that makes them want to keep coming back.

A message from O2 Business:

This was the third of five #ScaleUpSeries events, which we have launched with Enterprise Nation. Our first two events featured:

Praveen Vijh, Founder of Eat Natural bars.

Nigel Whiteoak, One of the founders of Lovecrafts.

Our next event features Alicia Navarro, CEO & founder of Skimlinks, on Monday 24 September at Thomas House Lounge in London. If you’d like to join us you can purchase tickets here.

Events like these are just one of the ways we can support your business growth ambitions. We’d love to hear from you and discuss the ways we could support your business even further. Get in touch today.



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