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(Evening Standard) Secrets of my success: Andrew Fisher, executive chairman of Shazam

News   •   Nov 24, 2016 13:00 EST


Andrew Fisher regrets selling his other business too soon

Andrew Fisher, executive chairman of music recognition app Shazam, discusses his role, educating advertisers, and his regrets about selling out too soon.

What do you do?

I’ve been executive chairman of Shazam the last three years. Before that, I was chief executive for eight years.

I still work full-time at the company, but look after the corporate side — shareholders, fundraising, strategic partnerships.

It’s important to have a chief executive who is empowered to run the business, and you don’t have someone who was in that role previously who’s interfering. So I try to take a step back from that.

What do you like about it?

I love putting a smile on people’s faces. It’s the best company I’ve ever been involved in — people see what we do as a magical experience.

Wherever I go and meet users of the service, they tend to think Shazam is really fun.

Despite us having had a billion downloads, I still meet many people around the world that have never heard of Shazam, and that’s very grounding.

I’ve worked on building technology businesses where my friends and family tell me that what I’m working on will never succeed and nobody will ever use it. Today, if somebody doesn’t tell me this, I’m actually worried it’s not going to succeed.

What are the challenges?

We’ve become a victim of our own success. Many people would love to encourage our employees to go and work for their organisations, so we make sure people are stakeholders in the business, and that they can actively influence the success of the company.

Also, we think of ourselves as creating a new paradigm for the advertising industry — we recognised people were Shazaming television adverts because they liked the music.

It takes time to educate advertisers that Shazam is more than just discovering music. Now that we’ve run several thousand TV ads, it’s been incredibly successful.

How do you manage having several non-exec roles?

I learn a lot from being a non-executive director [at M&S and Moneysupermarket] and I’d encourage people to consider at least one other non-executive position at another company because it gives you a different perspective on what you’re doing. I genuinely am very passionate about UK companies.

Biggest break?

I don’t see myself as a natural entrepreneur. I was a graduate, and went through the early part of my career saying the right things to the right people (or at least I tried to), when somebody I worked for wanted me to start up a business that they were going to invest in and support.

I very much needed the carrot and the stick. The carrot was some participation in the success of the business and the stick was they told me I had to do it and had no choice.

I don’t think I’d have made that transition if I hadn’t been working for that person. I rolled up my sleeves and started the company on my own, which was quite frightening at the time because I didn’t see myself as a risk-taker.

But I found it incredibly rewarding making my own decisions, building a team and going through the growing pains of a young business. That’s how I developed my career, and started another company after that before joining Shazam.

Biggest setback?

With hindsight when you think about selling a company too early and then look back on it and think “we could have done more and stayed in for longer”. It wasn’t a bad outcome [for tech business]. I took in £800,000 and the business was sold for just under $400 million [£321 million].

I feel that’s influenced how we’ve built Shazam. We could have sold the company for $200 million but we achieved a valuation of $1 billion a year and a half ago.

Work-life balance?

Work partly is my hobby but I’ve got a family — I have two teenage boys — and love to spend time with them. I love running — I’m such a slow runner that it takes a disproportionate amount of time compared to other people.

But I love to play golf and get out and about so I do find time, and I do protect family time as well.

Any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Follow your aspirations and don’t talk yourself out of it — talk yourself into it.