Shehzad Daredia: The Innovation Interview

Shehzad Daredia, Co-Founder & CEO of bop.fm shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the music industry.

Bop.fm is a Y Combinator backed music technology company that creates a home for every song on the internet. Before co-founding bop.fm, Shehzad was an early employee at KAYAK.com (acquired by Priceline) and BillShrink/Truaxis (acquired by MasterCard), as well as a venture capitalist at Rho Ventures. Shehzad graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in business and engineering.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation comes down to making new connections to improve someone’s life. “New” is relative, however. Many of the best ideas are borrowed from other industries and disciplines and applied intelligently to new applications. Bop.fm’s platform builds upon pre-existing music services and integrates them into a cohesive digital music experience, much like what KAYAK.com did for online travel and Progressive did for auto insurance. Service-agnostic media platforms already exist – we just brought them to an industry that didn’t have one yet but sorely needed it.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

The Government. Naturally, it’s easier to remain complacent than to risk disrupting key services for constituents. Even worse, when bureaucrats attempt risk, critics become vultures, like we saw with the Affordable Care Act. I see two solutions:

1. Further incentivizing innovation through increased transparency and metrics of each Politician and bureaucracy.

2. Ensuring quality execution by partnering with private sector experts like Bay Area startups.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

“Balance and moderation are key to a healthy and fulfilling life” — Dilshad Daredia, my mom.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

Assembling an incredibly talented yet modest team that is collectively motivated to revolutionize the way we discover and share music, while still being a joy to work with everyday.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Digital! Even though I grew up doodling in my books, you can’t beat digital’s accessibility and enormous catalog. Also, I try to be green when possible.

Why did you start bop.fm?

We started bop.fm because we were frustrated with how difficult it was to share our favorite tracks and playlists with our friends. If we shared a Spotify link, all our friends who didn’t use Spotify would see a “create a Spotify account” image instead of being able to listen to the playlist.

They wouldn’t be able to play a single second of that song without being forced to sign up and download Spotify. If we shared a YouTube link, it might not be available in their country, or it might go down before they’re able to stream the song.

We also did not enjoy switching between multiple different applications to listen to all our music: Spotify for regular listening, iTunes for stuff that was not always available on Spotify (The Beatles, Adele, Coldplay, The Black Keys, Taylor Swift, etc), YouTube and SoundCloud for brand new releases, Pandora for discovery (but you can not add Pandora songs to a playlist). There had to be a better way.

What was your greatest takeaway from Y Combinator and how has this association benefited bop.fm?

YC created a pressure cooker atmosphere that heavily emphasized a singular focus towards a quantifiable objective. Our metric of choice was song plays – we started the 3-month program with a goal of working feverishly to reach 10,000 total song plays by Demo Day. We ended up doing 100,000 song plays — per day. Blowing our original goal out of the water is what helped us secure investment and build a team of rockstars.

As consumer habits change and society moves towards a fully integrated mobile / wearable environment, how do envison bop.fm growing and adapdting to these new consumer trends and habits?

One of the reasons we started bop.fm was to allow users to finally own their fully-portable song library and playlist data without fear of how music will change medium over time. Digital music is shifting from an ownership model (iTunes) to a rental model (on-demand streaming). Even though users will cease to own their music, they can still feel like they own their data in a way that is decoupled from an underlying music service or medium. I look forward to bop.fm’s Oculus Rift app.

After attending and graduating from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, how has your thought process changed as it relates to a global perspective and how to scale a company in a global economy?

Gone are the days when we think about our own backyard exclusively while launching a technology company. The internet has transformed distribution models such that an entrepreneur will leave a lot of opportunity on the table if they do not think about the global perspective from day one. That’s why bop.fm was conceived with a global audience in mind.

Through our partnership with Deezer and our “intelligent permalink” architecture, even users in countries like Germany, Japan, and Canada, which don’t have access to the same music services that we do in the US, can easily access bop.fm and share music across borders. We already get a significant portion of our traffic from outside the US, despite little to no dedicated marketing efforts in those countries.

What is the future of the music business and how will you position bop.fm for an ever-changing industry?

Some people think music will become free, distributed solely to market a band’s live shows and merchandise. Some people think on-demand streaming is the wave of the future (we do too). A few people think Spotify will take over the world, but most believe that the industry’s fragmentation will continue and even accelerate. We can’t tell the future, but we do believe we’re well positioned to evolve nimbly with the changing tides of digital music.

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