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Tim Westergren

Venture Advisor

Before founding Pandora, Tim spent fifteen years as a performing musician, traveling in rock bands and eventually working as a film composer. It was in the collaborative process of working with film directors that Tim hatched the idea for the Music Genome Project, a taxonomical approach to understanding a person’s musical taste. 

“The Music Genome Project was essentially an expression of my process for figuring out what sound a director wanted for their movie; aggregating their preferences to form a musicological map of the score. It was a small step from there to building a recommendation engine. I shared the idea with an entrepreneur friend and before I knew it we had office space in South San Francisco and a million dollars in the bank. From there it was a wild journey, through the dotcom bust and back again; maxing out 11 credit cards, going without salary for over two years and eventually pivoting into Pandora and personalized radio. Then almost overnight rocketing to 100 million monthly listeners and 2500 employees across 3 countries. 

The company went public in 2011, and Tim served as CEO for a time until it was acquired by Liberty Media. 

Among the many lessons, the journey to build Pandora taught Tim the importance of co-founders:

“If you want to build a company, don’t do it alone. It’s very hard to do something like this without a partner,” he says. “Choose someone you trust deeply, with complementary skill sets, who shares your passion for the idea. Having complementary skills is key as that is both efficient and makes for the most natural leadership dynamic. The more overlap, the more potential for competition and conflict.”  

Today, Tim has a new creator business and is mentoring several startups, including some for AI Fund. “I’ve come back full circle into the creative space, trying to harness NLP and the latest innovations in AI to support the global population of creators. It’s a very different world, but at the same time very much the same.”

He’s also back to playing music, prepping for a reunion tour with his band.


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