Derek Ek, age 34, is currently the CEO of Spotify, one of the leading titans in the musical business. Named #1 in Billboard’s Power 100, the Swedish millennial has completely changed the world of music. Ek co-founded Spotify in 2006, launching it in 2008, and rapidly gaining major-label support for the vision of an industry-backed site making a vast catalogue of music available. It has also become a significant driver of music discovery, with the playlists it suggests to users. In 1999 Daniel Ek was a 16-year-old Swedish programmer, getting rich building websites, when he pondering a simple question: How do you get people to pay for music that can, if illegally, be downloaded free—and without charging them for each song?
Ek’s eventual solution: Spotify, a jukebox in the cloud that provides legal, on-demand access to millions of songs. Supported by paying subscribers; it now has more than 15 million users, four million of whom pay. With an estimated value of $4 billion, Spotify is one of the hottest Internet companies in the world.
Spotify isn’t the only service to let listeners stream music on demand. But it distinguishes itself from Internet radio services like Pandora and Slacker through the vastness of its music libraries and its deep integration into social media. Spotify lets users seamlessly share playlists and swap music on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. And Spotify makes it easy for others to build apps that work with its platform in order to give users yet more ways to discover and share music. “The trick was to think through the social aspect of the service from the very beginning,” says Ek. “We didn’t want it to be an afterthought.
Now Ek is trying to find ways to make it as easy to find and play music as it is to find and play videos on YouTube. This year the company introduced a radio service for computers and mobile devices, launched its first iPad app, and made it possible to embed a Spotify play button into any website. The Huffington Post, the blogging site Tumblr, and Rolling Stone’s website are among the many that now offer music that way (Dyer, Technology review)
Ek is a great example of an entrepreneur who has discovered a problem from asking questions, finding a solution to his question, and distinguishes himself from the rest of the competition.