The Story of Shazam: The Startup Days

Danielle Newnham
Nov 11, 2015 · 48 min read
Shazam Founders: Philip Inghelbrecht, Avery Wang, Chris Barton, Dhiraj Mukherjee

“The number one determinant of entrepreneurial success is persistence. If you are not prepared to go to superhuman levels that are beyond rationality to realize your dream, then your chance of finding success is virtually zero.” Chris Barton

The story of Shazam is one of pure innovation, foresight, and friendship. In 1999, Chris Barton dreamed of a seemingly impossible solution to ambient music recognition and created the team — including friend Dhiraj Mukherjee, classmate Philip Inghelbrecht, and engineer Avery Wang — to make it a reality. Shazam now has over 500 million users worldwide and has extended its service to other areas of business, including television and social networking.


“By my junior year, I was told not to bother coming to class and to just show up for the tests.” Avery Wang

Wang: To talk about my start in technology, I’ll have to go back to my early love for math and science. When I was in first grade, I saw a Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk was fighting the Lizard Man and figured out how to make gunpowder out of stuff he found lying around. They gave the recipe in the episode, so I had to go try it. Back then, you could get the key ingredient at the pharmacy just by asking for it. These days, you might get arrested. I’ll have to thank my parents for letting me obtain the materials and put together my own pyrotechnics. I was hooked and was always doing science experiments after that.

Chris, Philip and Dhiraj, Hyde Park, London
Foreground: Chris, Dhiraj and Avery
Avery’s workings on the original Shazam algorithm
Dhiraj, Chris, Avery and Philip

“A team is stronger when people think in different ways: it is much easier to work with people who are similar to you, think in similar ways, or agree with your views. However, an effective team will bring together complementary skills and strengths and perspectives.” Dhiraj Mukherjee

Mukherjee: Have fun: I believed it before; I believed it during; I believe it now. As long as you are having fun, you will make good decisions, manage stress, not take things too much to heart, and remember that there are more important things in life than a business: true friends and family who will support you regardless of your success or failure.

“Think big and shoot for the moon; plan for every person to use your product at some point in time. It’s much better to fall short on a lofty goal than to exceed a reasonable projection.” Philip Inghelbrecht

Inghelbrecht: Like Dhiraj, my advice would be to look way ahead of your time, at the risk of launching a company with a slightly wacky idea or incomplete technology stack. While things always take longer to materialize than initially expected, they do come together quickly when it does happen. Being there at that moment will pay off handsomely e.g. Shazam was built before the iTunes store, not in reaction to it.



The Startup

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Danielle Newnham

Written by

Writer. Founder. Interviewed 300+ founders and innovators and I’m sharing their stories here. 📚Author x 2. New project: #BeyondWork

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +644K people. Follow to join our community.

Danielle Newnham

Written by

Writer. Founder. Interviewed 300+ founders and innovators and I’m sharing their stories here. 📚Author x 2. New project: #BeyondWork

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +644K people. Follow to join our community.

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