Chris Barton of Shazam:

How an early bird got Apple
(and $400 million)

A visionary and a founder of the iconic Shazam, with billions of app downloads, Chris Barton shares what it was like starting a business with a friend during a massive economic crisis, raising capital with cold emails, and selling his company to Apple.

Chris Barton,

founder of Shazam – Startup Exits Podcast – StartupSoft

Listen to Chris Barton sharing tips on effective fundraising strategy, starting a business with a friend, and future technology predictions in Startup Exits Podcast.

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Guest bio

Chris Barton is the first CEO of Shazam, an innovative app that helps identify and recognize music, that had billions of downloads in the App Store and was acquired by Apple in 2018 for $400 million. He’s the pioneer of mobile development at Google and Dropbox and a keynote speaker on innovation within organizations and disruptive thinking.
About guest

In this episode


  • built an iconic app with his friends;
  • managed not only to navigate startup growth amid a massive economic slowdown but also raised capital to scale it up;
  • used unconventional fundraising strategies to stay afloat;
  • makes future technology predictions with all of you, tech aficionados, and
  • shares his future business plans.

Top moments:

Going into business with friends


In short, do it. And here’s why based on Chris Barton’s genuine experience:

“I don’t think that the rule of “don’t get into business with friends” necessarily applies.

… When you’re creating a company together, it’s almost like getting married: you’re going to make decisions together. So, you want to know how well you work together, how well you handle disagreements, what drives you as a person, and what’s important to you.”

This comes in handy when going through a rough patch with your business.

Chris adds, “You can have a better sense of someone’s integrity when they’re a close friend than when you just have had business interactions with them.”
So, if you have a friend who has a small business and is inviting you to join in, don’t say “No.” At least not just yet. It might turn out to be a fantastic opportunity for you.

Running and scaling a startup amid a financial crisis


Running a startup amid the uncertainty and unpredictability of an economic slowdown is challenging in many ways.

In this episode, Chris shares that raising funds is just one example. Investors are reluctant to support your business as they’re trying to keep their portfolio companies afloat.

However, once you get the capital you need, there are also upsides to this.

The availability of great talent on the market is definitely one of them.

“There’s more talent on the market that’s available, which can be really frustrating in times when all the good talent gets vacuumed up by Google, Facebook, Amazon, and so on.”

Besides, with many giants going under, the competition gets a little less fierce, giving smaller players a chance to shine.

Finally, another benefit of building a company during a crisis is that “other things become more affordable. I remember we took over the office spaces of one of the imploded dot com and even bought all their chairs and tables and so on for pennies on the dollar.”

Entrepreneurial perseverance


How do you know when you should keep pushing and powering through and when it’s time to throw in the towel? What are the criteria for identifying a fight worth fighting in business?

“If you look at the early days of Dropbox, one thing that they persevered on […] was a synchronization of documents between a device and the cloud. […] If they conquered it and made it incredibly reliable, they would create a seamless experience with the cloud that would be much better than just uploading and downloading things.”

They made this one feature a priority and switched most of their engineering talent to this task because they knew that when implemented, it would help them be ahead of the competition by light years.

“So, I think that’s an example of where you’re recognizing that a goal is so mission-critical that you just don’t want to give up on it,” says Chris.

Tech predictions


Last but not least, Alex asks Chris about his tech predictions. It’s a question we’ve all wanted to hear an answer to from a powerful visionary like Chris, who was years ahead of the market with his ground-breaking Shazam app.

“The area that I’m particularly fascinated by in terms of massive impact is artificial intelligence [and] machine learning, which is obviously one of the big trends. […] I do think that there’ll be a lot of businesses that will […] solve problems really well by essentially employing artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

Wrap up
Listen to this insightful Startup Exits Podcast episode with Chris Barton, founder of Shazam, sharing invaluable lessons on going into business with friends (and why it’s a good idea), a step-by-step fundraising plan for startup founders, and scaling a small business during a financial crisis.
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host bio

This podcast is brought to you by Andrew Vasylyk, a host of Startup Exits Podcast and a founder of StartupSoft, your reliable partner in hiring, managing & retaining remote employees. Andrew is passionate about startups, technology, and Ukraine.

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