The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode 50 · 1 month ago

Helping the world listen better with Patrick Spence of Sonos

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

“The reward for taking out Bose, Panasonic, and Samsung was getting to play against Amazon, Google and Apple.”

That’s a common joke at Patrick Spence’s Santa Barbara-based audio giant, Sonos; which is chiefly responsible for the rise of the smart speaker.

An HBA ’98 grad, Spence joined the company in 2012 and took over as CEO, five years later.

But Sonos wasn’t Spence’s first rodeo in the fast-moving world of consumer electronics. For 14 years, Spence was an integral part of RIM/BlackBerry, serving a number of roles before ultimately becoming the Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing. During that time the company grew from $50 million in revenue to more than $20 billion, and from 150 people to more than 17,000.

In this episode, Spence shares lessons from the highs and lows of his career, his philosophy on technology and innovation, Sonos’ legal battles with Google, and the different outlooks of entrepreneurs on both sides of the 49th parallel.

You're listening to the entrepreneur podcast from the Western Morrison Institute for Entrepreneurship powered by Ivy. My name is Eric Morris and I'll be the host for this session. The reward for taking up bows Panasonic and Samsung was getting to play against Amazon, Google and Apple. That's a common joke at Patrick Spence's Santa Barbara based audio giant son Nos, which is chiefly responsible for the rise of the smart speaker. An HB Grad, spence joined the company in two thousand twelve and took over as CEO of five years later. But SONOS wasn't Spence's first Rodeo in the fast moving world of consumer electronics. For fourteen years, spence was an integral part of Rim blackberry, serving a number of roles before ultimately becoming the executive vice president of sales and marketing. During that time, the company grew from fifty million in revenue to more than twenty billion and from a hundred and fifty people to more than seventeen thousand. In this episode, Spence shares lessons from the highs and lows of his career. His philosophy on technology and innovation, sons, legal battles with Google and the different outlooks that shape entrepreneurs on either side of the forty nine parallel. I think everyone in the audience will know a little bit about Sonos in general. Hopefully everybody has a snas product in their home, but can you tell us a little bit about their ethos? What is the SOS ethos and where do you want to take it? where? What do you kind of see as the vision? Yeah, so, you know, we really kind of took the world of computing and melded it with wireless and what was happening in streaming Um as well, and so I often talk about so nos being the story of software eating audio, because we took a lot of software engineers, Um and the fact that all of music was going online, with streaming and downloads and digital basically, and then, you know, Mash that together and took all the complexity of trying to bring all of this stuff together, like Wifi and computers and all of these to create really the first smart speaker Um. And we really focused in the first phase on the home and filling your home with music was really our first clear kind of mission point and we've expanded that. Um. You know, we've expanded it to really have an ambition to be the world's leading sound experience company, and so now we do things like work withoutie to put speakers in cars, Um, you know, and be more work with Ikea too. Um. Actually they build, you know, uh, speakers which are more like furniture, like lamps that have sound in them. And so we see sound being a really, really big space, an interesting space in which to play, and we kind of take hardware and software and bring it all together to create these amazing products that people love and we do. You know, when I joined m back in twelve we were doing about two hundred million, under two hunder million in revenue, and this year will do about two billion in revenue. So, you know, I've had the good fortune of being, you know, part of two incredible growth stories and uh, you know, hopefully, Um, there'll be some learning today from so well, thanks, as they're both both incredible stories and what fantastic journeys we've been on. I love the idea of software eight audio, although the audio is is fantastic, but one of the things that I love about it is how easy it is to set up, certainly for me, you know, just connecting it into my stereo and having it play in multiple rooms was was fabulous. So I love my system. Thank you, and I get the software piece of that. That's pretty fun. All right. So you're you know, your career between blackberry and so it's a little bit different than the Typical Ivy Grad. is a little different than the typical Business Grad for that matter. So you know what was was there an early indication? Hey, I want to I want to work in a startup, I want to work in tech. Uh, you know. Where did that come from? What was the inspiration that influenced you? Yeah, uh, you know, really it's fascinating right when you start to look back. So it's been twenty, I think it'll be twenty four years from me intact. I can hardly believe it. Feels like I was at Ivy just yesterday. But both sets of my grandparents were farmers and very much you know, I think that's like the ultimate in entrepreneur and kind of, you know, fighting the elements and everything that comes at you. And and so I think there's a spirit there that I definitely admire and you know, spent a lot of time with them and I think one of my uncles was an entrepreneur and started produce and flowers and a bunch of agricultural businesses and I always kind of looked up to him because he seemed to have an exciting job and it was cool and those kind of things. But I would say one of the most formative things as I thought back on my life, is we were we had the good fortune when I was in I think it was great three or four, that we were one of the schools in London that actually received a commodore pet computer, and you know, I was able to use that and Um, do some programming and it really fast and needed me like the way it would work and what we could...

...do, and you know, I was thinking about it. You know, I could create a program which could do addition and like send a little rocket on the screen and it was the coolest thing. You know, when you think about it now and think about what's possible, it's kind of like, oh my goodness, but it was so cool and I just wanted to understand right like how it worked and and that was kind of and so we were lucky enough to, you know, eventually my parents, splurer, should get one at home and I spent a lot of time, you know, typing programs and trying to come up with new programs and fund things to do. Interestingly enough, I think I got away from that. There's two formative things in my life. One is, I think, the technology and my passion and curiosity, quite frankly, around technology, and then team sports. So I played a lot of team sports, played volleyball at Western, and I think I got back in touch with the technology side actually when I went back to ivy and we started to get into, Um, some programming and some things that we were doing there in management science, and it started to re interest me and like kind of reignite the flame a little bit, and it was fast nating because all of the forces, you know, of the school were very much like, you know, starting consulting or investment banking or something like that. But I felt like no, like the technology is where I belonged and, like you said, it was quite different. Yeah, for sure. I mean I think that that story wouldn't be as unusual today. You know, a lot of our students now grown up with tech and, yes, computers in their homes, you know, for their whole lives. Right. Yeah, but back then, yeah, it was a little different. For sure. Yes, yeah, cool, you know, any favorite memories of of that Ivy time that you were with US or Western? Yeah, I mean most of them involved the seeps or the spoke. Like, I do think as you look back, right, you look back on the friendships that you have, and I still am very good friends with three grads from Ivy and we get together at least annually, you know, and it's just like we were back at school, Um, and those kind of things. And so I do think like the relationships and the network that you build them in touch with a lot of different folks from Ivy from time to time, and so that special. I do think. I'm not sure it's done anymore, but forty eight hour reports, you know, when we had those deadlines and like the pressure of that in a group environment, figuring out who would do what, kind of working through some of the you know, some of the issues and different decisions and some of those things. It's so applicable to real life and actually trying to go through and make tough decisions and deadlines and some of these things. Um, I just feel really well set up in the conversations we had, the cases we would go through and assignments like that kind of put you in a great position to solve real world problems, and so I look back fondly on, you know, those forty our reports. For sure, like as part of the school, was a really interesting and kind of like challenging experience. That's great. I'm glad to hear it as well. Somebody wants to know already Patrick, if you read all the books, find it between me and my wife. We have. Yes, some of them are my wife. So mind but we have. And it's very funny because I do it all hands with the entire company every week from here and I've had that question a couple of times with people that there as well, because people actually ask and they're like, is it real? Is the background now? This is really these books and we're big readers. So yeah, fantastic. Minds. Just an illustration. It's the new entrepreneurship building that they just built. All so pretty. All right, let's go back to research in motion. Uh, you know, you spent fourteen years there variety of roles, obviously increasing accountability and responsibilities. You went you've kind of been through being first in the market and then seeing all the big players come in and uh, you know, what are some of those lessons that you learned while you were at Rim that you apply now at son Nos around design, innovation, competition. It's a big question, but yeah, I know it's it's a huge question, Um, you know, and I think we started out with a hypothesis, you know, at Rim and and really some I think what you want to find are some, particularly as entrepreneur, is some macro trends that are happening that you can ride the way of of right, because then it just comes down to like team execution kind of timing as well. We were kind of at the intersection of the world of computing, you know, kind of shrinking right and becoming something that you could put inside a handheld form factor. So that was a big thing and we worked closely with Intel to do a three three sex processor at that point Um into, you know, a handheld device. Then wireless was getting to a point where you could transmit packets Um and text and some data in a way that you couldn't previously. So that was kind of new and up and coming and today it's everywhere, but this was at a time where, you know, that that was brand new, and then email was just emerging. At that particular point in time, we used it an idea a little bit and was happening. It's funny to talk about these things in hindsight, given how much we use them now. But you know, at the company we we saw the convergence of these trends and we said we can put together a solution Um that's a little bit different and integrated solution. And Eric, you talked about the simplicity of Sonos, right, and it's very similar. Is that so?...

At Rim there was a ton of complexity behind the scenes, right, and a ton of different engineering, hardcore engineering disciplines that we had to take and melt together to create and experience that then a consumer could actually use, right, and there was so much complexity into it, but really trying to create it into something that was simple for the consumer was key. And it's exactly the same way at Sonos, which is we have disciplined such hardcore engineering disciplines like real rocket science. That happens. Our job is to try and figure out how we take all of that great work and make it super simple for customers and and create a great experience, right. And so there were two kind of in putting it, bringing it to life. There were two academic type theories that I would say, Um, you know, kind of we're important in both cases. One is clay Christian Sin's jobs to be done and really thinking through that, right, as opposed to the technology, because what you can find, particularly in technology companies, is sometimes you will, you know, find yourself falling in love with a particular technology right, and you lose sight of why is the important to the customer, right, and let's remember why we're here and what we're doing, Um. And the other is Jeffrey Moore and his great you know, writing around crossing the chasm and inside the tornado and some of these technology adoption curves and kind of how to approach that. And so my entire career has been about being an underdog when you talk about those competitors that were out there right in the incumbents that are there, and so, you know, uh room in the early days it was like, there's no way you could possibly play in this space because of, you know, Motorola, or there's a company called glenaire that did paging, you know, and then as we moved to phone, there's no way you can play in this space because of Nokia, you know, in motorole and Sony Ericson Right, and then it's been the same at Sonos, which was like you can't possibly be successful because of bows and Panasonic and Samsung and some of these players. And I always joke with the team that the reward for becoming the biggest in the home audio space and, you know, kind of like taking out bows and some of those other players, was then we get to play against Amazon, Google and apple, right, and I think, I think the key, I think the key at the end of the A is, you know, really being focused and staying focused on the consumer and like that job to be done and pushing like using your strength and kind of pushing the experience forward, trying to look at the macro trends that are happening and how can you intersect those with an experience you think will be valuable to customers. I would say the distractions, you know, at at Rim, really came when it was much more about chasing competition and you know, and also some of the incentives from some of the mobile phone carriers that were out there that, you know, we started to chase as opposed to lead, and that's a very important thing and it's hard, right. It's hard when you have a lot of forces coming your way and people are like no, you should do this or we'll write you a big check to go do this. Um. I think staying true to your mission and kind of where you need to go and where you think the customer is right and continuing to stay in touch with the customer is extremely important. Yeah, it's it's so hard. I mean, you think about it. I love that idea of jobs to be done, because it's it's not jobs to be done today, but jobs to be done tomorrow. And how do you how do you get there? First, as as a leader, as you said, is always hard. So you're looking at trends. What else are you doing? You know, trying to think a little bit. Uh, you know, there might be hard decisions you have to make about the future, in the sense that what you're doing today may not be what you do in the next decade. And so a great example of that is with blackberry. We and there's a great book called losing the signal on, you know, really this whole experience of blackberry, Um that I was one of the contributors to, and it goes into great detail on this. But Blackberry Messenger, you know, was really was something that an eighty million daily active users. That was really on the upswing, as our hardware business was falling behind and on the down swing. And you know, we had a moment in time where we could have taken Blackberry Messenger and put it on IOS devices, android devices, in the in the PC, and we, you know, we we didn't have the courage to make that call because we knew that it was driving, you know, the hardware sales as well, and so we really wanted to do that. And so that's where then you get to another clay Christians and, Um, you know, innovator's dilemma situation where you can't move to what you should and would be the next big growth vector because you are focused on, you know, the history and kind of where you've been and what you think you have been in the past. And so, in contrast to that, here at son Nos, one of the things that I did that was a bit sacrilegious to some degree was that partnership with Ikea that I mentioned, where we took our software and we took some of our basically the insides of a Sono speaker, and partnered with Ikea to enable them to create furniture that makes sound and those kind of things, because I want to experiment with things like that. So because, you know, maybe that's more indicative of the future we will have then, you know, building products ourselves right in those kind of things. And so I do think that you have to be willing to experiment and be willing to be open to the fact that what you do you know today may not be what you do, you know, ten years from now. Um as well. Sometimes you have to eat your lunch. Yeah,...

...yeah, it sounds like some lessons learned there. When you left room for Sonos, that had to be an interesting decision on your part. Um, different space technology, but different space, different competitors, different technology, both good brands. But what was it that was really exciting about that for you in that opportunity? Yeah, as I've kind of reflected on why I joined, you know, both blackberry and as well. So knows, it really boils down to three things and it's one is the mission, you know, and do I feel connected to the mission that the company is on, and the second is the people, Um, that are inside the company, and the third is the opportunity and opportunity, you know, to really learn, grow and contribute in a big way and do, I think, the market opportunities there. So that that is my criteria for like why I joined the companies and I do encourage people to think about what's important to them and what's their criteria going to be as they think about what they want to start or where, you know, perhaps where they want to work. So for me, you know, I knew I didn't want to go to I had a lot of colleagues from rim that would go to apple or Samsung and something like that. And if you would have you know, being Canadian, having started there when there were hundred fifty people and really built it, I mean if you would have cut me, I would have bled blackberry at that point. I still do Um and so I knew I wasn't going to go to and I just felt like I couldn't after all those years of, you know, selling lots of people on blackberry, it just it just didn't feel right to go to, you know, a competitor or something like that. And I talked to the I had sons and I talked to the founder of sons, John and Um. I was just intrigued, you know, by what they were doing and John had had an experience similar to mine where he had started a company and it had grown into you know, billion, Multibillion Dollar Valuation Calleder Dot Com, and then, you know, went through a bumpy patch and that kind of thing, and sons was really the second act for him. And so we kind of bonded over the notion of trying to build, you know, not only the great products and products that we're proud of and you know, we'd be proud, we're proud for our family and friends to use Um, but you know, something as well, culturally that would be great and sustainable for the long term. And so we really bonded over the way we thought a lot of companies did things wrong Um and the idea that there's a right way to go and build an organization and build a culture and build it for the long term. Um, so that far outlasts any individual and neither of us, you know, really bought into the fault to the kind of the what is it like, the myth of the founder, you know, as almost like God, and some of these things that you know, kind of appear, and so I really connected with John Um the other members of the team and it felt like I could take everything that I had learned at Rim you know, both good and bad, and help apply that at so noes. And it was an opportunity for me to take on expanded rule Um. and John said he eventually, you know, he wouldn't want to be leading the company Um forever, and so that seemed like a you know, a good partnership. And here we are so fantastic and have a good chance for you to stretch and learn. Yeah, exactly. Uh So, I I don't know if this is dice he or not. You can tell us as much or as little as as you can, I suppose. But you had a major lawsuit against Google and I'm already getting some questions in here. Uh, you know, taking on Google seems intimidating, no matter what the arena. Is there anything you can tell us about that experience? You know what what drove that and and, uh, you know, I'm happy with where we've gone with it. Yeah, I mean it was one. It was after a lot of conversations, you know, with Google, about the fact that so to set the stage, I guess I would say, you know, we invented this category which today now is pretty well known and understood as the Smart Speaker category. So Amazon's jumped in apples jumped in, Google's jumped in, you know. So we've had conversations with, of course, people that jump in, you know, and John and I having been, you know, through this a little bit and understanding when you are in a big category, something that's going to be big in the long term, you want to protect your inventions and that's what we've done through a patent, as an intellectual property portfolio. We knew people would be coming in and we want to make sure that we are protecting the inventions and the hard work of all of our people. So you have those conversations with people and we work with you know, we work with all of those companies and their support, their music services and voice services, and we still do even with Google. But it came to a point where I didn't feel they were taking it seriously and like I had to stand up not just for, you know, our intellectual property Um, and so it was I also testified in front of Congress for Um Anti Trust Um as well, because I feel, like, you know, there's a few large technology companies that have really grown, you know, in great power. That can reduce competition, which isn't great for society and upcoming entrepreneurs, and so there's been some companies that, you know, have really had challenges where some of the big tech companies have simply copied...

...what their products have done and they haven't had, you know, patent protections or they haven't really known what they're doing and you know, and they're done. To me, that's not right. So we were thoughtful in terms of making sure that we protected our inventions and, you know, we felt Google infringed on those inventions and just this month the International Trade Commission has agreed Um with that and said that Google needs to stop doing that and they need to stop shipping products that infringe on our electoral properties. So that's a big win for us. What what stealed me in taking the stand is, I mean, the entire life experience of just standing up for what's right and watching at times, you know, Jim and Mike at Rim really stand up for what's right and in some of the battles that we had there at certain times, John, you know as well, so knows my parents right in terms of doing these things, and just a general feeling of, you know, like trying to stand up for everybody that's out there trying to invent something and make sure that we create, you know, hopefully, a basis and really a society where we have more, you know, entrepreneurs and innovators and they can make a go of it right without having big and powerful forces simply copy what they're doing, you know, and kind of suck the oxygen out of the room. So yeah, it's you know, it will be an ongoing battle Um as we go through these things. You know, there's still federal court case and damages that we'll need to work out through that, but I definitely feel a responsibility to do it for both our team and all the people that are put their blood, sweat and tears into creating this industry, this category, and then as well, for all the others that are out there trying to break through with their next innovation. Yeah, well, thanks, Patrick. I think, you know, it's admirable and I think the tech industry and general entrepreneurs it's a great thing that you're taking that on and you have the you know, the depth of pockets to do that, where some entrepreneurial companies don't. So I appreciate it a lot. So, you know, this takes us a little bit. Maybe Canada and US differences Canada has an interesting history with innovation. We do a lot of innovation, but we don't necessarily scale it well, we don't hold on to it well. What do you think about Canada and Canadians in general might do better about establishing global brands? You know, it's interesting, I really think, and you know you're seeing it now with toby and Harley at shopify and docks at light speed and there's all sorts of great companies that are, you know, emerging. I think some of it having now really experienced in depth the difference and again, huge generalizations. Right, we are going to make it in this conversation. But I think there's a belief in the United States a bit of like, you know, why not me, Um and and I was encouraging you know, you and were talking about the one hundred. I was encouraging Canadian entrepreneurs the same thing, like why not you? Like there's no there's no reason, particularly now, that the next great company brain can't come out of anywhere, quite frankly. But in Canada we have such an educated, amazing workforce, we have everything we need. We have the money now as well, so there's no shortage and vcs from the U S will fund Canadian companies. You don't have to move, you don't have to do these things. Like we have all the tools that we need, and I really think Eric from everything I see, there's often a lot of hand ringing around, you know, well, can we really do it? Can we not? Like we almost we have a well placed, you know, sometimes well intentioned, kind of, you know, questioning of that, but that I don't see with a lot of American entrepreneurs, where they're more like, of course I can do this, because, like why not? And from everything I've seen, like I think I've been inspired by, you know, some of them, and we saw this a little bit when we um started hiring a lot more people out of the United States to come to Waterloo. When we're at blackberry, like there's a bit of a spirit of just like yeah, like let's give it a go, you know. And and why not me? And that's the question, you know, I say to any entrepreneur that's going through is that there's nothing special about being in Silicon Valley these days, as there you know, maybe was in in days where we couldn't do this um or we couldn't, you know, collaborate on code or you know, do those kind of things. But we've been both of the companies that I've had the honor of working for have have not been in Silicon Valley and we've been able to become, you know, world leaders, and I think the I think more and more companies will be like that. I don't think you have to be there. I think you get a different perspective and that you can see different things about jobs to be done. I think you can attract different talent Um. I think it's useful in certain industries in that way. And so I think a lot of it is just getting on with it and if you have a good idea, like pursuing it and and you know, and like you can go get the money and all of these things. There is nothing in our way. There is nothing in our way in Canada of you know, having a very vibrant entrepreneurial community, and we do to some degree, and I think we have a better immigration policy than the United States, for instance. That should also help us, right and those kind of things, and so it's really only a matter of, you know, just the spirit...

...of recognizing that we can, you know, do whatever we put our minds to to go through it and there's there's there's fewer and fewer barriers than ever before. Yeah, I agree with you completely. I think it's why not us? And I think it's, uh, you know, a question we need to ask. More and more can be done from here and I think there's some advantages we have in Canada's pointed out some of them and I think you know, looking out the window and the snow may not be one of them right now, but other than that, I'm looking at your window. It's a little different. Other than that, I think we've got some great advantages. Totally, totally. Hey, I wanted to say, you know, given that idea of giving back and you've you've really helped our students a lot and in the entrepreneurship ecosystem we're trying to create here at Western and end in Canada, you know, to a larger extent. So what is it that that drives you for that to to give back in the way that you do, because you've been so generous with your time and it is appreciated. Well, thank you for that. That's very kind of you and I feel, you know, I feel like I need to do a lot more and I think you go through certain phases in your career where, you know, like that is your responsibility, quite frankly, but but I also feel like, you know, I've I came into it with certain which I'm sure a lot of students go through right now, which is like what is what is it like, and can I navigate this world of starting a business and like building a global brand and some of these things? You know, it could be intimidating and you could feel like a mystery right to some degree. I want to demystify it, you know, for people and help them understand that they can do it Um that I'm just, you know, a regular person from a regular town that, you know, had grandparents that were farmers and my dad worked at Ontario Hydro and my mother was a nurse and you know, and I went to Ivy, which is great, you know, as a school, certainly like on the Canadian context, but when you play globally, you know, there's like a lot of well, did you go to Stanford or Harvard or all these things, and what I found is like, again, none of that needs to be in your way and sometimes we can over rotate a little bit on some of some of the barriers we might set up for ourselves, and so I spent some of my early career, I think I was trying to emulate people that I saw being successful, you know, as a way of of doing that. And really it boils down to like finding your own path and being true to yourself. It sounds Super Cliche, but it's true. Is like, you know, making sure that it's kind of connecting with what you're good at, not necessarily passionate about, but what you're good at. And I just want to help people, you know, find that Um and kind of find that path for themselves that they feel like yeah, you know, like I'm having some success, I'm able to build this and I understand it and there's no reason I can't be successful, no matter how successful somebody is. And I've had a chance to meet some really successful people, like they're still trying to figure it out, like you know, and trying to figure out what's next and like, you know, if they're on top, how do you stay on top? Right, you know, to your quite point earlier, right, and so, because this is all very precarious, and so nobody has it all figured out. You know, as one early in my career, somebody had said everybody puts their pants on the same way, right, and so, you know, there I hope it inspires people to give it a go if they have an idea, right, or maybe, you know, take that job at the company that maybe their classmates would scratch their heads a little bit at, but that feels like the right one to them. I mean that was the case with me. And people go people saying like where are you going? What's this going? You know, like what in Waterloo? Um, and so, yeah, that's right, but but I hope, you know, I hope it inspires people, um a little bit to maybe take a chance right as well. And one other chance I took that, you know, for me I hadn't really travel a lot, but it was a couple of years. What was it? What was it? I was probably four years into rim. was starting our business in age Pacific and moving halfway around the world, right, and I didn't, you know, and have not to speak different languages. Are All those things, but I did it and it was one of the best things to do, right, which was put yourself in those situations where you're really stretched, you're out of your comfort zone. It makes you better as a better as a person, better as a leader. It just provides you a better perspective on life and so, Um, I hope to inspire people to to do that and help demystify like what this world is all about. Yeah, no, well done it. We're we're kind of answering some of the questions in the in the text that. If you have other questions, please uh, you know, bring them up. But you know, somebody was asking you know, do you have any advice for university students? But I think what you just said was was brilliant that way. Uh, you know anything else that you would add to that or anything else you wish you knew before launching your career? When you read? Well, I do. I do think it's kind of getting in, getting in there, being curious, right. Um. So, one of the founders of blackberry, Doug Freegan, he was the guy that came and set up that. He was under my desk day one setting up the phone, like you know, in the computer for me. That was there, and so there's a degree as well of like just do what it takes. Like when I...

...when, you know, I starting up our Asia Pacific region, there was a lot of like dirty work involved and just like you know, sorts of stuff that I think some people would say like well, I shouldn't have to do this or I shouldn't have to do that. And there's you know that. That's my emails on our support site, Sonos Dot com, you know, today, so that customers can email me if they have an issue, right and I will respond to as many as I can. I can't respond to all of them, but there's many that I do, and so I think the like staying kind of humble about it all, um you know, staying curious about what's happening in the company, in the world, with customers, all of those things is really important. And and again, you know, follow instinct. For most of the people that I know, you know their instinct is pretty good in terms of situations where you know they'll they'll have a chance to be successful and kind of the path that they're on and those kind of things. And I think it's a lot of times outside forces and ideas of what we should do that maybe knock us off the path that might be best for us. And so, you know, stay true to yourself as you think about where you're going in again, it's not about what you're passionate about, because you might be passionate about Um a sport or, you know, other area, things that really aren't going to necessarily be your career, but it's about finding what you're good at right and where you know how that gets you kind of energized on a day to day basis, and if you can tap into that, I think it's something powerful. Yeah, yeah, thanks, a really great question here from Matthew Uh in an early stages of a startup and you're building your entrepreneurial idea out there, how do you protect your idea while also reaching out to those people who can help you, know, grow your idea and make of something worthwhile? Well, that's a you know, there's there are legal mechanisms like nd a, s Um you want. So what one thing would be, if it is something that's truly unique and different, is be in the background filing for patents and making sure that you have that covered, because that that will help and then, even if somebody were to copy what you're doing, you will have that protection and be able to do it. But I think it's you know, I think it's tough because you are starting to meet with partners and those kind of things, and we we were very paranoid about this in meeting with Microsoft in the early days, because we were integrating with their email system and so we wouldn't tell them much, you know, in terms of what we were doing and just try to you know, try to to provide as little as possible to try and go through that, because we felt like they could, you know, try and copy what you're doing and those kind of things. And so, you know it, there is no there's no like playbook on that. Um, you know, you kind of have to figure out. You have to figure out the partner you're dealing with and kind of what you know what the person you're dealing with and how you can trust them. But at the same time, you know, in the background, I'd highly recommend to be filing Um intellectual property on your ideas and make you sure you're protecting it in that way. And then, as you get bigger, you can have ndas and those things, but even those are of nominal value to some degree, and just making sure that you've got actual intellectual property files through patents or copyrights in some cases and those kind of things. Think it's important and work with people you trust. I mean most people are, you know, there to help you they're not. That's right, that's right, that's that's a very good point. I would say through my career and again actually, like you know, having lived and worked in Asia and that as well in Europe, you know, not only are most people um, deserve to be trusted and but I think we're much more similar than sometimes people make Um, you know, make different countries and different people out to be. And you know, largely people are out there trying to do a good job and raise a family, you know, and lead a good life and and if anything, like you know, I think it should encourage people that most people are out for that and you probably have an instinct if somebody is not. You know, not that way, right. We all live and learn on that. So yeah, yeah, for sure that. We talked a little bit earlier about, you know, as a non TEX student getting into tech, and it's a question here. Do you have advice for non technical students and maybe how to break into the industry? I did a lot of early work so early on Um rim I was I think I was the only non engineer that was there. Yeah, pretty much, and so I did a lot of work, you know, at nights, reading and understanding Um and so and even to this day, like on new technologies that are coming into our industry. Um, I have a well curated Um list of like podcasts, but as well people I follow on twitter that right, and they're doing research and those kind of things. And so I think you have to do a little more work on technology and trends and some of those things. But what I've found is, you know, over a period of time, if you stay curious and you stay you know, continuing to stay up on what's happening, like, you almost will catch up in a way, because certain aspects of the technical education and technology education or engineering like will be dated as well, right, and so there comes a point where they almost like crosses over if you're staying there. But you have a little more work to do, UM, coming out, and I would say get started in, you know, like a product management type of job if you can, because then you'll be at the intersection of both engineering and marketing, Um, and some of the expertise that you've built on the business side, and so you can bring some of...

...that into it. But it's good to force you into working with engineering and some of the technologists and understanding their perspectives and that's a whole art in itself, is working with those folks Um as well. But I would encourage you to do it and kind of you kind of you know you have to put yourself out there, which is a good thing, um, but try to step into product management if you can. You may have to do product marketing then into product management, but there's really no reason you can't, over time, Um, get into you know that those kind of disciplines, Um, and I've seen both engineers and Um, non engineers be successful in those roles as well. So, yeah, well, this, uh, this is a tough question. Probably something you haven't had to deal with, but most entrepreneurs and most leaders that I know have at some point in their career. Do you have any advice on dealing with imposter syndrome? Um, I do have any advice on it. I think you know, you know how how I mentioned that everybody is still, you know, trying to figure it out. Is probably the case, right. I would look at certainly when I was at ivy and in early days of career, I would look up at people like Jim and Mike or, Um, you know, somebody like a Steve Jobs or at that point, you know Um and you're like, oh, they must have it all sort of out and know exactly what's going on and be on top of it, and you'd learn over time that they don't. And Eric, I'm sure you've, you know, seen this too, is everybody every day is trying to just like figure it out right and, like you know, and understanding. Of course, we're creating direction. We have, you get more experiences you go and so you start to understand, you start to pattern match, and so you can understand different scenarios and situations and you get better at how to build relationships, interact with people and some of those skills. But still, you know, Um, I want SOS to be here, you know, long after I'm gone, Um, and be something that is growing, you know, relevant and a great place to work. And so I'm always thinking about that and thinking about, okay, what are we gonna do and what's next and what could disrupt us and some of these things. And so I think the the reality is is that, you know, if anybody looks like they have it all together, Um, it's only perhaps like at a moment in time or you're seeing one aspect of that particular moment in time or where they are, Um, and they, you know, I assure you, they do not have it all together, Um, in going through there. And that's that's why I say as well, like the whole notion of why not? You write like why not us? Why not anybody in Canada, because I think it's just again, huge generalization. But I think for some reason Americans are better at being able to say like kind of put that out of their mind and be like yeah, I can go and do this, and they will go and do it and they're no different, like it's no different whatsoever, Um, and so it's almost like you know, Um, you have to realize that that most people are like that, and I guess if they're not, they're probably narcissistic or something. You can say that exactly. You know, all good leaders that I know have a little bit of that in them because they want to get better. They know they don't know it all right, and the Andy Groves Intel right manage through paranoia because he was always worried about somebody overtake him and stuff. And Yeah, I agree with you. I think it's something you just have to understand. Hey, everybody goes through that and that's right. About what are you doing to get through it. And why not? You don't let it freeze you to your point. Is that look like? So I work every day to like earn the honor to have the job that I have right and I'm always working towards that. And it was great one of our board members, you know, when I was appointed CEO, one of our board members said, you know, you're not ready and you will figure it out right. No one's ever really. It was his point. No one is, no one is ever ready. No one's ever ready to start a company, no one's ever ready to be a parent, but we all figure it out right as we get into these things. And so you know, there are, what millions of people that have done this, you know, ahead of you and you will figure it out. You know as well. So, yeah, so all those books behind you. Top, top three books you'd recommend either to students today or just, you know, really top of mind for you? That made an impression. Yeah, oh so. Um, this is a tough one, but self renewal by John Gardner is a good one. That's, I think, from the sixties. Um, so that's a good one. Um, the courage to be disliked, Um, is another one by a Japanese author, Um, and that's really good for people that are, Um, you know, people pleasers as well, and I think like getting into Ivy, like do all the things we do, we you know, like it's a lot of people that have done everything, quote unquote right, and so I think that's a good one, Um, to be reading. I Love Shoot Dog by Phil Knight, which is a great one from an entrepreneurial perspective. And if you yeah, and that's a good one for if you think, you know, somebody has it all figured out. But there's also another good one for from an entrepreneurial perspective, is von Schwinnard, the founder of Patagonia. It's called let my people go surfing. Um, you want to talk about developing a different type of outlook on business and culture and those kind of things. That's a it's a fantastic book, and we had more companies like that, I think we'd be much better off. So, yeah, I haven't read that one all.

That's a great one. Yeah, John's, that's a classic. It's before your time, man. Yeah, all right. I mean a good, good one here from Monmordo. What criteria should I look for when start, when I start hiring my founding team or those first several people around me. Um, you know, it depends what your skill set is right and what you you kind of what you're pursuing, I guess you know, as a as a business. So it's highly dependent. I'm just trying to think if there's something fundamentally so I'm very specific whether it's, you know, we just happen to go through this for board members, but as well for a couple of different positions on my team. I try to get very specific on what it is that I'm looking for, experience or skill set wise. And then you're looking for point in time. So I would say if you're looking for people that are if if this is the first company you're founding, ideally you find somebody that has been through a startup experience and can kind of bring that in compliment. You know your idea and where you're going with that, because if you're all in the same boat in terms of like trying to figure out how to do this, it's probably, Um, you know, you're going to reinvent the wheel a little bit or have to learn lessons that people have already learned. So I might index more on that and then you'll hear from everybody. You know, try to hire somebody that's better than you know, you, Um, in the particular domain and you have to get smart and whatever domain it is that you are doing. And so whatever domain you're hiring for, like, let's say if it's sales, right, you need to have a little bit of knowledge in that particular area. So you have to do a little bit of work, you have to talk to some people in that area. Um, I would say you know and ask through it, but it's hard, it's very as I think through that question is very situation dependent, Um, in you know, in going through who you're going to hire in a particular moment in time. So I think, I mean you know people that have the same value as you do, but that complement your skill set and help you in the direction you're trying to go. Right. Yeah, I think the mission part of it's pretty important. Is, like, do they believe in the idea that you're talking about? And because that can be a powerful factor, you know, to really rally people if they're going to believe in you. I mean you have to get them on board if they're going to join. But if they're really behind the idea Um, and they're willing to kind of put that same level of energy and commitment into it. I think that's, you know, that's really the key versus, you know, are these somebody that's just, you know, taking it because they just wanted job or, you know, need a different job? So, to your point about values, and then I think the mission is really important there too, in their alignment with it. Yeah, I agree. Uh, there's an interesting question. What successful strategies have so nos implemented during the pandemic? It's hard to believe it's still, you know, we're still in it. Um, I guess an endemic at this point, but it was so scary in those first, you know, a few weeks as well, because, you know, we've been waiting really, I think most companies have been waiting for like a recession to come. Things have been very good for a while, and so we threw out our playbook. Um, I know there's other companies that did this too, and I said, okay, what's most important right now, and it was support our people, make sure we're on Um, strong financial footing. Um, because in a business like ours, right with inventory building things those, you can quickly have major problems and then third Um, can we bring more joy to customers? And so those became like the three things that we just rallied around and supporting our people. So we started to do um things where we gave something called care time and people could take time off to look after their Um, you know, the kids and relatives, like whatever they needed to do, and we try to provide as much flexibility as possible and we took some really hard actions to get ourselves on strong financial footing Um, which were difficult but necessary. And then we, you know, we kind of we threw out all our marketing campaigns. We did new ones which really focused on trying to bring, you know, a little joy and a little music to people while they're stuck at home, and so we ended up kind of coming up with some campaigns that were super effective on that and it felt really that was a great thing to rally the company around. Is How, you know, even though it's it's nothing compared to, you know, the kind of impact that of course, health care workers and others had, to be able to find your way to contribute at least a little bit and try to help make life better for people while they're stuck at home. It was a really powerful, you know kind of rallying cry for people, and I shifted. You know, I used to do and all hands with the team once or twice a month and then I shifted to doing it every single week, and I also produced a video every Friday. Just recorded a video what was on my mind and trying to keep people connected and you know, those kind of things. And so I really amped up the communication Um as well over that period. And you know, when we've been able to weather it better than most and had a pretty, you know, successful couple of years, Um, in spite of all the challenges and Um, it just shows you the you know, like the power of the human spirit and ability prevail, because our people just have done tremendous work to keep us on track launching products and and these are physical products,...

...and so we've got people in the middle of the night doing zoom calls with our facilities in Malaysia and China and checking the production line and all of these things. And the it was incredible in terms of watching how people really rose to the occasion. Now, I would say, as we've been in it for a couple of years, certainly too like people are. I think Adam grants that it well languishing right in terms of this. It's been tremendous. Um, people have been great. So it's great. So more communication on your part, you know, a twist of the mission a little bit, maybe, just we're bringing joy into people's lives, you know, in a in a tough time, and and supporting our people making sure right like we try to give our people, you know, try to help them through this period and be more flexible. Um, you know, I would say, and those kind of things. But uh, and we did move some products around. So we moved some products around based on what we thought would be happening and what might be more appropriate when. Um. So we made some of those decisions as well, which were hard and are fundamental to what we do. How, how has supply chain been? Have you been affected? Are you it's been integrated or yeah, I mean across yeah, I've been, you know, in the tech sector for twenty four years and it was the worst that I've ever seen it. Um, and continue, you know, and it's gotten a little better in terms of where we are today. Um, but I have never seen it the way that it was. It was just, you know, it was a situation where everybody stopped overnight. So when the pandemic struck us, like many just said, okay, don't, you know, produce anymore, we don't know what's going to happen and we want to preserve cash, and everybody was doing that. That builds anything. And then, you know, two months later there's injection, you know, uh, you know, money injected in the economy and it's like, okay, we've, you know, we as a society or figuring this out to some degree and people are spending and everything flipped the other way. And Uh, it's been. It has been very, very difficult and our team has done a phenomenal job to be able to, you know, come up with parts. When we build the board that goes inside a speaker, well, you know, we'll have different components on it, what have you, and we will have we will usually have maybe one or two different components for each part of the board. And we're talking hundred components that are part of a board. And now we will have six or seven those boards for each product because of the different suppliers and trying to make up for gaps that are there and those kind of things. And so we've had a re engineering team that's done. Just tremendous work and trying to make sure that we can continue to ship products. But it's unprecedented. Um never seen anything like it and it's the good news is it's getting a little better. So good, good, good to hear good question here on sonose radio HD. Where does it go from here? Uh, do you see it as competitive with the other services that your users use? So some of those radio H D is are, you know, really our streaming service. A couple of years ago we've had some radio stations and that were on the system, but we felt like it wasn't really great for the experience and we could do better, especially for users that didn't have a streaming service. But what we found is that most of our users will have a streaming service like spotify or apple music or or something, and they will listen to sons radio as well. So there's times where they want to listen to on demand and a particular artist and those kind of things through spotify, and then they also will listen to Um Sono's radio, and so we've been so I think it's the third most listened to service on our system right now, coming out of nowhere basically, and Um we've really tapped into some unique artists and some unique ideas and playlists. So Kareem Abdul Jabbar just did station for us, impulse records for jazz right and so Um, we've been able to tap into some neat stuff and so I expect us to continue to do that. It's also been a fun outlet for a lot of our people. So we've run stations that are people internally have led and we've did one for pride month that Um, one of our E R G S did, and for black history month and these kind of things, and so it's been a fun way to kind of bring the brand to life and so I expect you'll see we're on that front and I think it's very complimentary to what our friends that spotify, apple, Amazon Google are doing on the music service print. Okay, just to follow up on that piece, and it was from the question. Uh, you know, their underlying question in some ways was how do you balance the software and hardware improvements without becoming competitive with those partners that you really do need to be successful down the road? I think most in the sector recognized now that you know we're both competitors and as well partners and so, you know, like that happens in certain areas, Um, and so, you know, most people are pretty aware of it and you know, they don't really I don't think there's really much concern, you know, and we try to compliment. We're not trying to replicate what spotify is doing. They're not trying to replicate what we're doing. So I think there's you know, I think there's like some over a lot, but not that much. Not that much. Okay, great question. Here we'll the most difficult situation you faced, CEO, it's on us.

Um. It's the most difficult probably the you know, in the early days of the pandemic, making a decision to say goodbye to about ten percent of our people. Um. So that was to get on the right financial footing and go through that and that. You know, there's nothing harder than, you know, Um, having to say goodbye to people, um in your company, and you know that's uh, yeah, that's certainly the hardest thing I've had to had to do. Yeah, yeah, we we kind of started out earlier, very first question talking a little bit about the future. Anything else about the future of sawn us or or major trends that you see that that could affect saw us and how you think about the future. But yeah, I know there's some really big ones happening now. You know, I keep saying it's the goal needge of audio. So we're seeing, you know, more music created and going online, but podcasts as well. I mean, just like you know, podcasts are going through the roof and lots of listening audiobook, Um, some of the social audio as well, like with twitter spaces and clubhouse and some of that that has peaked up. So we're seeing more and more audio. So that Golden Age of audio is a big driver that we've seen and people are listening more and more. An engagement looks really good. The I call it Hollywood at home, where we're seeing, you know, more and more. I think this year is gonna be our twenty billion dollars spent in creating streaming content to go to the home. And so we play in that because we create soundbars and, hope, theater products which, Um, you know, create great sound and theater like sound in your home, and so that's been a that's a huge one that I think is going to continue, even as people might return to the theater as well. Of those kind of things like everybody is is Um, you know, really enjoying like all of this great content, and it doesn't, you know, it looks like Netflix, U, Roku, HBO, everybody. Apple is just spending more and more money creating this content. So I think that's going to continue to be a big one. And then the great reshuffling is the other thing, with a lot more people working from home and in different locations and all of these things, is that if you're at home, it can be lonely at times, especially like if you're home all day long, and so music plays a great role and we can play a great role, Um, in the home there Um, and so I think all of those trends are playing, you know, in our favor. Audio today is about an eighty billion dollar a year market and we, you know, we'll do two billion dollars this year. So there's a lot of room for us to grow. We feel like we're in about Um ten of the homes that we, you know, ultimately should be in Um. So we got a long, long way to go on that front and every day we're trying to, you know, fill more homes and keep it, keep it moving. All right. Well, I have one more question so if something else doesn't pop up here, we'll we'll, we'll leave it with you for this uh, you know, kind of greatest lesson learned that had an impact on your journey and maybe your lesson that you leave with the audience today. I definitely go back to be true to yourself, right, you know, in terms of the Um. You know, I think early in our careers we can have a you know, almost um because maybe it is imposter syndrome or what have you. You think there's a way that you should show up or you should lead or you know that there's a proper way of doing it. And you know, I think it has to be authentic to who you are and you know kind of what you learned, how how you develop relationships with people, and so I would ask people to be true to themselves in terms of where, you know, what they're choosing to start, or where they're choosing to work, who they're choosing to work with, Um, all of those things, and then, you know, going going to work and feeling like, okay, this is a place that, Um, you know I can I can bring you know, my best and I feel like I'm Um, I can do what I was meant to do, Um, and I feel, you know, comfortable kind of in my own skin. I think it's really important and uh, and I think everybody has something to offer and, you know, bring into the world and is unique in their own way. And so embrace it, you know, embrace what you're uniquely good at. Um, find what you're uniquely good at over time him and, you know, Um, pitch in, but but stay true to yourself, you know, and I think you'll, you'll find your path and, uh, you don't have to try and be something that you're not at the end of the day. The entrepreneur podcast is sponsored by quantum shift, two thousand and eight alum, Connie CLARICI and closing the gap healthcare group. To ensure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player or visit entrepreneurship dot U W oh dot C, a slash podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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