Innovation Agents: Tim Westergren, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Pandora Internet Radio

Pandora is one of the most unlikely success story in the music business. Founder Tim Westergren, a musician since childhood and a veteran of the music business, tells Fast Company how his company survived the burst of the tech bubble and grew by leaps and bounds over 10-plus years, even as the industry withered.

“You can feel like you’re climbing a mountain and not know how big it is,” he says, but he’s never been thrown off of his game.

Today, Pandora accepts submissions from all sorts of independent and mainstream artists, creating what Westergren calls “a musician’s middle class.” Songs are classified by hand based on 400 musical attributes and then plugged into Pandora’s Music Genome Project algorithm to recommend songs to subscribers.

At its core, Pandora helps musicians find audiences and helps audiences find great new music, Westergren says. “That’s carried me through a lot.”

This interview is part of a series about the paths that innovators took to get where they are today. See more Innovation Agents.

Video produced by Amanda Holt of Shatterbox.TG