SoundCloud’s Take On The Competition: There Isn’t Any

Pandora, YouTube, Spotify–they’re doing something else, says SoundCloud CEO Alexander Ljung. And that truth is the cornerstone of the company’s strategy.

SoundCloud’s Take On The Competition: There Isn’t Any

Becoming the “YouTube of Sound” doesn’t quite capture Alexander Ljung’s ambitions.


“You can see a path to that kind of scale around what we’re doing,” the SoundCloud CEO tells Forbes writer Ryan Mac, “but even at that scale, it doesn’t stop there.”

Since sound is so “fundamental to human life,” the company could do an “infinite amount of things” after they pass the YouTubian threshold, says Ljung.

It’s less outrageous than it, well, sounds: Founded in 2008, SoundCloud users are now uploading 10 hours of sound to the site per minute. And with integrations with Facebook and Twitter, the product’s reaching 180 million people in any given month–or about 8% of the Internet.

Crucially, SoundCloud’s content goes beyond music–though there’s plenty of that–to include celebrity poetry readings, nature recordings, and states of the union.

The organization itself is global: Though Ljung and his cofounder Eric Wahlforss are from Sweden, they briefly lived in the Bay Area before settling into Berlin’s Silicon Allee. They now have offices in three other cities, too: London, San Francisco, and Sofia, Bulgaria. On top of that, they have more than 30 different nationalities on staff, creating a company culture that Ljung says maps against the culture of the web.

How to not have any competition

“We see ourselves as creating something new,” Ljung says, “a kind of platform that hasn’t existed before, even though it’s very simple.”


What’s brilliant is that similar models existed elsewhere: Lyung talks about there being similar models in video, photos, and blog posts. He says that “it’s a normal platform on the web,” so it’s already intuitive. He says that since that platform hasn’t matured for music and audio yet, SoundCloud wants to build out that piece of the Internet.

“Our main ‘competition,’ if you will, is that (the platform) doesn’t exist in the world yet,” he says, “and we’re trying to create that space and build the best possible service for it.”

This is what makes SoundCloud so singular: As Mac observes in his feature, while Pandora and Spotify foster passive listens, SoundCloud allows anyone to share audio that they’ve created. It empowers users. It’s social.

And the scale, Ljung says, is as big as humanity is connected.

“We keep focused by telling ourselves that sound is relevant for every single person, every single company, every single organization,” he says.

Bottom Line: If you can find a vertical that doesn’t yet have a platform, go after it.


[Image: Flickr user Ankakay]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.