Pandora Gets Some Ink in Inc.

Inc. magazine has a cover story on Pandora in its latest issue. Here's a link to the story, and here's an excerpt:

Westergren realized he had a huge weapon in his arsenal: his customers. Westergren sends a welcome e-mail to everyone that signs up. It's an automated e-mail from an alias address, but whenever anyone replies, he replies back. Last year, when he was touring the country looking for new music, Westergren decided to begin holding meetings with listeners. He'd choose a locale, post it on the Pandora blog, and invite anyone in the area to attend. Four people attended the first meetup in Austin, but as he traveled to a senior center in Phoenix, a taco joint in San Antonio, and a lecture hall at MIT, the groups grew, and soon dozens, even hundreds, of listeners were attending. All the effort spent courting nonpaying customers might seem excessive, but it lets Pandora spend next to nothing on marketing. In any case, the listeners responded. Some have become so fanatic that they've written songs about the site, sent boxes of fudge, and even made donations.

That work turning customers into fans, Westergren realized, meant he could rally them behind the royalty rate issue. So he sent an e-mail to all the Pandora listeners that identified their representative and senator and asked them to write in. Pandorans responded. Westergren estimates that about one million e-mails, phone calls, or faxes were made or sent by Pandora listeners. California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein received 25,000 e-mails; in the office of Jay Inslee, a Seattle-area representative, correspondence about Internet radio equaled that concerning the Iraq war. Inslee and Illinois Representative Don Manzullo drafted a bill that brought Internet radio rates in line with those of satellite stations; in the Senate, Sam Brownback and Ron Wyden sponsored a companion bill. "I said, 'Oh, my gosh, this is a bombshell ready to explode with the small radio stations,'" says Manzullo.

Evidence Machine

H5 receives prominent coverage in this week's Forbes. Here's a link to the article [membership required] and an excerpt:

Corporations are evidence machines, generating terabytes of electronic documents, e-mails and digitally recorded phone calls each year. Lawyers try to sift through all this dross in search of the smoking gun that can determine the outcome of a case. But, so say studies by library scientists and others, the lawyers aren't very good at sifting. Worn down by the anesthetizing process of flipping through thousands of digital images a day, they miss as much as they find. That's where a San Francisco company, H5, comes in. "Our work is to discover the ideal narrative to walk into court with," says Nicolas Economou, 42. "We give you the bullets designed to win."

Mexico or Bust

This article about Pandora in today's Oakland Tribune adds a little color to Tim Westergren's recent article in VentureBeat.

"At our worst moment, we were being evicted from our office, sued by four employees for back pay," Westergren said. "We owed almost $1.5 million in back salaries. We were living on credit cards: I was making plans to go to Mexico."

Instead, he went on the road — meeting potential investors, making constant pitches.

When it was over, the cash was in hand. He said he went back and counted how many times he spoke to investors in four lean years.

"I just kind of kept going. We had survived the bust when no one else had and we had built a pretty significant data base," he said.

Finally, Larry Marcus, managing director of Walden Venture Capital of San Francisco, got on board, followed by Labrador Ventures of Palo Alto.

Funding finally came on his 348th pitch, Westergren said.

Motivated Investors

Check out this article in VentureBeat by Pandora founder Tim Westergren. In "What Motivates an Investor to Say 'Yes,'" Westergren explains that he was turned down 347 times before Walden's Larry Marcus agreed to invest the first institutional capital in Pandora. Here's an excerpt:

As I reflect back on this most unlikely turn, I have come to a belief about what motivates an investor to say ‘yes.’ Or perhaps more accurately, what causes an investor to shift from looking for ways to say ‘no’ to looking for ways to say ‘yes’. For, in my mind, this is the key to raising money. Venture investments by their very nature require a leap of faith (none more than ours) that only comes when an investor becomes aspirational – when he or she wants the investment to make sense (even though statistically deals never do make sense). I believe that shift happens when three things come together for the investor: They personally believe in the entrepreneur; they have a sense (and it’s often just a gut feeling) that the idea could be very big; and finally they have a personal interest or background in the industry that gives them a leg up the diligence curve. Put these together and an investor will start bending their investment criteria.

Larry M. was a musician (or at least a drummer) and an avid student of digital media. In the Music Genome Project he saw an idea that could be big, and as an expert in the sector he had the confidence to trust his own ability to spot potential, even if it was buried in mud. We also got along very well personally. So we had the three ingredients that tipped him into the aspirational mode. He wanted to make the investment and we started working together to make it happen – convincing his colleagues and other investors.

Yahoo to Acquire BlueLithium

Here is an excerpt from Yahoo's press release, which is available here.

Yahoo! Announces Agreement to Acquire BlueLithium

Important Next Step in Yahoo!'s Mission to Lead the Transformation of How Advertisers Connect To and Engage With Their Customers

SUNNYVALE, Calif. & SAN JOSE, Calif., Sep 04, 2007 (BUSINESS WIRE) --

Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO), a leading global Internet company, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire BlueLithium, one of the largest and fastest growing online global ad networks that offers an array of direct response products and capabilities for advertisers and publishers. Under the terms of the agreement, Yahoo! will acquire BlueLithium for approximately $300 million in cash.

"BlueLithium's products, technology and team will be an integral part of our drive to build the industry's leading advertising and publishing network," said Jerry Yang, chief executive officer, Yahoo! Inc. "This acquisition will extend our ability to deliver powerful data analytics, advanced targeting and innovative media buying strategies to our customers, who are increasingly looking for these insights. By leveraging BlueLithium's complementary expertise and tools, we will be able to better address the needs of our performance-based display advertisers and enhance the value of our publishers' inventory."