Alexander Ljung launched SoundCloud in 2008 with co-founder and CTO, Eric Wahlforss. As CEO, Alex is responsible for SoundCloud’s vision, overall strategy and leadership, overseeing a global team of over 230 people.
SoundCloud is the world’s leading audio platform that allows everyone to discover new, original music and audio, for creators to build audiences, and for everyone to share what they hear, on the web or on mobile. Creators on SoundCloud now post 12 hours of music and audio every minute.
In 2013, Alex was named in Billboard magazine's annual feature '40 under 40', highlighting young executives across the music industry. In the same year he was recognized as a 'one to watch' in Fortune magazine's '40 under 40'. SoundCloud and Alex were also awarded Tech Pioneer status by the World Economic Forum in 2013, recognizing the company’s position as a market leader in online audio.
Alex’s personal interests lie in the positive change and wider societal impact technology and design can have. In his spare time, he enjoys listening, traveling, geeking out on academic theories, and diving shipwrecks. He’s also a proud member of The Cloud Appreciation Society.
Prior to co-founding SoundCloud, Alex began his career working in sound design for feature films and obtained a M.Sc. degree from The Royal Institute of Technology. He was born in the UK, grew up in Sweden and splits his time between SoundCloud’s HQ in Berlin and the U.S. offices in San Francisco and New York.
You can follow him on SoundCloud: http://soundcloud.com/alex or on Twitter: @alexanderljung
How did you get into the music industry?
I began my career working in sound design for feature films, after getting my degree from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. My cofounder, Eric Wahlforss, and I met in the computer lab at university and we started doing a lot of projects together. When Eric and I started SoundCloud five years’ ago, it was because we saw something missing that we wanted to build ourselves. We’d both worked in the music industry, and there hadn’t been a social sound platform before, so we decided to create one.
What strategies did you implement in building SoundCloud into one of the world’s most innovative companies?
We’ve always focused on building a product that we really believe in and use ourselves; on growing the audience for this product by listening to what our community wants from our platform; and on hiring innovative and talented people. SoundCloud is innovative to its core and was born out of a spirit of experimentation, and the testimony to that is that, today, music and audio creators together post over 12 hours of original content to SoundCloud every minute, 90% of tracks on SoundCloud get played; most on the day that they’re posted and more than half within the hour that they’re posted.
For me, creativity is synonymous with the idea of a ‘startup mentality’. It’s this alternative thinking, the desire and willingness to try something different, which is the only way you’ll achieve anything new.
Who has inspired you to become a successful entrepreneur?
Far too many people to mention, so I’ll just highlight one: Elon Musk. He’s a one-of-a-kind, and a great hero of mine. He’s an inventor, investor, and an incredible talent: he taught himself computer programming before he’d even hit his teens; he was instrumental in the development of PayPal, his second company; and continues to innovate with Tesla, where he’s CEO, and SpaceX, which he founded and continues to lead. I’m constantly inspired by entrepreneurs who’ve gone before me, and I hope we’ll be similarly inspirational to the entrepreneurs of the future.
What advice would you give to aspiring tech entrepreneurs?
Launching a startup is an equally exhilarating and terrifying experience, and in the early days you’re forced to constantly ask yourself, ‘are we focusing on the right priorities?’ ‘are we addressing a real need?’ ‘are we approaching this in the right way?’ But, fundamentally, it’s the belief in your idea that carries you through the harder times. We have faced many challenges along the way, but through our work building the platform we’ve come to learn just how fundamental sound is to the human experience, and that’s what keeps us on course.
All jet no lag. It’s about focusing on the positive, working hard and ‘leveling up’, as we say at SoundCloud, in order to achieve your goals.
What songs are currently playing on your SoundCloud?
Anything and everything. These days, I have very broad tastes when it comes to music and audio, and like using our ‘Explore’ function to listen to what’s trending on the platform, whether it’s John Oliver’s The Bugle, a track from Snoop, Big Boi or a bedroom artist from the community, or a BBC or NPR podcast.
What's next for SC?
Moving forward we are concentrated on continued growth, mobile, expanding features across all platforms and leveling up the direct to fan experience. SoundCloud is focused on creating, discovering and sharing sounds, which makes us uniquely suited to being on mobile because sound is not dependent on a big screen. We want to continue to unmute the web by helping anyone create and share their sounds to the world.
SoundCloud, launched in 2008 by Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss, is the leading audio platform that gives users unprecedented access to the world’s largest community of music & audio creators. With its continued ambition to unmute the web, SoundCloud allows everyone to discover original music & audio, connect with each other and share the sounds they hear. In addition, sound creators can use the platform to instantly record, upload and share sounds across the internet, as well as receive detailed stats and feedback from the SoundCloud community. For more information, go to: http://soundcloud.com/.