Startup sounds: 4 founders explain the link between their love of music and tech

December 14, 2016

Everyone has a few tips and tricks they rely on to maintain their desired level of productivity. Some might use the Pomodoro technique, while others might just simply eliminate all other distractions from their surroundings. But for these four founders, music is something they embrace not just to help them stay productive, but to help them stay at their best while they work to grow their startups.

 

Stephan Ango is a co-founder of Lumi, a startup that helps e-commerce brands with their packaging. The association between music and design is something that resonates with Ango, and as Lumi continues to flourish, he said his love for music has become part of the company's identity.

What does music mean to you?

It’s the soundtrack of my life! The right music at the right time makes everything better. It’s really that simple. As a designer, I love to create experiences for other people. Most of the time they are visual and tactile experiences, but engaging all the senses is a lot of fun. That’s why I love dinner parties where I get to host friends, cook for them and listen to great music.

Music has also taught me a lot about history, art and people. My entire music education started with a couple threads that I picked up as a teenager, and I've kept pulling on for the rest of my life. Growing up in France in the 1990s, I was primarily exposed to French house music and hip-hop, both of which sample heavily from disco, funk and jazz. Over the years I have kept tracing the links between the artists in all of those genres. I am completely fascinated by the way groups of artists influence each other and develop new styles. It has informed a lot of the way I lead my life.

As a founder, do you think your love of music is reflected in the company?

Definitely. Sometimes there’s an obvious link, such as the video I created for Inkodye (a product co-founder Jesse Genet and I previously developed) which played off of the music I chose. Mostly, it’s a subtle through-line that connects the artistic expression of Lumi. I would love for it to play an even bigger part in what we do. Perhaps more videos are in order?

When did you first really start listening to music at work?

My work habits haven’t changed much going all the way back to middle school and through college. Doing homework, research, writing papers — that part of my life has always been accompanied by music. As a teenager, some of my earliest UI design experiences were making skins (interface themes) for Winamp, which was a music player for Windows and a precursor to iTunes. I have always had a strong association between working on the computer and listening to music.

How often do you listen to music while working?

Frequently! Almost any time I am doing computer work, whether it is answering emails, coding, designing or project managing. At least 2-5 hours a day, sometimes much more if I am working from home or on the weekends.

What type of music do you feel makes you more productive?

I do not associate specific genres with productivity. My selection is usually based on the mood I am trying to get into and the type of work I am doing.

If I am doing serious brain work, I will often listen to one song on repeat for hours on end. It usually tends to be something without vocals, more ambient, more acoustic. It could be anything from electronic, classical, jazz or blues. If I am stressed out and transitioning into computer work I have a few playlists of songs with low tempo that chill me out and get me focused. If I am looking for energy, working late or on projects that require less brain work, I’ll often listen to funk, electro or go through my Discover Weekly Spotify playlist, which is scary good at helping me discover new things.

How did you choose the songs in your playlist?

These are 10 songs I’ve worked to in the past year, each of which I’ve had on a loop for hours on end. I’ve narrowed it down and ordered it into something you can listen to as a set. It’s electronic, synthy, instrumental, with driving rhythms. But if that’s not your jam, my Spotify profile is full of weird playlists in every genre. 

 

For political activist, writer and startup founder Matthew Segal, music isn't just something he enjoys listening to. A devotee of the great Bob Dylan, Segal looks to the legendary crooner for inspiration in developing ATTN:'s editorial strategy.

What does music mean to you?

Music means pretty much everything to me. No joke. I listen to it when I get up in the morning and frequently before I go to bed at night. The bad news is I can't listen to rock music late at night anymore because it gets me fired up and I need to be able to go to sleep!

As a founder, do you think your love of music is reflected in the company?

Yes, the social justice message and moral compass that I've discerned in Bob Dylan's songs is highly reflected in the editorial [direction] of ATTN:

What type of music do you feel makes you more productive?

The Blues! Especially the Delta Blues. Lately, I've been listening a lot to a Texas blues artist named Mance Lipscomb. 

Do you listen to music while you work?

Yes, although I am not always at my computer. But generally, it's the blues when I do. I like my music in 3 chords.

How did you choose the songs in your playlist?

I chose the aforementioned songs on the basis of what I've been listening to over the last few weeks again and again and again. 

 

Dan Unger has worked all over the world in his professional career, but for the founder of Venice-based srfr, his passion for music was reinvigorated through work.

What does music mean to you?

Everything. Music is the basest form of expression for me. I still love going to concerts, and I remember going to see Prince when I was 10 years old and Pink Floyd when I was 12, which is still one of the best concerts I’ve been to.

As a founder, do you think your love of music is reflected in the company?

Absolutely. Music is part of my soul and I love talking to people who enjoy music and being introduced to new songs. I also believe that, from a business perspective, tons of digital videos that are taken and shared today involve music, which we can then stream to people’s TVs with srfr

When did you first really start listening to music at work?

It started when I joined Yahoo! Music in 2006. We used to do live shows right down the hall from my desk and music was a part of the fabric of the company at that time. I’ve kept that going ever since.

What type of music do you feel makes you more productive?

It really depends on the mood I’m in and what I need to get done that day. There are times when I need some good ambient music, but sometimes I’ll play some David Bowie or Queen. There are times when I just need to listen to Radiohead. I love old school hip-hop and it’s a great fast beat that helps me get work done quicker. And there’s always a good time for some James Brown and old school funk or soul!

How did you choose the songs in your playlist?

I chose these songs, mainly in the funk and Motown category, because I can always go back to these songs and others like them and enjoy the experience and the feeling. Early MJ, James Brown, mixed in with Flo Rida and Marvin Gaye; so many different eras of music, but the same great feeling for me. 

 

Exposure to music from an early age helped shape Joel Robinson's creative drive today. The co-founder of creative marketplace Castar, which he began with former NFL running back Thomas Q. Jones, is still deeply rooted in the creative process. For Robinson, music is as important as any other instrument he uses for work. 

What does music mean to you?

Music to me means many things. As a kid, my mother exposed me to everything from rock 'n' roll to rap and even country or pop. Music has been the single most important aspect of my creative life because it has allowed me to express myself through other people's feelings and emotions when I didn't necessarily know how to express those feelings for myself.

It also became a way for me to chronicle time and space with people and places because as music changed, memories were formed around listening to different music in playlists which capsulized that period of time on a personal level. Now when I hear a song that reminds me of a certain time, it also reminds me of the other sounds I was listening to at that time. This has really helped me keep in touch with how I've changed as a person. 

As a founder, do you think your love of music is reflected in the company?

As the founder of a company that serves creatives, the music I listen to is not only a part of my company, but a part of just about every aspect of my life. My co-founder and I built a very tight relationship before this endeavor that was deeply rooted in our musical tastes and ideas based on music and lyrics. Castar is a product of its creators and its functional environment. Music is a key component of nearly every aspect of entertainment, so it is only fitting that music plays an important role in our company. 

When did you first really start listening to music at work?

The first job I had that allowed me to listen to music at work was when I was about 19 working in Virginia as a car detailer for a limousine company. I would drive around Charlottesville mostly listening to the radio, and that was coincidentally how I started making music for myself. I got tired of the radio so I just started singing and rapping to myself in the car. 

How often do you listen to music while working?

I listen to music pretty much all day long, whether I am at my desk during the week, or on the weekends in the studio working with other artists on their musical projects. Having started my professional career working in studios and around musicians, I have found that music has been as important to my workflow as, say, my computer or a cup of coffee. 

What type of music do you feel makes you more productive?

I think that all depends on the project I'm working on, as my responsibilities as Castar's president these days can range from flying drones on movie sets, to running studio sessions. I like more upbeat, punk or dance sounds when I'm working with other people and being interactive. However, when I'm working on the computer or just brainstorming and creating I like more melodic sounds like R&B. 

How did you choose the songs in your playlist?

The playlist I chose consists of songs I have gone back to time and time again because they allow me to keep my mind free and open. My work is directly represented by how I felt in that moment or that time of creation. Each of these songs played a significant part of the process in creating the person that I am today. A few songs also represent major points in my life that I had to either overcome or were playing during pivotal moments in my career.

 

Images via participating founders and Facebook.

Have a news tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Let us know and follow us on Facebook.