This week’s Meet the CEO guest is Ryan Edwards, CEO of tech and music startup Audoo.  Ryan was formerly a musician who was not paid royalties when he heard his music being played in public and spotted a big gap and opportunity for musicians and royalties. Audoo is a plug-in device that listens & captures audio was created in 2018 and is free for SMEs, and in this interview Ryan discusses the challenges of becoming a CEO as well as his vision for the future of the business. 

Tell me about Audoo and your journey to becoming CEO

We’re a tech startup operating in the music data space. I spent the last 10 years of my career in the digital scene, working at Visa and at variety of businesses before that. I was also a musician in my late teens and I had a top 10 single in the UK! 

It didn’t work out, but a few years ago I was walking through a department store and heard my song playing – and I’ll never forget it, as my wife asked me how much I’d be paid for it being played. It really intrigued me and I did a lot of research and found that musicians really have no idea at all when and where their music is played.

In the industry, there are royalty societies who collect money on behalf of artists. They license the music to a store or business to play the music and for that they charge a flat fee. Businesses can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to play music. However, they have no data about what was ever played in there. That was our catch and the premise for our business. I had this idea about two years ago. That’s when Audoo was born. 

In the UK last year, there was £750 million worth of royalties that was distributed. Globally, the royalty industry by the music industry globally is worth $55 billion so we have a real problem to tackle. 

What’s the most challenging part of being a CEO?

Aside from never switching off, there’s always something to do, or something that’s going on that you’ve got to be in control of. I get very little downtime because I’m always thinking. It’s good to get some headspace, otherwise I’m a slave to my phone. It’s all for good reason though.

What are you most proud of at Audoo? 

The fact that I started this business myself and that I get to be my own boss. It’s great fun – you get handpick an amazing team and work with businesses I would’ve only dreamt of working with.

Are there any accomplishments that have shaped your career? 

I work as a Business Development Manager about 6 years ago for an app business – we had a specific sales opportunity and the team were unsure we’d get it. I asked for the opportunity but we were up against a hundred other agencies around the world, and we won the business. That business is now worth triple than what we had turned over like three years before. 

We really rocketed and changed the profile of that business. That was a pivotal career moment for me, and one I’d say helped me set up my own business.

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?

I would say the importance of release and switching off.

Making sure that you can switch off and get away from it all because when you come away you realise that things that you’ve been compressing and has to be done minute-to-minute actually so then it can wait an hour or it can wait half a day generally. 

What advice would you give to any other tech CEO?

It’s very much about building your network and finding business in sometimes the most random of places. We recently switched banks and we got to know our bank account manager really well. He introduced us to the biggest music distributor in Europe a few weeks ago, and all of a sudden we found parallels and ways of working with them, helping distribution and connecting our devices with their business.

It’s just the most random place that you would find it. I always say just explore every conversation to see if something connects because you never know.

What’s next in store for Audoo? 

We’ll continue to grow between now and the end of the year, and hire 3 or 4 more employees. We’d like probably two of those to be international, but that will be driven by the market demand.

It’s important to find the right balance when hiring. I’ve been in previous situations where businesses grow too quickly and they recruit the wrong people. It’s important to find the right culture fit for us.

How are you addressing culture at a new startup? 

I think we all set it as a team, and I genuinely hope we mean that. We get together as much as can, and fundamentally it’s about spending time with each other and wanting to work in the same environment. Because going into the music industry, we want to spend time with gigs and we don’t want to miss all that.

Are you looking to expand in other geographies?

I think we’ll stay focused with the team here. We’re proud to be a British business and that’s really important to us. As and when new territories come on board, we’ll scale a bit and perhaps have a sales and marketing team in remote offices rather than saying we’re going to go put 20 developers in Germany. I think we’ll keep the core operation in the UK.

The UK has been a leader in music industry for so, so long. I’m not worried about Brexit – I think the music industry is pretty solid, and Ed Sheeran will look after us. We have the best bands and songwriters in the world.

Is there a book that shaped your career or one that you always recommend to someone?

How to be right in a world gone wrong by James O’Brien. It’s about knowing every side to a story. I think you have to apply that to business all the time as it’s quite easy to make fast decisions where it’s important to just to take a step back, breathe and look at the bigger picture.

What’s a company that you wish you founded and why?

Visa. It’s a phenomenal business. When I worked there we used to joke that the company didn’t need half the staff to still make millions – as long as people are spending money then Visa is making money.