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Chris Barton

Founder, Shazam

Topic Categories:

Fee Range: 20000-39999
  • Entrepeneur
  • Inventor
  • Tech Investor

Chris Barton wanted a way to identify songs he was hearing everywhere around him. There wasn’t one – so he invented an app called Shazam. Chris’s creation is nothing short of pure magic. That was his goal. Chris seeks to delight people by using technology to make seemingly impossible ideas come to life. Shazam, which now has over two billion downloads, is just one of them. In addition to creating Shazam, which Apple acquired for $400 million, Chris holds 12 patents and played key roles in the early days of Google and Dropbox. Despite having dyslexia, incredibly, he didn’t let that get in his way. In fact, it gave him a different way of looking at problems. Chris’s newest venture, Guard, aims to use AI to detect drowning in swimming pools. In his speeches, Chris’s story and storytelling completely captivate audiences. He inspires people to make big things happen in their organizations – to create magic in defiance of the obstacles.

Chris grew up with a French mother and British father – both of whom were university professors. However, academics were a struggle for Chris. Chris would come to learn he had undiagnosed dyslexia. Over the years, Chris learned to embrace what he now calls his superpower. Chris believes that dyslexia has allowed him to overcome barriers to achieve his many accomplishments.

Shazam is a great example. When Chris had the idea to identify music using a mobile phone, no technology existed to achieve his goal. In addition, he was told by Professors at MIT and Stanford that this application of pattern recognition was impossible. Besides inventing a new technology that didn’t yet exist, he had to build a search engine supercomputer from scratch, create the world’s largest music database, and create a user experience on very basic mobile phones. Did Chris ever think maybe the experts were right? “No,” he says.

When Shazam was founded in 2000, it was far ahead of its time. It was three years before iTunes, seven years before the iPhone, and eight years before the App Store. The nascent Shazam struggled in the early days, teetering near bankruptcy for six years waiting for key digital advancements to arrive, allowing Shazam to unleash its full potential on the world.

In 2018, Shazam, and its 200 employees, was acquired by Apple for a reported $400 million, making it Apple’s 6th largest acquisition of all-time. Today, Shazam has been downloaded over two billion times and is considered one of the world’s most popular apps. It has become an integral part of our everyday lives, with its ability to instantly identify songs and provide information about the music such as lyrics. Shazam has even become a verb, as in “Can you Shazam this song for me?” In addition to its widespread usage, Shazam has also been the inspiration for a popular game show hosted by Jamie Foxx called “Beat Shazam,” which has aired for four seasons on the Fox Network challenging contestants to recognize songs faster than the Shazam app.

Chris has also played a key role in tech history as a founding member of Google’s Android Partnerships team where he created Android’s mobile operator partnership framework. He also spent four years at Dropbox where he led carrier partnerships and was one of the first 100 people at the company.

Holding 12 patents, including one found within the Google search algorithm that billions of people use, Chris has made significant contributions to the tech industry. He also invests in a wide range of start-ups, including artificial intelligence for heart health and inflammatory disease therapeutics.

Today, Chris spends much of his time building his third startup company, Guard, a system that detects drowning in swimming pools using artificial intelligence.

When he has the time, Chris enjoys speaking at events and sharing lessons learned from his experiences achieving the impossible. He inspires people with stories of the unexpected mindsets that are necessary to overcome challenges and achieve success. Chris gives audiences a new framework for thinking about the obstacles they face and motivates them to take action.

Prior to his audacious technology career, Chris was a strategy consultant and earned two master’s degrees from UC Berkeley and Cambridge University.

When he isn’t working or speaking, you can find Chris enjoying the outdoors and spending time with his son, Jude.

CREATE YOUR OWN SHAZAM MAGIC: Disrupt Your Thinking. Defy Barriers. Inspire Delight

From the moment Chris Barton dreamt up Shazam, he was told identifying songs out of thin air was impossible. His path from a dream to a $400 million acquisition by Apple is a story out of a Hollywood movie. Meanwhile, Shazam has racked up over two billion downloads! Chris’s story and insights give people the inspiration and tools to accomplish big things within their own organizations. Chris customizes the emphasis of this presentation for each individual audience. He introduces lessons learned from founding Shazam, as well as his pioneering involvement with Android at Google and mobile partnerships at Dropbox. Concepts like “creative persistence” and his Start from Zero methodology are new ways of thinking and overcoming barriers. Startups use these concepts to tackle insurmountable obstacles, and you should too. Make big things happen and create Shazam-like magic in defiance of all odds.

The format can be a presentation or moderated conversation. Chris can tailor an inspiring message on creativity, innovation, leadership, resilience, collaboration, and more. Audiences learn how to make big things happen by:

• Questioning the familiar to distill to the basic truths

• Overcoming barriers with creative persistence

• Remaining focused on core insights despite resistance

• Making things simple and friction-free

• Replacing “uninspiring” with “delightful” by connecting to emotions

START FROM ZERO: Disrupt Your Thinking. Create Your Organization’s Shazam Magic

Throughout history agile startups have disrupted markets and redefined product categories, driving incumbents into spiraling decline. Their secret weapon is very simple – they think differently.

In this time of accelerating change, every leader and team must learn to see through the lens of these disruptive entrepreneurs in order to avoid the very real threat of irrelevance. With new ways of thinking, they can instead drive growth through truly game-changing innovations.

Drawing on first-hand stories from founding Shazam as well pioneering the Android ecosystem at Google and mobile at Dropbox, Chris uncovers the five “Start from Zero” methods of disruptive thinking. These are not the way we are wired to think. Startups use them – so should you.

This customized experience provides insights to audiences on how to:

  • Reframe ideation approaches to achieve break-through ideas
  • Overcome the biggest barriers on the innovation path
  • Cement a focus on the critical insights despite resistance
  • Eliminate the friction that plagues products & frustrates customers
  • Replace uninspiring with delightful by using personal connection

Adopt a mindset that leads to magic. Drive growth and secure your pole position in the future.

A one-page summary of the five methodologies is provided to everyone.

Custom emphasis can be placed on continuous innovation, scrappy innovation, creative partnerships, overcoming resistance.

Breaking the Sound Barrier - Challenges We Faced and Lessons We Learned in Building Shazam

Before smartphones, apps, and digital voice assistants, Chris Barton came up with the idea for people to identify songs by using their phone in 1999. But turning this idea into a commercial product was exceptionally difficult since PhDs in signal processing considered this problem “impossible” to solve due to the background noise. In addition, the startup faced numerous challenges in building the “fingerprint database” of millions of songs as well as launching to users in a world before mobile apps existed. In this exciting talk, Barton shows audiences what it takes to bring an original idea to market when everyone says you can’t do it.

Shazam’s Early Years: Surviving Difficult Times & The Keys to Startup Success

What does it take for your startup to succeed? Chris Barton founded Shazam in 1999 with three of his friends but it took years to take a simple and original idea from a working algorithm to profits. In this enlightening and no-punches-pulled talk, Barton shares the story of the incredible challenges Shazam faced to “survive” through years of near-bankruptcy and explains his view of the ingredients necessary to make your startup successful.

Lessons for Entrepreneurs Collected from My Shazam Experience

From picking the right idea to finding the right approach to building the business from the ground up, Barton explains his views on how to optimize the chances of your startup succeeding (and how to enjoy the experience along the way).

Ten Things I Am Grateful for in My Shazam Experience

When people tell the stories of startups, they usually focus on the obstacles overcome and the challenges met, while news stories focus on how much the company sold for. Rarely do people talk about the rewarding journey of following an idea to its conclusion. In this talk focused on gratitude, Chris shares how startups gave him the opportunity to work with amazing teams, travel to foreign countries, and having an impact on the world.

Picking the Right Obsession

If you want to be successful in your career, you’ll need to pick the right obsession. Chris Barton had the chance to work with companies like Google and Dropbox, as well as co-founding Shazam. In this talk, Chris shares how these companies and others follow the right obsession to market dominance.

Story of Creating Shazam and "Touchy Feely" Lessons for Entrepreneurs

When Chris co-founded Shazam, the music discovery company, his team had the crazy idea of using cell phones to help identify songs. This was before smartphones and apps. The journey was long and difficult but he and his friends learned important life lessons along the way. In this inspiring and motivating talk, Chris focuses on the very human side of being an entrepreneur and what you can learn when you challenge yourself to do something amazing.

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