How Pandora’s Founder Convinced 50 Early Employees to Work 2 Years Without Pay

Think you’re persuasive? Watch the pitch that convinced early Pandora employees to work for free after the company ran out of funding.

May 27, 2016

Think you’re persuasive enough to convince 50 of your employees to work for two years without pay? Probably not. Well that’s exactly what Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora, managed to pull out. How? By giving one helluva pump up speech.

Pandora was founded in 2000 with about $2m in funding. However in 2001 the company ran out of money. Unwilling to giving up, Westergren had to figure out how to keep his 50-person team from quitting. They had yet to launch their product and were years away from making money.

So how did Westergren do it? Every two weeks, when it was time to hand out the paychecks that he went into credit card debt to afford, Westergren gave his this-startup-is-a-rocket-ship-get-on-board speech.

At Hustle Con 2015, Westergren recited the speech he regularly gave that convinced his team to defer their salary until Westergren was able to get more funding.

Here it is:

Here’s his answer:

Audience member:
Will you just imagine this crowd as your 50 employees and give that pitch that you gave and talk about how you evolved that pitch over time?
Tim Westergren:
Fuck that’s hard! …I might not get the whole pitch but let me tell you what I’d focus on. I would say:We all know here that what we have created is unique and it’s solving a gigantic problem. No one on earth is gonna do what we’ve done, and when you use this product we all know how magical it is. It will find its home. Everybody on the planet loves music. There are millions of musicians who produce great music and they can’t find each other. When this thing finally finds its home, it’s gonna change culture. And how many times in your life do you have a chance to do that? That’s what this is about.

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