Pandora shuffles team after CTO announces departure

Steven Loeb · March 18, 2014 · Short URL:

Longtime CTO Tom Conrad to switch to advisory role, to be replaced by VP of Engineering Chris Martin

Pandora is learning a new dance, and it is called the executive shuffle.

The music streaming service announced on Tuesday that it is losing one of its longest serving members: Tom Conrad, who has been chief technology officer and Executive Vice President of Product at the company for the past 10 years.

As a result of the move, Chris Martin, Pandora's VP of Engineering, has been promoted to the CTO role, and will join the executive leadership team representing the company's engineering efforts. Steve Ginsberg, Pandora's VP of Technical Operations, is also getting a promotion. He will be the company's Chief Information Officer. He and his team will report to CFO Mike Herring. 

In addition, Pandora also announced that it is creating a new, yet unfilled role, at the company: Chief Product Officer, who will report to CEO Brian McAndrews. 

In his role at Pandora, Conrad was responsible for the company’s engineering and product organization, which he had led from the product’s inception. He is expected to continue working full-time at the company for the next three months. After that, he will transition to a part-time role advising the Company’s leadership team.

In a separate blog post, Conrad explained his reasons for leaving the company, saying that it would have happened sooner if not for the announcement last March that longtime CEO Joe Kennedy would be stepping down.

"The story of Pandora has had many chapters and through most of the twists and turns, I was solely focused on how I could help get the company to the next stage. Rarely did I stop to think about a world where I didn’t make my contribution to the next chapter," said Conrad in an email to the Pandora team.

"I confess though that maybe 18 months ago, I started to think about what I’d need to do to hand over the pen so others could author chapters after my eventual departure."

Once Kennedy made his announcement, though, Conrad says that he delayed his own plans until the company found its new CEO and had stabilized. 

"My focus for the last twelve months has been to ensure that the company landed confidently in the hands of an exceptional new leader," he wrote.

In September the company finally got it's new CEO: Madrona partner Brian McAndrews. With that new leadership in place for the last six months or so, Conrad said that he finally felt confident that he is leaving the company in good hands.

"As I look at the revitalized executive leadership team he has put in place, consider the great leaders on my own team, and contemplate the exciting roadmap we’ve set for the future, I’ve decided that all the pieces are in place to allow me to step aside and let others write the next chapters," he said. 

Pandora's reported $600.2 million in full year revenue for 2013, a 54% year-over-year increase. It's total listener hours grew 23% to 16.70 billion, compared to 13.51 billion in 2012. 

Pandora's stock is currently down 0.48%, or 17 cents, to $34.94 a share.

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Pandora, the leading internet radio service, gives people music they love
anytime, anywhere, through a wide variety of connected devices: laptop and
desktop computers, smartphones, connected BluRay players, connected TVs,
etc. Personalized stations launch instantly with the input of a single “seed” –
a favorite artist, song or genre. The Music Genome Project®, a deeply
detailed, hand-built musical taxonomy, powers the personalization or
Pandora. Using this musicological “DNA” and constant listener feedback
Pandora crafts personalized stations from the more than 800,000 songs that
have been analyzed since the project began in January 2000.
More than 75 million people throughout the United States listen to
personalized radio stations for free on Pandora through their PCs, mobile
phones and devices such as the iPad, and connected in-house devices
ranging from TVs to set-top boxes to Blu-Ray players. Mobile technology has
been a significant factor in the growth and popularity of Pandora, starting
with the introduction of the Apple app store for the iPhone in the summer of
2008. Pandora instantly became one of the most top downloaded apps and
today, according to Nielsen, is one of the top five most popular apps across
all smartphone platforms.

Pandora is free, simple and, thanks to connectivity, available everywhere
consumers are – at the office, at home, in the car and all points in between.
In 2009 the Company announced that Pandora would be incorporated into
the dashboard in Ford cars via SYNC technology; GM has already followed in
announcing plans to integrate Pandora into its vehicles and Mercedes-Benz
introduced their Media Interface Plus device that works with the
free Pandora iPhone app to provide direct control of Pandora from in-dash
stereo controls. This was all great news for the millions of Pandora listeners
who had been plugging their smartphones into car dashboards to listen to
personalized stations while driving. More than 50 percent of radio listening
happens in the car, making it a crucial arena for Pandora.

Today tens of millions of people have a deeply personal connection with
Pandora based on the delight of personalized radio listening and discovery.
These highly engaged listeners reinforce the value Pandora provides to: 1)
musicians, who have found in Pandora a level playing field on which their
music has a greater chance of being played than ever before; 2) advertisers,
who benefit from the multi-platform reach of Pandora, as well as its best
practices in targeting consumers for specific campaigns; 3) the music
industry, which has found in Pandora a highly effective distribution channel;
and 4) automobile and consumer electronics device manufacturers, who have
noted that incorporating Pandora into their product makes it more valuable
to consumers.

Pandora continues to focus on its business in the United States. The radio
arena has never been hotter, thanks to technology that enables radio to be
personalized to the individual and more accessible than ever before. Right
now millions of people listen to Pandora in the United States and we hope
someday to bring Pandora to billions of people around the world.

• 2000 – Tim Westergren’s Music Genome Project begins.
• 2005 – Pandora launches on the web.
• 2008 – Pandora app becomes one of the most consistently downloaded
apps in the Apple store.
• 2009 – Ford announces Pandora will be incorporated into car
dashboard. Alpine and Pioneer begin selling aftermarket radios that
connect to consumers’ iPhones and puts the control and command of
Pandora into the car dashboard.
• 2010 – Pandora is present on more than 200 connected consumer
electronics devices ranging from smartphones to TVs to set-top boxes
to Blu-ray players and is able to stream visual, audio, and interactive
advertising to computers, smartphones, iPads, and in-home connected