October 24, 2019
“The value of a company is the sum of all problems solved.”

The last season of Startup, Gimlet's first podcast, discusses their acquisition by Spotify, and it has some interesting behind-the-scenes stuff (maybe not as much as I'd like, but ...)

One of the ongoing themes is the tension between Alex and Matt, the co-founders of Gimlet. Alex cares more about the quality of the product and Matt cares more about the business needs, and Gimlet was struggling, even in the quarter preceding the acquisition. Neither of them were handling the conflict very well.

In this episode, Thanksgiving in Stockholm, Alex is talking with Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, after the acquisition has happened to reflect on prior conversations they'd had before.

[36:28] Daniel Ek, Spotify co-founder: It's actually my co-founder's [Martin Lorentzon] saying. He said this thing, I'm not even sure he was aware that he coined what I think is an iconic quote. He said, “the value of a company is the sum of all problems solved.” Even to this day, it's one of those things that I think about. You may think about all the things you guys went through as all the issues that you went through, but you solved them, one by one. And I think the most important thing that you got right is the integrity of the programming and the shows that you make. At the end of the day, that is the value that you're bringing to that and bringing to consumers and it really served you well in the end.

Then Alex sums up his thoughts in a way I don't quite agree with.

[37:20] Alex Blumberg: In other words, Matt's and mine constant fighting had produced something valuable, the fighting itself in fact was the thing that made it better. If I hadn't cared about what I cared about and he hadn't cared about what he cared about and we hadn't each cared enough to fight with each other, the company we built, it wouldn't have worked as well.

It's the caring that matters, not the fighting. It's possible to combine caring with good conflict resolution skills and minimize the fighting. Then things are even better.