02nd May 2013

Shazam: What Riley can expect in his First 100 Days

Once upon a time, the word Shazam brought to mind DC Comics’s superhero Captain Marvel. Now we understand Shazam as the app that conveniently identifies that song you can’t remember the name of. To “shazam it” has become as much a part of our popular lexicon as to “google it”.

London based Shazam – that is the mobile music discovery app – really is a modern, digital age success story, with an estimated 300 million users in 200 countries, including 90 million in the US. The company also recently launched a TV service which allows users to access show information and identify the music featured. Shazam has further growth in mind and a plan for an eventual IPO. In line with this the company this week announced the appointment of a new CEO, Rich Riley, while longtime CEO Andrew Fisher will become executive chairman.

Riley, a former Yahoo! executive who in 2011 was named “One to Watch’ in Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40, comes to the Shazam with 14 years experience at the search engine giant, most recently as EVP of the Americas. While it will be his first chief executive role, early in his career Riley co-founded Log-Me-On.com, which eventually became the Yahoo! toolbar when they bought it in 1999.

Speaking of his appointment, Riley said “I look forward to extending our dominance in media engagement, from our roots in music to our leadership position in second-screen TV and want to ensure that Shazam is the company that helps people recognize and engage with the world around them.”

The early days of a new leadership are inevitably a time of mixed emotions: excitement, apprehension, anxiety. Riley will undoubtedly face many challenges in his new role, but, anticipating and understanding what these challenges are likely to be will help him to avoid derailment from the main priorities. As a new chief executive, there are a few ‘givens’ Riley can expect:

  1. A period of intense learning
  2. Feeling overwhelmed by immediate fire-fighting
  3. Difficulties inheriting/building a team
  4. Finding a balance between moving too fast and moving too slow
  5. Dealing with legacy issues from the predecessor
  6. Building new networks and relationships

In Riley, Shazam will be hoping for leadership worthy of a superhero. To make his a successful first 100 days he needs to put his best foot forward and get off to a running start. The ability to transition is an underestimated leadership skill: an understanding of what the main challenges are likely to be will be invaluable to Riley in aiding a smooth transition and ensuring he maintains focus throughout the first 100 days and beyond.

Hilda Goold

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