Sagee Ben-Zedeff – CEO and Co-Founder of Serendip Media

[quote style=”boxed”]My main problem is with the manic, depressed-like nature of being an entrepreneur. You can be on the top of the world at 10:00 a.m., depressed as hell at 2:00 p.m., and then opening a champagne bottle by 8:00 p.m. It can definitely screw up your mind.[/quote]

Sagee Ben-Zedeff is the CEO and co-founder of Serendip Media, the Tel-Aviv-based startup behind the social music discovery service Serendip, which creates a personal playlist for users in real-time based on what their music friends are sharing online.

Serendip helps users enjoy the wealth of music that is available online and is shared by millions of people on social networks. It harnesses the wisdom of the crowd to curate tailored playlists composed in real-time based on what’s currently being shared on Facebook and Twitter by the user’s friends, people with similar music tastes, as well as music artists and trend setters the user follows. It has been in private alpha since September, and is launching in public Beta this month.

Sagee created Serendip in 2011 together with long-time friend and music soul mate Asaf Atzmon. The two met at the age of six and spent most of their childhoods together, listening to music and talking about it, so it’s no surprise their vision is to bring back social to the music tech world.

Ben-Zedeff was the youngest music journalist in Israel, writing for a leading teen magazine at the age of 15. He has been writing about music ever since, both offline and online. He was also deeply involved for the past 15 years in the Israeli tech scene, where he led development groups and research teams, and headed product and marketing for various high-tech companies and startups.

Sagee is a thinker and an innovator with vast experience developing cutting-edge products from cradle to launch. He focuses on visual and audio-based technologies, connecting people together and enhancing collaboration. He is the inventor of several patents in these fields.

Ben-Zedeff is also an avid writer, blogger and Twitterholic. He is married, and is the proud father of two boys.

What are you working on right now?

We just opened Serendip to the public, adding full Facebook integration to the smart Twitter integration that made us famous. Now we are focusing on getting the word out, on one hand, to allow every music lover to enjoy the service, and on the other hand, we continue to innovate and provide our users with the best user-experience so they can enjoy music as it should be enjoyed: socially.

Where did the idea for Serendip come from?

I spend most of my day listening to music. Because we are spending more and more time in front of the computer or mobile device, I was constantly looking for a solution that would play great music for me, but at the same time would allow me to communicate with my friends about the music and discover new friends based on the music we were listening to.

I was very surprised to discover that the social aspect of music listening, which was so clear to me all these years, has almost completely disappeared in today’s music tech scene. People want other people to play music for them, and they want to be able to choose those people and communicate with them. They want music and social activity around it. I decided that if it wasn’t available, I would build it.

What does your typical day look like?

Sadly my day starts very early, as my young kid wakes around 6:00 a.m. every day. I spend my morning hanging out with the kids before I take them to school, trying to manage getting up-to-speed with what that took place while I was sleeping (damn timezone differences!).

I usually get to the office at around 8:30 a.m., and work with the great Serendip team until the day ends. I deal with the product and marketing side of things, as well as the operative aspects of the business, while Asaf, my partner, heads the research and development activities. Most days I also have meetings outside of the office, which is a great way to take some breathers here and there.

I try and be home every day for dinner with my family, and then I spend the evening with the kids until I tuck them in around 9:00 p.m. Then I’m back to the laptop and iPhone for a few more hours.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I usually have a very long process, which begins with me processing the idea until I’m pleased with it in “draft” mode. Then I throw it at my partner or other members of the team to get feedback. I am lucky to have great people on my side, so usually, feedback allows me to take the idea further, improve it, define it better and articulate it. Then I focus on the best approach to making it a reality, and test it as soon as possible, which is also a great part of the development process.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Curation. All over the Internet, users are creating great experiences on platforms that allow them to curate their favorite content and generate their own personalized creations. These creations are their means of self-expression and personal definition, and whether it’s done with images, music or texts, curation helps us handle the noise better and improve the signal-to-noise ratio of our digital consumption. It plays very well with the remix culture of which I am a big fan. It creates something new and valuable from existing works.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I didn’t have bad jobs, but I did have bad stretches on my different jobs–periods where I felt I wasn’t able to bring my capabilities and talents into my work for various reasons. What I learned is that the best thing to do is walk away and find a different position where this is not the reality, even if it means giving away some “benefits.” Nothing competes with the feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

My partner and I started Serendip with not much experience in terms of consumer Internet, running our own company, and having zero funding. This made the first year very exciting. It was a real life-changing experience, but a more formalized funding round and some good advisers on our side from day one would have helped us avoid some big bumps and hurdles on the long road to make our vision a reality.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I am a big believer in our vision. This allows me to get up every morning and keep working as hard as I can to make this vision a reality. Without believing in a greater vision, it’s really hard not to give up, not to be discouraged, not to think about the many sacrifices that must be made. When you are inspired by a great vision, you always find new ways and new ideas to get to where you want to go. So find your vision, and go make it happen.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My main problem is with the manic, depressed-like nature of being an entrepreneur. You can be on the top of the world at 10:00 a.m., depressed as hell at 2:00 p.m., and then opening a champagne bottle by 8:00 p.m. It can definitely screw up your mind.

My solution? Get a partner. Even better, get a partner who’s different from you, because he gets you back on your feet when you’re down, and then you do the same for him when he’s hit by entrepreneur depression. It’s easier to cope with stress when there are two people involved. I guess that’s why people get married.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A service that will let me know about relevant deals that are close to me. I would love to set and maintain a profile of what interests me and what I’m looking to purchase (both general and ad-hoc), and then be pitched deals that relate to my location. This would be the right way to use my location info, my mobility and my purchasing history to help me be more efficient with my future purchasing.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would make high-quality and verified information accessible to everyone in the world, through a variety of means for communication. This would allowing users to connect through any “wall” to discover the objective truth about history and the present. I think that when humanity becomes more knowledgeable, it will become more open-minded, more tolerant and more peaceful.

Tell us a secret.

I’m really bad at remembering faces, even those of people I meet on a regular basis. I often get embarrassed when people come to me at events or in public places and say hi, and I have no idea who they are or where they know me from. I guess there’s too much music trivia in my brain.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Twitter: It became my source of information, communication, entertainment, and is my main means of self-expression.
  2. Instagram: Like Twitter, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
  3. Evernote: Because I don’t remember anything (see previous answer), I keep notes. Evernote allows me to carry my notes with me everywhere.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries. The Lean Startup approach is innovative in so many ways, but at the same time leads you to keep saying to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that earlier? It makes so much sense!” Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. @hilzfuld: This is a guy who eats, sleeps and drinks tech. He loves startups, gadgets and Twitter, and is a very talented writer.
  2. @fakegrimlock: The most awesome tech guy on Twitter–a truly great act to follow.
  3. @cover_lovers: I’m a big fan of interesting covers, and the guys from cover lovers are supplying a great deal of covers to their followers.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I laugh out loud almost every day, thanks to my awesome kids.

Who is your hero?

Cameron Crowe (watch Almost Famous for details). In the tech scene I really admire Jack Dorsey for disrupting the tech world with Twitter and Square.

What is the one question you really hate being asked when you’re telling people about your venture and vision?

“And how will you monetize it?”

What is the one album you would take with you to a deserted island?

Most probably Disintegration by The Cure.


Sagee Ben-Zedeff on LinkedIn:
Sagee Ben-Zedeff on Twitter: @sageeb
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