Pandora has been Oakland’s long-term start-up media and app success story, but the number of executives at the helm who’ve been there since the early days is continuing to decline. Joe Kennedy, who was Pandora’s CEO since 2005, announced he would be leaving the company back in March 2013. In September 2013, the company announced it had hired Microsoft vet Brian McAndrews to lead the team. Now Chief Technology Officer Tom Conrad is also moving on, after 10 years at Pandora. Conrad announced on his blog that he’d told the Pandora team he would be moving to a part-time advisory role, “as Brian sees fit.” Conrad wrote:
In May of 2004 I met [Pandora founder] Tim for breakfast at a diner in Potrero Hill. I was there to learn about his company Savage Beast and consider the opportunity to join the team of 10 or so he’d assembled. While perhaps I had reservations about the business (music kiosks for book stores!), I knew at once that I wanted to throw my lot in with Tim. Fast forward 10 years and it has truly been the adventure of a lifetime.
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. 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.
Then [Pandora’s former CEO] Joe’s decision to leave pushed all of those thoughts to the side. My focus for the last twelve months has been to ensure that the company landed confidently in the hands of an exceptional new leader. We’ve found that leader in [Pandora’s new CEO] Brian. 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.
So today we’ve announced that in three months I’ll be transitioning to an adviser role.
We’ve also announced that, effective today, [former Pandora VP of Engineering] Chris Martin has been promoted to Chief Technology Officer and will join the executive leadership team representing our engineering efforts. We are also promoting [former Pandora VP of Technical Operations] Steve Ginsberg to Chief Information Officer today and he and his team will now report to [Pandora CFO] Mike Herring. I’m as proud of all the senior leaders on my team — Chris, Steve, [Pandora VP of Design] Tony and [Pandora VP of Product Management] Mike — as I am about anything I’ve ever accomplished here. These promotions are one reflection of that, and they are richly deserved. If there are successes from the last 10 years you credit to me, they’d almost surely more fairly be credited to Chris, Steve, Tony and Mike.
The company is also announcing today that we’re opening a search for a Chief Product Officer who will report to Brian. I’ll be staying on full time for the next three months and then in July, after a bit of a vacation, I’ll transition to a part time role advising the company and offering support as Brian sees fit. A big part of my role in the coming months will be to help the company find a CPO that we’re all really excited about.
After ten years as head of product, it’s shrewd for Conrad to step aside and allow the company to look for a new Chief Product Officer; keeping Pandora competitive in the music/mobile space is a constant challenge. At the same, Conrad has been a passionate advocate for the listener; his sense of what music-lovers want has helped keep the company in the forefront over the years.
Good luck, Tom; please don’t forget Oakland (now that you have that amazing house in the North Bay).