Spend time with inventor Chris Barton and you’ll be inspired to believe anything is possible. His positive energy to make seemingly impossible ideas come to life is absolutely contagious. Chris’s latest venture, Guard, uses AI to detect drowning in swimming pools – a never-before accomplished effort. Chris’s best-known creation is Shazam, the app that changed the way the world discovers music. With over 2 billion downloads, Shazam is a global phenomenon and Apple's sixth-largest acquisition. The app lets people identify songs out of thin air from anywhere they are, making it nothing short of pure magic. Chris holds 12 patents and played key roles in the early days of Google and Dropbox. He believes his dyslexia helps him uncover novel solutions to obstacles and to achieving audacious goals. In his speeches, Chris shares his Start From Zero thinking method of questioning assumptions and challenging conventional wisdom. His amazing story and storytelling completely captivate audiences and inspires them to make big things happen in their organizations – to create magic in defiance of the obstacles.
Chris grew up with a French mother and British father – both of whom were university professors. However, academics were a struggle for Chris. Chris would come to learn he had undiagnosed dyslexia. Over the years, Chris learned to embrace what he now calls his superpower. Chris believes that dyslexia has allowed him to overcome barriers to achieve his many accomplishments.
Shazam is a great example. When Chris had the idea to identify music using a mobile phone, no technology existed to achieve his goal. In addition, he was told by Professors at MIT and Stanford that this application of pattern recognition was impossible. Besides inventing a new technology that didn’t yet exist, he had to build a search engine supercomputer from scratch, create the world’s largest music database, and create a user experience on very basic mobile phones. Did Chris ever think maybe the experts were right? “No,” he says.
When Shazam was founded in 2000, it was far ahead of its time. It was three years before iTunes, seven years before the iPhone, and eight years before the App Store. The nascent Shazam struggled in the early days, teetering near bankruptcy for six years waiting for key digital advancements to arrive, allowing Shazam to unleash its full potential on the world.
In 2018, Shazam, and its 200 employees, was acquired by Apple in Apple’s 6th largest acquisition of all-time. Today, Shazam has been downloaded over two billion times and is considered one of the world's most popular apps. It has become an integral part of our everyday lives, with its ability to instantly identify songs and provide information about the music such as lyrics. Shazam has even become a verb, as in "Can you Shazam this song for me?" In addition to its widespread usage, Shazam has also been the inspiration for a popular game show hosted by Jamie Foxx called "Beat Shazam," which has aired for four seasons on the Fox Network challenging contestants to recognize songs faster than the Shazam app.
Chris has also played a key role in tech history as a founding member of Google’s Android Partnerships team where he created Android's mobile operator partnership framework. He also spent four years at Dropbox where he led carrier partnerships and was one of the first 100 people at the company.
Holding 12 patents, including one found within the Google search algorithm that billions of people use, Chris has made significant contributions to the tech industry. He also invests in a wide range of start-ups, including artificial intelligence for heart health and inflammatory disease therapeutics.
Today, Chris spends much of his time building his third startup company, Guard, a system that detects drowning in swimming pools using artificial intelligence.
When he has the time, Chris enjoys speaking at events and sharing lessons learned from his experiences achieving the impossible. He inspires people with stories of the unexpected mindsets that are necessary to overcome challenges and achieve success. Chris gives audiences a new framework for thinking about the obstacles they face and motivates them to take action.
Prior to his audacious technology career, Chris was a strategy consultant and earned two master’s degrees from UC Berkeley and Cambridge University.
When he isn’t working or speaking, you can find Chris enjoying the outdoors and spending time with his son, Jude.
Featured Keynote Programs
Breaking the Sound Barrier - Challenges We Faced and Lessons We Learned in Building Shazam
Before smartphones, apps, and digital voice assistants, Chris Barton came up with the idea for people to identify songs by using their phone in 1999. But turning this idea into a commercial product was exceptionally difficult since PhDs in signal processing considered this problem “impossible” to solve due to the background noise. In addition, the startup faced numerous challenges in building the “fingerprint database” of millions of songs as well as launching to users in a world before mobile apps existed. In this exciting talk, Barton shows audiences what it takes to bring an original idea to market when everyone says you can’t do it.
Shazam’s Early Years
Surviving Difficult Times & The Keys to Startup Success
What does it take for your startup to succeed? Chris Barton founded Shazam in 1999 with three of his friends but it took years to take a simple and original idea from a working algorithm to profits. In this enlightening and no-punches-pulled talk, Barton shares the story of the incredible challenges Shazam faced to “survive” through years of near-bankruptcy and explains his view of the ingredients necessary to make your startup successful.
Lessons for Entrepreneurs Collected from My Shazam Experience
From picking the right idea to finding the right approach to building the business from the ground up, Barton explains his views on how to optimize the chances of your startup succeeding (and how to enjoy the experience along the way).
Ten Things I Am Grateful for in My Shazam Experience
When people tell the stories of startups, they usually focus on the obstacles overcome and the challenges met, while news stories focus on how much the company sold for. Rarely do people talk about the rewarding journey of following an idea to its conclusion. In this talk focused on gratitude, Chris shares how startups gave him the opportunity to work with amazing teams, travel to foreign countries, and having an impact on the world.