TIP 026 | Ace of Base

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For a decade, Ace of Base ruled the billboards, not only racking up top 10 global hits but setting the Guinness World Record for most popular first album ever released. But like most success stories, their rise to fame was filled with challenges and setbacks.

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The surprising journey of the #1 first album in history.

The Real Story of Ace of Base with Ulf Ekberg

I’m super excited and I love that several of you have figured out who the guest is for today. We have the pleasure of hosting Ulf Ekberg. Ulf, thank you so much for coming on.

Thank you so much for having me, Jon. Great being in this environment and to get to know your listeners a little bit better. I haven’t done that many podcasts in the US. I’ve done plenty of radio shows though and TV shows, but not so many podcasts.

This will be a fun process. I know my listeners vary in age, I want to give them a sense and scope of how big and wild your career has been. You are a member of the hit group Ace of Base, is that right?

Yeah, that’s correct. The last time I checked, that’s still correct.

What role did you play in the band?

I founded the band. I’m a songwriter, a producer, was a band member too. We’ve been playing around with this band for almost fifteen years. We had a little break, did a little comeback, and we had a break again. I’ve been working with my colleague, Jonas, since mid-80s so that’s basically 32 years.

Can you name a few of your hits? I’m sure everybody knows them, just to make sure that they associate it to the band name.

From the first album, some of the most famous songs are All That She Wants, The Sign, Don’t Turn Around. From the second album, Beautiful Life, definitely one of the most famous songs. On the third album, I will say Cruel Summer is one of the most famous songs.

I definitely remember hearing that everywhere. You even hold not only were you one of the biggest bands in the world and travelling internationally, but you also managed to hold a Guinness Book of World Record, isn’t that right?

TIP 026 | Ace of Base

Ace of Base: We have sold 25 million albums in the first album, which is insanely a lot of albums.

Yeah, that’s correct. We still are the most-selling debut album ever. We got that record in 1994, selling at that time nineteen million albums. Basically fifteen years later, which is just maybe seven years ago, they called us again and said, “Unfortunately, your record is broken.” We were a little bit sad about that because you don’t really sell records anymore. They said, “The good news is that it is actually broken by yourself.” Now, we have sold 25 million albums in the first album, which is insanely a lot of albums. Then we sold I think another fifteen million singles on the same album. It was a bit hard to follow up a success like that because everything else selling more was a failure. Just selling six, seven million albums on the second one was not good.

There isn’t an artist today that wouldn’t kill for those numbers. That’s incredible. I think one of the things that I find most amazing about your career is that it’s hard enough to be masterful in one industry, what’s amazing is that you used your knowledge of technology. I love this thing that you shared on your anonymous interview, that because you’ve built your band website in 1994 and 1.7 million people went through it, that you had 10% of the internet visiting your website. You were like the Facebook of 1994.

It was a fun experiment that worked out pretty well. Not that we really understood what the internet would be but we thought it was a fun thing to do because we were techies. I just wish we spent more time on it, not just touring around the world and not just giving the tools to the record companies because we could have probably have done some quite funny experiments on that platform quite early on. We started doing experiments at the end of the 90s where we invited our fans to remix our songs and gave them tools to do that. In 1998, that was pretty early too, but I wish we did more before that. That would have been even cooler.

That’s amazing because everybody thinks of YouTube as the empowerment of the fans and the consumers but you were doing that a decade before anybody else thought of it. What I really wanted to touch base on is how amazing your career has been since you were this internationally famous musician. After things calmed down a bit, you really took on your love of tech, didn’t you?

I did. I always have been very passionate about tech and Sweden was always a big frontrunner in the tech industry much because of the government here in Sweden embrace technology. We built broadband in the whole country. We had broadband already in the ‘90s in the whole country. We had very strong telecom operators and together with a company called Ericsson. Basically, GSM was invented here. The text messaging was invented here. 3G was invented here. 4G was invented. We were the first on the planet to have all these very fast systems. Because of that, we also inspired and helped a lot of tech companies to grow. Looking at the tech market today, Sweden, Stockholm and the Nordics really have been the mecca for the European tech companies. Basically, half of all the unicorns that comes from Europe is from the Nordics, which is per capita, Stockholm has at least as much success with tech companies as Silicon Valley, which is quite incredible. It really helped also to have a very strong music scene. If you look at the charts in Europe for example, I think the past ten years on the top twenty on billboard, half of the songs have been produced or written by a Swede.

They were all probably written by one Swede. What’s his name?

Max Martin is definitely a big part of that. I think he had 22 number one hits as a producer, and about the same 21, 22, I think maybe now he’s in the 23 because he probably have a hit while we are speaking now as well. He’s the most successful songwriter ever. I think he’s passing Paul McCartney and John Lennon now as a songwriter and also as a producer. He’s definitely one of the frontrunners. There are other Swedes as well but he’s definitely the number one. We had the pleasure to work with him many times in the 90s.

After you went the music industry, you went into telecom or was it a technology firm?

I lived abroad for about twenty years. Seeing the internet bubble exploding in 1999, 2000 was very sad for a tech-savvy guy like me. We had a lot of different tech companies in the 90s. One was called Boxman which we founded in 1996. The idea was to sell music over internet. We had a few issues because most people were surfing with 56k modems and there was no standard for compression systems,

which means a song is 40 megabytes instead of today a song is four megabytes. It’s ten times larger in a system which is ten thousand times slower than we have today. That was not a sustainable business but we knew there was a research going on in both Japan and Germany specifically to come up with a compression system that would be standardized. At the same time, we knew that broadband was built out. At that time, broadband was one gigabyte per second. That was considered broadband. Today, everybody has broadband now. We knew we would have broadband but we were just a little bit wrong in estimating when it would happen. We started the company, we started to sell CDs over internet so people could order CDs. That was because we wanted to build a database of users. The whole idea was to have a database with songs and people were able to download the songs and pay for it, of course, and put it on your computers or your phones. This is literally exactly what Apple did with iTunes a few years later.

We were just miscalculating a little bit on how fast broadband would be introduced. Then we had the dot-com crash in 1999, 2000 which destroyed the whole business. Everybody in the dot-com era went from heroes to zeros. My partners, they were in front of Time magazine and so forth and suddenly they were called scammers, con artists. Everyone in the dot-com industry were basically fraudsters, which was a quite interesting journey going up and then going down. It was a sad time for all of us in the tech industry in 2000. We were a little bit shocked that it could change so fast.

When I looked back at Sweden in 2008, 2009, it was going to crash in 2008 again but it was a financial crisis, which was even worse than the 2000 crisis. I started to look at what’s going on in the world, what’s really in the world. If the whole bank system could collapsed, what do I want to do here? I want to go back to my roots, music and technology, and started to look at Sweden. The tech companies coming out of Stockholm with my friends who actually were back in business, I said, “I’m going to move back to Sweden and just continue working on my task that we started doing in 90s.” I moved back in 2010. I’ve been focused on investing in a lot of companies, building a lot of companies, founding a lot of companies and also building infrastructure and ecosystems for tech companies here in Stockholm that we can help each other, nourish each other, and to be stronger going out to the world.

If memory serves from the last time I was out there, you have created quite an ecosystem and it’s incredibly impressive. I know that there’s a lot of investment taking place and you’ve definitely developed a reputation for yourself as being at the forefront at the very least within the country as a leader in investing and cultivating technology companies.

TIP 026 | Ace of Base

Ace of Base: Tech and music have really worked very well together.

It’s been a great ride. It’s been, as always, an up and down bumpy road. I think now when the ecosystem is actually working and the companies are proving that they have not only revenues but also can be profitable, we are in a good path. We are producing unicorns every month here in Stockholm, which is great. It’s all connected to the ecosystem that was created in the 90s and also created from the Swedish culture of helping each other and collaborate. Also a lot of things we have learned from is the music industry where Sweden was very successful in the 90s. We showed also tech entrepreneurs that you can be big not just in Sweden but you can do it globally, which gives you a better self-esteem and confidence to go global immediately and to grow it outside of your own country. Tech and music have really worked very well together.

If you look at it, some other tech companies were created from Sweden. I’ll give you some examples. Skype is Swedish. Spotify is Swedish. Minecraft is Swedish. Candy Crush is Swedish. A lot of great company like DICE who does all the Battlefield, the Star Wars games and so forth. A lot of gaming companies are Swedish. Basically, 700 million people play Swedish games every day, which is another 10% of the population here. We’re very good at creating content and creating technologies. Content and technology works very well together. Stockholm have both content and tech which really have helped a lot of companies to go this path. Spotify is a great example where it is the first one that’s coming out of Europe. It’s going to be probably a $20 billion company when they IPO. It’s Swedish, it’s tech and it’s music. It’s a great example how two guys from a garage can conquer the world and be bigger than both Google and Apple together.

When people discover that you are a rock star, what is the most common question they have?

They normally have several questions. Number one is always, “Are you still playing? Are you still making music? What does the other guys in the band do now? Why did you stop? How did it feel to be number one in the whole world?” It depends how much time you have.

I was half expecting more scandalous questions but I’ll avoid those for now. I think it’s super curious. You went from a local group that was popular to I bet you wouldn’t even be able to walk down the street by yourself without security or something along those lines.

There were several reasons why we needed to have securities and not only good ones unfortunately. It was definitely a journey to go from being a local band in Gothenburg and hitting it in Denmark in 1992 with a song called Wheel of Fortune, which in itself was a journey because nobody believed in us in Sweden. We couldn’t get a record deal in Sweden. We went back and forth to Stockholm to try to get a record deal, forcing all the record companies to listen to our demo tapes. We had no money to take a train so we were hitchhiking and it could take two days to go to Stockholm. We had nowhere to sleep. We slept in the parks, in the streets. Me and Jonas, we’re just forcing us into these record companies and we would say, “We’re not leaving until you listen to our music.” After two years of doing this and nobody was believing in us, we started to look outside Sweden. We started to talk to a Danish record label called Mega Records, which we really like their music and their style. They were very much into electronic music very early on in the end of 80s, early 1990. We started to discuss with them what to do.

Suddenly one record company in Sweden actually called us back and was interested to record our first single. We signed a record deal in Sweden after four years trying to get a record deal. We went to Stockholm first time, we recorded the first single and we were sitting there with the record company’ boss. He just came back from London. He had no clue what to do with our music because our music was very broad. We did everything from techno, to house, to electronic music, to reggae, to pop, to rock. We did all kinds of stuff. In the early 90s, you really have to be labeled as, “Are you a rock band? Are you a reggae band? Are you a hip-hop band?” or whatever, and we were all over the place. We didn’t do hip-hop but we did almost everything else.

We just realized he had no clue what to do with us. At the same time, the Danish guys called and said, “We understand what you want to do. We love all your music.” We said, “We’re sorry. We have just signed with this record company.” We sat down with the head of this record company and said, “I don’t think we could work together because you have no clue what to do with us.” He said, “I don’t know what to do with you guys.” We convinced him to sell us to Mega Records, this Danish record company. They paid $2,000 for us which was a bit of recording cost of the first single. This gentleman, the CEO and the owner of this record company became world famous of selling Ace of Base for $2,000. He’s a very nice guy. I wish he was famous for something else than just doing that. I think Beatles had the same story.

There’s that fifth Beatle that got knocked out. There’s always the guy who didn’t invest into Google and all that kind of story whenever there’s a hit. What can you do? There are so many options that come by.

It was great. We released the first single and became big in Denmark. We were number seven in Denmark. We were watching the MTV charts and we were suddenly, “We are top ten in European charts.” That was really big. It was one of the biggest moments in our career. Then it was released in Norway. We were top ten there as well. The record company said, “We need to do a second single.” This first single was called Wheel of Fortune. We decided to work on a song called All That She Wants.

The rest is history. Everybody knows that song.

It became a huge hit. It was number one in Denmark, then number one in Norway and dragged Wheel of Fortune up to number two. We were number one and number two. Then we released this third single called Happy Nation. It became number one. We were number one with Happy Nation, number two with All That She Wants, number three with Wheel of Fortune basically for six, seven months. Then the album came out and we became number one for almost a year. We got some attention over Europe. Universal got interested and they signed us with Europe and parts of Asia. We were lucky enough to have a little bit knowledge of the music industry. We had a good lawyer. We did not sign up Japan or the North America. We did a journey in Europe and in Asia, except for Japan. We became number one everywhere there too.

TIP 026 | Ace of Base

Ace of Base: He’s probably the most successful record label director of all time.

In 1994, Clive Davis who was the president of Arista Records, which is a legendary record label, created stars like Puff Daddy, Whitney Houston and so forth. He’s probably the most successful record label director of all time. We never heard about him by the way so we had no clue who he was, but he was the most powerful man on the planet too. Apparently, he said no to us three times. He was in Europe, summer of 1993. He hears our music everywhere. He goes to Spain, he goes to France, he goes to Italy and everywhere, they play all our songs. He gets back to the US and suddenly he started to read about us being on some list in the US only because some American DJs have imported our music. They’ve been in Europe and they loved All That She Wants and they started to play it on radios. We start to plan a little bit on some listing in the US and then he signed us up.

He decided to release our album, which he didn’t think had enough hit songs. We already had four big hits from it and we had at that time sold seven million albums in the whole world. He said, “The album is not good enough.” We had a very interesting debate with him over this. It definitely helped that we had no clue who he was so we were not afraid of him at all. Jonas and I had this conversation. We had no really manager or anything like that. He convinced us that we should have some more songs and he wanted to hear what we were working on. We had already planned to release our second album at that time, which we had named The Sign. The first album was called Happy Nation in Europe. He said, “I want that song. I want that song.” He took The Sign. He took Don’t Turn Around and two other songs. He added it to the album and then it was released in the US. Then it was re-released in Europe as a second edition of the new album, which was not a bad plan because we went from 7 million to 25 million because of that move. It worked and obviously he knew what he was doing.

Now, you have the Guinness Book of World Record. What more could you ask for? I’m going to ask you a few rapid fire questions. What is the biggest downside you felt of being so recognizable and so popular?

I think the downside is it’s sometimes difficult to know what people are after. If you’re really famous, people want to be part of your fame and people will do a lot of stupid things to do that. It’s sometimes difficult to clearly see who’s your friend and who just want to be close to you because you’re famous. I learned a lot from seeing on other bands who just had one-hit wonders, how much friends they have, how great they are, and how everybody wants to be around them. Then suddenly, they don’t have a hit, then suddenly they have no friends anymore. That’s definitely the downside to be too famous.

That seems like very much the double-edged sword to success. Is there a certain book that’s really influenced you?

1984 is a very inspiring book. It’s a very dark book but if you read it today, it’s even more realistic than when I read it in the mid-80s.

Who would you consider your hero? Who do you look up to the most?

I think Gandhi is definitely one of my biggest heroes, that he succeeded to free a country with almost a billion people without any violence. The way he did it and the way he inspired people in peace, that’s definitely somebody who inspired me a lot, I would say.

That is an incredible example and surprisingly, somebody that we don’t hear said enough on the podcast. Imagine you get a random invitation for a complete stranger requesting a meeting, what is it that would have you accept the invitation?

I would accept the invitation if you had some references who this person is. I get invitations all over the place from mail, LinkedIn, Facebook, from people who had some friends that can connect but they’re not connected to me. It happens hundred times per day. There were people who try to reach out. For me, it’s very important that they are referenced by somebody, otherwise I wouldn’t even read the invitation.

I don’t remember which firm is this. It might be Sequoia, which is a very famous venture fund. They don’t have contact information on their website for any of the partners. When asked about it, one of the partners said, “If you don’t have the skill to find a way to get in touch with me, or the contacts, then you probably don’t have the grit necessary.” I love that. I don’t even know if it’s them but there was something about that. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, if want to be a successful musician, you slaved away for two years in sleeping on park benches and hitchhiking for your craft and unless you’re really willing to work it and have that grit, you’re probably not going to succeed anyway. 

Any successful journey has normally a very bumpy road. You have to learn how to be knocked out and stand up again. It’s really like boxing. In boxing against Mike Tyson, you have to be pretty bold in taking risk and you have the guts to be up there in the ring again and again and again and be beaten down, beaten down, beaten down, and finally will get better skilled. Finally, you will get it right. The same with anything if it’s music or a product or career, whatever it is; relationships also sometimes but you have to work hard to learn the hard way.

I often ask people to share a very human secret. Some people share an embarrassing moment. Some people share that they’ve suffered from anxiety or impostor syndrome where even though you’re super successful, you don’t really feel you fit in the room with other successful people. What’s something you’d be willing to share?

One thing I think about quite a lot is that I don’t really feel I have succeeded with anything really yet. I think that’s probably a downside, a very Swedish side that’s also a little bit almost strength, that I’m still extremely hungry to do more and be better. I don’t find the success of Ace of Base super impressive. I think we had a great ride but I think we can do much more and do greater things. We did great music but I’m very much hungry to do more. It might sound greedy or it might sound stupid or arrogant. I’m not sure how it sounds.

TIP 026 | Ace of Base

Ace of Base: I can completely see that that’s something that you hold true, that you’re hungry to still do more.

I don’t think it sounds any of those things. I think there’s this very like modest Swedish sensibility that I actually believe what you’re saying. I didn’t meant to laugh because I thought what you’re saying was funny but that it’s so human. I speak to Nobel Laureates and they said, “I was lucky that day when I figured that thing out.” There are a lot of people who have great ideas that don’t win the Nobel Prize. The people at the top really, for the most part, have a fundamentally different perspective on these things. I can see where you’re coming from. I’ve never had sold 25 million albums, I don’t have that exact perspective, but judging by how hard you still work and how much you put yourself out there, I can completely see that that’s something that you hold true, that you’re hungry to still do more.

I think Madonna did a great statement once. I met her a few times. She said she was very thankful for all the bad criticism she got from media because that made her even more hungry to prove them wrong. Sometimes bad criticism or failures makes you more hungry to prove that you can do better.

If you could be any comic book hero, who would it be?

I always loved Spider-Man, I always loved Batman, then I always loved the Belgique character, Tintin. If I have to choose one of those, I will probably choose Batman.

Everybody finds Batman so inspiring. His name comes up probably the most. I like that you went with the most techy, geeky of the heroes, which are Spiderman, who’s a science student, and Batman, who’s got all the tech.

He has all of it. What I like with Batman is that he’s the most human one of them all, of the superheroes. I like the ones that are as close to reality as possible. There might be a Batman out there somewhere. Let’s hope for it. Tintin, he had no superpowers. I’m not sure how famous Tintin is in America but it’s very big in Europe. He was a created in the 40s and the 50s. He’s a journalist and he’s solving world problems. He went to the moon in 1950. It was pretty cool.

Last question, imagine you get invited to a dinner and you can pick any three living people to eat with. Who would you pick?

I’ll definitely pick Barack Obama. He will definitely be a first choice. I really want to meet him. I met many of the US presidents including your current one, not when he was a president though but before. I definitely want to meet Barack. I’m very inspired by him. I think he’s a great leader, a great guy, and seems to be a very funny person as well. I would love to hang out with him. He will definitely be my first choice. I would love to have maybe somebody like Jay-Z at the dinner; a very smart, verbal guy with a lot of great ideas. I think that mix will be great. I think a third person should probably not be a US person. It could be actually very interesting in the mix to have another leader but have an Asian leader. The current Prime Minister of India is called Modi. I’ll probably add him to the equation too because he has done a great job of fixing India and making India very strong, making India great again but in a good way. He has united the country and he’s a very, very smart guy with a lot of great ideas. I think that would be a fantastic mix from the music and politics.

Ulf, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your stories and your knowledge. If people want to find you online, social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc., what’s the best way for them to find you?

We have a Facebook page, @AceofBase. We are looking at other media as well because we haven’t been active for the past seven years. We haven’t been active on Twitter or on Instagram unfortunately yet. If we’re going to do something new or maybe get on tour to do something fun, we have not planned that yet, but if we’re going to do that, we’ll definitely going to be on all kind of social media. We are a bit of a dinosaur band. We are on Facebook right now. Bear with us, we might be more modern soon.

Listeners, you can check them out @AceofBase on Facebook. I’m sure more will be coming in the coming months. Ulf, thank you so much for coming on and sharing everything and telling us your stories. Listeners, stay tuned because coming up next is the anonymous interview.

About Ulf Ekberg

TIP 026 | Ace of Base

Ulf Ekbergis a founding member of the Swedish pop group Ace of Base, along with siblings Jonas Berggren (Joker), Linn Berggren and Jenny Berggren, He has produced several artists, TV productions, films and events and has sold over 40 million records world wide.

He restarted Ace of Base in 2006, touring the world with them from 2007 to 2009. In 2009, he started a new music production/publishing and management company together with Jonas Berggren based in LA, London and Stockholm.

After he experienced the tsunami in Phuket, Thailand, he founded the Surin Relief Fund to support affected children by providing facilities to educate children and care for orphaned children.

Anonymous Guest Interview

Listeners, you always know this is my favorite part, the anonymous interview. Today, we literally have a legend with us. Dennis, thanks so much for coming on.

Thank you for having me on the show. I’m excited.

This is going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to run through a few questions and the listeners are going to see if they can figure out who you are between now and the next episode. Let’s start off with the basics. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a suburb about 40 miles outside of Boston.

You eventually ended up in New York, right?

Yeah. I went to school in Upstate New York and then I moved down to the city right after graduation and I’ve been here for twenty years.

You really were part the dawn of your industry or the resurgence. Was there a certain reason or teacher or something that made you really want to get into the tech field?

I’ve always been into just not even tech but just online community stuff. In high school, I used Prodigy and AOL to talk about video games and skateboarding. I was into that type of stuff. I went to school at Syracuse and studied communications. Not computer science because I was too bad at math to take the classes. I went to grad school at NYU at this interesting art technology program called ITP. It was that program that got me on this career, building stuff for people to use and just building weird things that were supposed to make your life a little bit more interesting.

Was there a certain moment where you really felt like, “I’ve accomplished something interesting” or “I’m onto something”?

We had worked on a lot of just little side projects and I’d built little apps and services for my friends to use. Our grad school thesis project, we ended up selling it to Google. This was right at NYU and that was the first real affirmation of like someone thinks that our wacky ideas are really valuable. Now, we’re at a big company with a lot of huge audience and a lot of influence. Maybe we can make these ideas even bigger and better.

It’s one of these ironies because I remember I was working in the startup world just about the same time and you always had this reputation of being really scrappy and really social so it’s not surprising what you built. When your product was actually brought into Google, I guess they took a different approach. Is that right?

Building something at an art school is a lot different than building something at one of the biggest technology companies in the world. There was a lot of adjustments to be made there. We have to work with product plans and managers and teams. It’s a big organization so it’s a little political in certain ways. We were at Google for about two years. I don’t think we got as much done as we wanted to. I think some of that’s our fault and I think some of that’s Google’s fault. We were there for a bit and we learned a lot. We ended up leaving the company and then starting another company right after that.

I remember this is such early days of consumer tech that this was even before really apps. Your first product was text-based. Wasn’t it?

Yes. It was all text messaging based. There were phones with apps like BlackBerrys and Nokia phones. Not super tech nerds, real people didn’t know how to put apps on their phones. I think we all take this for granted now, but that was a big thing with the iPhone. It wasn’t just that it was a touchscreen. It had an app store. You could build an app, put it in the store, and then people knew that they could go to the store and download apps. That didn’t ship with the first version of the iPhone. That was I think the second version but that was a huge, huge deal. It allowed the iPhone to become almost like a canvas for people to create on.

If there was a movie of your life, who do you think would play you?

Matt Damon.

When I met you, I was completely convinced that you’re an assassin to track me down.

Maybe it’s Steven Seagal then. Maybe Steven Seagal should play me.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done on a dare, a bet, or a stunt that you felt caused your success to some degree? I think it’s especially tough for you because you’ve done a lot of stunts. You started like a backstroke swim competition on land.

Then they were all at the lobby at South by Southwest.

It became this thing that literally year after year, seven years later at 2:00 AM or something, people would gather in the lobby of one of the nicest hotels in Austin, lie down on the floor, and would raise on their backs doing the backstroke from one side of the hotel to the other.

TIP 026 | Ace of Base

Ace of Base: You meet just a lot of people and then there are all these interesting opportunities to collaborate with them.

That is true. That’s with a buddy of mine who is out in Boulder now. I don’t know if it was ever done it on a dare. It was more, “That sounds fun. Why don’t we just do that?” There’s been lots of those. I feel like so many things that we’ve done or so many people that we’ve met or so many relationships or something that turns from one thing to the next that then turns to that you’re now friends with this person, has resulted from those moments that were like, “Let’s just go out and we’ll get one more drink. Let’s go to one more place. We’re going to do one more drink.” Or, “Why don’t we just jump in the cab and just go to that party? We’ll just see what’s happening there.” I think I’ve been through ten years or fifteen years in New York where I can take an improv class and the answer is always, “Yes, and?” That is all that we did. It’s like, “Whatever, let’s just go. Let’s go do this thing. Let’s go meet this people. Let’s crash those things. Let’s try to sneak into this thing.” That always has resulted in meeting interesting people. Over time you meet just a lot of people and then there are all these interesting opportunities to collaborate with them.

What would you say is a major highlight of your tech career so far?

I can’t tell you a specific. I can tell you easy one. Selling a company is a highlight. We took our entire company, the company I’m at now, we took the whole company on a trip to Puerto Rico because we had our revenue goals a couple of years ago. To stand up on the plane because I was going to get a bag of peanuts or something, but to stand up on the plane and be like, “This plane is full of all this people that are going on a vacation together because we started this company and we’ve been successful with it.” That was pretty cool. I can tell you the moments that are most meaningful even though I don’t remember the specific ones is every now and then I will give a talk somewhere at a class or at a conference. Sometimes it will just be eating dinner at a restaurant and you meet people that are like, “You gave a talk at this thing and I talk to you after. You answered all my questions and then I went and I started my own thing. It was awesome and you totally inspired me to do that. Thank you.” It doesn’t happen all the time but it’s happened enough. That is the coolest thing of all of this stuff when you understand that moment where something that I had done in the past or maybe some comment that I had made on stage or maybe something five minutes I had spent with a college student somewhere turned into them becoming an entrepreneur. It was a meaningful moment for them. To hear those stories is super, super valuable, inspiring and motivating for me.

Last question, what hint or riddle would you give people to figure out who you are?

If you like playground games, you will love the apps that I’ve helped to create.

I think that one’s excellent and I applaud you for coming up with that.

Thank you.

Listeners, you know how it works. You have between now and the next episode to figure out who Dennis is. If you can, you could win an invite to me or The Salon by Influencers and hang out with people like Dennis and the other interviewees on this podcast. Good luck.