The Birth Of A Giant

“Daniel just saw the opportunities of streaming music before anyone else.” – Mark Zuckerberg on Spotify’s Daniel Ek, The New Yorker.

You wouldn’t think much of Daniel Ek if you met him in the flesh. He is not one of those people who immediately impresses upon you, and he has little of the charisma and panache we usually associate with the very wealthy. Sure, he is a tech giant, and it’s true very few tech giants have anything resembling a rock star personality, but even when placed beside fellow silicon valley billionaires like Peter Thiel and Bill Gates, Ek comes across as a little cloying.

Part of that, surely, is thanks to his outfits, which are habitually adolescent. He wears hooded jumpers; dark, scuffed trousers; t-shirts and polo shirts. And part of that too is thanks to his manner, which is so relaxed and unassuming as to be almost a little rude. “[Ek] doesn’t greet you with a firm handshake from behind an imposing desk,” reads a line in a 2008 New Yorker story about Ek. “He doesn’t have a desk. He sprawls on a couch with his laptop, like a teen-ager doing homework.”

Ek was born in 1983, in Sweden. He was, like so many other tech-head ultra-achievers, relentlessly hands on as a child, not to mention smart as a whip. By the age of 14, he had already founded his very first company, and before long he was in the business of building up fast-growing, agile little brands only to sell them off to the bigger fish, accumulating both a considerable amount of equity and experience along the way.