- Andrew Mason will always be remembered as the founder of Groupon ousted not long after a spectacular IPO, but he’s been busy since then.
- Business Insider recently caught up with Mason to talk about his new startup, Descript.
- We also asked him about the bizarre rock album he released after he was fired and about his thoughts on staying motivated.
- He hasn’t lost his trademark, deadpan humour or his attitude of gratitude.
2013 was an epic year for Andrew Mason. He was ousted from Groupon, the company he founded and led to a spectacular IPO; he launched a new startup called Detour; and he released a rock album called “Hardly Working.”
At the time, the tech industry couldn’t figure out if the album was done in earnest or if it was a parody. The lyrics of the songs covered topics like getting promoted, avoiding bad product design, and there was even an innuendo-filled track about listening to employees, called “My Door Is Always Open,” featuring a duet with a female vocalist.
In the now-deleted blog post promoting the album, he wrote, “Sure, you can just leave copies of Hardly Workin’ on your employees’ desks and achieve an incremental increase in productivity and morale but … try ending your next all-hands meeting with ‘It’s Up to Us,’ for example.”
Years after the album debuted, we asked Mason about the story behind the album during an interview about his latest startup, Descript.
“That’s about the best thing I’ll ever do in my life,” he deadpanned.
“I just felt like there were a lot of kids out there that that wanted to learn about business, and it’s increasingly difficult to get people to read books, but people still love rock music. So I felt like taking some of the things I learned and distilling them into musical form would be an effective way to have a have an impact,” he explained.
Did it have an impact?
“There was an all-hands meeting that occurred at Twitter,” he said, quoting a Business Insider story about a pep talk given at the company. “There’s a song on the album called ‘It’s up to us’ which is very much about that same concept.”
He also noted that the album had a track called “Stretch” about how to set goals and “I hear all the time about companies that are setting goals.”
Then he jokingly credited the album with fixing the US economy, noting that before he released it, the economy was stagnant but in the years since, it’s been robust.
So, yes, the album was definitely an expression of his deadpan humour, even if he did also have something real to say about business on it.
It’s about the gratitude
When we asked Mason what inspires him to launch new startups from scratch after Groupon left him a wealthy guy, he grew more sincere.
His company Detour, which creates audio tours, employs 8 people and has, by his own admission, been “an uphill battle.” It also inspired him to launch a new company on Tuesday called Descript, which makes an audio-editing tool and represents a “pivot” for the company.
After all, instead of the struggle of building a new company, he could do the typical weathly, former tech exec thing: invest and advise. Or he could do the aristocratic thing: nothing.
“I just feel really lucky to get to do the kind of work that we get to do,” he said. “For me, making money, that was kind of a wonderful accident. So it never occurred to me to stop. It’s so fun.”
He added that working hard to build a company is a way to “learn so much about yourself” by “being constantly tested … it’s a way to improve yourself.”
Mason said that another attraction to the life of an entrepreneur, particularly in San Francisco, is surrounding himself with smart people.
“It’s such a wonderful experience to get to see people who are so good at what they do, and how it’s so humbling to work alongside those people and have them choose to work with you. I just love that,” he said.
All of this echoes the honest and almost cheerful note to Groupon employees he wrote back in February, 2013 when he announced, “I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention. … For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be. … I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey.”