Neil Patel

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In the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship, there exist stories that transcend the ordinary, tales of resilience, persistence, and the pursuit of dreams against all odds.

Such is the narrative woven by Philip Inghelbrecht, a seasoned entrepreneur whose journey from Bruge, the Flemish side of Belgium to the bustling streets of Silicon Valley is nothing short of remarkable.

In a candid interview, Philip shares insights into his entrepreneurial voyage, offering a glimpse into the trials, triumphs, and transformative moments that have shaped his path.

From his humble beginnings in Belgium to co-founding iconic companies like Shazam and TrueCar, Philip’s story is a testament to the power of vision, perseverance, and embracing the unknown.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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A Journey Rooted in Hard Work and Wanderlust

Philip’s upbringing in Belgium laid the foundation for his entrepreneurial spirit. Raised in a hardworking family of small business owners, he learned the value of diligence and the freedom it affords from a young age. By 18, he was already working and owned multiple motorbikes.

Philip’s insatiable curiosity and thirst for adventure led him to traverse the globe, immersing himself in diverse cultures and experiences that would shape his worldview.

During his college years, while participating in the Erasmus exchange program in Germany, Philip’s horizons expanded even further.

As Philip explains, the program allows students from a country to study a semester abroad. Although Belgium is not so far from Germany, he enjoyed the eye-opening experience. The encounter with people from different corners of the world ignited his passion for exploration and discovery.

After graduating from college, Philip was in no hurry to get a job. Instead, he opted to travel further to see the world without any particular timeframe. His travels took him to discover California, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley.

Starting a Career in Investment Banking

After this journey of discovery, Philip returned to Europe and started a career in investment banking. His stint in the field gave him valuable insights into what works and doesn’t work in companies.

As Philip recalls, since he was 14-15 years old, he was fascinated with the financial world, Wall Street, and trading. With this objective in mind, he chose to study business engineering.

Philip joined Bank Dewaay (later, HSBC) and started working on trading fixed-income derivatives. Although he continued the job for the next seven years, he realized that it wasn’t his forte. So, he went back to school and did his MBA.

From Wall Street to Startup Alley: The Genesis of Shazam

Philip’s journey took a decisive turn when he landed in California, drawn by the allure of innovation and opportunity that permeated the Silicon Valley air.

Armed with a background in business engineering and a burning desire to create something impactful, he embarked on a quest to start his own company.

Enter Shazam, the brainchild of Philip and his business partner, Chris Barton. At the time, the only music available was on FM radio or CDs that people purchased.

Inspired by the simple yet profound idea of music recognition, Shazam sought to revolutionize the way people interacted with music by inventing the technology.

Philip’s unwavering determination propelled Shazam forward, culminating in a groundbreaking acquisition by Apple. Before its acquisition, the company raised an astounding $100M.

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Fundraising for Shazam

The journey of building Shazam was fraught with ups and downs, from navigating the uncertainty of fundraising to charting a course toward revenue generation. Philip’s experience underscored the importance of resilience, adaptability, and strategic decision-making in the face of adversity.

Philip traces in detail the fundraising challenges he faced when scaling Shazam. He explains how they raised funding from the music and mobile industries, starting with an initial round of $1M.

They also successfully raised a series A $7.5M round from angel investors sometime in August 2000 without having a product.

Despite facing skepticism and challenges in a post-dot-com crash era, Philip and his co-founders went ahead and pitched to more than 100 venture capitalists.

They landed three investors, including IDG Ventures Europe, Richard Branson’s New Link Media, and the Belgian Flanders Language Valley Fund.

Lessons in Resilience and Revenue: Navigating the Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster

Amidst the trials and tribulations, Philip’s entrepreneurial acumen shone through as he leveraged the company’s technology to forge lucrative partnerships in the music industry, keeping Shazam afloat during turbulent times.

Philip’s mantra of “revenue is oxygen” became a guiding principle, driving him to explore innovative avenues for sustaining and scaling the business. When building Shazam, Philip went with the standard approach at the time: invest, build, and spend.

However, his experiences taught Philip how flawed this strategy was. Companies tend to run out of money, which makes things challenging and often leads to layoffs. He was determined to use a revenue-driven approach when building Tatari.

When he looks back at Shazam, Philip points out that it was a consumer business, and after its launch in 2002, the company flatlined for more than five years. It survived because of the digital music database they owned.

Philip and his co-founders started to license to other companies that needed the tech to operate.

As Philip reminisces, in 2003, they had multimillion-dollar deals with companies that would license the Shazam database and services. These deals brought in millions of dollars and helped feed the consumer business.

He advises founders to look for additional revenue sources to lower their dependence on investor money.

Eventually, Apple acquired Shazam for $400M. Around that time, there was a new shift in music consumption, away from buying CDs and moving to subscriptions. Shazam’s business model was to enable users to add songs to their playlists.

In retrospect, Philip agrees that a better option would have been to build its own music streaming service on top of the recognition instead of giving away the incumbents.

Beyond Shazam: A Journey of Exploration and Innovation with TrueCar

While the success of Shazam marked a significant milestone in Philip’s entrepreneurial journey, it was merely the beginning of a series of ventures that would redefine industries and challenge conventions.

Philip continued building his career by joining Google, transferring to YouTube, co-founding TrueCar, and spearheading innovative startups like Tatari and Boomerang. He remembers how Scott Painter approached him with the concept of TrueCar.

They would build servers where people could see how much everybody really paid for the new car. Knowing what the dealer paid for the car allows buyers to negotiate for better deals. Philip and his co-founders put together a team and built the product.

Eventually, in 2014, TrueCar went public. At the time of its IPO, the company was valued at $2.5B. Philip next joined RockMelt and assisted in an acquihire to sell it to Yahoo.

Building Tatari and Its Business Model

Philip talks in detail about Tatari, his next company. Tatari is a technology platform for the modern television advertiser. It builds the tech infrastructure for the TV advertising business. Other brands and agencies can run their campaigns on TV.

Tatari also builds the tech for networks and publishers to show the ad inventory they have to allow better transactions. The company is now seven years old and has about 300 people focused on the US and some parts of Canada.

Close to 300 brands run their TV campaigns directly through Tatari. Of course, it no longer uses agencies but licenses the technology to agencies so they can provide better TV advertising services to their brands

As Philip explains, Tatari has a different approach to raising money. In 2016, when starting the company, TV advertising was not a very attractive business or industry. Although Philip could have used his track record to raise funding, it would have been an uphill task.

Philip was unwilling to bring in investors and manage boards, which takes away energy and attention. The next option was bootstrapping, which was, again, not a practical option. To cover the liquidity gap, Philip reached out to a few people and, within 24 hours, raised around $700K.

Boomerang – The Next Venture

Philip talks about how he has plenty of business ideas, but the challenge comes with executing them. Boomerang has a simple yet powerful technology for lost and found. For many businesses like airlines, airports, or stadiums, lost and found is a nuisance.

They have to deal with people who are stressed, locate the items, and return them to their owners. So, Philip and his co-founders built technology to automate the lost and found experience and successfully raised more than $7M for the business.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Philip Inghelbrecht was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Boomerang has an active market and generates revenue. As Philip points out, everybody loses stuff, everybody finds items, and Boomerang enables them to work together flawlessly. He foresees the company becoming a worldwide network in the next decade.

In Conclusion

As Philip continues to chart new frontiers and push the boundaries of innovation, he advises founders to be frugal and generate revenue. Taking risks is crucial for grabbing opportunities, and they’ll have to deal with more risk than they can absorb.

But that should not discourage them from innovating and pushing boundaries to pursue their dreams. In the ever-changing landscape of entrepreneurship, Philip Inghelbrecht’s story shines as a beacon of inspiration, illuminating the path for future generations of trailblazers and visionaries.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Philip’s journey underscores the importance of unwavering persistence in overcoming obstacles and achieving entrepreneurial success.
  • The mantra of prioritizing revenue generation highlights the critical role of sustainable business models in navigating turbulent market conditions.
  • Philip’s willingness to take calculated risks underscores the essence of entrepreneurship, where bold decisions often lead to transformative outcomes.
  • From Belgium to Silicon Valley, Philip’s story exemplifies the global reach of innovation and the boundless opportunities it offers.
  • Philip’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances and pivot his strategies reflects the agility required to thrive in dynamic entrepreneurial environments.
  • Strategic partnerships and collaborations played a pivotal role in sustaining and scaling Philip’s ventures, emphasizing the importance of fostering meaningful connections.
  • At the heart of Philip’s entrepreneurial journey lies a clear vision, driving him to pursue ambitious goals and redefine industries through innovation and determination.



For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

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Neil Patel

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