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How SoundCloud’s CEO convinced the company to stay independent — for now

“Please don’t sell the company.”

SoundCloud CEO Kerry Trainor Asa Mathat

SoundCloud needed help badly when Kerry Trainor took over the company last summer.

The troubled music-streaming company needed cash, so it replaced its then CEO Alex Ljung with Trainor as part of a funding deal. The company took in about $170 million in financing.

That was a far cry from SoundCloud’s rosier standing when it was valued at $700 million in 2014 and was talking to big acquirers like Twitter. The company failed to find a seller, though, and had to fire 40 percent of its staff.

In his first public interview since becoming CEO, Trainor went behind the scenes on how he convinced the board not to sell.

“Please don’t sell the company, because you’re a one-of-a-kind asset,” Trainor said he told the board. Trainor made his comments during an interview at Recode’s Code Media conference on Tuesday in Huntington Beach, Calif. “The company needed to raise capital, absolutely, but it was either raise capital or sell — and we approached them with an investment that we pulled together.”

While former CEO Ljung remains on SoundCloud’s board of directors, Trainor said the fact that the board had to actively choose his deal gave him the leverage he needed to restructure the company and reorient its business model.

Trainor acknowledged that SoundCloud does have “near-term challenges” around the margins of their core business but would now focus more on its products offered to audio creators — SoundCloud Pro and SoundCloud Pro unlimited.

The company does not plan to ditch its subscription program for listeners, Trainor said, but he promises to be “rigorous” now that they’ve got the new start.

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