6 Things Mozart Can Teach Entrepreneurs


From Inc.:

Composing music isn’t all that different from coding a website. No, really. Mozart’s and Bach’s symphonies and classical sonatas, just like coding, have specific structures with rules that must be followed.

That’s according to Yorgen Edholm, CEO of Palo Alto, California-based Accellion, a mobile file-sharing company used by more than 11 million business users in more than 1,800 enterprise organizations worldwide.

He should know–he’s a violinist himself and in the last quarter century has made a killing running software companies in Silicon Valley. Before Accellion, he co-founded Brio Technology, a business intelligence software company that went public and was reaching $150 million in revenues before it was swept up in a string of acquisitions that began a decade ago, eventually landing Brio’s intellectual property into Oracle’s fold.

Edholm says music has taught him several invaluable lessons.

Decide: Is passing on an opportunity something you’ll regret when you’re 80?

Thirty years ago Edholm was playing violin for orchestras and chamber groups in Sweden while working for a company that wanted him to relocate to the U.S. to set up operations. He agreed and at the same time convinced Ivan Galamian, a famous violin teacher in New York who had taught the likes of Itzhak Perlman and other big names, to take him on as a student.

Before that happened, however, his employer reversed course and Edholm was left with a major decision to make: Remain in Sweden with his job or stay on course for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become one of the best violinists on the planet?

He chose the latter.

“I didn’t want to be 80 years old and look back on my life and say that I had done everything but that was the one thing [I hadn’t] because I didn’t have a job… and I played it safe, stayed in Sweden, and built a good career there,” he says. “But I would always wonder to the end of time what it would have been like to take the big leap.”

“There are people who have researched great athletes, great artists and great scientists and other people who ended up being the best of the best and they said it takes something like a minimum of 10,000 hours of really hard work before anybody is world-class and in many fields it can be twice that,” he says.

Intuition is paramount.

Knowing when a note is off takes intuition and Edholm says he continues to work hard on his, even though his days of playing in Carnegie Hall are over.

The book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, particularly resonated with him because he sees how crucial it is–particularly for start-ups–to make good decisions with only limited information.

“I realized that the blink reflex–when you intuitively can tell whether something has merit or not–is an incredibly important skill for execs in any company but especially in a start-up,” he says, adding that he’s been on boards that focus on best practices and analyses but oftentimes “people are chasing the wrong thing.”

If within a year you can’t use your intuition to know that something either is a bad idea or has merit and is worth continuing, you’re probably not a very good board member or executive, he says.

“Sometimes it means that you have to be very open minded because you can meet with a hard perspective and [you don’t want to] become the straight jacket that keeps other people from blossoming,” he says.

With the violin he saw this play out with teachers who delegated some of the interpretation to students–they created musicians who tended to work twice as hard as those who were hemmed in by their mentors.

Continue reading the rest of the story on Inc.