Building a Company on the Back of Facebook: Interview with iLike CEO Ali Partovi

If you haven’t heard the story of iLike, it’s one that would make any entrepreneur or investor starry eyed: 1.7 million users two weeks after launch, adding almost 150,000 news users every day, scrambling to find more colo space just to keep the doors open. A relatively new entrant in the crowded music discovery market has suddenly become a force to be reckoned with. How?

iLike is the first great Facebook Platform success story, and perhaps the first company built on the back of Facebook. Ali Partovi, CEO of iLike, shared his thoughts with InsideFacebook on the Facebook Platform, why iLike decided to bet on it, and how iLike has been so successful so quickly.

IF: iLike has quickly become the most popular Facebook application, with over 1.7 million users. Why do you think it’s grown so quickly?

AP: Three reasons: 1) Pent up demand. Music was a missing element on Facebook for years, a vaccum waiting to be filled. 2) iLike on Facebook is not just a widget, but a full website deeply integrated into the fabric of Facebook, with a rich breadth of personalized features and over a million artist profiles, songs, and events. 3) We’re innovating to stay ahead — for example, we recently took things to a new level by adding music video search from Youtube for any song.

IF: How did iLike’s growth on Facebook start?

AP: Some of the other most popular apps (like RockYou) have spent money advertising on Facebook or promoting their app via existing mailing lists. In contrast, iLike’s growth has been completely organic. We attended the “F8” launch event and stayed till the Platform was officially turned on at midnight. Our developers had been pulling all-nighters to complete the product, and went to bed exhausted. We woke up the next morning to find that iLike was the #1 app and was growing like mad, all by itself… 1,000 signups/hr in the morning, then 3,000 signups/hr in the afternoon, then 5,000 signups/hr by evening and just accelerating. Since then it has mostly been a race to buy more servers fast enough! Now we’re seeing 1 million signups/week with no sign of slowing down.

IF: How important is the Facebook platform to iLike’s overall success?

AP: A month ago, we made a big bet on the Facebook platform, and it has already paid off. Now we’re going all in. The question we’re debating now is, “Should FB Platform be the most important thing we focus on, or the *only* thing we focus on?” What we’ve realized is that we can offer the consumer a better experience on our Facebook app than on our own website. That’s a big deal, and hard to accept at first, but once you realize it, the rest of the strategy writes itself. Thanks to Facebook, iLike is now one of the fastest-growing music services in the world. The stakes are huge: iLike is on track to penetrate the entire Facebook userbase and become the dominant Facebook music app. If we succeed, thanks to Facebook, iLike would have a shot at becoming the world’s #1 music service.

IF: How is iLike’s Facebook app going to change going forward?

AP: We are building iLike on Facebook into the ultimate social music discovery service. What you see today is just the beginning. We’re adding features for artists to manage their profiles, upgrade from 30-sec samples to full-song streams, and message their fans. We’ll also be integrating with our iLike “Sidebar” for iTunes — so within Facebook you could share your entire iTunes library and browse your friends’ iTunes playlists; and from within iTunes you can send songs to your friends or post songs to your profile.

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