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Bill Nguyen, Founder of
Interviewed by Justin Wright

Ever wish you could find that one CD that got away? Do you have a CD you enjoy, and would love to tell somebody else about? How can you share your music with others that like the same kind of music, even if they don't know it yet? Just say la la. is a music trading site that is totally legal. No risk of the RIAA knocking on your door with a court order or lawsuit.

How does it work? You list the CD's that you are willing to trade. Then you go looking for something that you want to hear. Recommendations are made based on the CD's in your personal library. You can check the libraries of people that like music similar to yours. Browse around and check out clips of music that you may have never taken the time to listen to before. Part social networking site, part corner music shop.

After you sign up, you will receive prepaid mailers for the CD's that you will send to other members. When a CD gets sent to you, you will pay $1 for the CD and 49 cents for shipping. The CD you get in the mail is yours. Keep it. Send it to someone else. Whatever you want. If you decide you want something back, put it in your want list, and wait for it to come back to you from some other like-minded audiophile. If you can't find the CD you want, there will be an option to purchase the CD or digital download. One more thing that makes La la unique is that they will be giving a percentage back to the artists. (I can't help but think of the interview with Steve Taylor where he mentioned that he doesn't hold the rights to his old recordings)

I got a chance to ask La la founder and CEO Bill Nguyen a few questions. We tried to set up a phone interview, but he got stuck in a meeting. He did answer some questions via email.

Before we get to that, here's a little history about Nguyen.

Prior to founding la la, Nguyen founded SEVEN, a software company enabling mobile email access a wide variety of mobile phones. Under Nguyen's leadership, SEVEN achieved successful commercial deployments of its mobile email software with 80 of the world's largest mobile operators, and received multiple market awards of distinction, including Network Magazine's Product of the Year and Frost & Sullivan's Mobile Communications Entrepreneurial Company of the Year. Prior to founding SEVEN, Nguyen played a critical role in the successes of six startups, two of which he founded.

Nguyen has been named to Fortune's 40 Under 40 list, MIT's Technology Review 100 and Red Herring's Top 10 Entrepreneurs and belongs to the World Economic Forum's Global Leaders of Tomorrow.

Now to the interview.

Wright:You have an impressive resume. Where did the idea of a CD trading site come from?

Nguyen:  I came up with 'la la' when a friend and I were complaining about how terrible discovering music had become.  We remembered great independent radio stations and local record stores as the places to go.  Now, they're replaced by stagnant playlists and buying CDs two aisles over from toothpaste and detergent.

Wright: Are you a big collector of music?

Nguyen: There are definitely bigger collectors than me.  I tend to really get into an artist, buy the music, go to the shows, tell my friends about them until no one will listen to me.  When people stop listening to my suggestions, I get desperate and start a company to keep the message alive :-)

Wright: What are you listening to right now?

Nguyen:  Fountains of Wayne, Cake, Eels, New Pornographers, Pixies, and James Taylor
Wright: Who is your favorite artist/band?

Nguyen: Way to hard to say. 

Wright: What is the first music you remember listening to/buying for yourself?

Nguyen: First song I ever remember is "Cats in the Cradle" Harry Chapin and first album (was vinyl) was "I love Rock 'n' Roll" by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

Wright: Is lala going to stay word of mouth, or are you looking to sponsor events/tours?

Nguyen:  We'll do some advertising but word of mouth is working pretty well right now.

Wright: What kind of input have you had from labels/artists?

Nguyen: So far it's been very positive.  I think everyone knows that music sold on a personalized basis is a lot better for fans and less costly than mass marketing of music.

Wright: When is the launch date?

Nguyen: We think July, but we're always tinkering around so I can't promise anything.

Wright: How many users on the Beta site?

Nguyen: We planned on allowing invited until April, but that may end this week at the current pace.
Wright: Any plans to add DVDs to the site?

Nguyen: Sad to say, but I'm not a huge movie fan.    If I have an extra hour in my day, I'm throwing CDs in the car and going for a drive.

Wright: What other things are you involved in right now?

Nguyen: Enjoying my life.  I'm married to the girl of my dreams (we've been together since we were 19 and 17) and raising our son - some of his first words were 'la la' and the inspiration for the name.

Wright: What kind of hobbies do you pursue in your spare time?

Nguyen: Hanging out with the family, rock climbing, surfing

Wright: Thanks for taking the time for this. Let me know when we can try to get in touch again.

The Beta enrollment may be closed by now, but you can give it a try here

When you get there look me up. My user id is jhmw.


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