What does it take to make Crain Chicago’s 40-Under-40 list?
Well, for Scott Robbin it took creating a new way for millions of people to listen to music online while keeping a neighborly eye out for his fellow Chicagoans.
All of which makes the Knight Lab very happy to have him as part of our inaugural class of professional fellows.
Over the past six years Robbin has done great development work for Twitter, Adobe, and Dropbox as part of his work with Weightshift. But he’s also worked on a number of intriguing side projects.
In 2007 he founded Songza, a website that helps music fans find music based on the time of day and their activity (e.g. working out, relaxing, commuting, etc.).
Robbin and co-founder Aza Raskin started working on the idea in the summer of 2007 and launched the product that November. Within a month they had 4 million listens and within a year they were averaging 20 million listens per month.
“It took off faster than we ever anticipated,” Robbin says.
Songza and its founders quickly caught the eye of venture capitalists, and though they never accepted any capital Songza sold at the end of 2008 to Amie Street, which would soon be bought by Amazon.
Apart from the start-up success, Robbin also gained a reputation in Chicago as a civic-minded hacker who used city data to help Chicagoans navigate their city.
WasMyCarTowed.com helps city residents figure out if their missing car has been moved by the city. SweepAround.us helps residents avoid tickets by reminding them of street cleaning around their work or home addresses.
So after all this success and plethora of original ideas, why join the Knight Lab?
“There are two reasons,” he says. “First, the people. Joe and Miranda and Aaron are people I know personally or had admired. And second, the intersection of technology and journalism. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on and smart people trying to solve problems. I really want to be a part of that community and in particular that community in Chicago ... Journalism is meaningful work and technology, at least for me, is an entry point to that.”