How Smule’s Jeff Smith Got A Ph.D. While Running A Startup


You hear about graduate students who drop out to found startups, but I guess that would be too easy for Jeff Smith. He co-founded and serves as CEO at Smule, the startup behind social music apps like Ocarina and Magic Piano. At the same time, he recently received a Ph.D. in computer-based music theory and acoustics from Stanford.

Smith and I spoke earlier this week about being a full-time graduate student and a startup executive (not to mention the father of three children) since 2008. One of the questions that we kept dancing around during our conversation was: Why the heck did he feel the need to do this?

Apparently that’s a question that came up at Stanford, too. Smith recalled that during his Ph.D. qualifying exam, a committee member asked him, “Why are you here?” Smith had to admit that he wasn’t interested in teaching or becoming…

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