Stephen Phillips, Product manager, Twitter #music

Be unique, valuable, simple, beautiful ...

It was only five years ago when Brisbane local Stephen Phillips took the plunge and launched tech start-up We Are Hunted alongside co-founders Richard Slatter and Michael Doherty. The three bright blokes had developed proprietary search technology that would change the face of online music, allowing users to keep up to date with the ever-changing musical landscape by alerting them to the best new tracks to hit the airwaves. It was a concept that caught the imagination of internet entrepreneur and founder Graeme Wood, who believed in the idea so much that he invested $3 million in the start-up. Graeme was on to a good thing, and after experiencing phenomenal success, We Are Hunted was acquired by Twitter earlier this year, which set the foundations for the new Twitter #music. While these days Stephen lives with his family in the US, he still pops back to his home city every now and then, recently returning to participate in the Creative³ conference. The Weekend Edition caught up with Stephen between sessions to chat weekend essentials.

How do you like to start your weekend?
By waking after a full night’s sleep. A year ago I had three young kids and a start-up – I never got sleep. Now I cherish it.

What’s your favourite thing to do on a Saturday morning?
I live in San Francisco, California. On Saturday morning we love to eat fish tacos at Baja Taqueria on Piedmont Avenue. Later, we get amazing ice-cream from a cute little shop in Berkeley. When we lived in NYC we always took the kids to Central Park, followed by lunch in Soho. In Brisbane, we enjoyed Oxford Street in Bulimba or the West End Markets.

How do you like to unwind?
I love movies and writing code. I express my art through the software I create.

What are your essentials for a well-spent weekend?
Spending time with my lovely wife and kids. Doing something new that makes us all laugh.

What’s something you’ve been meaning to do on the weekend but haven’t got around to yet?
See Lake Tahoe in the summer. Visit the Deep South. Stand under a giant sequoia. Yosemite National Park.

What’s your favourite thing to do on a Sunday evening?
Cook dinner and catch up with family in Australia on Skype. I love to chat with my mum and dad and see what is happening at home. After that, I like to do some prep work to make sure the team is moving first thing Monday morning.

What are you looking forward to next weekend?
Next weekend I will be spending three days with my best friends from university. We all meet once a year on the Noosa River to hang out and do nothing. It’s awesome!

What are you reading at the moment?
The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan. I was given a copy a decade ago by a good friend. It blew me away. I’m re-reading it now – it’s the best gothic western ever.

What was your childhood dream?
I grew up on a farm outside Charters Towers in North Queensland. Mum and Dad had an Appaloosa horse stud. I loved all the farm stuff like tractors, motor bikes and guns, but my passion was cricket. My childhood dream was to play wicket keeper for Australia. I got as far as playing for North Queensland at high school. Sadly, I couldn’t bat well enough.

What has been your greatest achievement?
A guy who hardly knew me backed me with a lot of money and I didn’t screw it up.

What is success to you?
Having a happy and healthy family, and getting paid to do what I love.

What are your words of wisdom?
Be unique, valuable, simple, beautiful.

What influences and inspires your work?
My dad is the hardest-working guy I ever met. He taught me the joy and humility of work. In my formative years, I was inspired by Goya, Picasso, Warhol and Dylan. I admired their ability to extract simple beauty from the mundane around us.

Describe a typical day for you …
Wake up. Brew some coffee. Breakfast with the family. Help get the kids off to school. I stroll down the street to catch a bus to the subway. Catch a subway to work. I listen to a new album each day during my commute. Arrive at Twitter HQ in San Francisco. Do emails. Meetings. Meetings. Talk to the team. Lunch at the awesome Twitter cafeteria. Code all afternoon. Catch the subway, then the bus home. Dinner with the family. More code. Watch a movie. Sleep.

What’s next for Twitter #music?
Working at Twitter is amazing! We have a huge audience, super-smart people, fantastic opportunities, and great food and social life. It is a once-in-a-generation success story in tech. They are changing how the world connects. I aim to make Twitter the best place in the world for artists and fans to share their love of music.

Which Brisbane creative folk have you got your eye on?
Josephmark and Twofold. Amazing world-class creatives.

Only a local would know … The CityCat is the best way to get to work. We lived in Bulimba and I worked in Milton – my morning commute was one of the best things about working in Brisbane.


Sign up for our weekly enews & receive more articles like this: