By the time he turned twenty-two, Daniel Ek had achieved his life’s ambition: he was rich. A gifted programmer, he had been making money by working on Internet-based tech products since he was fourteen. After selling an Internet advertising company called Advertigo, in 2006, he retired. He rented a big place in Stockholm. He bought a red Ferrari and drove it to night clubs, where he arranged for good tables for friends and attractive female companions, whom he plied with expensive champagne. He lived like this for a year or so, until one morning he awoke to a startling realization. “I was completely depressed,” he said.
“I realized the girls I was with weren’t very nice people,” Ek went on, “that they were just using me, and that my friends weren’t real friends. They were people who were there for the good times, but if it ever turned ugly they’d leave me in a heartbeat. I had always wanted to belong and I had been thinking that this was going to get solved when I had money, and instead I had no idea how I wanted to live my life. And no one teaches you what to do after you achieve financial independence. So I had to confront that.”