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Internet pioneer Sean Parker: 'I'm blazing a new path'

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sean Parker throws $1 million party to celebrate arrival of Spotify
  • Parker says primary motivation for business isn't becoming a millionaire
  • "Steve [Jobs] is one the greatest business artists in history," Parker says

(CNN) -- At 31, Sean Parker has a lot more going for him than Justin Timberlake.

As the co-founder of music-sharing service Napster and the former president of Facebook, he's an Internet pioneer. He's a billionaire. And he throws a hell of a party.

Last week, during Facebook's f8 conference in San Francisco, Parker transformed an empty warehouse into one big VIP room, complete with a lavish buffet and celebrity guests. Despite having only two days to plan the event, he somehow managed to get Snoop Dogg, the Killers and Jane's Addiction to perform for a few hundred invited guests. Estimates put the party tab at $1 million or more.

The purpose of the shindig was to celebrate the U.S. arrival of Spotify, the music-streaming service in which Parker is a major investor. Spotify also is partnering with Facebook to let users play and share music within the social network.

The event featured an onstage chat between Parker and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. Beside every chair in the media's seating section sat a bottle of high-end tequila. Of the hundreds of media events I've attended over the years, this is the first time I've seen that.

Not in attendance was Timberlake, the singer-turned-actor who portrayed Parker as a backstabbing opportunist in last year's "The Social Network." In past interviews, Parker has called the movie "a complete work of fiction."

After the Killers played, I sat down with Parker for a few minutes in a private area upstairs. The first thing we talked about was Napster. I mentioned that I would never forget that feeling of downloading free music, that it felt like you had won one of those contests where you could fill up your shopping cart for free.

"I still hear that a lot," he told me.

Here are a few excerpts from our talk, edited for clarity:

On his affinity with Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning:

"Fanning and I immediately realized that we had an interest in more than just computers and software and hacking and security, that we actually had an interest in doing something with a broader cultural importance. One of those ideas was Napster."

On being a billionaire

"I definitely wanted to earn my freedom. But the primary motivation wasn't making money, but making an impact. I think the perception of wealth and power is that things just become easier and easier when in reality as you raise the stakes things become more stressful. You just keep pushing yourself harder and harder to achieve more and more -- I don't think it's ever quite as glamorous as it appears on the outside."

On Apple's Steve Jobs

"Steve is one the greatest business artists in history and has had more impact through his product design in Apple than any other CEO."

On Timberlake's unflattering depiction of him

"It's a blessing and a curse in the sense it definitely raised my profile somewhat -- that character in the film played by Justin Timberlake represents a set of values that I just don't agree with. It's difficult watching a character using your name and interacting with people [while] supposedly [doing] a portrayal of you."

On his business role

"Early on I wanted to run a company, but I quickly realized there was this other model available. Maybe I'm blazing a new path with this model because you don't typically see this. You see investors who have portfolio companies but aren't very active, or entrepreneurs who typically run one company for their entire life, or occasionally, serial entrepreneurs who do a series of small companies. But they typically run them for a fairly long period of time. I've been doing a hybrid of investing and entrepreneurship, which I think initially I wasn't set out to do. But I realized it fit my personality."

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