Historically, podcasts have been focused on appealing to as many listeners as possible. But Artifact, a new YC-backed company launching today, has a different idea.
It all started when co-founder and CEO Ross Chanin lost his grandfather. He found himself wishing he’d spent more time asking him about his life. At the same time, he was mulling the audio revolution underway in the tech world after having co-founded Reputation.com and serving as COO at Euclid (acquired by WeWork).
Over a beer with his friend George Quraishi, a journalist, they decided to try out the idea of a more personal podcast for a specific, smaller audience, starting with Chanin’s Aunt Cindy. They did audio interviews with three of Aunt Cindy’s closest friends, who shared intimate details about their friendships with Cindy, from how they met to their favorite memories to what they love most about her.
“When Chanin’s cousin got out his phone and played the mp3 for Cindy on her birthday, she started crying,” wrote Quraishi. “And laughing. Later, she said, ‘You know, you just go through life, you don’t really think about somebody recalling what’s important to them about you, or what you mean to them.’ ”
This was the glimmer in the eye of Chanin and Quraishi to build out Artifact. They teamed up with Moncef Biaz (CTO) to handle the technical back-end infrastructure.
Using professionally contracted interviewers, Artifact conducts short interviews with a person’s closest friends or family and turns them into a personal podcast. Some of these interviewers are journalists like Quraishi, and others are simply great listeners, such as a bartender, a few actors and even a comedian.
Interviewees either call a phone number for their interview, or the more tech-savvy among them can dial in via their computer for a higher-fidelity audio quality.
After the interview, Artifact handles the editing and polish to offer a higher-quality final product that is delivered to the recipient via the web.
“On the one hand you have your purely user-generated content, and then you have this high-production content,” said Chanin. “Our general sense is that there is a pretty large missing middle. We’re getting to 80 or 90% of what a studio-produced podcast would sound like. And no one cares about that extra 10 or 20%.”
One of the things that is most special about Artifact also happens to be a big challenge for the product: It can be used in almost any way. This can make it difficult to define and leave the ball in the court of the user to dream up what they want their Artifact to be.
The Portrait, which focuses on stories from friends and family about a single person, is an obvious use case. But Artifact is also used by couples for their wedding, with annual podcasts for each year of their marriage. Folks can use the service to reflect on huge milestones in their lives, or to catalog the growth of their child from the kid’s point of view. Businesses are even starting to use Artifact in this COVID-19 world to get to know their colleagues better during remote work.
“Our customers are not the product,” said Chanin. “They are buying a product. We think that Artifact loses a lot if the default assumption is that millions of people are going to hear this. Certainly, Artifacts can be used in that way, but the primary sharing is to close friends and family.”
Chanin added that the average Artifact episode is listened to by about 30 people.
Artifact generates revenue by charging users per episode, with each episode allowing up to two interviewees. One episode costs $ 175, two episodes costs $ 325 and four episodes costs $ 625.
The team is comprised of four full-time workers, with 12 interviewers contracted on the project. The full-time team is 100% male and 50% of employees are people of color. Fifty-five percent of contractors are people of color and 35% are women.
The company has raised a total of $ 500,000, which includes $ 150,000 from Y Combinator, as well as funding from David Lieb (founder of Bump and director, Google Photos), Sander Daniels (co-founder of Thumbtack), Eric Kinariwala (founder and CEO of Capsule) and Sean Bratches (former managing director, Formula 1; former EVP, ESPN).
Podcasting continues to see a strong trajectory in the world of streamed audio content, and today comes the latest development on that front. SiriusXM, owner of Pandora and backer of Soundcloud, said that it is acquiring Simplecast, a podcast management platform used by creators to publish and distribute podcasts, and subsequently analyse how they are consumed. SiriusXM plans to integrate Simplecast with AdsWizz, a digital audio advertising company that it acquired in 2018 for $ 66.3 million in cash plus shares to power ads on Pandora .
The company is not disclosing any of the financial terms for the Simplecast acquisition but we have asked and will update if we learn more. As a startup, New York-based Simplecast, which will continue to be led by its founder and CEO Brad Smith, had raised a modest $ 7.87 million in funding from investors since launching in 2013, per PitchBook data.
The deal is interesting because it is bringing one of the more popular independent platforms and set of tools used by streamers under the wing of a platform. Simpleccast’s many podcasts and users today include Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, Netflix, Maximum Fun, Cloud10, QCODE, Anna Faris is Unqualified, Blue Wire, and Revision Path, who use it to distribute content over multiple, and sometimes competing, networks, including Apple, Spotify, Google and Overcast. (Business plans currently range in price and start at $ 15/month and go up to $ 85/month or more depending on podcast size, number of users, and features that you need.)
Pandora (with help from SiriusXM, which has a large and popular stable of talk radio shows on its channels) has been building up its own spoken-word content, of course, so there is a direct opportunity to push more on-demand podcasts to that platform in particular, as well as offer more interesting terms for doing so, as well as bring in a much wider spectrum of podcasts to run AdsWizz’s inventory, which currently is seen by more than 100 million people each month across the US and Canada (SiriusXM’s and Pandora’s footprint in vehicles, online and more).
We have asked SiriusXM if the plan will be to keep all of Simplecast’s services as-is after the deal closes.
What’s clearer is that, with SiriusXM also making a key investment in Soundcloud last year, the company is — like Spotify (which acquired a Simplecast competitor, Anchor, last year) — building up its music-business tools to complement its position as a content provider: this is a key role to play in the brave new world of digital music, where monetisation remains a challenge for most, and the tools to distribute, analyse and (yes) monetise one’s creative content continue to get more sophisticated, so much so that getting that part of the equation right can make or break an artist or wider creative or media endeavour.
“Our goal is to provide audio publishers with state-of-the-art platforms and give them everything they need to be successful,” said Alexis van de Wyer, CEO of AdsWizz, in a statement. “Empowering podcasters of any size to create, distribute, analyze, and monetize their work is the next natural step in pursuing our vision.”
“From the beginning, Simplecast’s mantra and mission was to remain laser-focused on podcast creators – building the best tools for publishing and insights,” said Brad Smith, the Founder & CEO of Simplecast, in a statement of his own. “The opportunity and alignment with AdsWizz allows our product — and our customers — access to a powerful monetization platform. Two best-in-class platforms are now able to align with the shared mission of helping publishers succeed, while each team continues to focus on their respective areas of expertise.”
- Starting Greatness
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- How I built this with Guy Raz
- The Twenty Minute VC
- Masters of Scale
- The Knowledge Project
- The EntreLeadership Podcast
- This Week in Startups
- Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
- Outside Voices with Mark Bidwell
- A16z Podcast
- The Top
- The Startup Playbook by Sam Altman
Some of these haven't been producing their normal content lately because of the pandemic so you might have to scroll a bit to find episodes that you're interested in. Some of my favorite episodes, not in any order, from these shows have been:
- Kevin Systrom on Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders
- The Startup Playbook by Sam Altman – all episodes
- Sara Blakely #23 on Masters of Scale
- Bob Iger on The Tim Ferriss Show
- Matt Mochary on The Twenty Minute VC
- Gary Keller #401 on The Tim Ferris Show
- Eric Schmidt #451 on The James Altucher Show
- Both Safi Bahcall episodes #364 and #382 on The Tim Ferris Show
- Joe Gebbia #301 on The Tim Ferris Show
If anything has been made clear over the past few weeks, it’s that it’s not enough to just have good intentions anymore; only our actions matter. Whether you are taking your first, second, or 100th step in this direction, podcasts are incredible useful resources for self-education.
As free speech conversations, they are often unedited (or lightly edited), bringing a sense of reality that you can’t always get from reading an article that may have passed through 2 or 3 editor’s hands before being published. Secondly, podcasts dive into the everyday experiences of people who might not otherwise have been given a platform to speak. Thirdly, podcasts allow listeners to pick up on clues that are often lost in written language, such as tone of voice, emotion and other nuances. Fourthly, and most importantly, listeners can do just that – listen. In a spoken conversation, the listener is expected to respond in some way, but with podcasts, it’s a one-way communication. This process allows us to fully digest the thoughts presented to us, as well as rewind for further clarification.
Thinking about how to tackle the sometimes intimidating themes of race, inclusion and identity at work, we have put together a list of podcasts to explore. From sharing the stories of black founders and entrepreneurs from other underrepresented groups, to considering leadership actions to take right now, these podcasts are some of our favourites. In any case, each episode will give you practical advice for how to tackle racism, diversity and inclusion at work.
Code Switch – Code Switch is hosted by a multi-generational and multi-racial team of NPR journalists who cover race and identity. Code Switch wants to have the messy, uncomfortable, essential conversations with the nuance and depth they deserve. Although ‘code-switching’ is a linguistic term that means switching languages, here the concept refers to how we constantly change how we express ourselves, across different cultural spaces. The podcast covers many topics of society, including work-based topics like how to explain context when talking about race, language choice, getting your foot in the door of a new industry.
In Good Company – Created by founder Otegha Uwagba, who is also the author of the book ‘A toolkit for working women’, this podcast brings fresh insights on topics like racism in beauty, microaggressions, invisible labour, office politics and raising investment. Themes include entrepreneurship, navigating discrimination and sharing smart solutions to move forward.
Founders Unfound – Founders Unfound serves to highlight incredible tech founders from underrepresented backgrounds – starting with founders of African descent. The most recent episode of June 7 ‘Real Talk with Black Men Founders June 2020’ pulls together podcast guests from across the US and Canada to process in real-time how they feel, as black men and as entrepreneurs, during this period in time.
The Diversity Gap – “When it comes to diversity, good intentions are just the beginning”. Bethaney Wilkinson leads this podcast with the premise that there is a huge gap between what we intend, and what we actually do. Episodes thoughtfully discuss topics like how to handle casual racism, whiteness, unlearning racism, how to be the change you want to see at work, and how to lead your team during a racial crisis. Always giving a fresh and multi-dimensional look at a topic, the conversations offer practical advice on self-awareness and action.
Tech Forward – Tech Forward is hosted by Cheryl Chotrani, a tech founder, developer and investor. The podcast’s goal? To explore how diversity can improve the world we live in. Through the podcast, Cheryl interviews entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, media and tech leaders, and diversity advocates, to share the incredible stories of innovators and trailblazers from underrepresented groups in the tech industry. Topics include lack of funding, holding organisations accountable for diversity — and more.
Diversity in Tech with Joanna Udo – Diversity in Tech is all about increasing representation of women of color in tech, by precisely sharing their stories. Each week, Joanna dives into the career paths of different tech professionals to share their experiences and advice on how to get into and succeed in the field. Joanna also interviews advocates, recruiters, career strategists and leaders to get them on board.
Innovation For All – Innovation For All is a podcast about diversity in tech and business, fuelled by social psychology. Hosted by Dr. Sheana Ahlqvist, who has PhD in Quantitative Social Psychology, each episode features far-reaching conversations about challenges at the intersection of innovation and social impact. The goal? To help entrepreneurs make more inclusive products and businesses, which better serve traditionally overlooked groups.
Racism at Work – Hosted by Professor Binna Kandola OBE (OBE is a British recognition), this podcast has a panel of guests each week to discuss how racism manifests in the workplace, and how we can all address it. From talking about whether AI might be bias, to leadership, to ‘micro-incivilities’, each episode is insightful and thought provoking. The podcast was running mostly in 2019, but there are a fair few episodes there to dive into.
Techish – Techish was created by two millennial tech founders in the UK, Abadesi Osunsade and Michael Berhane, and brings the voice of young urban entrepreneurs to the table. Although the podcast is described as covering all things tech, pop culture and life, content is also focused on the experience of minority founders in the tech and entrepreneurship world. Each episode is set up as a rundown of what’s hot at the time, including issues of racism and sexism that are in the news. Expect honest and refreshingly unedited reflection from these two bright sparks.
Side Hustle Pro – Entrepreneur Nicaila Matthews Okome spotlights black female entrepreneurs in each episode, sharing the behind-the-scenes of their process, from quitting the day job, to challenges along the way. Nicaila has been featured on the Today show, CBNC, Yahoo! Finance, and many more. While the content is not directly offering insights on how to become more diverse and inclusive at work, listening will give an appreciation of different voices and stories in the entrepreneurship world.
This week we’ll be talking about how to increase funding opportunities for underrepresented founders, and the benefits of having a team with different backgrounds. Stay tuned.
Podhero is offering listeners a new way to pay their favorite podcasters.
The startup behind the app is led by Pete Curley and Garret Heaton, who previously founded HipChat (sold to Atlassian) and launched Swoot last year, which was focused on helping you find new podcasts through sharing.
In a Medium post published today, Curley wrote that despite Swoot’s “great retention and passionate users,” the team realized that podcasters faced a bigger problem: “It’s really hard to make money,” with 97.2% of podcasts not monetizing at all.
You’re probably used to hearing ads in some of your favorite podcasts, but Curley said only 1.4% of podcasts have ads. Meanwhile, he suggested that “subscription services are the most fair and predictable way for creators to make money,” and that “if 50% of podcast listeners paid for ad-free shows — creators would make $ 3.7 billion/year, nearly 6x more than ads made in 2019.”
So Podhero has launched its own subscription podcast app, but unlike Luminary — which has been criticized for taking a more closed approach to the previously open podcast ecosystem — it’s not trying to lure listeners to pay for exclusive content. Instead, it’s taking something closer to the Patreon approach of financially supporting creators.
Of course, podcasters can already ask for support via Patreon, but Curley argued that the service isn’t right for many podcasters, due to the extra work involved, the 8% cut taken by Patreon, the pressure to create bonus content and the fact that they simply don’t like asking for money.
Podhero is supposed to make it easier for both the podcaster and the listener, who pays a $ 5.99 subscription fee every month. That includes an optional $ 1 fee for Podhero, plus $ 4.99 that’s divvied up among podcasts.
Podhero will automatically create a list of podcasts based on your listening activity, but you can adjust the list and the percentages at any time. And Curley isn’t fully giving up on sharing as a discovery mechanism — listeners can also recommend podcast episodes, which affects their payouts as well.
While Podhero is launching today, the company says it’s already populated with more than 1 million podcasts. Most of those podcasters don’t work with Podhero — for example, TechCrunch’s podcasts are in the app even though we don’t have a business relationship. Curley told me via email that if a podcaster isn’t working with the startup yet, any money contributed by fans will be saved for whenever they claim their Podhero profile.
“We may have to do something with unclaimed money at some point, but [that’s] not a problem we’ll be worrying about for some time,” he said.
I’ve written about podcasts before, covering all spectrums from financial podcasts to best business podcasts for entrepreneurs. Side hustle podcasts, on the other hand, reside in their own unique category. Think of them as stepping stones to get to the end goal of entrepreneurship. Many side hustle podcasts guide listeners to take the next step with their side projects so they can turn it into a full-time business.
The only question now is, which side hustle-friendly podcasts should you invest your time listening and subscribing to? Let’s take a look at four side hustle podcasts that cover a wide range of topics necessary to getting your gig off the ground.
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The Side Hustle Show
Your 9 to 5 job may make you a living, but it’s your side gig(s) outside of those normal business hours that make you feel alive. Hosted by Nick Loper, The Side Hustle Show is a podcast dedicated to part-time side hustlers focusing on growing their gigs into businesses.
New episodes each week cover plenty of familiar entrepreneurial ground. Need to know more about scaling your business or marketing on Pinterest? How about productivity hacks or finding simple side hustles where you can make bank? The Side Hustle Show explores each of these topics, and digs into lesser-known hustles on the rise and the conversations surrounding them. We’re talking gigs like knife-sharpening businesses, flea market flippers, and a Girl Scout blog that built up $ 5K in monthly revenue — all on a part-time basis.
The episode you need to hear
This episode is dedicated to listeners who are taking action! Earbuds in to hear more about the side gigs they created, many of which were inspired by the series.
In reality, side hustling looks very different in real life than it is depicted on, say, Instagram. No one is more aware of the nitty gritty day-to-day of entrepreneurship more than Hashtag Authentic’s host, Sara Tasker.
Every Wednesday, Hashtag Authentic empowers side hustlers and creatives to be their most authentic selves while growing their businesses. After all, one doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to sacrifice one over the other in pursuit of entrepreneurship.
The episode you need to hear
Storr’s career backstory is a fabulous one — she’s currently the editor-in-chief of “Cosmopolitan UK,” but she didn’t get there by taking the easy road. Storr reveals how reframing your fears as challenges can make all the difference in allowing you to make a leap of faith forward toward success.
Becoming an entrepreneur means more than leaping from one career to the next. It also means leaving behind certain creature comforts, career-wise. Predictable paychecks and company benefits (which are often taken for granted) are sacrificed to pursue passions. Whenever one decides to embrace entrepreneurship, they’re consciously making the decision to pivot.
The Pivot Podcast with Jenny Blake examines what comes next when you’ve chosen to “navigate the pivot process.” Each month, Blake chats with entrepreneurial movers and shakers, such as author Laura Vanderkam, and social worker, Mark Rufino, to explore the different roads that entrepreneurship can lead take and lessons those who have succeeded learned along their journey.
The episode you need to hear
Marcus Glover is a partner at early-stage investment fund, Southbox, which works to fund high-growth tech startups. He is also a yoga and meditation instructor at Rikers Island Prison, where he leads juvenile programs. Run, don’t walk, to download this episode and hear how he juggles this unusual, but highly rewarding, career combination.
The Fizzle Show
Fizzle? More like sizzle! The Fizzle Show gets straight to the point with this podcast. Every episode is dedicated to keeping entrepreneurs and creatives on their paths by providing the tips they need to succeed. Podcast coverage includes everything from embracing side hustle “doomsday” survival prep to determining whether or not “bigger” really is better in business — and why it’s fine to remain a company of one.
The episode you need to hear
Don’t have a side hustle, or are currently less than satisfied with your existing side gig? Listen to this episode to uncover a plethora of options that might be an even better fit!
With these side hustle podcast episodes in your back pocket (or your earbuds), you’ll have a new wealth of knowledge that will help get your new gig off the ground.
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