In today’s episode, we are joined by Josh Nielsen, a founder who launched his tech career as a Hackstar in Boulder. He then traveled all over the world, only to return to the Rockies to build and grow something new and very exciting, Zencastr. Josh is here today to talk to us about the trajectory of the podcasting industry, what podcasters need and how his platform is innovating, modern recording tools for quality conscious podcasters
Here’s a closer look at the episode:
Zencastr Website: www.zencastr.com
Josh Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshnielsen/
Zencastr LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/zencastr/
Josh Twitter: https://twitter.com/joshontheweb
Zencastr Twitter: https://twitter.com/zencastr
When I got the first 100 or so, users on the platform by going on to Twitter, and because this is, this is something I would probably use it on the next if I was building a consumer facing company next time around, people love to complain on Twitter. It's like basically what Twitter's for. And if you can't find people complaining about your problem on Twitter, then maybe it's not that big of a problem. But if if you can, then there's probably a lot of people.
This is Found in the Rockies, a podcast about the startup ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain region, featuring the founders, funders and contributors and the stories of what they're building. I'm Les Craig from Next Frontier Capital. And on today's show, we have a founder who launched his tech career as a Hackstar in Boulder. He then traveled all over the world, only to return to the Rockies to build and grow something new and very exciting. Meet Josh Nielsen, the CEO and founder of Zencastr. Josh is here today to talk to us about the trajectory of the podcasting industry, what podcasters need and how his platform is innovating, modern recording tools for quality conscious podcasters. Welcome, Josh. To start off. Why don't you tell me a little bit about your story, who you are, where you grew up, and how you ended up back in the Rockies?
Yeah, so I grew up in Texas. Denton, Texas a little bit north of Dallas lived there until I was about 16. And then I've moved around a lot since then, mostly in western US and then a little bit outside the country as well. Definitely spent some time in the Rockies. I'm I've found. I've lived in Hawaii and Santa Monica and you know, Thailand, but the Rockies eyes keep me coming back. I'm sort of the mountains are my place. So I've spent some time living in Boulder, Colorado, Idaho, and then right now, I'm here in Salt Lake City, Utah.
You've got it. You've got it off. You've got all the boxes checked. That's amazing. What what do you think it is about the Rockies? Like what is it? You said the mountains but like what? Because we hear that from a lot of our guests like the Rockies, draw them home even even when they when they when they go away for a little while? What is it?
Um, well, I'll somewhat jokingly first is, you know, your viewers won't be able to see this, but I'm very pale and white. And I just got so torched on the beach. And so, ya know, I've always I grew up in Texas, and I remember thinking, like, seeing commercials of like ski trips in Colorado. And I just thought, Man, that's, that's the life right there. Those are the happy people. And that's always kind of stuck with me. I've loved snowboarding most of my life now that I've gotten out of Texas, and now I live, you know, about 30 minutes from Brighton ski resort right here, in Big Cottonwood Canyon, some of the best snow in the world. So there's lots to like…
Yeah, no doubt, there's a lot to like. So what tell it take us on the journey of you know, sort of as a as a as a founder of as a, you know, as a startup founder, and you're just professionally, how did you kind of get into this, this startup thing.
So I initially wanted to be a mechanic, I was into drafting in high school wanted to be a mechanical engineer, I found out there's just so much math, there's like this huge wall of math, you have to take like six courses of calculus and all this stuff. And, you know, I I'd like to consider myself capable of all that. But I just realized that there was other people that were really, really enjoying it. And I figured, you know, maybe, maybe I didn't make the decision to turn away from that. But as I was working towards that, I took an elective class, it was a programming class on how to build websites, very basic stuff. But it just was this really interesting other creative outlet and you could build stuff without parts. And you know, you don't have to worry about like going to the hardware store or whatever. And still have that same idea of like, here's your constraints, build something that works that fits inside the box, use your creativity. And so that's what got me into like the programming side, which then I think led pretty strongly into the entrepreneurship side. I got my first job. I say out of college, I didn't actually graduate. I got a job at a startup in Las…well Santa Monica. It was called Mahalo. They It was run by Jason Calacanis. He runs the This Weekend in Startups podcast, so that was kind of what got me into the startup space. I was really just like, I wanted to learn how to program I wanted to like work at a company that was building cool stuff. And for me, it was like Google or any other company. It wasn't like I was focusing on small scale startups, but I just ended up in this place. And then as you know, Jason has a huge amount of startup energy. He was doing this podcast, he was bringing entrepreneurs through like Elon Musk to come be on the show. Lots of like events and things. And I just caught the bug. And I realized that, well, maybe somewhat delusionally, thought that since I could program and build some of these systems that I could start my own company too.
Why not? It looks easy.
You don't even need to go to the hardware store. Yeah. That's great. Well, I'm glad I'm glad it was Mahalo. And not Bird. Because if you weren't if you were an early employee, wasn't Bird in Santa Monica. Was that. Am I right?
I'm not familiar with what Berg? I don't remember
Bird, bird like the scooter.
Oh, yeah. The scooter, that was a bit later on. This was back in like 2009 10.
Got it. I see. Very cool. So So you got this. You got a lot of energy and sort of drive and inspiration from Jason. What was sort of what was the journey? Like, what was next? What was after, after that you got that fire in your belly?
Well, I realized that I'm just not that big. I'm not a big city person. You know, I had come from a town right before that. That was like, three, three or 4000 people in Hawaii. And so I was like, in a very different setting, much more laid back and not all this traffic and stuff. And then when I went to LA, I loved it. I mean, it was a super cool new experience. It was a really fun city. It's got everything, but it's just so many people. And it just wasn't my vibe in the end. So I stayed there for about a year and a half. And then I was like, Hey, I love startups, I love working on, you know, programming and building stuff. I want to get involved more deeply. And I had been, I don't know if it was a podcast or YouTube channel, or, well, no, actually one of my mentors and advisors and he's actually not an investor in Zencastr had gone through the TechStars associate program the year before, like in 2010, or something.
In Boulder? TechStars boulder?
Yeah, that was this was when there was only TechStars. Boulder. Right at the beginning. And so I think this I think he was in like their second class, or maybe in the first one, it was one of the first few. And then he said, Hey, you know, if you want to do that, you should go check out these guys. I can intro you.
And there's this guy named Brad Feld, you gotta meet. Yeah, never heard of him at that time.
And so I kind of got connected there. I tried, I pitched them several times with like, as like trying to get in as a business. But you know, they had just in those few years, they had, you know their deal flow gotten so big that, you know, if you didn't have traction and all this stuff, you really didn't have much of a chance. But they said, Hey, you're building cool stuff. Why don’t you join us as a, they call it a Hackstar, kind of a funny name. But it's like a developer in residence, you come and you help their product, their companies get ready for demo day. So if they need development resources that they don't have internally, you kind of join their team and help them build. And so I ended up working with great companies, the one I worked with the most there was called SalesLoft. Another one of the another one in that cohort that got real big was Digital Ocean.
Oh, sure enough, we've all heard that name.
So it was a great experience to be able to kind of, you know, rub elbows with those guys, and then basically get to audit the TechStars experience, you know, get to hear all the speakers go to all the events kind of hang out and
Probably like almost as good as being in the cohort, right?
I mean, yeah, kind of snuck in, I guess…
As a Hackstar. That's cool. That's great. And then so you were living in Boulder at the time, participate as a Hackstar? And then did you had you had ideas of, of starting your own thing at that time? Or were you still kind of thinking like maybe I'll join one of these or
Yeah, so I think maybe even like the summer before we I had done a hackathon project with or entered into a hackathon with some friends of mine from Mahalo. And we ended up building this sort of a social music sequencer so like eight different people could join and it was like a repeating for four eight bar loop or something and everybody would put their notes in and someone comes people have drums and some people have synthesizers, and
That's like a way more fun version of like a social tool than Clubhouse for, you know, like I would much rather get in a room with people and jam than like then hear people blab on about stupid topics.
Well, it was it was fun. It was really surprisingly and what was weird is that people, you could chat in it and people just to my surprise was that people would actually make interesting sounding music. It wasn't. I thought it was. I mean, of course, some people would just get in and draw like penises in the middle. Like that was to be expected but
Right, right. But that’s not who you're catering to a platform, you didn't build a platform for those people.
Yeah, that's a different project. But it actually like you peel it evolve is like these cool evolving beats feel, or making music together is really fun. We ended up winning the hackathon, you know, which is small. And it was like, you know, I think we got like, MacBooks out of it or something, but…It just got me thinking like, hey, maybe there's actually a real product there. Like anytime you get people to actually use something you build, like, because I build so many things that just, you know, crickets. Right, right. And so
it was a good idea when you were like, you know, for it's like the developers story of like, well, I spent a month coding in my parents basement. And then I was so shocked that no, nobody else wanted to use it except me. Like, yeah, get it right, get out, get outside and show people. Yeah,
I had done that enough times to realize that when people actually did start sticking around and playing with it, and using it, that there's maybe something there. The the iteration of that, we took that to mean like, hey, maybe there's a way for musicians to collaborate together online, make music together, sort of like a GitHub for music, if you're an engineer, that makes a lot of sense like that, you know, people would want to share and you could all kind of build this, this library of assets together that we all benefit from. So fun idea started building, it didn't work out for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is that there's like this narrow band of musician, engineers who love this idea. And then everybody, which is who we were. And then everybody else hates it, like most musicians are extremely protective of their assets. They don't want somebody to remix it without them. Yeah, having control, they don't want someone taking their their hit, and then going making then like it going big, and then they don't get rights to it. And so that just didn't work out. But as as I was building that with, with that team, we realized that there's a lot of other there was a lot of stuff coming out at the time, like the browsers, we're now launching new features almost almost weekly, or monthly, I guess, six weekly, but they were where you could access the microphone. You could create synthesizers in the browser, you could filter the audio, you could save it do all kinds of stuff that you couldn't do before. And I didn't know and, you know, I think that team, we all had different ideas of where to go with that company. And so we just kind of dissolved it and moved on.
What about what timeframe was this Josh? Like, what year
So this would have been an after this is like the year like basically right after TechStars Boulder ended? Okay, Diablo3 came out. We played that for about a week and a half. And then we started our new company.
You needed a break after TechStars.
That was the plan, we’re just going to game for a couple of weeks. And then we're going to jump in the next project. And so where was I?
Yeah. So just in the, in the journey in the evolution of law, right.
So that team, you know, we all kind of went our separate ways. We all just that we all just ended up contracting to stay afloat, and then all kind of drifted in several ways as that goes. And then I ended up going to Australia, this is the big missing piece of the story. But when I was in Hawaii, I had met a girl we had gotten engaged. She was from New Zealand. Her visa expired. She had to go back to back home. I had gotten this job in LA and so we're doing this long distance relationship that and that we had kind of broken up during this period. But then I was like, Okay, let's maybe try. Let's try this again. So I chased I went to Australia chasing Lucy and
Is Lucy still in the story?
Oh, okay. Good.
She's now my wife.
I was gonna say, Oh, great, wonderful. If Lucy's listening. But she probably will listen. She's your wife. That's amazing. That's great.
Yeah, no, she's still around.
So it was worth it. It was that was that investment was worth it?
Yeah, I guess it was the right choice. But yeah, I kind of went off on my own out there and started working on a project called Robot Audio, which I was wanting to build like a full on digital audio workstation in the browser that you know, was kind of like an Ableton Live competitor that used all these new cool fun stuff that the browser's were launching. Little did I know….
Do you think you would have you know, I always like it's kind of like the butterfly effect. It's like, had you not gone to Australia to pursue your future wife, like do you think you would have still done this? Like, would you have still worked on Robot Audio? Is that in the cards no matter what, well, I
Well, I would have been working on Robot but what happened is I then found out I had a baby on the way. This is where, yes, this would not this is a lot of this would not have happened if I hadn't gone to Australia.
I think I understand why but yes. Continue, ok.
I was like, wow, okay. This still seems like it was maybe not the most rational response, but I was like, Okay, I gotta get on the way. I need a faster path to revenue. I need to start a different business. But I was a little more cautious. I mean, I did get like a my buddy Al, this is the guy who helped me get hooked up with TechStars. He was running he runs Missouri Star Quilt Company, which is like ecommerce quilt shop. They're doing like 10s of millions of dollars in revenue, just crushing it in the quilting space. He he, he hired me on and let me work part time for him while I worked on my business on the side to kind of incubate, incubate the business, so I took a job with him
Did I hear you correctly? That's a quilting a quilting business? Is that right?
That's fascinating. I mean, I would have never a few says that take a guess. I don't even think it guests like 100,056 I would have guessed that you took a quilt that you took an opportunity to quilting business, but that's amazing.
Yeah, no, that's that's what I'm kind of bridged me between. Because I was like, I need I need some really solid reliable income while I do this. And that gave me what I needed to work remote. And it was it was a hard sell to get a job at that time working remotely, especially from the other side of the world.
Different time zone, not even compatible time zone.
Yeah, no, New Zealand is not compatible with anybody's timezone. Or Australia.
Right. What were you doing for the for the for that business for the quilting business where you was it like and e-commerce.
Front end engineering. So working on their e-commerce web web front,
Scrappy, I love it. So alright, so you so you're, you know, you got mouths to feed now you've got some runway, like do you kind of scrape up some from that that part time work? Or or, you know, from that consulting? Engagement? You scraped up some work? Or cash runway or did you?
I didn't have I mean, I had well, I had infinite runway as long as I had a job. Okay. Yeah, that was how I was looking at it. I didn't have a bunch of money saved up. I see. We had blown through all that. When I was trying to work on sound keep the previous the previous one…
So you were side hustling basically. Yeah,
Well, um, so started where I, at one point, like literally two or three years before, I think I was at like TechStars, San Antonio, that like TechStars for a day, because I was trying to apply with sound keep the the other company. And so one of their, like, 15. You know, they do like speed dating with mentors. Just like one of those two minute conversations, someone said, I don't know about podcasting, or music, but podcasters have a problem with quality. Maybe you could help with their with this technology. And I was like, Yeah, that's cool. But we're, we're musicians, we're building stuff from us. You know, we're passionate about music. And so I just never really thought about, you know, we dropped the idea. But it wasn't until I came, you know, years later when I was in Australia, trying to figure out, Okay, what's a quicker path to revenue using the skills and the tools I've got here. And I was like, you know, that podcasting idea came up, I liked podcasts, I'm a little bit more open to exploring other ideas right now. And so I started interviewing podcasters. And found out that sure enough, they have this problem they have most of their guests or co-hosts are remote. They, and at the time, your options where you can either you you record a Skype Call Recorder, which the guests sounded like you're recording a Skype call, which back then was really bad. Or people were trying to train their guests or co-hosts use Audacity, and like export an mp3 and send it over and that, and a lot of people just weren't having guests, because they found it to be too hard. They would either recording bad quality and piss off their audience. Or they would have to make the guest jump through so many hoops. They pissed off the guest. And so some of them just were like,
It's a real problem. Yeah, it was a real problem. Sure. Yeah. So how many you mentioned you interviewed some podcasters? Just just for, for some of our founders out there. To get some context like, what how many did you talk to or like, what when did you know that you'd found something here through that process?
So this is a little bit embarrassing. Not that many. I mean, I talked like, well, that's not true. I mean, I talked to like five people that I knew or so that were podcasters that were like trusted some one of them was like feature, not a product. One of them, I forgot and then one of them said, I'd pay 20 bucks a month if you solve this problem. And I was like. All right, let me let me I was like, I bet I can build something in about six weeks and test this out. So at least six months later, before I had anything.
Of course, developer math.
Yeah, exactly. like it's, it's, I always fall prey to this thinking it's gonna be easier for me to just build this and test it out in real life then, like, do all the proper validation stuff, which is like, the not fun part.
I always say multiply by two, add three carry the time units. Probably more realistic.
so yeah, so So really, I mean, it sounds just just to say, it's not always the quantity of the interviews of you of like trying to really understand your customer product, but you had some quality use of trusted people, you had some quality people that got you there got you conviction in the opportunity
I could have, should have validated more. But this was literally the first time someone said, I will pay you money. If you build this and it sounds like it's hard to get the people to actually say that. And then to actually follow through as well. But you know, that was interesting, started building it, built a prototype. And I will say that valid, you know, the validation steps kind of kept coming. One of the one of those stages was just, you know, when I did launch the prototype, people were actually using it and bringing other people on. When I got the first 100 or so, users on the platform, by going on to Twitter, and just this is, this is something I would probably use it on the next if I was building a consumer facing company, next time around. People love to complain on Twitter. It's like basically what Twitter is for. And if you can't find people complaining about your problem on Twitter, then maybe it's not that big of a problem. Oh, that's cool. But if if you can, then there's probably a lot of people and so the first 100 users was people that would because what would happen is they'd record on Skype Call Recorder, then they would publish it. And then their audience would be tweeting them saying, Man, I can't listen to this. What's wrong with your? Why is that people sound so bad. I’m, unsubscribing. And then they would get on and they'd be apologizing to their guests. They'd be angry. So I had these searches that were like, Skype, expletive, my podcast, like whatever. And like, just trying to search people that were angry at Skype about their podcast. And that was how I got the first 100 people on was just emailing their “at” mentioning them complaining saying hey, we fix it. Come try this out. And like, almost all of them converted and tried it out.
That’s pretty cool little gorilla kind of Gorilla technique. Yeah.
Yeah. Luckily, that was, you know, I you know, we'll see how it would work for... Every business is different. But for this one, it worked out well. So
Nice. And so you got it, you got 100 customers. I mean, that's, that's, that's actually for you to validate idea. That's kind of a
well, users. There was no money, there's no money involved.
Sorry, I gave you way too much credit. But that's but still, that's okay. 100 users and then so that would be for
For me, that was amazing. Like, the previous project, like sound keep I think we had gotten like 30 registrations total ever, like in the whole lifetime of the project. And so just seeing that, like, we have actually, sticky people were coming, it was growing, you know, I wasn't having to like force people into the registration like my friends, like, please just try it.
So are you are you still in Australia at this point, by the way, or have you gone to some other exotic place?
No. So looping back around, I went to Australia, and found out Marigold was on the way that's what was her name? Yeah. And then we went to Austria, we moved to New Zealand to have the baby because that's where my wife's from she want to be close to her family, and there is social health care there as well, which was really, you know, interesting to be part of, we cost like $20 to have a baby, which was like, amazing.
That's like cheaper than getting like a daily rate on a rental car.
I know. Yeah, so went there. And we were there for about a year or so. Okay. And then I had been working on I launched the prototype of Zencastr from New Zealand, and then I was running it and then we moved to Thailand to like, save money. Kind of get out of her parents house, but not like jump into a bunch of expenses. And she really likes Thailand. I was interested in the travel.
I didn't know that was a cheap place to live.
Depends on how you do it. You can get very cheaply. You can spend a lot of money if you want. That's what I found is that when it all came out, all said and done if you didn't want to live in like a bungalow on the beach, like you're gonna still spend… you know, yes, you still got to spend money but it was it was a real fun experience moved to like a when I got there, we went to like, the more populated areas and it was just too crazy for me like the, you know, just it’s crowded. I don't know if you've ever been to Southeast Asia, but it's I have it can in the real populated areas, it can be really challenging and confronting. If you're not used to that. Just environment. Yeah, just
culturally, yeah. In terms of space, like your personal space is like, defined by the limits of your body. And that’s it.
Yeah, and like, we had a baby in a stroller and there's no sidewalks and like, scooters are zooming past you and seven. When I first got there, I was like, wow, this is like, but we figured, alright, let's just get out of the city. We're just like we need it shouldn't be. So we went to this like, island off of an island and like got this place stuff, a dead end road off a dead end road. And
but they had internet.
So they had internet and it was just a really lovely place in the jungle. And I just parked in my office and worked all day and the kids went to the beach and all this.
You're really a digital nomad. Before it was even a thing before it was cool.
Yeah, I guess so. I mean, I never really thought about I actually don't like traveling. I've just reluctantly get dragged into it. I mean, I like I like new places and the new experiences. Well, I hate flying the process. But I you know, when I get to the right place, the right zone, Thailand was really lovely. And it was a great place to just, not only was it a place where you can kind of live affordably and have fun. It was a great place to be free from distractions. Like I didn't have any friends. I didn't have any, like family birthdays to go to, or anything. I could literally just…
Life’s terrible distractions…
Well, it was taking so long to get this product out the door. I mean, it's already been launched it and we've been running it for a year for free.
Yep. No, I hear you. I remember. I mean, when I started my first company, it was like, you know, I had two kids. And I had to deal with traffic on the beltway and DC Baltimore. And it was like that it's like starting a company is hard enough. But then you throw in the complexity of life that we all typically create for ourselves, like getting married, having children, you know, and it's like, it gets even harder. So yeah, that's, that's pretty cool. You created some space to work, work on this and make it real.
Yeah. And it took all of that time, really, I mean, I obviously could have done a lot of things better differently in retrospect. But that's what worked at the time, I ended up finally launching the paid plans there from from Thailand. And you know, I had waited, and so by this time, it had been open as a prototype of some form or in beta for almost two years before I actually kicked on the paid plans. For a variety of reasons, one, I was scared to, like, make, I was scared to rip off that band aid because that's like when you really know. And too, it just took a lot of time to get the product’s complicated. It was using new kind of unstable API's and these browsers that you had to like, deal with a lot. It just took a while to get it stable. And then also, just getting it like, the billing stuff added into it was, you know, took a lot longer than I had expected to get that all tuned up and to the right place. But when I launched it, I think because I'd waited too long. You know, we ended up ended up getting, I think it was like 13 or 15k MRR came in in the first month. Just kind of kept growing from there.
And at that time, I mean, is it still just you as a solo entrepreneur, basically? Or did you have some other support and help?
At this point, it was still just me. Because I didn't have any I wasn't making any money. I couldn't hire anybody. The company, the business was costing me like three or 400 bucks a month. And which was actually really cheap, considering how many people were using it. And then, yeah, just launched from there.
And then, yeah, just, I gotta say, that is not a trivial revenue threshold to get to by yourself. I mean, that's like, I mean, maybe for a founding team of two, like, that's not that's, you get to that first, you know, 10 to 20k of MRR, like that's a, that's a big deal. But you did it solo. Ya know,
I was I was very excited. And happened so fast, because it was literally just like every day, you know, hundreds or 1000s more were pouring in right at that beginning. And so it's like, you know, it was it was and I remember the mag…the most magical moment was like I use Stripe as a payment processor. And they have this like, vanity feature where you can make it ding every time the payment comes in. I kept that on lot longer than I would like to admit. But
Until it became like an alarm clock that was always ringing. Ah, stop…
It got old after a while, but being able to see that, like, I went to bed last night, and I woke up this morning and not only all these payments come in, but now there's more recurring revenue coming in. Which like seeing it like okay, really well and you're making money in your sleep now. That's, that feels great.
That's so cool. So I gotta say our listeners are probably like is did I tune into Found in the South Pacific? What is going on here? We want to know how did you get back to the Rockies? How did you What called you home? How did you get back? Was it from there to Salt Lake because that was the next jump? Or?
That was I had actually left all my stuff in a storage unit in Boulder because I had every intention of coming back there I really liked boulder.
But you didn't have any you didn't have like a diaper bag at the time, though.
Yeah, my life had changed a little bit by the time I got back. What have I decided to go back and get my stuff but my while I was over there. Um, my, my father died. And so I ended up coming. And my mom and him and my mom lived in Salt Lake City. And so I was like, you know, maybe it's time to come be closer to my mom. And so we moved, we came and got the stuff and moved here in Salt Lake which I've lived in Salt Lake off and on, you know, for the last 15 years or so. You know, just because they've been here and I've every time I've was like, in between places I'd come and stay so I like it here and it actually has a really amazing startup scene as well. That's grown a lot and since you know 10 years ago which is exciting
That's amazing. And I'm sure Marigold is is glad to be near grandma as well.
Yeah, now they're best friends and it's she's now Marigold is six and a half so we seven next month. And we've got a two year old two and a half year old Margaret hanging out there hanging out with grandma here in Salt Lake and we you know, we enjoy having them out we go on bike rides and great mountain views I’ve been taking her Marigold just started skiing and or last year. And so now by the time I clip in at the top, she's she's already at the bottom
so I was gonna say she's gonna be like hitting you know, doing backies off cliffs before you know it. And then you'll be like, well have a great day. That's like me with my kids now. So
she's just, she just started to get to the age where she started snubbing me for her friends. Like they're more exciting. And so
At six! I thought it would at least be eight. I know. Well, so tell us I want to give us a little plug on. I mean, obviously, the story is amazing. And Josh tell me about just the the product, like give a plug, give a plug here for you know, for what you do and how you're different. I'd love we'd love to
Yeah, so that was a really long backstory about me. But the product that's kind of just the story to the beginning of the product, right. And since then, obviously, we found a great product market fit and traction with podcasters solving that initial recording problem, really big pain point for them. But we've now found and a lot is happening, I'm skipping around a lot, but a lot has happened. You know, since we had that initial product, A: the podcasting space just continues to heat up. B: big players, like all the big players out now have big podcasting initiatives, and are coming in and some of them are trying to do good things, some of them are trying to do exploitative things in the podcasting space. And so, you know, we ended up deciding, hey, we have like this really amazing lead in the space. And there's so many more problems to solve with, for podcasters. Like, there's a lot more to do here. Because as you know, getting a high quality recording is just one piece. Like you need to be able to find great guests, you need to be able to edit the content in a time efficient manner, and know how to edit it. Like right now most people are using really cryptic tools to do this. And it's keeping a lot of people out of the market. People need help distributing, promoting. And then I think most importantly, growing and monetizing. Most podcasters whether even if it's just a hobby, or if it's a huge business they have in mind, they want to grow and they want to be able to get value for the content and the effort that they're putting into the ecosystem. Just like YouTubers, you know. And so this is this is a lot of where you know, we’re refocusing our efforts on the company is to help podcasters holistically with the whole creation, production, distribution, monetization flow so that they can actually find success because it is hard it is still hard to make a quality podcast and market it and actually figure out how to monetize it and stick with it if through all that as well, because I mean, I'd be curious, how much time do you spend on the podcast?
Well, I have help.
Like, if you maybe if he added at the time of your team?
Yeah, no, it's a great question. I, you know, I, if I were to estimate it, I would say probably, you know, for every episode that we produce, it's, I would measure it in probably, I would measure it in hours. But it's probably, yeah, it's at least a full kind of eight hour, I would say probably eight hour day. Of somebody’s time.
Yep. Yeah. Now we find, when we survey people say, often the average, I think around six hours per episode from front to front end, which tracks with what you guys are talking about…
Well I need to tell my team to pick up the pace. I’m teasing.
You guys are putting in the extra extra effort, though. But that's just imagine if you imagine if Instagram asked that of you. If if make a post on Instagram, you had to use five different tools, take hours of your time, and you had to figure this all out on your own, they definitely wouldn't be have gotten the billion dollar offer from Facebook. Right? Or grown to the size they are.
And you're right, too, because it's not just, it's not just the recording, or the episode. I mean, there's the post post episode stuff. But there's pre-episode stuff too, just coordinating just, you know, getting finding the guests, getting them getting them excited, and getting them prepped and, and doing some research and some background to just have some context for who we're even talking to, and the prep work. And it's there's a lot that goes into, to doing it and doing it, I would say moderately well, let alone doing it, great, you know, which we're still trying to aspire to.
Exactly, exactly. And so that's really where we're focusing on is further aligning ourselves with the creators further partnering with them on all of the other problems that they have to help them find success. And, you know, and will grow alongside with them, I'd really see the podcast space as being analogous to the blogging space in 99. Back then you had to have, you had to have like your own web hosting server, you had to know like FTP, and DNS and HTML, and you had to, like, it cost money. A lot, you know, these hosting sites were not were expensive. So there was, you know, maybe 1000s of blogs online, then when blogger came along, made it so if you just know how to type, you can have a blog online. Yeah. Then there was 50 million blogs within three years. Podcasting space, is still before it before that inflection point. I think a lot of people think it's already taken off, but we're still at the very beginning stages. And I mean, if you look at like, the ratio of creators to listeners or consumers on like, Tik Tok, for instance, is 30% creators to 70% consumers in podcasting, it's like, under a percent of creators. And that's a wild. Yeah. 100 100 Well, just on Zencastr, hundreds of new podcasters are trying to start every day. Sure you can multiple day every day. And that's not been reflected in the output of how many active podcasters there are out there. Why is that is because it's still too many hurdles still, you know, just too hard to put all the pieces together and this is what we're very very actively focused on is just removing all those barriers making it so if you have a voice, you can go out there be heard find an audience grow make money.
Yeah, amazing. I mean, it's such an awesome quest and mission that you're on.
Yeah, that's a it's been a been exciting, like you, you know, I kind of drifted into the space from like, a different audio focus. But man, what I've found is that podcasters are such fun people to work with, you know, they're obviously very social, will love to share their ideas, and they're very eager to work with each other, work with us and connect with great audiences. There's so many problems to solve that it's hard to just figure out which one to pick rather than any or which view to pick rather than anything else. But we're really excited to see you just get in there and make it so that it's not such a hard slog you can actually do this you know, you should be able to have everything set up come in record for 45 minutes and then the other 15 minutes produce publish promote all that stuff.
Yeah. What do you have any kind of macro level, macro level views Josh about, just the just the digital media space? It's like podcasting versus YouTube. Or you know, like multimedia, Patreon, like just the the universe of all that stuff out there in the in the whole content creator economy, and it kind of fun high level things, observations?
You know, I'm maybe stuck in my kind of podcasting box a little too much, but the way we look at it is it's it like YouTube is awesome for YouTubers. Why does not exist for podcasters like these, these models have already all been proven out. Like if your YouTube channel there's a place where you put your content, they automatically algorithmically search and discover your audience for you. There's a button you flip, now you're making money. That's awesome. podcasters need this as well. And it's there's no reason why it doesn't exist except for that podcasting hasn't had the money and the resources invested into it to build the tooling to make all that happen.
Well, speaking of raising money, I mean, you've you've raised a little bit, like I think we last round was last February, February of 21, I guess, is that right?
Yeah, yeah. So as I, you know, again, jumping around, as I mentioned, all these big players are getting in this space, we had a really strong cohort of, of real quality conscious podcasters on our platform, you know, 10s of 1000s of creators creating, you know, hundreds of 1000s of hours of content each month. But we need, we definitely needed some money to grow quicker because of there was just all of these big players coming into space. So we, at the end of our you named it, beginning of 2021, we raise four and a half million dollars, this was to consolidate that entire tool chain. And bring all those pieces together, just make it so you really can come to one place, quickly, quick, easy to create, affordable to create, and then monetize. So one of the things I left out, and that is, as I had been building this, and before we raise money, I had gotten back in touch where I had been staying in touch with my buddy Adrian, who I met at Mahalo, he went to startup after startup, he became the first engineer to founding and part of the founding team at a company called Flipagram. They became the fastest growing app and the app store ever, they got acquired by Bytedance rolled up into what became TikTok. And so as I
He was the first engineer Flippered, oh my gosh,
so he had a front row seat to just a really amazing growth and acquisition and just a front row seat to watching how you grow a user generated content business. And just manage all that and how well the leverage you have to pull to actually find success there. And so for that reason, and others, I brought him on as a co-founder, which is a little bit unusual, because the company was already profitable, like we're at a million plus in annual recurring revenue. But I realized that I was sick of being the only one. Like, I kind of wanted help. At that point, I just had so much on my shoulders by myself for so long. And then B: like, he obviously just had such a great tracker, and knew how to kind of take the business from the point I had gotten it to the rest of the way. And so I just made a partnership that really made a lot of sense.
That's awesome. I mean, it's you know, it's always tough when you're kind of a solo founder. But I mean, that sounds like you you were patient and what a what a match. I mean, I know Adrian he's a he's tremendous. He's a humble guy, though. I didn't know that about him.
Yeah, no, he's he was right there from the beginning.
Awesome. So what's what's in store for the future here with this powerhouse team at its end cast or anything exciting, you want to share where you go in 2022?
Yeah, I mean, just just kind of kicking down all those barriers that we've been talking about, you know, we're, we're in the process of, I mean, we've recently launched transcription and editing tools, we're going to be launching sort of more advanced versions of that bringing all the pieces together, making it really quick and easy for you to just do everything from one place. And connecting, connecting people together, connecting people, with the right people to grow your audience, as you know, like, that's one of the best ways to grow. And so just helping, finding all the different ways that podcasters are hitting the roadblocks and stumbling and we're just gonna knock those out of the way, the blogger for the for podcasts, I guess you can say, all right, that's a little bit of an old one. Maybe that maybe that's not so catchy. If you were around back in the day, it'll make sense
Well, I gotta say, Josh, um, first of all, thank you for, for being on the show today. Really, really fun to have you.
And I'm so thankful that math kept you from mechanical…from pursuing mechanical engineering because we have this amazing platform that we use every day, and I would pay you $20 for this a month. So you know, that's, that's the greatest endorsement. I’ll pay more than that. I think we do. I don't know what we I don't even know what we pay, but it's well worth every penny worth the value. So just to conclude, could you please tell our audience where they can find out more about you and Zencastr online?
Yeah, you can check us out obviously, Zencastr.com. We also are on Twitter @ Zencastr. And yeah, hit us up. We'd love to chat.
Awesome. Thanks, Josh.
Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Found in the Rockies. You can find links in the show notes or go to our podcast page at nextfrontiercapital.com to get links and contact information for today's guests. If you liked what you heard and want more, please rate review and subscribe to get notified as our new episodes drop. We'll see you next time.