This article was published in the Spring 2021 issue
by Josh Nielsen, Founder and CEO, Zencastr
Where’s the best place to start your startup? If you ask me, the answer is wherever you are.
When it comes to my start-up Zencastr, a modern web-based solution for high-quality audio and video podcast production, that answer is in some ways obvious. Zencastr was the product of a pivot of a pivot. First created in Boulder, Colorado as a collaborative music sequencer that allowed musicians to work together online, it then became a digital audio workstation after I moved to Australia chasing my now-wife. When we found out a baby was on the way, I quickly turned it into an MVP that beta-launched while we were in New Zealand, with paid plans beginning in 2017 from Thailand. Earlier this year, when we announced a $4.6 million seed round, it was from our home base in Salt Lake City.
At every point along the way, Zencastr went with me. But the answer of “wherever you are,” goes beyond just our physical location. It also speaks to our customers, and where we meet them as well.
Before Serial launched in 2014, few had ever even heard of podcasting. When the This American Life spinoff hit one million downloads per episode however, people started taking notice. And more than that, companies like Google, Spotify, and Amazon saw an opportunity.
Spotify in particular saw it first and foremost as a way to flip their business model. Instead of paying record labels millions for the privilege of streaming their content and charging users for listening, they could pay creators for their content and charge others for the privilege of advertising. But while that may work for the top creators (ie, Joe Rogan), it does little to meet the majority of podcasters where they are - just starting out, with little or no support.
Imagine if, when you signed up for an Instagram account, it took you six hours to create your first post. And then it took you the same amount of time to create your next one? How many people would join Instagram? Our guess is not many. Only the true visionaries with a plan for monetization would take the plunge. Today, that’s the hurdle it takes to start a podcast.
In order to start a podcast, regardless of how successful it may or may not be, you need to not only record the episode, but also edit it and publish it onto a hosted platform. In order to make any money, you have to register it with a service that connects you to advertisers. You may use as many as 10 to 15 different services to accomplish all of that, and you have to do it all over again every week. And, at least starting out, maybe only 150 people will ever listen.
With Zencastr, our goal is to do what Blogger did for blogging. By streamlining the process, eliminating the busywork, and becoming a one-stop-shop for recording, editing and publishing, we can unleash podcasting and make it a viable business option for anyone who has something to say.
When you come to Zencastr, we not only start where you are, but we keep you from hemming and hawing on the details that are holding you back. We’ll help you take the first steps, and then keep going.
Even with the many setbacks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, I can still confidently say there’s no better time to start than now. Podcasting has become another way for people to connect with others virtually and have collective experiences even while alone in their homes. With more free time to develop ideas, as well as employment uncertainty encouraging people to hedge their bets and develop new revenue streams, podcasting has never been more popular. At Zencastr, we’re helping to meet that demand, with unlimited guests and recording time now available even to our freemium users.
All along my Zencastr journey, I worked with what I had, where I had it. I never waited for a better time or place, or chased my tail while letting things play out. And it works for more than just me. So if you’re wondering when or where to start your startup, it’s time to stop reading and listening (unless of course, it’s a podcast), and get started. Wherever you are.
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*Read the latest issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine, Spring 2021