Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Bradley Davis’ idea for his start-up began with a failed internet search for an IMBd or Good Reads style catalog to find podcasts he would find interesting. With no results, Bradley took to the podcast subreddit to either find such a catalog or someone who would help him build one. After sifting through the candidates, Bradley finally found his business partner, Ben, based out of Melbourne, Australia. Six months later, Podchaser, coined as “the IMBd of podcasts”, was founded. Now, Bradley has created an international team and secured millions of dollars in funding to perfect Podchaser.
Podchaser was one of the first webpages providing ratings and reviews of individual podcast episodes, but this was only the beginning. Since this first integration, the database has expanded and is continuing to expand the data it collects and publishes for its registered members. This data they compile is unbelievably useful given that there are millions of podcast listeners looking to find the best episode out of millions of podcast episodes with absolutely no consistent, reliable place to find information on the episodes. Usefulness does not directly translate into monetary value, however, so Bradley knew that Podchaser’s product needed to be delivered in a way that would naturally create a loyal user base.
In Middle Tech’s 122nd Episode, Bradley Davis gives some incredible advice, and sheds some light, on how to harness the benefits of an organically grown community. Most of the lessons that can be learned from this episode are broadly applicable beyond the scope of podcasts as an organically grown community will benefit almost all start-ups looking to put a product or service on the market.
First, what is an organically grown community? In the case of Podchaser, the organically grown community began as a group of podcast creators and listeners looking to create the best possible informational and discovery resource for episodic level podcast content. \The community continues to grow as more and more users register. In the case of a podcast or brand, the organically grown community is the group of listeners, users, customers, or followers that support because they enjoy the content produced by the business. This community too will grow as the content reaches more people.
Like a farmer must tend to her crops, a startup must foster its community in order for it to grow. The first version of Podchaser was purposefully closed to a couple of thousand invitees so that the crew at Podchaser could directly engage with the users for feedback on how to make the product better. By interacting with the core users, Podchaser not only enhanced user loyalty and activity but also was able to create a more widely desirable product.
Now Bradley was comfortable that he had a desirable product, but he was not necessarily sure how best to monetize it. Like many data-driven start-ups, the value of the data can be clearly explained in a pitch, but that pitch is not always followed by clear streams of revenue. Bradley researched companies he believed provided a similar product and eventually reached out to a veteran employee of one of those companies. Bradley was able to validate his plan for monetization by comparing it to that of a similar but more established company.
With a clear plan for monetization, Bradley began seeking funding through the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and other Kentucky investment funds. One after another, Podchaser was denied funding, but Bradley continued to pitch Podchaser to potential investors. His perseverance paid off as Bradley eventually did secure funding, which he correctly attributes to finding the right investor for his company, rather than Podchaser being flawed. After persevering through many failures to secure that first investor, Bradley developed his network investor by investor to eventually secure just under 20 angel investors and $2,100,000.00.
Podchaser is applying that funding to continue to grow based on its business plan and the necessary improvements along the way. The goal for Podchaser is to continue to empower its user base to crowdsource data until it reaches a critical mass where it will serve as the hub of information for podcast listeners. Bradley believes that revenue will follow this hub because of the growth in people listening to podcasts. Podchaser is purposefully positioned to help facilitate the growth of the podcast industry, which helps Podchaser itself and the industry as a whole.
From subreddits through post-funding, Podchaser has had the consistent goal of creating a database of episodic podcast reviews and ratings. They have kept this goal in mind while remaining flexible which has allowed them to create a valuable product that also meets the original goal. Any entrepreneur can take lessons away from Bradley’s cultivation of Podchaser’s organically grown community, validation of his plan for monetization, or his perseverance through failed funding pitches. His episode is certainly worth a listen and can be found on your chosen streaming platform.