Startup

By Joel Simler

imagesThe amount of business startups today is impressive, and the rate of new startups is staggering. You know what else is gaining steam in the world? Podcasts! Having remained fairly obscure since their birth 10-15 years ago (or 100, depending on who you ask), people have become ravenous for them, and demand is growing. Culture is craving something that can easily, cheaply, and instantly be found; as well as provide us a means of entertainment that makes us at least feel like we are learning or growing our minds in some way. The most popular podcasts tend to be human stories, in conjunction with good journalism, and often produced to capture more emotion than a typical news piece. We’re at a point now where there are enough good podcasts that many are banding together to create their own networks. Some I have mentioned here, e.g. National Public Radio and Radiotopia. More are out there, and more networks are popping up like prairie dogs. One which recently popped up is Gimlet Media. There is not much I can say about Gimlet Media that they themselves haven’t already told listeners in their debut podcast, Startup.

Let’s sum up this meta worm-hole, this is a startup podcast company, that has a podcast called Startup about its own foray as a startup. This podcast is not one of those “how to…” shows, which I have a hard time getting into. This is a story driven idea, where you are stepping alongside host/creator Alex Blumberg (This American Life, Planet Money), as he quits his job in public radio to venture off with his business partner Matt Lieber, all while trying to maintain his status as husband and a new father. The show is a very honest look at what it’s like to try your own startup. If you are considering your own startup company, this would be a very good show to listen to. For those of us that aren’t attempting a startup, it’s an entertaining look at someone that is crazy enough to risk so much in life doing something that he is passionate about, despite the amazingly low chance of success.

So far, the series is only one season long, which means that now is the time to catch up before Season 2! This first season appears to be unique, in that all 14 episodes are documenting Gimlet Media’s rise from the ground up. Future seasons/episodes look like they’re going to focus less on an individual startup, and instead interview many different startups. But, it hasn’t happened yet so we are waiting patiently.

Since this is a series that will make the most sense listened to in order, I suggest starting at Episode 1. I will highlight some good parts to listen for though. The point of any media is to grab your attention right away. Startup begins by immediately making you laugh and cringe for the hero of our series, Alex. Episode 1, aptly titled “How Not To Pitch A Billionaire”, Alex gets the opportunity to talk to Silicon Valley billionaire, Chris Sacca. What ensues must be the most laughable pitch ever heard. Ok, I haven’t heard many (or maybe any) pitches to billionaire investors, but clearly neither has Alex Blumberg. It is a pitch worth hearing, and I’m sure those of you in the same position as Alex will easily pull away lessons from the debacle. For those of us not looking to pull away lessons from this, which you likely will anyways, the segment is truly hilarious. Our pity rises as we listen to the event unfold and really feel the awkwardness of the situation.

Shortly into the season, we find Alex Blumberg looking for a business partner. What I like about Startup, is you get to hear everyone’s side to a story, such as when he negotiates the terms of his professional partnership with Matt Lieber. We also hear conversations with his wife Nazanin, who is more than arguably the sanest person on the show. We often hear her coaching Alex away from misguided ideas.

While Startup is not designed to coach people in starting their own business, it is not a bad idea to jot down some notes. The show is very entertaining in every element, and has lots of emotions to share along the way. The people in the show are likable and compelling. Alex’s producer, Kaitlin Roberts, is quoted in the show saying “…you spend that much time listening to someone argue about a name or a pitch, it’s hard not to feel like you’re really invested in it.” Being the producer, Kaitlin listened to hours of interviews done by Startup founders, and helped bring it into one cohesive piece so that in the end, we can all share in that same invested feeling she has.

gimlet

Listen to it now.

Born in Seattle, raised in Bellingham, Joel is a real cloud loving, tree climbing, North Westerner. He can be found living by a Troll in Seattle, often exploring a vast array of breweries, and music happenings. He works as an audio/video technician in Redmond giving him a perfect drive for listening to podcasts. He is also a professionally certified dance instructor, and produces his own local concerts in his spare time.