Podcast Raises $1.5 Million
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal – Christopher Zinsli
Public-radio producer Alex Blumberg made a living explaining how business works, for shows such as This American Life and Planet Money. He still does, only now he’s doing it from the inside.
Blumberg and co-founder Matt Lieber have raised $1.5 million for their podcasting startup, Gimlet Media. Betaworks, Knight Enterprise Fund and Lowercase Capital have invested, as have former Tumblr developer Marco Arment, Groupon Inc. founder Andrew Mason and New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg.
The New York company raised $200,000 of the round through an equity crowdfunding campaign that reached its goal in a matter of hours, Blumberg said.
The startup’s launch is being chronicled, naturally, on a podcast called StartUp. The initial episodes have covered common concerns facing many startups, such as coming up with a name, finding partners and raising funding. StartUp is the first show from Gimlet, which plans to launch a network of podcasts.
Blumberg sat down with Venture Capital Dispatch to discuss the economics and artistry of successful podcasts.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
New York has gotten a lot of attention for its startup scene. How do you see things, as a newcomer to the scene?
It’s been very friendly and generally just very supportive. I had this image, working in public media this whole time–it’s hard to describe just how accurate the term “not for profit” is. It’s very, very accurate. There is a tendency to see the profit motive as turning people bloodthirsty and cutthroat, and certainly that happens, but my experience so far has not been that. They’re just trying to create cool new things.
For a long time venture capitalists weren’t terribly interested in investing in media companies or content production companies. How are investors looking at content and media companies these days?
I think for everybody it’s where they feel comfortable. There are some investors who are just more comfortable with content, and have seen content become successful and have been an investor in Upworthy and BuzzFeed and understand how those content companies work and have seen it grow and happen, and they have faith that somebody else can make it grow and happen as well. There are people who get it and there are people who feel comfortable with it and people who don’t feel comfortable with it.
It seems you’ve gotten investors from both the tech and the content side.
We have, and the other thing that I’ve realized is that people invest for so many different reasons. One investor told me that it’s always a heart/head decision. One of the toughest things from an investor point of view is to see something where you like the idea of it, and you might like the product of it, but you don’t think it can generate enough returns for you. And so if you need to be assured of those returns then maybe you’re not going to invest, but if you can give in to yourself that those returns could be possible then you will invest. I had one investor tell me that content makes a lot of investors nervous because it gets to the artistry question a little bit. How do you know who the Steven Spielbergs are going to be? That’s the tricky thing about a content play.