Pete Curley and Garret Heaton, who previously co-founded the HipChat team chat app and sold it to Atlassian, officially launch their new product, Swoot today. The app makes it easy for users to recommend podcasts and see what their friends are listening to.
This may seem like a big step forward from selling enterprise software – and indeed, Curley said the company initially focused on building another set of team collaboration tools. .
What they realized, however, is that HipChat is “actually a consumer product that the company pays for, because the employees demand it” – and he said they weren’t very interested. trying to build a business around a more traditional model. “Top-down sales process”.
Meanwhile, Curley said he injured his back lowering one of his children into a cradle, which meant that for months his only form of exercise was walking. He remembers walking for hours every day and, for the first time, having fun listening to podcasts.
“I was actually behind my time,” he said. “I didn’t know that, that everyone was listening to them… It’s like the dark web of content.”
The startup has already raised a $ 3 million funding round led by True Ventures.
“Pete and Garret both have incredible product and entrepreneurial backgrounds, and they’ve also built successful businesses together in the past,” True Ventures co-founder Jon Callaghan said in a statement. “Their goal of solving the rambling podcast listening experience through Swoot’s sleek design fills an obvious gap in media discovery. “
Discovery – that is, finding new podcasts beyond the handful you’re already subscribed to – is one of the biggest issues with podcasting right now. It’s something a number of companies are trying to solve, but in Curley’s opinion, the key is to make the listening experience more social.
He noted that social sharing features are being added to “literally everything,” including your bathroom scale, except “the one thing I really wanted it for”.
Curley also compared the experience of listening to podcasts with YouTube: “We don’t realize how [podcasting] It’s because there’s nothing social where you see that Gangnam Style has 8 billion views, and you realize the whole world is watching. There’s no number of views, nothing that tells you what’s popular.
So he tries to provide this view with Swoot. Instead of focusing on the overall number of plays (which might not be that impressive in a new app), Swoo gives you two main ways to keep up with what’s popular with your friends.
There’s a feed that shows you everything your friends are listening to or recommending, as well as a list of currently trending episodes, with little icons showing you which friends have listened to 20% or more of an episode.
Curley said the team tested the app’s beta by simply posting it on the App Store and telling friends about it, then letting it spread through word of mouth until it hit. it is in the hands of around 1,000 users. During this test, it found that 25% of the podcasts users listened to were from friends.
Curley also noted that this approach is “episode-centric” rather than “show-centric.” In other words, it doesn’t just help you find the next podcast you want to subscribe to and listen to for years to come, it also helps bring up the specific episode everyone is listening to right now.
“Out of the 700,000 shows that exist, if you’re the lowest ranked 690,000 show, but you have a great episode that should be able to go viral, that’s basically impossible to do right now, because the audio is difficult to share. ” said Curley.
During our conversation, I brought up my experience with Spotify – I like to know what’s popular, but when a friend recently mentioned specific songs that he could see I was listening to on the service, I was a little scared.
Funny, I thought, in fact, how Spotify is getting into podcasting now. [through the acquisitions of Gimlet and Anchor]”Curley replied.” They actually applied that correct mechanism to the wrong thing. Music is a deeply personal thing.
Which does not mean that listening to podcast is not personal, but there are more opportunities to discover overlapping interests, say the fact that you and your friends all listen to real criminal podcasts.
Curley also said the app is deliberately designed to ensure that “the service doesn’t get worse because a ton of people are following you” – so they see what you’re listening to, but can’t comment on it. or tell you you’re an idiot for listening.
At the same time, he also said the team will add a mode to only share podcasts that you actively recommend, rather than posting whatever you listen to.
As for making money, Curley suggested he was interested in exploring a variety of possibilities, whether that’s integrating with other subscription or tip services, or creating advertising opportunities around. promoting podcasts.
“My real answer is that there are a bunch of people trying to monetize right now, but I don’t think there is a platform even mature enough to even try to monetize podcasting right now, apart from podcasters who advertise themselves, ”he said. noted. “I think the endgame, where real money is made in podcasting, has yet to be imagined.”