🎢 Newsletter #37 - TikTok for Podcasts
+ Paul Strachman (Partner at Red Sea Ventures)
Hey there! Welcome to my email newsletter. My name is Leo Luo, a student entrepreneur at the University of Michigan. I write about founder stories, trends, fundraising, and unique behaviors in the consumer startup space.
All my previous posts can be found here.
Follow me on Twitter @_leoluo.
🍽 Today’s menu
Startup story - Shuffle (TikTok for Podcasts)
Investor POV - Paul Strachman (Partner at Red Sea Ventures)
What I’ve been reading - 6 articles about startups and investing + a shout-out
Who’s ballin’ this week - 6 new fundraising/developments in B2C space
Jobs - 10 full-time jobs and internship postings
Feedback - help me to deliver better content to you
🔥 Startup Story
TikTok for Podcasts
(Image credit: Shuffle)
I love podcasts. In fact, l listen to podcasts a lot more than I read books. They are a great way to learn more about different ideas from the top thinkers in the world. Podcasts like Venture Stories, How I Built This, and The Tim Ferriss Show have each helped to completely shift my paradigms and impact how I think about entrepreneurship, tech, and even life.
Shuffle is a mobile app aiming to make the experience of discovering and sharing ideas in podcasts easier. I had a fun time chatting with the CEO and Co-Founder of Shuffle, Ada Yeo, to learn more about the founding story behind Shuffle.
Growing up in Singapore, Ada was largely disconnected from the tech ecosystem. She was really interested in tech but never had a way to learn about it - not until she came across podcasts.
“I had access to all the greatest thinkers in the world for free. I learned a lot about tech from them. They made me want to become a VC and get into crypto.
Over time, I became this podcast person and people would come to me for podcast recommendations. I often found myself describing the podcast to them or sending them links when all I really wanted to share was a relevant point from the podcast. Thus, I thought there must be a better way to share and discover ideas in podcasts. That’s when my co-founder, Gilbert, and I decided to ideate and come up with ways to solve this problem, ” Ada explained.
💡 Problem Statement & Insight
“The key problem we're solving is that there's so much great podcast content locked up in a two-hour-long MP3 file. How do you make the format more consumable, more discoverable? You do that by transforming it into an easier format. A short one-minute video clip is easier to consume and then discuss, versus sending a two-hour long podcast recommendation since nobody has time for that nowadays, ” Ada elaborated.
🚗 Product Journey
First experiment (beginning of 2020) -
To test out the idea, Ada and her co-founder scraped together a YouTube playlist to test whether people would be interested.
“I would manually take the audio from the podcast, cut it, and add the title to essentially create a Shuffle clip, but a much uglier version of it. I strung together 10 clips on tech, showed 20 friends, and watched them swipe through the playlist to see if they found it either engaging or interesting.
The response was, ‘yeah, this is exactly why I listen to podcasts and now I'm interested in listening to these podcasts after hearing these clips’. We thought, ‘maybe there's something here’, so we started building more, ” Ada stated.
(The YouTube playlist Ada made)
MVP( June 2020) -
The Shuffle MVP was a simple mobile app that included just a feed of short podcast clips focusing on tech and venture, curated by Ada herself. Users were not able to make clips or comments. Ada and her team first targeted their techie friends.
“We gave the mobile app to 50 friends through TestFlight, waited a week, and then interviewed all of them to understand their needs and their thoughts on the product. Out of all the testers, about 5 people were using the app every day and some people used it once a week. Those few people that really loved the app gave us the confidence to pursue this further, ” Ada said.
Not only did the MVP give Ada and her team the confidence to pursue the project, but it also provided them with insights on what features to build next.
One of these insights was that after people discovered the podcast from the feed, they would go on to Apple Podcast to search for the clip. To address this, they built out a saving feature to allow people to save the podcast clip within the App and listen to it with one tap without leaving Shuffle
They, subsequently, built out a full podcast player to allow people to listen to entire episodes within the app. People could now comment, share, and easily create clips on Shuffle.
Currently - They launched their public Beta about three months ago and have seen thousands of clips created in the last few months with a diversity of content ranging from comedy to sports.
(Current Shuffle UI)
🤔 Failed experiments
1. Sharing extension app
“We tried building a sharing extension app. So you would be able to share the podcast from Spotify and Apple Podcast to Shuffle and create clips. The hypothesis was that this would be easier for people because they wouldn’t have to switch to a different app. We ended up learning a lot about iOS’s limitations, especially with sharing permissions. Most users didn’t want to go through the trouble.”
2. Clipping experience on the web
“Another thing we tried was a clipping experience on the web. You go to this website, select the transcript, and create a clip. It was somewhat successful but we found that to make it really retentive, we had to build a mobile app because most people just listen on mobile.
You want the acts of listening and clipping to be tied together. When you hear something good you want to clip it. You don't want to wait three days and then go to a website. It makes more sense.”
“The vision for Shuffle has remained unchanged since day one - it’s to surface the best ideas and stories currently locked up in long podcasts. We want to connect people to the content they care about in a quick, but also meaningful way.”
Check out Shuffle!
💡 Investor POV
Paul Strachman (Partner at Red Sea Ventures)
(Image credit: Paul Strachman)
Paul Strachman is a partner at Red Sea Ventures, an NYC-based fund that invests in early-stage startups building next-generation experiences for consumers and workers.
Originally from France, Paul started his career at Bain as a consultant where he focused on CPG and retail companies and led both turnaround and growth projects. He then left Europe to pursue his MBA at Stanford and subsequently moved to NY to join Equinox where he led strategy for over five years.
Paul is also my mentor so it was great to catch up with him again and write about his unique perspective on B2C investing.
🚀 Consumer trends that excite Paul the most
1. Direct-to-consumer healthcare
“We have seen a lot of companies emerge as vertically integrated healthcare solutions. They often focus on certain chronic conditions (diabetes, erectile dysfunction…) or try to replace certain specialties (gynecologists…). In terms of business models, they focus on prescription and/or care. One area we are very interested in is women’s health as it incorporates many key moments (puberty/contraception, fertility, specific conditions like PCOS, postpartum, or menopause).
On the menopause front, Caria is a good example. They offer a solution for women to track their symptoms, provide resources to deal with the symptoms, access to experts and a community for women going through it.”
2. Reinvention of “live” entertainment
“COVID has accelerated digitalization in many areas. Over the past year, “Live” entertainment had to reinvent itself as IRL experiences weren’t possible. Artists performed on social networks or streaming services, but those solutions do not recreate the uniqueness of a “live” event.
That’s why we made an investment (still unannounced) in a company enabling artists to produce unique shows and provide viewers a truly communal experience (with also the ability for differentiated experiences like VIP access).
We think that this year, with Covid still being an obstacle to IRL experiences, will help accelerate this category. The success of experiences like Travis Scott’s concert on Fortnite with 12 million live views has also demonstrated that online experiences can enable artists to reach a much more global audience than IRL events. We strongly believe that this trend will continue post-Covid with artists providing hybrid “live” experiences - IRL and online.”
“I think we are heading towards more personalization, specifically around beauty. Prose - focused on shampoo - is a great example. Decades ago, consumers were only limited to items on the store shelves of a Walmart. With the explosion of the internet and the removal of the physical barriers of a store shelf, we have seen an explosion of choice with the decision-making burden shifting towards consumers. People are now more and more looking for guidance around their choices.
We came up with key elements for brands or retailers to address this choice equation -C = 4Cs (curation, customization, community, and consultation). ”
🤔 Common mistakes that early-stage founders make
Mistake #1 - Thinking that not having a board is a good thing
“I understand founders’ preference for less governance, especially in the beginning but I personally believe that setting up a board early can be extremely helpful to founders. A board forces a structure on founders. The board meetings provide an opportunity for the founding team to step back and look at the business more strategically when it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. ”
Mistake #2 - not spending money wisely after a raise
“I think it’s critical for founders to manage burn wisely after a raise. It’s normal to want to increase your burn as you just received a new cash infusion, but founders should still remember that increasing your burn for the sake of it, especially in areas where you haven’t necessarily identified the right acceleration formula (ramping up your sales team for example) can be dangerous.”
Mistake #3 - not firing fast
“Hiring mistakes are common and often inevitable. It’s not a big deal and sometimes it helps refine your approach to recruiting (who you’re looking for). One of my professors at Stanford always told us to hire slow but fire fast.
Of course, in the startup world, you shouldn’t be too slow, but it would be a mistake to rush to hire. However, if you believe that someone isn’t working out in your company, it’s critical to make a fast decision to “fire” the person. Having the wrong person in a position can be more damaging to the company than having an open position (team morale, performance, company image…). ”
📚Books that have impacted Paul the most
Influence by Robert Cialdini - “It goes through many psychological biases we all have and how people use them to influence people, such as anchoring. It is an actionable book that helps you to think about how to influence people. It is a book I almost always recommend to people.”
The Design of Everything Things by Don Norman - “The book is more about physical items but can also apply to digital products. It is a great way to understand how users approach new products and experiences (rationally, emotionally, cognitively) and how great design can help make those experiences ‘intuitive’.”
Feel free to reach out to me if you are an early-stage founder that is currently fundraising right now.
I would love to help and pass on the deck to investors in my network!
👨💻 What I’ve been reading
The journey of how two Asian-Americans built a healthy instant ramen brand
Choose bad competition - find valuable opportunity by changing the game (Greylock)
20 Months in, 2K Hours Spent and 200K € Lost - A Story About Resilience and the Sunk Cost Fallacy
Survey Results: 14 VC & Founder Predictions for 2021
No Meetings, No Deadlines, No Full-Time Employees (Gumroad)
My year in data - I logged my activities at 15-minute intervals for the whole year
***A special shout out to another great substack newsletter - First 1000
First 1000 is a newsletter where we dive deep about how founders got their first 1000 customers (personally some of my favorite issues have been those of Tinder and Spotify). Join executives from Stripe, Google, Snapchat, Bloomberg, Business Insider. I recommend everyone to check it out!
🏀 Who’s ballin this week
Twitter acquires social podcasting app Breaker, team to help build Twitter Spaces
Niantic buys competitive gaming platform Mayhem
Hopin buys livestreaming startup StreamYard for $250M as it looks to expand its product lineup
Kyte raises $9 million to deliver rental cars to your doorstep
Local news app News Break raises $115M
Roblox raises at $29.5 billion valuation, readies for direct listing
😍 Jobs & Internships
Apply - Hopin - Program Manager (Remote)
Apply - Rhapsody Ventures - VC Associate (Boston)
Apply - Upstream - Software Developer (Remote)
Apply - Embark - Growth Analyst (Boston)
Apply - Redpoint - VC Associate (SF)
Apply - CasaOne - Operations Intern (Remote)
Apply - Airtime - Video Creative Intern (Remote)
Apply - Creandum - VC Intern (Remote)
Apply - Z Fellows - Fellow (Remote)
Apply - Interact - Fellow (NorCal)
If you have reached this far, could you please take 30 seconds to fill out this quick survey? It will help me to improve the newsletter and deliver you more interesting content in the future. Means a lot to me ♥️.
**P.S. I have adopted many of your suggestions in the past (e.g. having more bullet points, changing the order of the content, creating an archive for all previous posts, etc) so I hear you!
↺ What you might’ve missed in the last three weeks
01/03 - Story of Run the World (Virtual event platform) + Rex Woodbury (Principal at Index Ventures)
12/27 - Story of Consumer Startups (end of year reflection)
12/20 - Story of Jemi (Shopify for content creators) + Saar Gur (Partner at CRV)
Check out all the startups and investors I have featured in the past on
this Notion board