Castos raising outside funding to improve podcasting for creators

Castos raising outside funding to improve podcasting for creators
Audience
Castos raising outside funding to improve podcasting for creators
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Episode July 02, 2021 00:22:23

Hosted By

Matt Medeiros Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

In this episode Matt and Craig talk through the fundraising round that Castos has recently completed.

Castos, a leader in podcast hosting and analytics, has successfully closed an investment round of $756,000. With investments by Automattic, Joost de Valk of Yoast SEO, and individual investors, Castos will use this additional capital to fuel its advance into the Private Podcasting market. 

With podcasting, and audio content in general, showing no signs of slowing now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, Castos believes that the future of podcasting is in tools that allow creators to own their own content and distribution channels through Private Podcasting. 

Castos’ roots in the open source community through their Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin for WordPress along with the investment from Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com) further strengthens the ability for WordPress users to own their content, the platform that it’s built on, and the control they have over how it is distributed. WordPress with Seriously Simple Podcasting and Castos as the hosting engine means that podcasters can own their content and data, and the ability to manage Private Podcasts right from WordPress just enhances that ability.

Castos’ founder and CEO, Craig Hewitt, recounted “We have seen a significant increase in interest from customers with online courses, membership sites, and digital communities wanting to provide exclusive podcast content to those members, as well as companies wanting to provide private podcast content for their employees. We see this as an area of the podcasting market that’s at a tipping point, starting to explode in popularity.”

With Castos’ existing Zapier integration, REST API, and direct integrations with tools like Elementor, Descript, MemberSpace, AdBarker, and Alitu, the company will continue to give podcasters the tools and extensibility they need to harness the power of audio to grow their brand...whether that’s externally with customers, or internally with their teams.

Hewitt said that “We hear from companies over and over again that they’re looking for the ‘Step Away Experience' where employees can engage with their internal content without having to be glued to a screen. Something that is remote first, asynchronous, audio-based, on demand….and of course, hyper secure. Private podcasting fits the bill perfectly for these companies, and that’s what we’re delivering to brands across the globe.”

Castos has been, to this point, a mostly self-funded company, taking only a small investment when joining the TinySeed startup accelerator in 2019. Today they are a team of 13 located in 4 continents, serving thousands of passionate podcasters all across the world. 

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to put this investment to work in furthering our product offering, continuing to build out our team, and provide podcasters with the solutions they need to better connect with their audiences.” Hewitt said. The majority of the funds will be used to build out their sales and marketing teams, and on designers and developers to accelerate work on their suite of products.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:06 Hey, Craig, welcome back, Matt. How's it going? You know, stuff is happening here at Castro's when you show up on the podcast and without, you know, just, we just had a short breadth of time since the last time you were on. And well, Speaker 1 00:00:23 We're going to dive into some then exciting stuff, hopefully some fun and exciting stuff. Not only for our castles customers, but for the audience listener for podcasters and large. If you're on the fence about joining this podcast movement, and you're looking at Casos as your home base for this, maybe today's discussion will make you feel a little bit better about choosing Casos or if you want to jump ship from another co another hosting company we're right here for you right here for you for a long time after you hear today's news. But Greg, let's start with something a little bit lighter. I think we chatted about this before in a previous episode, we're in the middle of doing a migration of the podium podcast, hosting company, bringing over the podium podcast customers. Do you have a takeaway from this experience so far that you'd like to share good, bad otherwise? Speaker 1 00:01:14 Yeah. Yeah. So I think first of all, it's been great, but I want to, I want to mention something before I dive into that, Matt, and it is that, like, we talk a lot about having a platform to share kind of what's going on with you and your world and your brand with your audience. Right. And that's a lot of what this show is, right? This show is like, maybe it's only when I come on, but, but no, you, you talk a lot about, I know one of your most recent episodes was talking about the step away experience, right? And that is a kind of idea and a concept and movement, maybe that we're, we're pioneering and we're wanting to really drive forward. And we use, I hope very responsibly this podcast and this platform and this connection we have with our audience as a way to share these ideas that we have. Speaker 1 00:01:55 And I think that for me, it is like the, like putting into practice what we think and what we believe and what we try to share with our customers. And like, what we're going to talk about today, I think is another example of that is like, yeah, it's not how to podcast or the latest, you know, best podcasting microphone to share and all this kind of stuff, but it's really like what we think and what we believe and who we are and what we're building here. And hopefully that really resonates with people. And so just generally like to have the opportunity to do this is really special for me to say like, Hey, we have a bunch of really amazing stuff happening at the company. And by the way, we can share this in a really cool way, which is like in a podcast episode with people that are already kind of connecting with us and what we do. Speaker 1 00:02:35 So as a preamble to all of this, just really cool, like very meta in a very, in a very good way for me. But talking about the podium transition. Yes, it's been great overall, you know, I think first of all, like mark and the team at podium have been really great to work with and helping us be prepared to make this transition successfully. We are recording this on the day or the day before we will kind of flip the switch and redirect websites and feeds and all of this kind of stuff. We brought all of the content over into the Castillo's platform. As of today, it's been a really great experience so far, you know, I think the one thing talking about a brand and a voice and a tone maybe is that's been the biggest surprise and a really pleasant way is that the brand and the tone and the reputation and kind of the feel that mark and podium had. Speaker 1 00:03:24 I kind of knew of it, but I didn't know to the extent that it was ingrained in, in, you know, the brand and the customers and the experience there, but it's a really strong brand. And I think we're very lucky to be the ones carrying that forward and kind of being stewards of that brand. It's a lot of responsibility for us, right? To, to say like, wow, this, you know, it's not just acquiring company X with no real face or, or brand or name or vision or anything, but yeah, really strong brand and way that people think about their podcasting experience there. And so big shoes for us to fill. I'm excited about it taking a lot of like that, even some of the feature functions of podium and bringing that into, to cast those. And we're learning a lot on how that worked with customers over there. Speaker 1 00:04:07 So it's a great learning experience from the product side of the house. It's only going to make hopefully the overall platform better. And speaking of better because things are pretty busy over here. Like, like I was hinting at, we have through podium, the integration with D script, which is by far and large, my favorite podcast editing. And we definitely talked about this on one of the previous episodes and I was using it the other day and I'm like, oh man, this is just a godsend. And like, like I just can't wait to just be able to just do this across all of the podcasts that I do. We're getting some wins with that. Right? So we, the acquisition of brand and reputation and stuff like that. But then these feature functions that we're bringing over to the platform overall, which we're going to make better in the future. It's exciting. It's exciting to roll out that in a bunch of other things that we have in the pipeline, which we can't even talk Speaker 0 00:04:57 About now, we'll have you back on to talk about Speaker 1 00:04:59 That when that's live. So just like a ton of like positive stuff coming to, coming to the castles, to the platform and, and to the customers. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that they, a lot of them fall into two buckets. Really one is our continued enhanced focus on the creator, right? The creator and the creative process and things and tools and information that people need to create great content for their audience. I think that's like the overarching thing that everything we do and the script is squat falls squarely in that bucket. And I think the other one is private podcasting, right. Is the ability for customers to engage with their audience in a different way, different types of content, different formats. And even like, I think that we've hinted at it, our upcoming mobile app, right? So cross platform, iOS and Android, the ability for your private podcasters, private podcast, subscribers to receive all of their content in one place, they don't have to futz around with this feed and put it in apple. Speaker 1 00:05:58 And what's a private feed and I don't listen to podcasts somewhere else or, Hey, I'm a company. Can I white label this for my own use and have it be, you know, company X radio app on my employee's phones. And that's what we're going to be rolling out here in the next couple of weeks. But I mean, all of that, all of our focus, really Matt, right? It's around tools for creators and that spans public and private podcasting. And on the private side, just a ton of tools to make it easier and better for, for brands to engage with people in a really special way. All of this is culminating to a ton of stuff that we have to support. Right? We have the features, the functions, the platform, like you said, we're really pushing the boundaries of podcast, hosting companies. There's a lot of podcasts in companies out there. Speaker 1 00:06:44 You know, we all largely do the same thing with podcast hosting, but then it's all of these unique areas that we like to hit. And not only in our branding and in our mission statement, but when we start putting these tools together, we can really identify the type of podcast hosting customer. We want, maybe if you're listening to this, that's the type of customer podcast podcaster you are. And you're saying, yeah, these are the tools I need for the specific function that I do with my podcast. And let's not forget we have our WordPress plugin, which is like, like, if you think we're in this universe over here, we're also in this other universe of this pot of this podcast, plugin. I mean, sure. It's the glue to a lot of WordPress websites, but it's also like a platform that we have customers that use it, who never even look at like the Casto side, like we're supporting like this free podcast hosting solution done right on your WordPress website. Speaker 1 00:07:36 And people never look at it. It's a gross, I guess it's a great alternative to anchor, right? When people say, oh, I'm going to start a, I don't want to invest in anything yet. I'm going to start a podcast. I'm gonna do this thing free over here on anchor. And they're gonna take all my data and all my content, all this stuff. Well, we do that too, but we do that over on WordPress. I mean, we do that too. As in, we do a free podcast hosting solution right over there on WordPress. So if you're a WordPress user, you have this plugin and now we're just like fusing all of this stuff. So it's going to take some support. It's going to take, it's going to take some more people. It's going to take some more branding and some more technology. What do you have in store for us to help us on this mission of helping podcast creators? Speaker 1 00:08:19 It's a bit of need that. Yeah. We, we have a lot of bodies here. We're a team of 13 people, as we're talking today, 14 will be joining in about a week and a half and then 15 and 16 kind of right after. And that's all super exciting, but it's also like the opportunity we have to serve more creators that we're really excited about. And like the, the drum roll of it is, is I think that the exciting thing is that we're announcing today of the day, this episode goes out that we've just completed a pre-seed fundraising round to give us more resources, to, to add team members and very specialized kind of ways and areas of the company to help creators, right, to help creators, to help companies and brands with private podcasts. And, and that is a lot of why we raised money and, and what the new resources will come to. Speaker 1 00:09:09 And what the research will be used for is, is adding team members, expanding kind of the things that we can do and the things that we can offer to our customers, that podcast and audio podcasting and audio is a hot market, is not doing it justice. Like we know, I mean, maybe we're just so close to the road on this stuff that we just see all of the action, all of the traction, Amazon acquiring a podcast hosting company, Facebook now getting into the game, God bless you for doing podcasts. We need to know that there's there's movement. There's traction everywhere. There's excitement everywhere. There's interest everywhere. But I want to just ask you, and I know you have your own business show, your own entrepreneur show that you host with Dave Rodenbach. And I'm sure you'll talk about the real in the business weeds stuff over there, but you can go ahead and say like who the investors are and why they were important, because I know you could probably go and gone anywhere and throwing a stone down the street and hit an investor that that would give you money to invest into the company. Speaker 1 00:10:15 But I'm interested to know why you chose and why you chose the path that you chose to raise money. First of all, there, there's a lot of different impressions of companies that raise money. I think out there, you know, there are a lot of fears from probably our customers, oh my gosh, Casos raised money. They're going to go be anchor, right. And just be this massive, you know, profit and growth that at any cost kind of company. And that is absolutely not the case. That is not who we are and not who we are going to become. And I think it talks to the investors and the type of investment that we took and that we raised that gives us the flexibility, frankly, to still be ourselves. Right. Cause that is, that is a really big thing. When a company goes to raise money, you, you kind of have two choices, one, you can kind of do what we did or you can go the real kind of, and this is probably gonna, you know, not make some friends, but go there. Speaker 1 00:11:07 We're going to real true venture route where you're going to be a billion dollar company or not. And a lot of people are going to be mad if it's the not, or you kind of go the route that we went, where we raised just over $750,000 from about a dozen investors. And a lot of them are our kind of individuals, right? So, you know, friends, family, investors, people in the tech space that, that we all kind of know, but two of them were companies that a lot of people that listen to this podcast probably know, and those are automatic and the Yoast SEO. So automatic, Matt, what would you call it? The parent company of WordPress, the company behind wordpress.com. Right. So I think that that's an amazing partner for us to have on our side, frankly, to have, you know, put their money where their mouth is, right. Speaker 1 00:11:52 In terms of backing and saying, Hey, we believe that this company is doing something special in the podcasting space, both in kind of like the creator space, right. You know, publishing marketing brand kind of activities, but also in the private podcasting space. And then Yoast, SEO, like pretty much hands down, like one of the biggest plugins in the WordPress environment and an extremely successful company and staying true to their open source roots, WordPress and automatic, obviously as well, WordPress powers, what does 35, 40% of the internet at this point and in a completely free. And so for us, the ability to have those two as investors in this round with us was a really fantastic, like nod that like we're on the right path, we're doing something that companies that are extremely successful really believe in and are aligned with us and, and kind of where we come from and where we want to go. Speaker 1 00:12:44 And that we are not out to grow at any cost. We're here to do the right thing, as you said, in a really interesting market and environment, but do it the right way with now partners and resources, financial and kind of network resources that that will allow us just to do better than we could have if we didn't raise this money. And I, I don't want this to get glossed over when Craig says to do it the right way. It doesn't mean like technically right way or like the financially technically right way, but the right way for the customers and, you know, tip of the hat to you, Craig for going down that path, because, you know, like I was, I was trying to, to allude to you or paint the picture for you is like you could have turned probably literally to any investment company and said, please give me money for this podcast thing. Speaker 1 00:13:32 And they would've said, yes, here you go. But then you're beholden to, you know, whatever that, whatever values let's just say that they have as investors. And that's not something that you wanted, not only for yourself, but for the Castle's customers. And I don't think, you know, again, I'm just giving you, giving my boss kudos on his podcast because it's not something that everyone thinks of. And you certainly did. And I saw the sleepless nights you had going through the, going through the motions of, because it was not any, it's not an easy task. Right. One would think that, yeah, it's just, okay. It turned to automatic. I turned to Yoast. They hand me some money and you know, we're off to the races cause we're WordPress. Why wouldn't they, like, you still had to prove it out, pitch yourself. I'm sure. And, you know, go through, you know, some, some turbulent areas that maybe you've not explored before. Speaker 1 00:14:19 And also probably having to think I am, I'm now taking on somebody else's risk and that's not easy either when you look at it from the investor side. So, you know, kudos to you for thinking about that, putting the customers first, putting the company second, to put that in a nice way. Like you're thinking about the customers, you're thinking about the company and you probably in this case put yourself third, which is not an easy task to do. Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I think when you, when you decide that the, the company would be better off with more resources right. Which is kind of the first step. And so we did that and then the decision, and there is kind of what, what kind of resources do we need? Like you mentioned, like the, the true venture track is growth, right? Everything is about growth that, that takes you down a certain path, right? Speaker 1 00:15:00 The path we went down, the goal is still growth. Right. But it is growth by doing the right things with the right people at the right time, in the right way. And it just gives us a little more flexibility. And again, like I look at, at both automatic and, and Yost, frankly, as companies, we want to be, you know, we talked about with, with, you know, podium and mark that, you know, maybe cast doses is a step or two ahead of where mark is at this stage. And those companies are five or 10 or a hundred steps ahead of where we are. But now we don't get, just to say, it would be great to be more like automatic or Yost, but, you know, we have an in like a direct line with, with those folks now we're connected with them. We talked to them on a regular basis and they're really aligned with, with what we're doing. Speaker 1 00:15:46 And, and that's, that's really cool. I mean, it's, it's a lot more than just money that, that we're able to do with this partnership and really, really excited about what it means for, for us and the company and the customers on that order. Right. For the customers first and for the company and the platform and the things that we're able to offer. Yeah. And when I look at, you know, I'm, I have a close ear to the WordPress space. It's something that I evaluate a lot. And one, I mean, for both companies, but so for automatic, you'd say that they would probably look at our values and how we approach podcasting in the same. I mean, obviously we have the WordPress plugin, it's, there's obviously a dedication to open source there because you'd have to be crazy to continue with that. If you, if you had no care about open source. Speaker 1 00:16:28 So they're looking at that and saying, you know, we love the way that you do your plugin probably, but we also love the way you approach open source or the open nature of, of podcasting. Like we're not trying to, you know, don't confuse like private podcasting with like a closed ecosystem. It's, it's giving creators options to monetize and share their content in different ways. But we really value like the openness of podcasting, the RSS feed. Right. For, for first and foremost. So automatically automatic probably loves that. And then you have Yoast as old as the podcasting industry is, it's still a very young game, like in terms of like optimizing a podcast, SEO for podcast, I'm sure Yoast looks at this as like an interesting opportunity. Like how do we get to the forefront of, of podcasting of like audio search? Like this is such so such at the beginning or the early days of podcasting and SEO. Speaker 1 00:17:24 Like, we're just seeing hints of it out there. I don't care what any snake oil blog posts you read about like search and rank. Like it's not easy, it's difficult. And it's all these little closed silos that are out there. I think if you being with us and that's sort of like strategic forefront there, they got a nice opportunity for themselves to, to, to be the first in line in this market. At least that's the way that I, I don't know if you see it that way. Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I think that, you know, us being able to stay true to our open source roots is a really big part of, of this and the way we did it, there absolutely will be an integration with Yoast coming and actually maybe very soon. And that's really cool. Cause yeah, search, you know, Matt, what is the first question? Speaker 1 00:18:06 Maybe the second question we get one, how do I do this? And what the heck does an RSS feed? And then the number two question is how do I get more, more listeners? And how do I get my first question might be, which microphone do I buy? But yeah, fair enough. Fair enough. Anybody who's published that first episode now is how do I get more people to my website, enlist on my podcast and SEO, right? Search engine optimization is hands down like the easiest, most evergreen, just set it and forget it and let it run way to, to grow people coming into your site, check out your brand. And yeah, I mean, having, having a better integration and frankly just doing a better job of letting search engines like Google know about this thing on your website is a podcast and it has a host and it's part of a feed and it has, you know, speakers coming in the future and it's about this topic and you can find them on Twitter, all of these kinds of things, they call it a graph, right? Speaker 1 00:18:57 A network graph of SEO to kind of tie all those pieces together. Nobody else is doing this. Literally. Nobody does this at all in the whole podcasting space. And so it's just great for us to get the chance to, to be able to offer this a hundred percent for free, right. To all plug in users, whether they host with cast us or not. It's really cool. Well, Matt, I wanted to, I wanted to mention something else that, and this is like patting ourselves on the back, but like indirectly like a huge part of the opportunity for us to be able to do this is you and the rest of the team. Right. Because nobody invests in technology really because it's, it's not the hardest part. Right? The hardest part is the people. And, and it's the thing I'm most proud of. We did, we did a town hall, right? Speaker 1 00:19:39 When we, when we first announced the podium acquisition and I built, uh, a little map of, of the Castillo's team and had little dots all over the world, right? Cause we're in four different continents of where our team is. And, and you were kind of giving me a hard time saying like, I bet Craig was really proud of that map. And I am, I'm super proud of that map. And, and you know, we, as a company are building some incredible product, but for me at the place I am really is building the product of our company. And that's really what, what I sold a lot when we were raising this money is, is you could go fork this seriously, simple podcasting plugin right now, and it's yours and you go do whatever you want. That's the beauty of open source. And yeah, like you mentioned, Matt, a podcast hosting platform is not super complicated. Speaker 1 00:20:19 There's a Ruby on rails tutorial to build the entire thing. Right. And I think some of our competitors probably use that, but, but it's everything else from there. Right. And that's really what we are and the value that we have. And so, you know, to not to kind of pat ourselves on the back, but to pat y'all on the back, you are a team that is just amazing, like what we're doing and what we've built, and now the resources to do more and do better and to be really deliberate and thoughtful about it because we just have more flexibility. And we have all the optionality that we had before, which is the really big thing. So we are not holding to do this because they say, we have to, right. We say, we're going to do this because the best thing, and those investors and partners have bought into our vision and they want us to keep doing what we think is best. Speaker 1 00:21:07 Yeah. That's fantastic. I'll take that. And I appreciate your words and what are the kids say these days? I mean, we're dripping in features Lawson we're dripping in fee. I don't know what it is, but you know, it you're hinting at so many other features coming this way with SEO and what we're doing with these scripts and our soon to be app, I'm sure you'll be back on the podcast again, congrats on, you know, raising this round and bringing the company forward. Once again, folks who are listening, check us out at castles.com/audience. If you have any questions, fire us an email. [email protected] Try something new. Review us on pod chaser, go to pod chaser.com. Search for us there. The audience podcast, leave us a review in pod Jayce or Craig. Anything else before we take off? No, it's just really fun. Again, to be able to come on and chat about this. I hope everybody found it. Interesting. I know this is not a, you know, kind of like podcast 1 0 1 or maybe even like how to be a better podcast or, but I think a big part of what we hope the value of this is, is to get to know us and our company better. And that was our goal with this. And hopefully that's, that's cool for everybody out there. So thank you for taking the talk to the lesson.

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