Yong: Welcome back to Our Young Creators – The Podcast. Our guest today is Simon Marcus the CEO of Pippa. Now you’ve heard me talk about Pippa before on previous episodes. It’s my new favorite tool to get my podcast up and running quickly and easily. Simon, I would love to welcome you to the show.
Simon: You know it’s such an honor to be there. Thank you so much. And we’ve just been thrilled to have Our Young Creators with Pippa and now coming full circle to be able to appear on your podcast. Thank you so much.
Yong: Absolutely! And you know one of the things, before we dive into your story, is I have to just say that’s the level of service you give to podcasters is incredible. I was previously using a different company for hosting and you know the story that it was just problem after problem after problem and the service was just getting buried in e-mails and just never getting answered. So I want to first start by saying thank you and that was one of the deciding factors for me to switch because it was a big process to switch hosting companies after 100 episodes but so far it has absolutely been worth every moment we spent in the transition. So thank you.
Simon: It’s such a pleasure and you know that that really does validate a lot of what got us started with us making Pippa is that there are these content creators like you who put a lot of work and a lot of time and effort into crafting your show and making it right. And it feels like the tools in the service should be kept standard too. So that’s really what got us motivated to build this out.
Yong: Yes. Again I cannot vouch for that enough. I want to go back to pre- Pippa. I want to hear about how you got on this journey how you got to be working with podcasters and software development and just take us back to what that journey has looked like for you.
Simon: Sure. I’ve had a pretty varied and diverse past. I came from South Africa. That’s where I grew up and I came to the USA in 2010 to do grad school in philosophy. That’s how I arrived here. Now just about eight years ago, I went to grad school at NYU. Philosophy loved it. Loved the teaching. Loved the teaching and in a way a little more than research. I wasn’t entirely drawn to being an academic. And so I went to work at TED which I’m sure you’re familiar with the TED Talks. And it’s it was a fantastic environment it really great to kind of keep that intellectual muscle stimulated to be out in the real world of it too. So when I was I was at TED I was working on editorial and analytics and I’d say that that definitely sparked initial interest and thinking about new media and how people engage with them and how we can produce better content and measure it more effectively. And so in the way it is kind of germ for what would later become Pippa because there’s around about that time that it finally started listening to podcasts. I was a little late to the game. You know I had so many friends who were yelling at me out in front of us into this podcast. You got to listen to that one. Now, of course, I’m that friend to my friends yelling at them about what they have to listen to. But unfortunately, it’s become much easier to get to just to get into podcasting and to and for users in stunning growth and in terms of listenership.
Simon: But it felt to me like on the creative side, and on the on the production side, and specifically the publishing and analytics side there was a lot left to be desired. So you know fast forward a couple years after Ted I’d gone and worked to my brother in law to start out. I had a sat the first CFA exam to learn more about finance and economics. I was starting to get a bit of a better head for business and thought like I should stick to something that I kind of know and understand a little bit. And in this case, the things that I felt like I had a good grip on where Content technology where they just and so specifically decided hey let’s let’s go about understanding podcasts and how they work. And it’s an interesting environment as you know as I’m you know you’ve been involved with it much longer than I had you know. 100 episodes and that’s a real achievement and I guess it was interesting to me was it was just the things which seem kind of out of step with the existing kind of media. So if you think about how simple it is to manage video and to share you can share articles you can share videos you can share texting images with such ease that things like sharing podcasts, not so easy when it comes to distribution. You know that there are all these interesting technical challenges which I felt were really should be addressed and where I felt like after having done the homework and digging and understanding the technology there felt like oh yeah we can build something better.
Yong: So I was lucky enough to find just the best team of people to work with and we got started right. My co-founder whose name is Irwan and he was looking at iHeart Radio as a web developer there and he and I basically got started on this thing for just about nine months. We did that before we joined the technology accelerator program called TechStars which is a really wonderful accelerator and incubator for developing early-stage technology companies like ours by giving them mentorship and connections and investment as well. So that was really a good turning point and in terms our ability to improve the products and understand our customers and start to hire a bigger team to make this more of a reality. So since then, we’ve expanded. We’re now five people, still mostly software developers, which has been great to be able to deliver good products quickly. And we’re growing at quite a good pace right now. And besides just growing on our team side, we’ve now been able to expand our reach and podcasters quite a lot. So our numbers have literally doubled month over month the last three months and it’s just wonderful.
Simon: Thank you. Yeah, it’s an exciting time and yet we’re very proud of what I’m just trying to make sure that we keep the service quality really high even as we grow and maintain some of the things that really excited us about this business.
Simon: Thank you so much for sharing that story because I love that you have a very varied background and all those things put together is how you got here. That’s kind of how I view my life as well. I’ve lived a lot of different walks of life, lots of different hats I’ve worn, but the sum total of those things now creates something that’s really just exciting!
Yong: You mentioned new media. I want to talk about that a little bit because I work with a lot of families and kids – getting kids to come into this world of audio and production and really diving into tech because, you know, they’re spending a lot of time on their devices and I would love to be able to help them and their parents turn that time into creation time so THEY can become the next podcasters. They can be the next software developers. They can really lead the pack as far as being innovators for their generation. Tell me more about new media and where you see it going, particularly for the listenership of podcasts and maybe kids, and how they might play into this whole puzzle.
Simon: I think those are great questions. And I like that you’re nudging people to be not merely consumers but creators as well. And certainly, it’s way too easy just scroll through Facebook and just consume, consume, consume. But there’s something really exciting about being a creator. Truthfully that the tools are more accessible than ever and when it comes to podcasting, I think this is especially true because of the relatively low bar to entry when it comes to the kind of equipment you need. You don’t need a lot. A microphone would great. But you can really use your phone and use your computer and you can you can get set up creating a show or very simply. And I think for younger podcasters, this is an especially kind of exciting thing because we’re starting to see new technologies emerge around audio, which will definitely shape the future of the way that we’re all consuming content. So when it comes to Google home and Alexa, we’re seeing what people are realizing is just how powerful audio is. It’s not the kind of thing that is supplanted by video or replaced by video. It’s a completely distinct modality and it’s one which is here to stay. Audio is something that we can do while we do other stuff whether that’s you know running, or biking, or doing the laundry or just waking up in the morning. It’s something which you stay with us which has a distinct kind of impact upon ourselves. So I definitely think that we should look with some kind of ambition and optimism at how younger people who use this tech to create some exciting new ventures.
Yong: Absolutely. And thank you for saying that. We can literally use our phone because when people are new to podcasting, one of the challenges they tell me about is they’re a little scared about the tech. And we break it down and say really all you have to do is press record and you can share the audio with anyone. And now you’ve made it so easy for us to be able to record it and literally uploaded and distribute it across multiple platforms. And I got a notification from me today, which I was excited about, my podcast is now over at Spotify. So I love that, literally, with the click of a button, podcasts can now be syndicated on so many platforms – saving so much time for content creators on the backend. Because you see what used to be a really manual process to get all those, grab this, copy paste, put it there, put it there, so again, you know another thing where I just think that Pippa is really outshining the people who are out there doing this is that you make it so darn easy. And I and again I just don’t have enough words of gratitude for that because literally I mean you’re saving me hours every week and I just to appreciate it.
Simon: I’m so pleased to hear that. Thank you. That’s very kind. And yeah it’s great that’s it’s now on Spotify. Frankly, the more places people can listen the better. The easier it is for them to get content, the better. You just want your show heard as often as easily as possible. Makes sense.
Yong: Absolutely yes. And that’s another positive about podcasting because unlike video, I mean you can listen when there’s no Wi-Fi. You can literally be in the middle of the woods and you can take someone’s message and their brand with you wherever you are. There is something so powerful about being able to reach people from all walks of life in all areas of the world that have access to these podcasts. And again we create such a powerful platform.
Simon: Yeah totally agreed. And I’m really pleased you feel the same.
Yong: Absolutely. What advice would you give to kids and their parents if they’re thinking to themselves, you know I like technology. I don’t know what I want to do with it. What would you recommend are some steps that they can start exploring different platforms and finding out what resonates most with them?
: Yeah I mean it’s sort of comes to thinking about starting a podcast, the thing is a think is to to be gentle with yourself and to realize that starting out is going to be tough as it would be with absolutely anything. But to realize that the stakes are low. Don’t dump that pressure on yourself. Just try something and if it doesn’t work try something else. So in this case, starting with an idea that grabs. You know, it could be anything. Start with the stuff that you like to talk about, think about. A great way to do it as well it is if there is something you’re trying to learn about. Why not make a podcast about that? Like if you’re trying to get maybe you’re trying to get started in 3D printing or woodworking or who knows what it is maybe you’re excited to learn more about anime or some other topic that interests you, why don’t you try to document the process of you learning about this and like it if that’s a thing you’re trying to suave up on, get more get more information about. Start a podcast about what you’re going through. This experience, hey I want to more about manga and anime, and okay maybe I came interview this dude at a comic store who knows way more than I do. Maybe I can you know maybe we can watch the films and excerpt bits and pieces of that and then talk about it. There are all these ways to use your own interests as a jumping off point or a springboard for getting into podcasting. And I think the idea is that your own enthusiasm will carry you through. So if it’s something you’re interested in and you want to learn about it you’re excited about then that’s what makes for a great show.
Yong: I couldn’t agree more. When I talk to people about podcasting I ask the questions, “What could you talk about all day long? What excites you? Why do you get out of bed in the morning?” And usually, they can list you know 5, 6, 7, 12 things in a matter of minutes. And that gets them excited about it. Your idea of documenting your journey when you’re learning something new, that’s such a profound way to learn. And as a performing arts educator for 20 years now, that’s one of my favorite ways to check in with students and gauge their learning is that if they’re responsible for having to think about how to explain it to somebody else, learning happens so much more organically and authentically and it happens for them long term it’s not learning for the exam and they have to memorize these answers. They start internalizing these lessons and internalizing what it is that they know and how they learn and they create their own voice and their own way of being able to be their own teacher. So thank you for sharing that because I think that people often overlook what it is they’re good at and I’m guilty of this too. For a long time know I was looking at other places because I thought that’s what I wanted to do or I thought that’s what my parents wanted or society was expecting of me. But when I stepped away from that and really said you know what is it that I love and what comes easily to me, and in talking to other people they said, well why would she do this thing. And you know that’s how I ended up in this world of helping parents and kids really use technology as a tool for bonding because it was something I was already doing. But just now incorporating that technology bit so yes. So many great takeaways from everything you have shared with us today. So I would love to know if you have one parting piece of advice to kids and or their parents about the future and about media in their future?
Simon: Yes. So look I’m aware that this does display my own background a little bit in this answer, but it’s just that we’re in an environment where critical thinking has never been more important. And when it comes to the onslaught and the bombardment of media around there, your ability to reflect carefully on the origin of the news your reading and what it is the content is inclining you to believe and to be able to step back and unpack all of those propositions to say hey well what you know what kind of argument is being presented here and how is it that you know someone who disagrees you might respond a certain kind of listener empathy or reader empathy and critical thinking it might be the most important thing to cultivate at this stage.
Yong: Absolutely! That critical thinking piece I think is really key because when I look at how schools are set up and how they organize their day, there’s not really a lot of time for critical thinking and problem-solving. It’s literally kids being told what to do how to do it who to do it with when it’s due. And there is not a lot of room for original thought so being able to counter this notion of critical thinking in our kids, I think it’s so key to what the future holds and what they are going to unlock by being able to step back and really, like you said, and analyze and listen to things with intent and not just react to them but really sort of think about what that means not only to them but maybe to the bigger world. And from there, then create the response because with the advent of so much media now it is really easy to get into that trap of hearing the sensational story and having these so emotional pulling at your heartstrings. And that’s the whole point. But never giving people a chance to then really analyze what it is they are saying, view different sides of every story, and then come up with their own solution.
Simon: Yeah that’s what we should encourage.
Yong: Simon, if someone is interested in learning more about Pippa, or reaching out to you and talking about maybe your experience over at Ted, how can they best reach you?
Simon: Yes so as you all know, hilariously, that a very easy way to reach us is right on the Pippio.io website. That’s Pippa. And if you hop on there you’ll see a little intercom chat bubble where, hilariously, it comes straight through me and my team. And my phone. If you have a question, hit us up. It really does work. Otherwise, also obviously email, Simon@pippa.io – you can reach me there and of course, we’d be just delighted to connect to any of your listeners or any the people who you’re working with here, especially to encourage young people to do this. And we’ve had a bunch of students come on late lately. We’ve been able to offer them and special discounts because, of course, we don’t want cost to be any kind of inhibition to the creative work that they do. So if you’re a student, please let us know.
Yong: I will definitely make sure I include all of your contact information in the show notes for this page. And thank you so much for putting together some packages for students because you know they’re really my passion – these are these kids that we’re raising up to be leaders of next generation – my own 11-year-old included to be able to have her own platform and share her own stories and for all the kids out there – you know that is really what I want to create this community of kids who are creating amazing things and who in their own small way are impacting the world really you know in a huge way. So thank you so much for hopping on today with us and sharing your story and sharing your amazing software platform. Thank you.
Simon: It’s a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.