Sounder, the podcast management and monetization platform, has raised $1.8 million in a seed financing round. The company, launched in September by former Google and Spotify executives, says its main mission will be to make podcasts it hosts more discoverable. It will do that by leveraging what it is calling its Pinpoint Audio Search technology. The company will use the proceeds to make several key hires, marketing initiatives and further development of its end-to-end podcast management platform.
“Investors see what many of us see, which is it is still very early in this opportunity and industry,” said Kal Amin, co-founder and CEO of Sounder. “We have got a team of former Googlers and Spotify-ers who have an understanding of how to build platforms with technology, and that’s been really exciting from an investor standpoint.”
The funding round was led by Ulu Ventures, with participation from Newark Venture Partners, Xoogler.co, a community of Google alumni and current Google employee investors, and individual Spotify and Google executive angel investors. That’s not surprising since Amin previously worked at Spotify and Google. And fellow co-founder and COO Dan Daugherty is also a Google veteran.
Illustrating investor interest in podcasting, Amin said Sounder originally sought to raise $1.5 million, but the offer was well-received and they ended up topping that target by $300,000. While just announced on Tuesday, the fundraising was completed in January, well before what’s now occurring in the financial markets. “The market is obviously very volatile given the news,” said Amin, who thinks “time will tell” what impact it has on the ability for podcast companies like his to raise money. “The way that we’re thinking about this is being very fiscally responsible and making sure we’re investing in technology, the right team, while at the same time keeping an eye on the budget and making sure we do this in a way that allows us to scale from where we are today to the next major growth,” he said.
Sounder’s patent-pending system allows users to locate and share precise moments in any podcast through simple text search. Sounder’s pitch to individual podcasters is that it will offer free hosting, transcription and Pinpoint Audio Search services to users of its platform. Amin said the new capital will help him build a team to build out his vision of creating an end-to-end podcast management platform.
“There’s a tremendous amount of investment that’s been put in the audio and podcast ecosystem. Our belief is that a lot of those services are looking for a platform that can help connect the dots between creators and services,” said Amin. “We like to think of ourselves as building the Shopify for podcasting. We are building a platform where we can connect all of these services – everything from creation, editing, all the way to music and membership models – with the creators. Our belief is that an open environment allows for choice, innovation and it gives the creators the ability to find things that they really need to create better quality content.”
Since launch, Sounder has so far amassed thousands of shows and millions of streams in more than 50 languages worldwide. “We believe it’s a global play,” said Amin. “We haven’t localized any of our sites for around the world or any of the backend, and even with that we’re seeing interest coming in from around the world.” That, in addition to a lot of customer outreach among podcasters large and small, is why he believes Sounder is on the right path.
As a technology company, Amin believes Sounder’s best move is to keep a focus on hosting, transcribing, search and discoverability tools. While other hosting platforms like Acast and Audioboom have branched out into content creation during the past year, Amin said that’s not a move he expects Sounder will replicate.
“We believe we are much more of a technology stack. We’re infrastructure for all creators and our goal is to take our technology to market for everybody to use,” Amin said. He added, however, that Sounder could eventually add podcast creation tools to its offering, but said it remains an open question whether the company would develop them on its own or work with a partner.