With over 45 million unique plays in June this year, Swedish start-up Acast has truly revolutionised not only the podcasting and media industry but also how media is consumed. The LINK took the opportunity to talk to its founders, Måns Ulvestam and Karl Rosander, to discuss entrepreneurship, the changes of the media industry, and the “secret sauce” of Acast’s success.
Acast, for those of you who do not use it already, is a podcasting service aiming to serve all its stakeholders. Podcast listeners can easily browse and find podcasts of interest to them as well as sharing content on social media.
“Imagine listening to a podcast and hearing something really striking that you want to share with your friends. Instead of linking the whole podcast, you can just share the parts you really like. We find it unbelievable that this was not possible before!,” says Ulvestam.
Acast also provides an opportunity for the podcast creator to share pictures and videos and hence connect more with the listeners. This closer connection between producer and consumer is mutually beneficial;
“Podcast creators can follow how people consume their content, and how long they listen, which is a great tool for adapting the content to maximise the number of loyal followers,” Ulvestam continues.
Many followers make it possible for a podcast creator to make money from ads, which Acast have been trying to use by providing dynamic ad metrics, making it possible to change ads over time.
The recently launched marketplace for podcasts, Acast+ also makes it possible for podcast creators to share exclusive material to listeners who are willing to pay. Acast has high ambitions on becoming the one-stop platform for podcasts.
Måns Ulvestam and Karl Rosander, founders of Acast
Ulvestam and Rosander believe that their previous experience of digital media, but also some luck making the right assumptions about the future of the industry were some of the factors behind the business idea.
“We have been working in the digital industry for a long time, long before it even was an industry. Seeing media and certainly the podcasting industry emerge and grow, but then not develop oven ten (!) years, made it a sweet spot for us on the market. We did not go out and look for inspiration to create Acast, the idea came to us as the market was under-served and lacked a complete solution for all its stakeholders,” says Rosander.
“There has been a series of fortunate events leading us to where we are today. The fact that our assumptions about the growth of the podcasting industry were correct are of course essential, but also the decline of broadcast media has been important for the success of Acast” says Ulvestam.
The slump in broadcast media and the emergence of media on-demand may seem like a chicken-and-egg correlation, but causality aside, Acast have been lucky with timing.
“Of course our investors and employees have been invaluable for us, and we should be honest and say that the popularity of the podcasting series The Serial has probably had an impact of the growth of Acast,” Rosander says.
That fortune favours the brave is definitely true for many success stories in entrepreneurship, but the road to success is not always only dependent upon luck and good timing.
“In the fast-paced environment we operate, small everyday-tasks can seem unnecessarily time-consuming, but not paying attention to these details could be detrimental for your business,” says both Ulvestam and Rosander.
Being brave and trying to move an industry in a new direction takes a lot of courage, but daring to take that leap of faith with the opportunity to succeed (and risk to fail!) is according to both Rosander and Ulvestam what has been most rewarding running Acast;
“If you believe you are right about something, it could be anything really, you work hard to prove it, and then finally you are proven right. That feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment is the reward for being an entrepreneur, and what makes all those hours of hard work worth it”
The experience extracted going from an idea to one of Sweden’s most successful start-ups has resulted in valuable insights to other aspiring entrepreneurs.
“One lesson learnt for us, trying to disruptively change the whole media industry, has been that trying to change how people think about a thing, takes much longer than you think,” says Rosander.
Ulvestam continues; “If you want to break through with your idea, you have to do all the obvious; like research the market, competition and consumer needs, but in order to really be successful and call yourself an entrepreneur you need to focus on revenue. Without revenue it is not a company, it is a hobby.”
You might see entrepreneurs as being eccentric, creative souls who needs to be their own boss as they could not take instruction or follow directions given by anyone else. “Creative” and “entrepreneurial” have almost become synonymous with bean bags, video games and a laissez-faire mentality these days, but Ulvestam gives us a different picture of running a start-up;
“At Acast we believe that a successful company consists of three components. You need a solid business idea (and of course, to time it right). You then need the right talent to carry that idea through. And last but not least, that talent has to work hard. The more ping pong tables you have in your start-up, the less successful it will be”.
The future is yet to be written, but as actors of the media industry Ulvestam and Rosander have their ideas about how the industry may change over the coming years; “We have already seen a shift in how people consume media, as traditional broadcasting is more and more replaced with on-demand services. These will continue to grow into something yet unknown, and with technology allowing on-demand media producers to use data insights to create content, we believe more will become available, which in turn will further nurture the industry”.
When asking about the future for Acast, we first receive a humble, quite typically Swedish answer.
“We prefer to launch first and talk later,” says Rosander.
However he thinks for a moment and then speaks again.
“We are certain that Acast will be the number one podcasting platform globally”.
No doubt you need to aim for the stars, truly believe in your idea, and if we should trust Rosander and Ulvestam, being willing to work hard and play less ping pong is what is needed to be a successful entrepreneur.