Startup | Founder | Entrepreneurship| Podcast | Audio
“Audio is going to be the next medium. Everyone will use audio as a community communication between each other. Instead of text, photos, and videos. We are coming back to that part where audio is like mainstream,” Artavazd Yeritsyan, CEO & Founder of Podcastle.
In this Episode of HyeTech Minds, I sit down with Artavazd Yeritsyan, CEO & Founder of Podcastle. Podcastle is an AI and Machine Learning empowered software that converts text news/articles to a podcast in seconds.
Artavazd has been a VP of Engineering ta PicsArt- the #1 photo editing app and the first Armenian-based unicorn. Artavazg also is a member of the Forbes technology council. In 2020, during the war in Armenia, Artavazd was able successfully to launch his startup and in a very short period of time turned it into a successful business, raising 1.75million seed funds in just 4-5 months.
Topics we talk about:
– Artavazd’s startup journey!
– Secrets to the successful pitch strategy!
– Next big thing for podcasting?
-How to put Armenia on the international tech scene?
Artavazd’s bio: CEO & Founder of Podcastle. Artavazd is a former VP of Engineering ta PicsArt- the #1 photo editing app and a member of the Forbes technology council.
Narine: Hello Artavazd, I’m super excited to have the founder of one of the successful Armenian led startups that revolutionized the podcasting world – Podcastle on my show at HyeTech Minds. How are you doing today?
Artavazd: Hello, thank you for the invite
Narine: Before jumping to our conversation, can you tell a bit about you?
Artavazd: I’m Arto. My full name is Artavazd. But people call me Arto. usually. Especially in the US, people are having a hard time pronouncing my name. Before the Podcastle, I was a VP of engineering at PicsArt. You may know that one of the Armenian unicorns, the biggest one. And I was there for about seven years. And before I was in a company called Be2, which was a Armenian branch of the company called East Pyroxene. Munich, Germany. They were doing the software for matchmaking, dating, dating, similar to Tinder. I was a tech, one of the tech leads there. And yeah, the idea of podcasts old came to me, during my time at Picsart. So basically, being an executive, being a manager is like, there’s a hustle. And you’re having a hard time to read something, and digest the information. So I just decided to create a simple plug-in for my only use, so that I can convert any existing articles, blog posts, and I think that I need to read audio podcast form. So I can listen to that, that, that from that. That was the point where the idea came from.
Narine: I love hearing startup stories. Every startup story has an interesting story to share. Every startup story has lessons to learn from.
What are some of the lessons you learned while you’re building your startup?
Artavazd: I learned a lot from PicsArt. When you are in a startup, which is growing really very fast, you are learning a lot of stuff. And I really used a lot of learnings from PicsArt in my startup. So for me, it was at the beginning to start the startup, it was relatively easy, because I had prior experience. In terms of learning, we are learning every day. It’s kind of we always doubt all our ideas, or whether we are doing right or wrong. And I don’t remember any day that we didn’t learn something new, especially when you’re going into the new market, which for us is audio, audio content, editing, podcasting, etc.
So I learned a lot of stuff. Because I am not a podcaster for example, like you are not hosting any show. So when you don’t have that experience, it’s really hard to understand how everything works. So we spent a lot of time just understanding what our content creators, editors and podcast posts need. That was the biggest learning for me there.
Narine: I have my own story with Podcastle.
Tell you the truth, I’m pretty surprised with the result I got from using Podcastle. Every Monday I produce news digest featuring latest tech trends and news happening in the global startup ecosystem. It has been a while I’m thinking of converting my blog into audio content. Never had the time to do it. Now, with the help of Podcastle I produce Startup Monday audio content in second.
I think it would be interesting for listeners to hear right from the founder how exactly Podcastle works, what innovative solutions you offer to podcasters?
Artavazd: When we started, we didn’t think about the creation part. We didn’t think about how podcasters can use that, we only thought about the consumption part. So we created the text to speech converter, basically. So you can convert the text into the audio. But yeah, I have good news for you that we are planning to launch later this next week, our new platform where podcasters will be able to not only consume content, but also create content. And we will provide very easy to use audio content editing tools, the similar text to audio tools with a new technology.
Narine: Can we also record distance interviews?
Artavazd: Yes. You can record the interview and we just have one click you can have, basically the production quality podcast. And, that’s the kind of platform we are building right now. And we will release it next week. So I can share the link with you. And believe me, the bunch of stuff that you are doing right now with your podcast will be automated from that point on.
Narine: That’s awesome.
I still have a hard time finding an efficient podcast recording platform that can offer me high quality recording and easy to use. Would say for sure Zoom is not the best option. Anchor is good, but with a lot of limitations. I would be really happy to have something better, something more fast and more automated.
Artavazd: I think we can do user research with you as well to understand your pain points later on. That’s a great thing to have someone we can talk to.
Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 63- June 26) – HYE TECH MINDS
- Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 63- June 26)
- Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 57- April 16)
- Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 56- April 9)
- Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 55- March 12)
- Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 54- March 5)
As the world becomes busier, the podcast, audio content has become incredibly popular. I personally have started to listen to podcasts almost everyday. With long communs or gym, I always find something interesting to listen to.
On the other hand, Podcasting has become an extremely competitive industry. Nowadays 50,000 active podcasts and over 30 million podcast episodes are available to choose from.
In this sense, how Podcastle can help podcasters to address the growing demand for high-quality podcasts?
Artavazd: If you’re not sure, like you will be able to create much more content than you’re creating right now. Because it takes a bunch of time to edit content after the recording. It takes time to publish, etc. So we kind of automate all the steps so you can easily create more content also. Usually like 80% of current podcasts, even Spotify and Apple Podcasts, the quality is really not good. So you’ll still hear the noise. You’ll still hear the echoes. A lot of podcasters but microphones and bad equipment. So a lot of people kind of have the stories inside them, but they don’t know exactly how to read them, how to pronounce how to make sure the listeners, kind of That’s true. Get engaged in. So we will give the tools so people can basically, without even talking like just converting text to podcasts can create podcasts, which has really good quality and can be very engaging as a content.
Narine: I think that would be super helpful specifically for non-English speaking podcasters.
But, I’ve noticed right now you have only 2 voices available on Podcastle – man and female.
Are there any plans to have more voices available to users?
Artavazd: That’s one of our strategies in order to be able to monetize as well. Because it’s hard to live as a business without more monetization. So we want to keep for free users just two voices and add additional voices for the paid users. So we are working on that we will have multiple voices about seven of them in the upcoming release.
Narine: Ok. But, it’s going to be paid? Do you plan to have an annual base subscription or monthly basis.
Artavazd: It will have both annual and monthly. So basically, if you will choose annually you will get a discount. But there is a monthly subscription as well. But overall for our free users, we will give a lot of value as well. So a lot of use cases without paying will be covered using our free package as well.
List of 50 VCs Investing in AI and Deep Tech
Narine: What about text limitation? Does it matter really how long I upload the text to convert to audio?
Artavazd: Actually, it matters. But we are trying to keep right now as free for as long as we can. But in the future, like those kinds of services like text to speech, speech to text, and anything related to that, these kinds of commercials are really expensive. And you have a lot of server costs. So keeping it free forever, it’s not feasible.
Narine: What about the languages? Right now you only have English, correct? Any plans to integrate other foreign languages? What about Armenia?
Artavazd: Yes, our plan is to be able to achieve the perfect results for English. And then only after that to switch our focus to other languages, we kind of went with a similar way that Grammarly did. So when they started, they took all the efforts to have this Grammarly and grammar correct corrections only for English. So they can have either in a perfect way. And only then will start adding some other languages. So that’s kind of a strategy. We will use it as well. A lot of you, of course, as being Armenian. It’s kind of Yeah, we are always thinking about having the Armenian language language as well. But since nobody before thought about that, it will be very challenging. So we would need a separate team for that. But as we go, for sure, we’ll add a separate team only to work on the Armenian language. And so we can have the Armenian as well. It is not that easy. If it’s kind of very challenging to have I can imagine you need new tools, probably software integrations, a lot of good stuff happening.
Narine: I can imagine. You need probably new programing, software and on
A lot of good stuff happening, I’m super excited to see what comes next!
So, you launched Podcastle in 2020, and right off the bat after a successful launch and organic user growth in the U.S, you were able to raise $1.75 million seed funding.
What is your secret to a successful fundraising?
Artavazd: I don’t think there is a kind of secret. So it was not like magic. I don’t know. I talked with three investors and I got an investment. it was really tough. For me like for others, maybe comfort compared to it was relatively easy. But still, I had about like, as far as I remember about 50 conversation, and only three or three of them were successful.
It’s kind of I would say there was hard work behind that. I improved the pitch every time I got an offer from the investors. And, of course, something that really helped me is my reputation and prior experience. That was really helpful during the way also, I think the overall passion and vision that we had had a big role, as well. But getting funding is really stressful.
Narine: That’s true it can be stressful to fundraise.
I talk to startup founders all the time. And you can see how they are struggling to raise money, specifically considering vivid pandemic.
So I think this is a great opportunity for founders who are struggling with fundraising, to hear right from a person who was able to have such a successful fundraising campaign, how to make their pitch strategy successful.
Any suggestions on this?
Artavazd: I don’t know if I can do just one, one suggestion of all or one helpful trick, but I will say that, like investors, they are getting hundreds of pitches on a daily basis. A lot of companies are pitching to them. So first of all, you need to understand how you are different, how you are unique. And does your pitch really show that uniqueness? And what will investors feel after your pitch? Will they remember what was unique about you or not. So this is something that I think every father should be focused on. And when I was pitching at the beginning, I really was improving the pitch every time to make sure it’s unique, to make sure it pops up from other other startups, to make sure the vision is kind of engaging. And also, all the points that I wanted to say, are really highlighted. And I can make sure that investors will really remember what I want them to remember. Because when you put like almost 20 slides, and you are excited about your technology, or software, your product, most probably investors will not remember those 20 slides, a bunch of information that you are giving, and that you are selling. Of course you like to sell your product. You should focus on the things that you really, really, really want to seek. So investors can remember. So we have, we had a lot of good stories that investors like, ping me up to the page. And it really taught me that they remember this exact point. And they really like the vision. So for example, for us, it was I was saying that what we are doing is basically we are giving the “voice to everyone so people can make their voice heard”. And, and that was a one of the sentences that really speak to the investors and they really remember that part. And yeah, a lot of I will say, try to optimize your pitch as much as you can. Try to keep it short, precise. And make it kind of remember so people can remember that.
The second part is, of course, don’t get discouraged after you get a lot of nose at the beginning. Because it’s not like your page and then everyone says yes. Just continue doing your best and understand what questions you were not able to answer. Get prepared, get better prepared for your next speech. And do it every time like do a little iterative, fix everything in your page. Try to repeat as much as possible to your friends’ family. And, like making the pitch perfect like so it can stick like in the first 10 seconds.
Narine: You hitted a lot of important points.
So, Artavazd, what do you think the future holds for Podcastle? Where do you see your startup going from this?
Artavazd: Our vision is that we want everyone to do audio content creation, use our tools as the most easiest and barrier free tool for our content creation. So that’s how we see our future. And we are not sure if we will go into the streaming part and the consumption part as well.
It’s hard to get there. But still, we have some cool ideas to go to that market, too. But let’s see. I mean, of course, I can say like, we haven’t been this big revision. So I have a long release on using podcasts. So we want to create using podcasts. But right now I’m really focused on the journey and learning from the users and understanding what they really want. And making stops so people can really enjoy and use on a daily basis, you
Narine: Talking about the future. What do you think is the Next big thing for podcasting?
Artavazd: I think the big thing is, overall audio consumption, not necessarily the podcasting. You see the trends like Clubhouse, and you see that people are more into video instead of video and photo, like it used to be before. So I really believe that our audio is going to be the next medium, it will be like everyone will use audio as a community communication between each other. Instead of right now the text, the photos, the videos. So it’s kind of we are coming back to that part where audio is like mainstream. And I really believe that’s the best and easiest way to communicate. So I think really, our lives will grow dramatically. So we’ll see a lot of products, everything done with audio, like messaging protocol more into the audio, instead of text messaging, you will have more tools like cloud powers, and you will not have video. For example, right now, we don’t have video, right? This is not a zoom call. This is not a hangouts call, we just used our phones and just talking to each other people are going to listen to this. So that’s how I believe the next way of communication would be and this will be really big.
Narine: Completely agree. Audio content is going to be an integral part of content marketing, in generally digital marketing to increase traffic or build brand reputation.
Also, I got into Clubhouse. Finally I can hear people’s voices. No more emojis and photos.
Artavazd: Right now, whenever I want to understand if I want to use some service or not, first of all, I’m not looking at the website anymore. I’m trying to find out if the CEO of that company has a podcast and to understand what kind of person he/ she is. I believe this will be again the next wave. So people like before people have like shops, and they created the websites for their shops so people can find the contact signed by right on the web. And right now I see the trend that someday it will become like every business will have the podcast, every every business will have the audio content. And people will. The people right now are very interesting. Like CEOs and founders and people behind the products, the people behind the companies. Everyone will try to be central and honestly Well counter thoughts of these executives, how they are thinking what kind of person they are. And that will be the main trigger for how you decide, you know, you are going to use the product. truck. I think you’re on the right track.
Narine: So I’m on the right track.
Talking about the importance of podcasts for businesses, what do you think, how podcasters , specifically people who are just getting into the podcasting world can increase their audio content creation and distribution value?
Artavazd: First of all, after one week, start using the Podcastle. Make it as your primary tool for audio content creation. That will drastically dramatically help you increase your productivity.
The second part is, as I feel the podcasters are, have had difficulties getting the style inspirations. Because it’s hard to relate to previous content, like every week, in order to keep your podcast engaging.
I will again, say like practice, practice, practice. So try to find opportunity in everything in opportunity and inspiration to find some content you can talk about. And also, yeah, you need to practice in order to be engaging. Also try to understand your audience. Try to understand what they really like for whom you’re doing airport podcasts, try to talk with them, try to understand what they really want to hear. It’s kind of the same when you’re building the product, you need to understand your customers say same way you are you’re doing anything, you’re creating any type of content you want human to understand for whom you are doing that and really get a feedback, whether you are doing the right thing, whether what you are doing is engaging or not.
A lot of people right now are trying to just I’m not saying you did the same thing that it’s about you but like just hosting famous guests or saw or in order to get the traffic?
What I am trying to say, what happens that whenever you like, bring Elon Musk to your show, let’s say you get you get a really good traffic, but not because people want to listen to your podcast because they want to listen what Elon Musk is saying, If you want your podcast to be good, you need to find more great content, you need to be very interesting. And people need to come to your podcast to you in order for you to have a long, long running podcast and like scalability and the traffic because otherwise, if you are inviting, let’s say mark mark to your podcasts or someone else, maybe Mark’s grandma or Mark’s friend will come to listen to your podcast. But when then you will invite any It doesn’t mean Mark’s friend and family will also like to hear about any and they will subscribe to your channel. They will subscribe to your channel only if you are doing what they’re really interested in and doesn’t matter who you are.
Narine: That’s a great point.
For example, with HyeTech Minds I have a very narrow niche, but I’ve decided to create a second audio product for my podcast Startup Monday to increase the traffic to my podcasting platforms and diversify my audience.
Narine: I ask this question to all my guests. This is sort of my one way to understand what else we can do to help Armenia to expand its value in the international tech scene and attract more investments from Diaspora.
What is the one thing that if changed in the country can help to attract more Diasporan Armenians, and not only Armenians to come to Armenia and start a business?
Artavazd: I cannot say what others can do, but I can say what definitely, I and people like me within the tech field can do. So the only way to do that is try to do everything to create successful companies doesn’t matter. If you are registered in the US, if you are getting funding from the US.
If you will have the unicorn company that will even exit us, you still will put Armenia on the map So that’s one of the ways I believe, like PicsArt companies like Krisp, and other big tech companies in Armenia, which are really doing getting the funding and really trying to create something that the whole world will use. That’s the best, biggest way to put our money on the map. Of course, current content, like all the political issues that are currently in, which is a very sad country in Armenia, it’s getting us far, far away from, like, getting the investments and being out risky places to put money, of course.
I think having political stability, having a really growing economy, economics, it’s, it’s having science and education, the ways to make it happen. But what I can say from my side, I am trying to add, as you know, we created Podcastle during the war, it was really hard this time for us during the COVID.
During the war in Armenia, and we raised our funding during the war, which was really tough. At the beginning, when we started raising ground, there was no war. And a lot of investors were basically interested in you even though we had talks with some investors that were ready, almost ready to invest. But when they heard about the war, they started dropping, and saying that, like it’s risky. And all of them even didn’t tell me that was the reason. But of course, I was able to understand what was the reason? And yeah, that was tough.
But for me, as an Armenian, it was really important to still get that founding, to make sure that we are continuing to build, building the pillar for our further economic growth, and kind of that that word, that situation, put me in a position to do more hard work, to make sure we still get that investors investment and we create the big company, big success in order to overcome all of this. And what I see after the war, a lot of companies that previously prior to that they don’t help each other, kind of didn’t thought about overall Armenia, but so I thought about like, specifically only about their own company, right now today, a lot of companies are helping each other and kind of are really excited about successes of the other companies and trying to be part of it. Because they really understand that having a big unicorn company in Armenia really pushes Armenian right.
Narine: Political stability is key for economic success No investors, they want to invest in a country that is not predictable. Stability always means predictability. So, let’s hope we can have more favorable conditions very soon.
Artavazd: I mean, it’s fine. Like a lot of companies in Singapore, in Europe, in other countries, even in Russia, they are still getting trading companies in the US. And they are getting investments from the USA, because that’s how currently works like people who are investing from the USA. They want to invest in companies which are registered in the US. But it really doesn’t matter where you are registered if your team is in Armenia. If you are somehow putting Armenia on the map. Later on, it will be easy.
So the first ones like Kickstart, Krisp that kind of evangelists and when they will create and finally, like go public or exit as big companies. For the rest of us, for the rest of the founders in Armenia, it will be relatively easy for you because a lot of investors from Silicon Valley will know about Armenia.
Narine: Although we have great tech talent, it’s still a difficult and challenging mission to put Armenia on the international tech scene. But it’s not impossible. And , startups like Podcatsle, like you, PicsArt, are actually making this mission possible.
And every time I talked to someone who is not Armenian I always brag about the Armenians in tech.
Artavazd: Same always has been for me.
So, Artavazd, what is the best way to learn more about Podcastle, or get in touch with ?
Artavazd: I would say my social networks, so usually I try to be responsive, I respond to the messages. And yes, especially on LinkedIn. What we are trying to do with our next product launch, we will also have a community on Discord. So people can ask questions about Podcastle on this Discord channel. We will launch it soon. And we will host our community there so people can do the feature requests.
Podcastle website – podcastle.ai
Narine: Well Artavazd, I’m really excited to see what comes next for Podcastle. Thank you again for finding the time to join me today.This was a great conversation. I’m sure we will hear more good things about Podcastle in the near future. Stay safe.
Artavazd: Thank You
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get the latest tech trends and news happening in the global startup ecosystem, data on global VCs, funding, and more!