« 99% Invisible

Roman Mars on ZigZag

2018-07-05 | 🔗

This is a special presentation of episode #4 of Radiotopia's newest show ZigZag.

Manoush and Jen give themselves 36 hours in San Francisco to come up with a financial backup plan, just in case this whole blockchain-token-thing doesn’t work out. Silicon Valley runs on VC money so maybe Stable Genius Productions should too? First, they talk to a well-known venture capitalist on whether aligning their mission with investor expectations is a laughable goal. Then, they visit Roman Mars, host of 99% Invisible and Radiotopia co-founder, at his headquarters in Oakland. He explains how he built his podcasting empire and advises Manoush and Jen on their plan.


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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is not nine percent invisible, but I am woman more This is a special presentation of the newest radio. Toby about guest zigzag wherein Manu some roadie and Jan point create an woman run part gas company, stable genius productions, their exploring fun in through traditional avenues, but also through crypto currency inside of the reality, show that follows their progress, learn a lot about the digital economy and how decentralized crypto currency could change everything or not. It's a huge experiment that you don't want to mess I'm in this episode that were featuring a whole lot, so it that ninety nine pr fans digging it superfine, but unlike no nine percent invisible. There is swearing in zigzag. Even I swear in exact, so I just one morning I enjoy
I'm. A new security and MRS Chapter four of zigzag upon cast about changing the course of capitalism, journalism and women in tech were exploring these very big ideas through our own personal story. At this point, it's late April in general, I still don't have enough money coming in to pay ourselves were moms not having paychecks was giving a stomach aches and I twitches will it time to kneel down a plan b. A financial back up is tell startups work. You just gotta knuckle down and wait out the uncertainty We go looking for those answers in this episode chapter four, specifically, we pitch sort of a well known angel investor and then go see,
CO, founder of Radio Toby Roman Mars to find out how he built his podcasting empire yeah we're going for you. This is me and my husband Josh not to be confused with Josh Benson aren't blockchain matchmaker from chapter one. You need to go a little bit From your family, exactly it, really early on a Sunday and were in the car on our way to the airport. He was going to port arrigo going with governor Why are you speaking so slowly as it is? twelve in the morning, then it's taking a little time to formulate my words. Josh covers politics or a local tv news station. We have two kids, but don't hurry. My mom was home with them as we scattered ourselves across the globe. I was going to San Francisco what're you doing other.
Please, I'm going out. There will, for a multitude of reasons, were going to pitch an angel investor. A first for me out was roman roman Mars. For the day tomorrow, in Oakland What do you think of my whole endeavour so far, you're worried about any aspects of it. However? It is too strong a term, I'm happy for you, I'm sorry for you, I'm kind of late, just sort of following along every week, like a bit with both very busy. I given see my office despite the fact that it's a block away so instead river conversation, Five fourteen other way to the airport, its spare time Josh. We should get every Sunday morning around four and take her out of the airport back Josh has been super supportive of me doing this start up thing.
I texted are a little chat to Jan who was also headed to the airport to meet me far flight that's really cute! You guys, just fascinating. I assume that Josh like New, every detail for some reason of what's going on with you right now. So that's pretty funny and that's bad ass- that you guys both are like. We were both going to do anything so fully support Josh and I are really lucky to have families who live near by who help out aloud genders that close people down, but that wasn't stop in both Jan and I from worrying how we were going to make this podcast and run a business leaders team and that takes more than a crypto currency that doesn't exist. Yet takes cash, which is why Jenna mindset
it to go on a reconnaissance mission trip to San Francisco to see if we could find a backup plan, a plan b, because that's what responsible adults do these days, they will put their savings. The line they get rich people to invest in their business right so far we lost our first grant. That was chapter one that we ve been counting on that for, then we ve gotten this other small grant that was half in real money and haven't crypto currency that still exist. Yet executives. Agony will work but like maybe it was time to find some. Ability by having an investor with that just create bigger problems. We weren't sure. Jane. I had done our fair share of reporting on tech companies that put their profits ahead of basic humanity to appease shareholders, but there is also the good side to Silicon Valley. Big ideas can happen because people believe in them and back them with big money.
We just landed here is our planet's jam pact. We were meeting with an angel investor name just verbally that afternoon and I guess we're in a picture. I guess lifting her. Where did tell her our plans save she gets it of wish you well and then you know They were the next. What what's the next move couple hours a shower later. Ok, we are walk. In down third street in the mission, A coffee place to meet just for we just She was an early development strategies at twitter. You ve done your homework John Plan. We got to the coffee shop we were gonna meet Jas a little early and we just could not stop talking about what we had seen on our walk to the coffee shop at seven most extreme version of wealth, disparity that I've ever seen and America yeah look down
In addition, after homeless person is lying in the streets, look up a narrow, spiffy, extremely wealthy people slipping by on motorized scooters in their athletes. Your where people Jan and I had to abruptly end our conversation about the economics of San Francisco, because just arrived here, we all agreed that the cap is way too noisy. We get you something to go, so we grab some iced coffee to go and went down the block to justice Apartment building. Sir, thank you. She said we could talk in the conference. Room by the lobby is enough. With its impetus go, show apartment bill. Have conference rooms, yeah hi, I'm Jessica. Verbally, we were connected through a mutual friend crystal soccer. Through I've known for a long time I am a founding partner of Hashtag angels, which is an investment collective. I cofounded with five other women three years ago,
and I spent my career working in Silicon Valley at Twitter over eight and a half years. And started my her ass, also working for venture capital, for we were frankly, actually very reserves resistant or maybe that resistance We had reservations are sceptical about getting going. Investment and all because we were a little worried about having to push for these return. Is there I ain't between here and that is a smart if you ask, and if it is a mark of us, you know I've really thoughtful found which is, essentially, how do I make sure the vision, our expectations and hopes I have for my car, a lie repetitions of an investor rate, which is a great pressure. Ass in something that you do what you have spent a lot of time? If you get that right, so obsessed with its leg work, we talk about it all the time. Venture capital is a great way to finance. If you
want hyper growth and so hyperdrive hyper not to be too about this is, is the rate of growth and the like. We want to grow, that's take anywhere from one to five years. I would imagine for us too. Three shows and then spend those off into those different multi platforms that growth. But I guess the question is the: maybe there exit strategy or do we know what we'd be expected to exit all those questions about what what do they invest? there's want back what level of growth is expected in. Do we have to know that at the beginning JANET, if you're raising venture capital investors- are looking on. Our visit day believe? Can try form an industry? Was this a pitch or more like a tutoring session. I guess my hope
I want to be in front about. It is that we do have investors who carer as deeply as we do about the societal impact of the stuff that we make that's really important to me. I mean I deftly. Wannabe begs: I think these ideas need to be big in their big ideas, but I also think like is their room for that to be at this point. Jan kicked me through the table, conscientious my axe, and she told me later, but at the time I thought you wanted me to shut up. I think so, it's all about finding that right fit with an investor and given how matters to you and given that might trump growth, I think been as exactly as well in that it was. Our goals are for theirs and white success looks like EU is gonna help you find investor, then on where that airlines.
And how do you know any want? Like does a sound like far fetched here? You like wheat was this weird that we were kind of pitching someone to fund our work, which would basically criticized the Tec platforms that they also funded. I think these people exist. I I want to spend a little more time with you on the other. Mission, for what you want to build on what that business in scale might look like this phase should be all about building the product and getting feedback from us. If you need money right now, then you have to think a little bit about like ok, what does the rights or stick, whether its revenue or grants or seed funding? But if you have a little time you're back in a fund raising mode. We do. I think we seed. Buttoning I mean grants like we can. We were in the Rockies hieing, but they take time to get to happen. Is that the price This is very often very bureaucratic, Then we might have banter sponsorship extended
Now we need the shows to come out till the sponsorship, like we're. Deafening. An actor tat unless we get some seat vendors. I think that's, basically, what not that's correct for sure she looked at her watch yet, but did just like we were wasting her time, Tripoli, you are taking in most of the risk here into its about finding the alignment with boats that believe in you and boom. We are building, show friends and family round may be possible, but you ve Sharon's are far does seem like something were the impact investors might be the benefit, but I don't want to jump to that conclusion with actions like really like talk through that its sounds like you have an incredible background to do that. You ve been successful to invest in your prior roles and there I would ask you to. I can take a look at that represented here. Feedback to validate, but that's true and then the question now is how they were business is this? Is this the next like massive, like global media company
is this the seed of something that can be really bag and on? Is that what they want about today? Believers, a path of doing that we're gonna. Do that. Could we went palpably? Could we come back and do that this week the ass cool, really ok? So I think what we should do is go talk and decide whether you want to do that, but I think we have reminded us I'm doing. Ok, yeah enemy, roughly one partner, so sure that you want to do. Is I want to do it absolutely? Thank you so much. I think you payment if civil work on this report gentlemen, I walked out of our meeting with gas and kind of stumbled stunt
into the waning light of a crisp spring evening in San Francisco. Why don't we heard experience? had presented a united front to venture capitalists, but meanwhile Our brains have been talking to each other like esp. Don't do this? Do this do what I do is I don't know what don't do this lay two hours said should meet with its four to our lives as, for example, the hours since that meeting by the way just has been named, the newest partner at the Google backed venture Capital Farm Jpg Certainly, she knew what she was doing John, I needed to debrief any sound and warming any other guys just because the meaning or I feel like that, was bad lick. It is ass. You do
Why do you feel that way that so issues during its because it's not we, I think in our gut she knew and we knew that it's not very fit like you were, like idling wanna pitch this nose like ours. I felt pretty adamant, for me to leave. You know we ve stayed. In the media businesslike we both like we like the people, who are in it, and we like the emphasis, ideas as opposed to valuation and don't want to be thinking about money like to me. The greatest luxury is not to be thinking about money or we're businesspeople. Now we have to understand that, but my golden you get to where I don't have to think about money. My goal is not so: leg have caps and tables
yeah, and all that it's really nice, like, I don't think like. I really. I really care very much about like making stuff with you and feeling that creative, wonder and like people feeling, moved by the things that we make and like that matters. A lot to me matters me too, I just don't know how to do it that way me too. Ok, this wasn't right like doing want to go back and actually train Peterka. I mean it's not like no in the short term, she kind of sad Lake grants and family and friends right. I think the bigger thing is what we're gonna do like. We work our asses off until we launched this show and then we go back to like a model where we to see where the sponsorship comes. Then we grow it way slower together and there's no link is a shame that I feel like we feel, their shame, but I just I've what scares me damn keeps telling us that that's not possible Dan was a business consultants who is helping us project future budgets and revenue
seriously, we need to have this entire conversation over again with Romans. It's gonna, be it's gonna be completely different. I don't think there's any shame in that. That's essentially going back to like the real brute strapping model and then seeing where we go from there and I'm fine with that? I'm fine with that which has some totally vying with it's weird, how you, yeah there's something about zero just with it so utilitarian in many ways, there's not a ton of soul. It makes me so happy right. They really were rescued and you know him, very much about so in that light, in the way not like Rita. Frankly, I think the other day it's so strange is that we believe so wholeheartedly, Endlich We are women. We could do this. Why don't we take that opportunity? This is crazy not to, but it's not right for us and that's hard. That's why I feel like a disaster to me, because I'm like
I feel like a disaster. Let me be clear: realizing is like part of me was, I guess, we'll put you because I think I'm so worried about laying down money lies you're. Taking me like you, taking the same thing, you're on taking a big risk, but here you ve invested a lot already into it somewhere at about the same thing I mean it's not like. We don't have some Money coming in right right, don't forget the tool bar forget the tokens. Oh, that looks yummy. And I want you in your french rice. Thank you. So much justly that's beautiful. We really wanted financial support to make our mission based journalism possible and we really wanted honesty from each other right now we have the ladder
you're, listening to a special presentation of zigzag on that and presented visible going up. Genova Nous come to Oakland ride to spend some chill wisdom. We are featuring episode for except to follow, along with the stable geniuses, as they form a new path for women in media and tech goods. Beg pardon com to subscribe. We often don't think of winter is a time of growth or creation. But if you think about it, it's the perfect time to greet your own website, because recoup dab you thinkin about being productive and now square space can help you do it with squares basic into your cool ideas. You ve creative content, your services, goods and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks. Does because
there is to use templates created by world class designers, and then you have the ability to customize the look and feel in the different settings for your own needs. For example, my side, roman Mars, dot com I made was square space. The landing page features a close up meeting into a microphones asthma, my very handsome beard, but if I should ever shave it, I dont have to wait for my web guy to change the photo. I can do it myself and maybe the next vote. I will feature my soulful eyes and one of the pages I've also picked out some. My favorite episodes of ninety nine percent of visible to share in the audio is convening,
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At the end of the first three episodes, some might say that we have wrapper p, o ass, to thank for our entre into that awesome. Podcasting collective last year he put out us on called wearing a bare, and he gave shouts to me and Radio Tokyo, CO, founder roman law Safety in the cup older plants showed up at the passengers, Highschool put down the pressure and when a dry, ok hashtag a bit better our Jan and I were the newest members of Radio Toby, and that meant we and all our work I had out with Roman before, but he and Jan had never met and when he suggested that we come out to spend the day with him, we were boats were psyched IRA glass Jan Album ROD, roman Mars. These are the great names and
earn of audio storytelling, so it was kind of like going to kiss the ring. Accept all of them public radio, recall. So far, but way TAT morning, and I were most definitely that call just getting into the building seem to be a struggle for us get in touch with the roman Mars to know which far he's on so sorry things that conversation with jazz. Must Ronald US more than we new start. We have the girl, I know We have seen how the girl, China, here we go. Now:
wow. It's nice are you, where munition Jan and Roman, it's so nice to meet users meat into right into it was well then did we ve had like an insane twenty four hours with Euro yesterday and then had like an epiphany last night. But we need your help because our was involved, you ve been a public radio producer making shows barely making any money when pod casting started taking off about five or six years ago, he went appear acts and they decided to just concentrate on that form of collective. Were the pod casters owned their work? They stop worrying about making radio shows and make a business out of pod casting or at least
decent living still doing great public radio style content, Roman and Radio Toby, I had done one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in the history of Kickstarter I am roman Mars, I'm the host of New Hampshire, invisible, and I am the co founder of Radio Tokyo from tax and were saying in your office. Yes, beautiful, downtown, Oakland, California Roman, had deftly taken some big financial risks in his time please it's like it's a business like any other, so you'd make enough money to pay a salary or two and then you see and you make them Peter at another person, then First and then you make enough money to have money left over to reap the benefits of only of it, and it took me I've been doing nine apply for almost eight years and Wade operated beginning was that I didn't pay myself, I mean,
their moments where you really. What if this doesn't work feel like you can always get a job What is failure mean in this case? Failing things. You do the thing that everyone else does, and thirdly failure rate. So, let's too so like, I don't know why that didn't. I feel more scared of it now regarded them here, because I have ten employees. And then and then read Utopia itself like a lot of the revenue that operates. Radio Tokyo is the percentage of my show because my show brings in a lot of ad revenue and so like now, I feel like one hour. I better keep hustling different. We ve been struggling to decide how to fully fund show or to get to decide. I s pose We ve been talking about whether we should seek out investment, Org grants or just make the thing
in and then get the sponsorship that way or huge part you should do over ran away in it rigid Toby Fund raising, because we have a model which supports, shows that can support themselves completely as advertising based on we We really need donations to support that the slate that the whole slate of shout and we, then we have to do that to me, like that's how we make art like, rather than Chase Commerce ray what you just said. Art, rather than commerce, kind of sums up the soul, searching that you and I have been doing Jen suit. The question that we keep getting is what do you want? It depends what you want. What do you want? One. You want to him I think we're getting closer to knowing what we want. Why think? It's because Vanunu was starting to succeed.
In these ways where she was being asked to speak, she was doing a TED talk, so we could naturally see a model that would work that was bigger than just to show. We are about to document this expiring, its both of making the show making this business of the different choices that were just talking about rate, and it feels very vulnerable to admit all this on tape. Yeah. I can see that I'm glad I wasn't talking is mostly public publicly as to women to do it, but you also think I get that and I get the debts risk, but he also you can email on a strength from that. To again it's like this. This is this balance of risk and reward, and they have greater risk, and Every word could be big to be big and also its just like. I fully believe that you call in life is to live in extraordinary, live like live a weird life I think that's true. I think, there's that there are a lot of women out there that need to hear
the women doing this, you know we last asked for a lot of it, from a lot of people and every bit of advice when it comes to businesses. To be like what the way a business works like you're, not gonna, be able to do this. It like we ve, had a lot of people kind of sale. It's not gonna work and will it depends on what time business. You have won, I told you, I can't live Can we want a bit like you know like media is a bad start up and a good business because it does return money. The way they wanted to in. If you do, you have to grow and make things that you don't care about, but if you I want to make a show and pay ourselves. You can do that. That is not that's detail the color. You could do that and then from there you began to go. I think that you follow your got when it so that's tough and personally, I think that there is no money without strings attached. The only money, I've ever
that has strings attached. I like his money from the audience. Ok, so I'm and be very, like business in paternal or something and how much you get saved you have a year saved. Can you live? making money. I guess Lincoln that I'd like to months maybe left. So is that a cemetery in your needs does that cause attention and your choices I would say it did at the beginning where I was like. Well, I'm gonna invest in the company. I want to own more of it and we then said no I worry that risk is higher. I mean away you're putting into exactly right. I mean if they come, We can never pay me back. That's that it's on the money for that's what I'm gonna do
really money is freedom passwords for for our part of ownership. Is that, though, the runway ass behind of long yet before you get to the point where it sustainable and if the runway short than it, actually it fucks with the sustainability. I think we're trying to figure out. What's the minimum, we can pull in through all these various funding sources. If we're not gonna, do the VC thing and still sustain ourselves. Until that runway gets long enough for it to become really sustainable. I mean that's the thing you have to be prepared to recognise one star working but just think fixed. Like what is it it's kind of easy? If you have a lot of other pressures hold on to something that you may be shouldn't be holding onto what would make you sunset, this whole thing,
Question about you know it's that is so hard to answer cause. If you had asked me that about notice off, I wouldn't have should happen, then you have no idea. How would make me sunset this whole thing? Is it a better operating it's like now is this. Is this is an opportunity, but let me ask you this please make ninety nine pm forever. Like Why wonder that too?. I've given myself, but a dead, a kind of a timeline of I need to make it as successful as possible, and forty three now. I dont know if the end of its when it happened, when I'm fifty, I think,
we probably go you're around faster, like right. Now we're people doing projects inside of a group of eight knives and visible, which will be new things for the world. When I can't really talk about him, but we can say this much guy, and I could imagine that my life is not hosting a show. You're running a shop and also its just like. I feel myself more tired than I ever have and I just can't. I can't work this heart forever. I recommend you think he saw mites through open phenomena like not just for the interview, but like you deserting
I don't know, but it's a good chance like it's like that's the thing. It's like it's more, your chats white raise up your works. It's like I don't own it and we don't own it. It's your chance to take. We just get to be part of it. To be a poor things that were proud of our session, with roman kind of felt, like a motivational pep talk, we didn't have to stay non chairs, yell like Tony Robins event. This pep talk was way more children that thank you move my poems Marbre, his comrades She was just what we needed, Jan and I were resolved. Investment money for now was not for us and others egg, and then we sacked. We knew that we needed to focus on making the pod cast. This pod cast stick to the mission and then, if we made it that far, we risk,
so we went back to New York and even put a big red circle around one summer day on the calendar we labelled it financial reckoning day. But it felt good to know we had the support of not just one but two collectives. Roman and Radio Toby who are distributing the show and selling sponsorship and civil, the expense. And using the blockchain to create a new ecosystem for independent journalists through the whole thing was dicey, but they had given us just enough money to pay the bills and maybe the token thing when actually work. Anyway, The civil people felt like part people you been listening to zigzag, goes up Up to now- and maybe I can talk manoeuvring Jenin to have me on the show again find it at zigzag
ah, dotcom on Apple pie, gas, radio, public or wherever you get your podcast Radio, too,.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.