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With Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Record studio-quality remote interviews for your podcast with Rock Felder of SquadCast

Posted on: 08/26/2020

Rock Felder

Rock Felder

Co-founder & CFO - SquadCast

Rock Felder of SquadCast - Podcast Summary

Rock Felder explains the SquadCast origin story and how Covid has made the service more indispensable than ever for podcast creators.

Rock Felder of SquadCast - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Hey it’s Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting, and welcome to another episode of Founders and Friends. Before we start the podcast, let’s give a quick shout out to Rippling. Rippling is the new, cool payroll tool that we see a lot of startups using. Rippling is great for your traditional HR and payroll, they integrate very nicely. But, guess what? They did another thing, they integrate into your IT infrastructure. They make it really easy for when you hire someone, to spin up all the web services and their computer. Which sounds like not a huge deal, but actually we did this study at Kruze, we spend $420, on average, just getting a new employee’s computer up and running, and their web service up and running. It’s actually a really big deal, it saves a lot of money. The dogs are eating the dog food, we set a lot of startups coming in to Kruze now using Rippling. Please check out Rippling, great service, we love it. I think we have a podcast with Parker Conrad, you can hear it from his own words. But we’re seeing them take market share, so shout out to Rippling. And now, to another awesome podcast at Kruze Consulting’s Founders and Friends. Thanks.
Singer: (Singing) It’s Kruze Consulting’s Founders and Friends, with your host Scotty Orn.
Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast, with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting. Today, my very special guest, Rock Felder from SquadCast. Welcome, Rock.
Rock: Hi Scott, happy to be here.
Scott: So, I have to tell everyone, this is an honor. We are doing a podcast on the podcasting recording platform I use, SquadCast. I love it, it’s amazing. I asked Rock to come on and just be here with us.
Rock: Well man, I’m happy to because a year ago, I think I was just telling you this before we hit the record button, I was a listener, I was a fan of your show, and was like, “Maybe there would be an opportunity where I could be interviewed, and hopefully SquadCast would be in the mix as well.” It’s truly an honor for me.
Scott: Well, I have to give you so much credit. We’ll get to how you created SquadCast in a second. But you saw this happening years ago, you saw the future in a way. I had been using something else and I wasn’t very happy with it, and I switched over to you, and it’s been freaking awesome. Maybe, why don’t you tell the audience what SquadCast does, and how you had the idea for the company?
Rock: Yeah. SquadCast is a recording platform to help podcasters connect with their guests, make it super easy, with the idea of having it captured in the highest sound quality possible. The experience looks and feels very similar to a Skype or Zoom call, however the audio that’s being recorded in that conversation, SquadCast does all the heavy lifting to make sure that’s the highest sound quality possible. With the goal that it sounds, to your audience, like it happened in the same room. They don’t even know that it was in two parts of the world.
Scott: Yeah, it’s so powerful. You basically go to the website, it’s all through your browser. You go to their website, you set up the event, you invite the person through a link. You both get in a room, almost like a Zoom room. The experience is similar, in that you can both see each other. We have a real editor who does this podcast. The sound quality is so much better coming out of SquadCast than Zoom, or some of the other competitors. That’s why we use SquadCast, it’s actually really amazing, you can really tell the difference. You just built something that’s really amazing, and I’m so excited to have you on. What was the eureka moment? How did you have the idea to start it?
Rock: Yeah. I’ve got to give full credit to the idea of SquadCast to my partner and our CEO, Zach. Him and I are high school friends, and after high school we went our separate ways as far as college path, career path. He went the computer programming route, I went the finance and accounting route. I was working at a CPA firm before SquadCast. My personal journey was that I was, overall, pretty happy and content with my direction and career path, and the firm I was working for. It was really great exposure, to someone that’s first getting involved in the business. I was getting to talk and rub shoulders with other founders, and executives, and board members. I just remember thinking, why can’t I do that? Maybe I can try that, what if kind of thing. Personally, I was like, “I want to do something more creative, more independent, more entrepreneurial.” I’d been mentally and financially preparing myself to do something like that. But, Zach’s journey was similar in the sense that he was looking for another outlet outside of his career in computer programming. What he was originally trying to do was create a podcast, a science fiction podcast, with his friends that were remote, they were scattered all across California. We really ran into trouble with the ease of use, and getting the highest could quality possible, which was really needed for something like an audio drama. Unfortunately, they ran into all the problems that were consistent with what a lot of podcasters were experiencing, and Zach saw it as a potential opportunity for a product, a business. So, he reached out to me, and had no idea I was already looking for something like this. When he explained it to me, I really got it at first because I was already a huge fan of podcasting as a listener, I had already experienced the magic, if you will, and been obsessed, and never really understood why more people weren’t aware of podcasting. I also thought that a lot of people, once they listened to a podcast, would have this aha moment of, “We should create a podcast.” So really seeing that SquadCast could empower people to do that. And then, the combination of podcasting and this remote collaboration nature. I think Zach and I were really fortunate to work in occupations that allowed us to work from home and work remotely, so to me and him it wasn’t that wild that people were going to want to collaborate at a high quality, even if they were a long distance from each other. I think that’s where we maybe saw ahead, is that we didn’t realize how big a deal working remotely, working from home was. Fast forward to 2020, where that’s where everybody is. As unfortunate as the worldwide situation was, to have a product that was positioned to help people, just for that situation, we do feel fortunate for that.
Scott: Yeah, it’s amazing. What year was that, was that 2018? Or, what year were you starting it up?
Rock: Yeah, it was 2016.
Scott: Damn!
Rock: A lot has changed, especially the last two years, in the podcasting space. Yeah, when we started it was still, again, not a lot of people were even aware of a podcast. Spotify, I don’t even think had made it clear that they were as interested in podcasting as what they are now, and so many others. It was starting to get that vibe of experiencing growth and scale that we always thought it would. Then yeah, just really carving out our niche and being the best at what we do, which is helping people record that conversation in the highest sound quality possible.
Scott: Yeah. It’s really amazing, you guys are the classic founders who figured it out earlier than everybody else and actually take action, which is the most important part of it. So, kudos to you guys.
Rock: Thank you.
Scott: I feel like this is replacing radio. I know it’s replaced radio in my life. I don’t listen to the radio anymore, I listen to podcasts. Or, Apple Music, that’s what I listen to. Are you hearing and seeing the same thing?
Rock: Yeah, absolutely. Especially with how disrupted the daily commute is, where I think a lot of the things that were keeping radio alive was habit. My original hypothesis was that once podcasts get more integrated into our vehicles the way they are with Teslas, where the app’s just right there, to me that’s when it was going to be the next level of podcasting taking over. Just the way podcasting getting introduced to the iTunes store or becoming its own app was a big moment for podcasting, I think once it’s integrated into the car. But, it’s taken its own route and what we’re seeing as industry insiders is that the behaviors and habits of listeners are changing as well. What they’re calling the first listener, which I think you and I would fall into Scott, is generally you’re coming to podcasting to gain knowledge, or there’s a purpose that you specifically are looking for. And because you’re not going to find it on radio, and maybe not even on YouTube, there’s usually a podcast that can meet that need, which is the beauty of it. But now, what we’re finding is as podcasting becomes mainstream, people are coming to it for more of an escape, they’re looking for entertainment more. I think that’s what kind of content’s going to be coming out there more, and why you’re seeing a lot of celebrity-driven podcasts, there’s a lot more of the audio dramas that were … Quite frankly, I didn’t even know what an audio drama or a science fiction podcast was when Zach first approached me with that idea. That was the only thing wild about the whole idea to me, was there’s movies but they’re audio only, and high quality.
Scott: That’s amazing, I didn’t know that. Almost like old school radio, like in the ’20s to ’40s or something like that.
Rock: It’s very much like it. It’s very cool, what they’re doing. That’s what we’re so excited about, is moves like Spotify are making, or the big Joe Rogan signing that recently happened. It’s exciting for us because so many people have their attention on podcasting, and so many people are excited about the space, and finding it for the first time, as creators and as listeners. It’s exciting.
Scott: My use case is funny because I’ve been listening to the podcasts forever. Bill Simmons is the one who got me going on podcasts, many years ago. But, I’ve also been an Audible book subscriber, and to me it’s the best of Audible but live, and very present. It’s stuff that’s important right now. I don’t know if this is healthy so I don’t know if I want to admit to this, but I will. I listen to the podcasts when I’m walking, or exercising, but also when I’m doing chores around the house. I feel like I’m listening to my friends talk. My mom used to say that Opera was her friend, she would watch Opera every day. She’d tape it, and everything like that. But, Opera was her friend. I feel like some of the podcast celebrities are like that for me, where I still talk to my friends, and still text my real friends, but these people, I’ve become intertwined in their lives. It gives me that same sense of comfort that, member 15 years ago, I would have been talking to my friend on the phone while I was doing dishes, or something like that. Do you ever hear people say that? Is that weird?
Rock: Not at all, man. I’m just like you, I’m a big-time listener still, and that is the number one way I listen is usually doing something else. I think that’s why podcasting provides some unique consumption opportunities, because it doesn’t demand all of your attention like maybe a video does.
Scott: This is the unhealthy part. I think it’s slightly taking the place of some of my friends.
Rock: Oh, now I got it.
Scott: You know what I mean? I think I’m not calling my friends as often, because I’m listening to my podcast friends. Does that make sense?
Rock: It does, and that just shows the unique relationship podcasting affords a podcast host and their listener. For me, when I started to really recognize that there’s something like that going on is when I was curious to hear from my favorite podcast not about what new content or who they interview, but how are they living through this Coronavirus situation. That’s when I knew okay, there’s something here where I wanted to see what their experience is like because we’re all going through the same, but it’s still unique. It’s obviously confusing and wild. But, I found myself, “Why do I care what this person is experiencing? Oh yeah, because I’ve been listening to what they think and are going through for the last couple years.” I don’t think you’re alone, man. But yeah, we should probably hang out with our friends more, too.
Scott: Podcasts will be, 10 years from now, the downfall of relationships. I think I, too, enjoy listening to people talk about some of the COVID stuff because it was that communal commiseration.
Rock: Exactly.
Scott: That you weren’t always getting. I was calling my friends, but sometimes you just need to do it in a passive way, which was pretty cool. Okay, I’m glad I’m not super weird.
Rock: Not at all. I mean, it is podcasting though, so it does attract a unique bunch of folks, so maybe I’m just used to it.
Scott: You can pick who you listen to, it’s kind of like picking your friends.
Rock: Exactly.
Scott: The other analogy I have, this actually why I started doing podcasting, I think it was five years ago, was it felt like the new blog to me. I’m older than you, and I’m older probably than many people listening to this. I remember when Blogger happened, and I used to have a personal blog. You can probably find it still, on the internet. That was this revolution. God, what was before? Was it TypePress? I’m forgetting. Blogger and TypePress maybe came out at the same time.
Rock: Okay.
Scott: I feel like this, and this is why I’m so fascinated with your company, I feel like you’re the rails that the analogy of the blogging is going to run on. SquadCast is the rails that podcasting is going to run on. The production, making it so easy for people to produce a quality podcast, I just think it’s so valuable. I think you’re just freeing up all this information, and all these great personal experiences, it just feels like blogging to me, in the early days.
Rock: Yeah, I think the similarities are very appropriate. That’s what makes it so exciting. There’re a million podcasts now, but there’s hundreds of millions of YouTube channels, and Lord knows how many blogs and newsletters. Yeah, this is just a different, unique way of getting out content. I think, for a lot of people, writing is difficult but getting behind the mic, if you can just get over that initial fear of, “I don’t like the sound of my voice …” Here’s a note, nobody does, I think that’s just something in us. But, you get used to it, and you get better really quickly. You get better at talking to people, listening to people. One of the things that I’m not sure that you necessarily get with blogging is the relationships that you build, not just with your audience which is incredible, but the relationships that you build with your cohost or your guests. We’re having this fun conversation here, and that’s just strengthening our relationship. Obviously, we’re a big fan of Kruze and all that you do, but you and me are having this own conversation that you never know where it’s going to go. It provides unique opportunities for further relationship building that I was surprised about. It’s funny to me how much easier it is to get someone to come on my podcast than it is to get a cup of coffee.
Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Part of that is you guys, at SquadCast, made it so easy to actually record a podcast. I feel the same way. Sometimes people will be like, “Let’s go get coffee.” I’ll be like, “You know what? You’re a really interesting person, and I love what you’re doing. Can we just record that conversation on the podcast, basically?” Instead of that person having to drive to Starbucks, and find parking, and buy coffee. Maybe we get a seat, and maybe we don’t. Or, I’ve got to drive all the way down the Peninsula. Or, it’s a place I can’t drive and meet in person, we just hop on SquadCast. It’s that little URL, I just send them the URL, it’s pretty damn easy. I think that’s part of it. I also think that’s why the analogy to blogging is so important, because you guys have compressed the cost and the effort level required in this new medium. I think it’s pretty revolutionary. You’re a pretty modest guy, but I think we’re in the first or second inning of this, and I think people might look back on SquadCast a few years from now and be like, “Holy shit, these guys got another 100,000 people producing podcasts, because they made it so easy.”
Rock: Yeah, well I really appreciate you saying that. If I do come across modest, I definitely have no short of ambition. You’re absolutely right. When we first entered the space, we just saw this tug-of-war between if you want high quality, you’re going to have to jump through a bunch of hoops, maybe your guest is going to have to jump through a bunch of hoops. Generally, the guest institution the most tech savvy individual, or at least familiar with recording audio, so we really wanted to make it super easy. Super easy, but still able to record high quality audio because we believe one of the few things a podcaster has control over that can separate themselves from the rest of the shows in their category is their audio quality. Why not take the extra steps? There’re a few others things you can do outside of just the tools or the software you use, like the way you use your equipment is just as important. But, it’s not difficult to have a great sounding conversation. And then, you’re right. There are certainly advantages to having a podcast interview in person, but we felt like not everybody’s going to have access to a studio space, or be in the same place at the same time. So why not just open it up, and let people connect with each other regardless of where they’re at? It’s really this virtual studio that you get to join in, and you always walk away with the best sounding audio.
Scott: It’s so true. I remember when I first started it, Vanessa and I, and Kevin Hauck, and other person were co-located at thoughtbot, which is a software development firm in San Francisco. They had a pretty big podcast at the time, five years ago. I would see them recording it. By the way, that was Kruze Consulting was four people, five years ago.
Rock: Sweet.
Scott: Yeah, it’s the classic story. So, they would record the podcast in the conference room, and they had all these mics you had to set up, and all these sound blockers, and amps you had to plug into, and know exactly what the gain’s supposed to be, and all these things. I really wanted to do it, but I was probably intimidated, so I probably did do anything for three months. And then, I finally begged Dan Croak, who was the managing director of thoughtbot, because he had a podcast, him and their sound engineer taught me how to do it. It was a 30-minute setup process, and a 20 minute take down process. I honestly never knew if it was actually working or not, it was terrifying. This person would come, take time out of their day, and I couldn’t tell them if it was working. That was my hurdle to do it, but I still did it. Fast forward to people who want to do it now, they just fire up the SquadCast URL and boom, it’s that easy. It’s really amazing what you’ve created, it’s pretty cool.
Rock: Yeah. The podcaster, the creator’s job is tough enough trying to think of the content, and releasing it on a regular schedule, cultivating that audience. There’s a lot of other hats and jobs that a podcaster has. It’s very much like starting a startup, where you’re operating with small resources but need to accomplish a lot. We want to take care of the tech and the tools, and really don’t want you to have to worry about anything other than focusing on the content. That’s why we want to make it easy.
Scott: You talked about socializing with the guests, but there’s a certain art to warming up the guests.
Rock: Absolutely.
Scott: I used to, when I was setting up everything, I’d be trying to set up all the equipment while still warming up the guest. I’d be half there, half not there. It’s actually really hard. You’ve done a lot of these, I’ve done a lot of these. I don’t really get nervous, because I’ve got my reps in. But sometimes people are a little bit nervous when they first start, so talking to them and having a meaningful conversation before you hit record on the mic is really important. You guys made that easy. Even before we hit record in the SquadCast, we can just talk. And then when we get to a point where it’s like, “Okay, let’s record this thing,” then you just hit record, it’s that easy. I feel like you guys have solved a lot. There’s one feature request that I’ve been bugging you for since we first started talking, which I’m dying to be able to download this into video format and put it into YouTube. What’s the status? I know I’m annoying about this.
Rock: You’re not annoying. It’s nice to be in this position, where the demand is pulling you so hard it’s starting to get painful because video recording is, without a doubt, our most requested feature. I’m happy to say it’s something we’ve been working on now, but it’s currently in testing. Right now, we’re just trying to get it to the same reliability and quality that’s where our audio is. Just to back up, and it leads into what you were just saying about the relationship building aspect that SquadCast experience provides, that’s why the video component of SquadCast was always so important. That’s one of the things we did like about a Skype or Zoom, is even though Skype and Zoom weren’t built with the purpose of recording that audio, that seeing each other, we really felt helped build rapport, and hopefully was going to get recorded into the conversation that your listeners are hearing. Just make a better overall experience, for everybody. But as you can imagine, we’re recording the audio, you’re seeing each other in the video. A lot of customers were like, “Hey, I could really use this.” It wasn’t in our original hypothesis because, as listeners of podcasting and coming into the space of creators, we didn’t think that they would really care about the video files. More so that, again, they would want to see their guests, and they really just cared about the high-quality audio. But they’re saying look, the podcasting may be the entrée of what they’re doing, but they’re doing a lot of other stuff. They’re usually blogging, emailing, on YouTube, they can use the video stuff for social. We really just want to empower people, when it comes to producing remote content, we want to be that platform to do it, in the highest quality possible.
Scott: I love it, I can’t wait for this to go live. If you need a beta tester, I’m your guy.
Rock: Oh, we’ll be calling you. We have a list, you’re on it.
Scott: Yeah, that would be really, really nice. But you’re right about having the video aspect, of being able to see the body language and the facial features of what people are doing, and if they’re into it or not into it. It tells you whether you should change the topic or not, those are all really, really important. You guys did a really good job, it’s really nice. You talked about your and Zach’s relationship. You guys support each other, or you compliment each other? You’re an accountant, a lot of people don’t think of tech entrepreneurs as accountants. But, I think that a lot of times, finance-oriented people see businesses very clearly, because they can see the ins and outs of the cash, and they know where the money’s going. How did you sell yourself to Zach as a co-founder? Maybe he’s like, “This guy’s crazy enough to join me.”
Rock: It was more so like that, to be honest. The way Zach puts it, it was a list of one, that he felt confident in his skills, and certainly he was confident he can grow into the position becoming a CEO requires of you. But he knew that he didn’t have the strong business background, and wanted a partner that could help him out in that regard. He had always asked me about different ideas that he had. From my perspective, it was more so he was just kicking the tires to get my legal, or financial opinion, just to see, “Does this even make sense? Is this something that I should work on? What do you think, man?” I didn’t know this, but he was actually thinking of me as a co-founder for those different ideas the whole time, I just never picked up on it. So, when he talked to me about SquadCast, he was very much more explicit and upfront saying, “Hey, I think this can be something, but I need help, and I want a co-founder. I want you to be that person.” That’s when I said, “You have no idea, man, that I’ve been looking for something to do, something to just jump into.” Even though I am a CPA, an accountant, I’m certainly risk averse, I think I have enough of that crazy entrepreneurial spirit in me to hope for the best, but still be realistic along the way. Honestly man, at first, I didn’t know how I would fit in because my skillset isn’t the common skillset that the business startup founder has, where it’s more so a sales and marketing background. Quite frankly, sales is something that is in my blood, all my family members are in sales to some degree. I feel like I’ve been in customer service or client service my entire life, even when I was a food server. I feel like a lot of the skillsets that I acquired in there, or at the accounting firm, all helped me become the founder that I am today, where I’m comfortable dealing with all sorts of people. Whether it’s executives all the way down to a podcaster just starting off for the first time, I love talking to all those types of people. I love building relationships with them. Yeah, having that financial background, I think, makes me a little more prepared and less intimidated by the legal and financial side of things. But I will say, the only downside is neither of us have marketing in our background, so I think that’s been the one thing that is been the hole in our original founding team. Which is fine, because it’s a lot of skills that we needed to learn and get better at, and then we ultimately will hire somebody that’s better at it than us.
Scott: I think you shouldn’t beat yourself up about that, because the reality is no one can know everything.
Rock: Right.
Scott: That’s the key to life, is figuring out how to find people who compliment your skillset, and make you look good, and you make them look good. Together, you can be successful. Yeah, it would be great if you were superman and could do everything, and also fly around the world, buy hey, we’re human beings. Maybe talk about, let everyone know where they can find SquadCast, how to get to the URL. I don’t want to be too promotional, but I think the value for the subscription is really amazing. I think I pay 20 bucks a month for all the podcasts I can do, basically. Maybe talk about the value proposition, how people can sign up if they’re interested.
Rock: Absolutely, yeah. The best place to find us is on our website at squadcast.fm. It’s squadcast.fm. There, you can find out all sorts of information about not just SquadCast, but also tips on how to podcast better, specifically when it comes to a remote interview because that is where we specialize, and that’s where we see our opportunity to educate folks in the space on how they can just be a better podcaster when it comes to recording your show remotely. And, how to help your guests get prepared for that. Again, squadcast.fm is where the best place to find us is. Everyone gets a free seven-day trial to test the product, and get comfortable with it.
Scott: I wasn’t sure, because I was switching over from something else that wasn’t working that great. You guys made that easy for me. I mean, I ended up subscribing instantly, bit it’s nice to know you’ve got seven days to kick the tires on something.
Rock: Absolutely. Yeah, we want people comfortable and confident when they’re recording their next remote interview on SquadCast, so seven days is usually enough but always happy to offer extensions if more time is needed.
Scott: It’s a really amazing product. You guys deserve a lot of credit for just seeing this market, and also having the guts to jump into this. I feel like podcasting is starting to go mainstream, just starting. Working back four years from now, you guys were the definition of early adopters and early builders. I’m really happy for you.
Rock: Thank you.
Scott: You guys are really nice people. I love seeing nice people succeed, it’s really cool. Maybe you can tell everyone where to find you. Should they reach out to you via LinkedIn? Or, what’s a good way to get a hold of you?
Rock: Yeah. LinkedIn is a great way, but I’m also on Twitter at @RockwellFelder. Yeah, LinkedIn is a great way, too, and it’s Rockwell Felder there as well.
Scott: Rock, thanks for coming by, you’re awesome, say hi to Zach, and congrats on all you’ve built. I’m looking forward to the future, it’s going to be pretty cool.
Rock: Very stoked to be here, thank you so much for allowing me to share my story.
Singer: (Singing) It’s Kruze Consulting’s Founders and Friends, with your host Scotty Orn.

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