LA Tech Updates: Apple Podcast Vet Joins QCODE, Amazon Reportedly in Talks to Buy Wondery, Pharrell's New Black Ambition Incubator
- Apple Podcast Veteran Steve Wilson Joins Startup QCODE
- Amazon in Exclusive Talks to Buy Podcast Studio Wondery, Wall Street Journal Reports
- Pharrell Launches Black Ambition Incubator
Apple Podcast Veteran Joins Startup QCODEwww.sonos.com
QCODE, a Los Angeles podcast startup run by a former Creative Artists Agency talent agent, snagged longtime Apple podcast executive Steve Wilson. The 15-year veteran will become QCODE's chief strategy officer.
QCODE, which last month raised $6.4 million in a Series A round led by Sono, is positioning itself as a funnel for Hollywood.
Founded by Rob Herting, a former agent who had represented largely writers and filmmakers, the company has produced eight shows since 2019. Several have been auctioned for film and television, including "Dirty Diana." Amazon picked up the 6-part erotic drama for a TV series.Wilson, who most recently ran marketing for Apple Podcasts, brings insights from the behemoth platform as the industry sees revenues soar. Advertising brought in near $1 billion this year, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau's podcast report prepared by PwC.
Amazon Reportedly in Exclusive Talks to Buy WonderyHernan Lopez started Wondery with the belief that in-depth, narrative audio stories were poised to bloom.
Amazon is in "exclusive talks" to buy podcast company Wondery and subsume its 30 hit shows and over 8 million monthly listeners into its empire, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
The talks reportedly value Wondery above $300 million, in line with previous estimates from analysts, when Apple and Sony were said to have expressed interest.
Wondery has produced dozens of original series including "Dr. Death" and "Business Wars," and has 19 shows currently in development to become television series.
The company does not publicly disclose its financials, but chief executive Hernan Lopez has previously said the company is profitable. About three-quarters of Wondery's revenue comes from advertising, but Lopez has said the company's revenue share from content licensing is growing (Wondery owns the intellectual property for all of its originals). It also launched a subscription service, Wondery Plus, in June and is currently looking to expand its international footprint.
Wondery, the West Hollywood-based company with the largest audience of any independent podcast producer, has been the subject of swirling rumors that several suitors are interested in acquiring it.
After a pandemic-induced decline that struck much of the podcasting industry, Wondery's audience has surpassed its pre-COVID levels. Its Q3 revenue was about double year-on-year and its Q4 performance has been strong, Lopez previously told dot.LA.
Podcasting overall now attracts over 100 million monthly listeners, according to Edison Research. The Interactive Advertising Bureau projects podcasting revenues to exceed $1 billion by 2021.
That growth has spurred somewhat of an arms race, most evident in Spotify's spending spree, which also has helped that company diversify from its reliance on streaming. Amazon Music is one of Spotify's biggest competitors along with Apple Music, and recently expanded into podcasts as well.
Acquiring Wondery would give Amazon more content to slide into Amazon Music, a scaled-down version of which is free for Amazon Prime subscribers. Combining that content with its Alexa smart speaker also could empower the company to capture more eyes and ears in the increasingly competitive attention economy.
The talks are reportedly ongoing and no deal has been confirmed.
Rapper and producer Pharrell Williams released "Entrepreneur" with Jay-Z earlier this summer, a song that became an anthem for Black ambition. Now, Williams is launching an incubator to put money behind his message.
Called Black Ambition, the nonprofit aims to invest in Black and Latino startup founders, and it's beginning by creating two prize competitions set to close in July 2021. The effort backed by Adidas, Chanel and philanthropic organizations including The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. Silicon Valley startup investor Ron Conway and Buzzfeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti also contributed.
The first competition will award up to $250,000 to current students or recent alumni from a historically Black college developing or in the seed stage of a company. Smaller prizes will be awarded to at least nine additional teams.
The second competition, called the Black Ambition Prize, will give $1 million in seed money to an early-stage company focused on tech, design, healthcare or consumer products and services. Another nine teams will get smaller prizes. Finalists will be connected with and mentored by a network venture capitalists and angel investors.
"Because we don't have enough of the market share, our kids end up having issues with disproportionate access to healthcare, disproportionate access to education and as a culture, we have disproportionate access as it pertains to legislation and representation," Williams said in a video announcing the news.
Williams was inspired to pool talent from historically Black colleges and universities and build a new pipeline of investment and resources to young people.
"We want to lift our HBCUs. They lift so many of us. They deserve to be in lights," Williams said. "We think it's high time that we own more companies.
In August, Williams published a piece in Time Magazine that accompanied a cover spread on "The New American Revolution." It coincided with his release of "Entrepreneur," the song and music video he produced with Jay-Z as a tribute to Black founders across the nation.
"Recent events and tragedies have illustrated the always existent stark divisions in the American experience, and while entrepreneurship has long been a tenet of the American dream, marginalized people have faced long-standing barriers to success," Williams said in a statement.
- Sonos backs LA Podcast Studio QCODE with $6.4M Investment - dot ... ›
- Stem Music Rights Management Software, Raises $10 Million - dot.LA ›
"I am Black ambition, I am always whisperin'," begins the new Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z collaboration, "Entrepreneur."
The song, released on Thursday to coincide with a Time magazine cover package on "The New American Revolution," is a tribute to the Black entrepreneurs across the world who push on in the face of systematic disadvantages.
Williams and Jay-Z, both entrepreneurs and investors themselves, use the video to highlight Black founders and their hustle from Adé Neff, owner of Ride On in Leimert Park, to Denise Woodward, the founder of Partake Food, which Jay-Z's Marcy Venture Partners help lead a $1 million investment.
"They keep telling me I will not," the lyrics continue. "But my will won't listen."
Directed by L.A.-based Calmatic, who produced Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" video as well as commercials for companies like Uber and Sprite, the video spotlights several Los Angeles startups, founders and entrepreneurs that have created opportunities and upended typical media narratives of Black men and women.
There's actress Issa Rae, who filmed her first web series on the streets of L.A. and is "literally building her empire on those same blocks."
There's Debbie Allen, the founder of Tribe Midwifery that provides home births for Black women, who are more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. There's the Compton Cowboys, whose South L.A. group mentors youth and rescues horses. There's Six Sev, a Los Angeles artist, designer and entrepreneur. And there's also a tribute to slain rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle, who spent his investment dollars in South Los Angeles.
Then there's Sole Folks, the South L.A. retail incubator for young designers, part of accelerator Grid110's South L.A. 2020 cohort. The outfit offers a program for young designers and artists in nearby communities and operates under the nonprofit Back Owned and Operated Community Land Trust. It runs a 12-week program for millennial entrepreneurs to source, brand and launch their own designs at pop-up shows.
The music video comes amid a push to create more capital for Black-owned businesses in the wake of the George Floyd protests that forced a conversation on longstanding inequities.
Black Americans make up nearly 13% of the U.S. population, but account for only 3% of its wealth. There are only three Black CEOs in the Fortune 500, and just 1% of venture-funded startup founders are Black.
The song and its chorus, "Black Man, Black Man," is a call for more ownership and in turn more wealth creation.
Full sheet music for “Entrepreneur" live on my site:https://t.co/yGwloReAt5
— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) August 21, 2020
The over five-minute video gives a panorama view of Black entrepreneurs around the world and those who excel in their field with captioned clips of their stories: Princeton's first Black valedictorian, creators of the first Black anime studio in Japan, a woman who started her own line of household cleaning products and a Broadway star who bought the plantation where his ancestors were once enslaved.
Adé Neff, whose bike shop Ride On opened in 2017, walked by the "Entrepreneur" filming crew two weeks ago, right after they finished shooting the clip of Sole Folks next door.
"How come I'm not in the video?," he said to the crew.
That's all it took.
Adé E. Neff, founder of Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op in Leimert Park.
"Well you're right, let's do it," they told him. "It was right on time," Neff reflected, "because they hadn't put away their equipment."
Neff didn't know whose project it was, or even when the video would be released. He asked anyway. "A closed mouth doesn't get fed," he quipped. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.
On Thursday, a friend sent Neff the clip. In the video, he raises his right fist above his head just like the store's logo behind him. "I was just being me," he told dot.LA. The gesture is a nod to the Black Power movement.
Adé E. Neff, founder of Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op in Leimert Park.
His friends are still texting him about it. In Leimert Park, people who know Neff's shop stop him on the street saying "I saw you in the video."
"It looks like it's getting a lot of talk behind it. It's doing its thing," Neff said. "It's letting people know that we're out here, we're doing stuff. We don't have to wait for anyone to come to us. We're out here doing it."
- Pharrell Williams Launches Black Ambition Incubator - dot.LA ›
- Los Angeles' Top Entrepreneurs, as Picked by its VCs - dot.LA ›