All posts in “Podcasts”

A look at 42 women in tech who crushed it in 2017

What a challenging, exhilarating year it has been for women everywhere, starting from the women’s March on Washington to former Uber engineer Susan Fowler’s eye-opening and now famous blog post to the #metoo movement that has swept the country, washing dozens of sexual predators out of their powerful roles in the process.

All the while, women in tech have been driving their tech companies to new levels of success, including reaching difficult product development milestones and, in many of the cases you’re about to read, raising meaningful follow-on funding.

That’s not always an easy task, as many will tell you. In 2016, companies with at least one female founder raised 19 percent of all seed rounds, 14 percent of early-stage venture, and just 8 percent of late-stage venture rounds, according to Crunchbase.

Herewith, just 42 of the many women who defied the stats this year — and who are posed to kick more ass in 2018.

Learn Spanish with this innovative podcast

If you’ve ever tried to learn a language, you’ll know how important listening can be. 

That’s why Duolingo has launched the Duolingo Spanish Podcast, for English speakers who are learning Spanish. The first episode is available for free on Duolingo’s website, iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify, and Stitcher. New episodes will roll out every Thursday. 

Each 15-minute episode is a narrative nonfiction story, similar to an episode of This American Life. Though they take place all around the world, the episodes feature Latinx characters, and discuss Latinx culture. 

The podcast is hosted by Martina Castro, co-founder of NPR’s Spanish language podcast Radio Ambulante. She is also the founder and CEO of Adonde Media, a bilingual podcast production company. 

Castro narrates the stories slowly in clear, intermediate-level Spanish. A paragraph is read in Spanish first, followed by an English translation, with segments clocking in at about a minute long. 

The English translations make it easy to check how much of the preceding segment you understood. They can also pull you back into the story if you got lost, or zoned out, during the Spanish section. 

Don’t expect the monotonous listening exercises from your high school Spanish class (or those you might hear on the Duolingo app itself). The stories are interesting, unnerving, heartwarming, and a unique portrait of Latinx culture.

Having taken four years of high school Spanish many years ago, I was able to get the gist of each section if I focused hard (though the English translations were certainly helpful). That said, you’ll want to listen at a time when you can focus — my intermediate-speaker’s brain had a lot of trouble translating if it was also doing something else. 

The first episode features the story of Rodrigo Soberanes, a Mexican journalist, who builds a friendship with a disgraced soccer player and makes a documentary about it. 

Upcoming segments will document a Chilean journalist who unexpectedly meets her future (Chilean) husband on a trip to China, and a woman’s journey to build a life in Buenos Aires after her boyfriend (whom she moved there for) leaves her.  

Duolingo told Mashable that it hopes the podcast will motivate intermediate and advanced Spanish learners to keep up with their studies throughout their daily, while communing, exercising, etc. (But as I said, for speakers as inexperienced as me, this is probably wistful thinking). 

It also hopes users who have completed Duolingo’s Spanish course will maintain their grasp on the language (and, incidentally, their involvement with Duolingo) by listening to the podcast regularly. 

The company also noted that Spanish speakers who are learning English could benefit from the podcast. 

If you want to learn Spanish, and you love a good story, check this podcast out. 

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ScanMyPhoto’s Mitch Goldstone talks about the ephemerality of media


In this episode of Technotopia I talk with Mitch Goldstone, the founder of ScanMyPhotos. Mitch started his company with a mission to scan the millions of photos that clog our dresser drawers and closets and he is now scanning hundreds of thousands of photos a day. During the recent California wild fires Goldstone and his team worked tirelessly to help homeowners who lost their photos and needed access to their old backups.

In this podcast I talk to Mitch about the future of photography, the miracle of digitization, and how many weird photos he’s seen flow by during the scanning process. He’s offering you all a discount if you use the checkout code TECHCRUNCH, which should get you a few dollars off your next scan.

Technotopia is a podcast by John Biggs about a better future. You can subscribe in Stitcher, RSS, or iTunes and listen the MP3 here.

After raising $16M in funding, CastBox plans to fix podcast discovery


More people than ever are listening to podcasts, but as they soon find out, discovering new ones is a cumbersome process that lacks the serendipity users take for granted in other apps. CastBox wants to fix that by becoming “the YouTube of audio.” The podcast player for iOS and Android, which has raised $16 million in funding so far, is launching a new audio search feature today that uses natural language processing to let listeners search for keywords and topics across more than 50 million episodes.

Founder and chief executive officer Xiaoyu Wang wants CastBox’s in-audio search to make finding relevant sections of audio as easy as searching in text. The feature supports English, and Wang says the company wants to perfect it before expanding into other languages. CastBox’s funding includes a recently closed $12.8 million Series A round led by Qiming Venture Partners and IDG Capital, with participation from SIG China, GSR Ventures and ZhenFund.

With the addition of in-audio search, CastBox hopes to become the breakout podcast player for iOS and Android. It will start co-producing and releasing original content this quarter and its monetization plan includes a premium option with extra features.

CastBox is headquartered in Beijing, with offices in Hong Kong and San Francisco, and claims that its podcast player has been downloaded more than eight million times. Though most of CastBox’s users are English speakers, Wang says she decided to base the company in China because of the engineering talent there.

Before founding CastBox in early 2016, Wang worked at Google in Japan and Dublin. She started tuning into podcasts to study Japanese and keep up with the news, but had trouble finding a player that supported different languages and gave personalized recommendations. Many were barely more than lists of podcast RSS feeds.

“I couldn’t find an app in multiple languages, so I had to download MP3s and organize them. It was complicated and like creating an audio black hole unless I remembered to listen to them,” she says.

To stand out from other podcast players for Android when it first launched, CastBox pitched its app to “podcast addicts” and then paid close attention to their feedback, adding new features quickly and resolving all issues within a day. As their early listeners began recommending CastBox to their friends or on their own podcasts, CastBox’s Android app started to gain traction. It then launched a version for iOS, but since Wang realized that it would be difficult to compete with iTunes, which many listeners already use as their default player, the startup decided to focus on refining its discovery features.

In addition to sorting podcasts by the usual parameters, like an episode’s release date, CastBox’s recommendation engine considers each user’s search history and their listening behavior, such as which episodes they listened to in their entirety and enjoyed enough to share on social media and which ones they closed out of quickly.

The startup will use its Series A funding on marketing, producing original content and hiring engineers.

Featured Image: Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Google just mysteriously bought a podcast app

Google looks to be making its first foray into the world of audio storytelling. 

Business Insider reports that Google has acquired 60dB, a short-form audio platform. 

The app featured over 700 podcast-style stories. It debuted in January 2016 and will shut down, in its current incarnation, on Nov. 10. The app’s original content will continue to be available on its Medium profile.

Similar to Apple Music, 60dB is heavily focused on personalization. Users can create Spotify-esque playlists of episodes from podcasts and news shows of their choice. Options range from NPR’s Hourly News Summary to in-depth interviews and fiction. 

Google has not yet revealed its intentions for the app and its staff, who will be joining Google’s team, though it’s reasonable to expect some sort of Google competitor to Apple’s podcast app in the next few months beyond the podcast section in Google Play Music.

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