An excerpt from an interview with Co-founders Billy Shaw, Chris Aston and Jason Ji.
How long have you been working on Pundit?
Billy: May, 2015. We actually create and launched our first product into the market and last year at Collision Conference, the largest conference in America, and we got our first funding there. And recently, we decided we wanted to re-iterate our product and position it to become a better and larger product, so we took it down and we’ve been reinventing it for the past few months getting ready for another launch in May.
And what is Pundit?
Billy: Pundit is a voice-first social content platform where you can talk and listen to other people all with your voice. It’s a more genuine way of having a conversation.
Chris: And the reason we really started with this in the first place is if you think about it – music, photos, videos, have all been re-invented for the social age. The last frontier of innovation has yet to happen – which is audio and voice. Voice is the fundamental way we have conversations, and we think we can build that for the mobile age.
Billy: Imagine an Instagram of people all talking to each other, with voice conversations. Our vision for Pundit is that everyone can be their own talk show host, everyone can be a pundit in whatever topic they like the most.
Do you work on this full time?
Billy: We do work on this full time – we started full time right after we got out of school and got accepted into an accelerator program called TechStars.
Never heard of it… I’m kidding!
Billy: (laughing) Through TechStar, the Walt Disney Company became our first investors. And we’ve been fortunate enough to get mentors and leaders in media and technology, including the Disney CEO Bob Iger.
And is he your favorite mentor?
Chris: Our favorite mentor is the chairman of Walt Disney International. He’s been an incredible person as a personal mentor and for our company. Over the last few months, during the early days of our product, we were lucky to be able to pilot with a lot of Disney business – like ABC Family (which is now Freeform), Radio Disney, and a lot others. We also have a lot lined up this year as our product grows and launches again to the public.
What is a mistake you made?
Chris: There was a lot of trial and error with our first product, natural growth pains. For us, the trial and error involved our focus--our focus shifting too frequently – trying to build too many people at once, too small of a niche group, and spinning our wheels time and time again. At the end of the day, we realized, in time, that we needed to focus on one sub set of people at once, expand, and have that group of people love our product and have those powerful conversations. Since we realized that, we stayed focused on building for that group of people so we can expand later on without the distraction of building for all the world at once.
Are you looking for capital?
Billy: Through TechStars and angel funding, we have raised $600,000 so far so we’re good for now.
Who is your favorite hero of business or tech?
Billy: I think many people would say founders of Apple, but for me--my biggest hero is the founders of SoulCycle, I think it’s amazing they created a product that people are so cult-ish and crazy about. They give so much attention to detail.
Chris: My favorite hero is Mark Zuckerberg but for different reasons. He is one of those people who have grown Facebook out of the idea of transparency and with Pundit, we’re very transparent with one another. We foster our relationships inter-personally through the transparency that we have. And seeing him do that at a huge level with 10,000 employees is crazy because he openly shares his life with these people. And he doesn’t let greed get in the way of innovation. Facebook is incredibly innovative - like building AI technology, placing layers on top of everything, and innovating all these projects.
Who are your biggest pundits on Pundit?
Chris: We have a couple really cool and funny comedians who have grown in popularity. One is a trans-comedian and they’re hilarious and awesome.
Billy: Comedy really brings a lot of people. And there are no other social platforms that do comedians justice.
Chris: Each voice clip is only up to 30 seconds so you have to get to the point fast. You have to be funny…fast. Our millennial audience doesn’t have the attention span necessary to listen to a 1-2 hour podcast.
- Interviewed by Z.T., ROKO Labs.