The company that wants to be TikTok for podcasts

Paul English, former Co-Founder and CTO of Kayak, just launched a new startup that aims to be TikTok for podcasts.

Photo: David Yellen

The company that wants to be TikTok for podcasts

Paul English, who shook up the travel industry as Co-Founder and CTO of Kayak, is back with a new startup. is a podcast player and discovery app that has a TikTok-like interface, allowing listeners to swipe through clips and find new podcasts they otherwise wouldn’t come across.

The Hustle’s Rob Litterst had a chance to chat with English about Moonbeam and the podcast landscape.

What excites you about opportunities in podcasting?

I’ve been an avid podcast listener for many years, but have had a difficult time finding new ones. I’ve found that in most players, such as Apple & Spotify, you have to scroll through a lot of text and read a lot, and you’re often getting the same recommendations over and over again. 

How does Moonbeam help?

With Moonbeam, we’ve aimed to create a TikTok-like experience for podcast discovery. The app has a feature called Beam, which serves listeners with curated clips from shows that are specific to their own interests – if they don’t like a clip, they can keep swiping.

How are the clips selected?

Our clips are created using a combination of machine learning and human curation. Also, hosts have the ability to create clips from their show using the Moonbeam Console. In the app, machine-learning technology helps identify podcasts that align with a listener’s interests. As listeners use Moonbeam more, the algorithm gets better and better and can help find podcasts suited to your exact tastes.

Who are the curators?

The curators are subject matter experts. The app has a range of categories, like business, arts, sports, etc. We look for curators that have expertise in a given topic who can go deep within their domain to find content that provides standalone value to listeners. The ultimate goal is for hosts to pick their own clips. 

That’s a great segway – as much as the discovery function helps listeners, it seems like it could help podcast hosts even more.

Right, and helping hosts with discovery is just the first part. The second part is building a relationship between the host and the audience. We’ve already built in the ability to tip a host in the app with one click, and creators can also access a console with content-producing tools on Moonbeam’s website. We’re working on other features that will help hosts build community. 

How does Moonbeam make money?

We are not taking a cut out of any tips and plan on keeping it that way. Similar to the UI, we’re looking at a similar ad strategy to TikTok, where sponsored clips are natively added to a listener’s experience. 

What are some of your favorite podcasts?

It’s worth noting I discovered all of these with Moonbeam. Some recent favorites are:

  • Dolly Parton’s America, which I found before it really blew up 
  • Poetry Unbound
  • Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor

That’s a wide range of topics! Is there anything that you learned while building Kayak that has been particularly useful while building Moonbeam?

At Kayak, I led Design and Technology but found that my most important function was recruiting. At Moonbeam, I’ve tried to recruit a truly exceptional team. One of those big hires is Mike Chambers, our CEO. He’s been doing a phenomenal job managing the team and product vision.

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