Podcast Episode 27

Breaking Glass Algorithms: Women Entrepreneurs in AI

In this episode, titled “Breaking Glass Algorithms: Women Entrepreneurs in AI,” hosted by Ryan Davies, Melinda Wittstock, a visionary five-time serial entrepreneur and CEO of Podopolo, shares her insights into the intersection of media, technology, and podcasting. Melinda discusses her journey in founding Podopolo, the world’s first interactive AI-powered podcast app, addressing the challenges podcasters face in discovery, engagement, and monetization. She delves into the role of AI in enhancing user experiences, detailing how Podopolo’s AI ingests and transcribes millions of podcast episodes to create a personalized content discovery platform. Melinda also explores future trends in AI and podcasting, touching on voice cloning, Blockchain for content protection, and the potential of Web Three. Additionally, she offers valuable perspectives on leadership, the entrepreneurial journey, and the importance of an abundance mindset. As a champion for female entrepreneurs, Melinda encourages women to think bigger, challenges VC norms, and emphasizes the significance of collaboration, conscious leadership, and embracing imperfection. The podcast episode not only provides a glimpse into Melinda’s impactful career but also offers valuable insights for tech business founders and owners seeking inspiration and guidance in the dynamic world of entrepreneurship

Melinda Wittstock

Listen to the Episode Now


Ryan: I’m your host, Ryan Davies, and I’m hosting today’s discussion on breaking glass algorithms, women entrepreneurs, and podcast AI with Melinda Wittstock. Melinda. Thank you so much for being here today. I’m very excited for this for this podcast.

Melinda: Yeah, Ryan, great to be here. Thank you for having me on.

Ryan: I mean podcasts about podcasts. Is this the joy or what?

Melinda: There are more and more of them; there are lots of podcasts about podcasting now. 

Melinda’s Background

Ryan:  I love it. Here’s a little bit about Melinda for our listeners. She is a visionary, five-time serial entrepreneur, and innovator in media and tech. She serves as the founder and CEO of Podopolo, the world’s first interactive AI-powered podcast app and creator marketplace focused on listeners and viewers. Hence, they are able to discover podcasts, playlists, clips, and video streams tailored to their interests and those of their friends, focusing again on innovative features, growth, fan engagement, and content monetization. She’s also the host of Wings of Inspire Business podcast, reaching over a million listeners; entrepreneur magazine recently recognized Wings as the number eight business Con business podcast with the podcast that shares entrepreneurial journeys, epiphanies, practical advice from successful female founders who have built multimillion dollar businesses. Thirty years of experience as a host, a journalist, and entrepreneurial success at executive across. it’s like every media brand that I can imagine here. So, Melinda, our listeners are excited to hear about everything you have to offer. I’d love to start by sharing the inspiration behind the founding of Podopolo.com and the role it plays in the podcasting ecosystem.

Melinda: Oh, well, thank you, Ryan. I’ve been innovating at the intersection of media and technology for a long time, and right from that introduction, I have been pretty busy. But in 2017, I became a podcaster myself, and even with all that expertise, whether I’ve been busy, you know, innovating in the beginnings of AI on supervised machine learning and natural language processing. But also in other aspects of my career, creating a show for BBC television and growing that to a 20 million audience, or creating Financial Times television for CNBC, I had all these different experiences. And yet, as a podcaster, I was struck by how difficult it was up against. Back then, it was only Apple; it really was the only game in town. How difficult it was to be discovered, you know, up against the way the algorithms were, let alone actually understand who was listening to your podcast and what they cared about. Then, on to monetization, it was next to impossible. At one point, I found myself creating five different side hustle businesses to support my podcast to kind of make it profitable. I was sort of thinking, well, man, like, you know, I had a mastermind I had those online courses. I had, like summits, done all these things right around the podcast. I thought, man, if it’s hard for me, what about everybody else? That was the beginning kind of my epiphany of what I could do to make this ecosystem much better for creators.

Right now, only 98% of podcasters don’t even qualify for advertising the way the market works, which is crazy. So, there were a lot of structural problems. I started talking to a lot of other podcasters. I realized that I was not alone and that they all needed a solution to allow themselves to be more easily discovered, grow their audience, engage their audience, and make money from podcasting. Meanwhile, I thought about the fans because I’m a big podcast fan. I live and breathe all things podcast. I’m the biggest consumer of podcasts, you know, ever, and across all genres. I love them, and I found it, just like a lot of other fans, really difficult to discover, you know, new content around what interests me at any given moment. There was no really good search functionality. Nobody had a really good recommendation engine, you know, very difficult. 

Nobody was offering any way to interact with other people who were listening to the same podcast as you. Right then, I took it a step further. Wait a minute, what about the advertisers? This is the fastest-growing media of all time. It is and should be a significantly bigger chunk of the overall digital advertising market globally. And what is stopping that? Advertisers are leaving money on the table because hands down, podcast ads convert better than any other. And yet it was this tiny sliver, and so it was understanding that led me to say, OK, so what can I do with all my knowledge and background to really change this ecosystem? So, the result is Podopolo.

AI and Personalization in Podcasting

Ryan: It’s amazing. And let’s dig into that about how AI specifically and what you’re deploying can improve the overall user experience for both broadcast creators and listeners. Like what sort of technology and what sort of strategy is in play, make sure that you’re capitalizing on that.

Melinda: Yeah, 100%. Well, so Podopolo automatically ingests all known podcasts, audio, video, languages, and genres. Now, our AI is able to go into all of those. This is like hundreds of millions of episodes, and it is instantaneous, but it takes about a minute to transcribe all of those episodes automatically. Now, in that transcription, it can detect what we call entities. So keywords, key phrases, sentiment names, you know, et cetera. So you know what each episode is about. Now, once you’re there, there’s a whole bunch of things. Obviously, that power is a very supercharged recommendation engine that personalizes content discovery at scale. It also allows advertisers to actually know where their ads are going to be most effective. It gives them some brand safety as well that their ad isn’t going to be put on a podcast that embarrasses them in some way, just, you know, be by being adjacent to a piece of content that they don’t want their brand associated with, for instance. Right. But it also powers things like the automatic creation of clips and podcasts, synopses and rundowns, and such for a listener to really, or a viewer to really be able to find exactly the content they want. The clip creation is already on Podopolo right now; anybody can go, and they’re listening to an episode. You can create a clip of your favorite moment and share that all across social media and messaging platforms and the rest and put Podopolo itself. What’s coming, though, is AI is going to be automatically creating those as well. That’s great for the podcaster because it helps discovery. Ryan, hey, there’s this great podcast; you have to listen to it.

It’s an hour, and you’ll say, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, Melinda, I’ll get around to that, and you may or may not because you’re busy. Right? But if I share with you like a one-minute clip or a 30-second clip, you’re more likely to listen to it, and then if you like it, you follow that podcaster and whatnot, a podcaster that counts as a download. I mean, it helps them grow their audience and be discovered by more people, right? So again, it’s helping podcast discovery, both for the fan and the podcaster. And then it’s lending a level of predictability and also just a higher return on investment for advertisers. So it’s one thing where literally everybody wins. There are lots of other derivations of the AI that are coming soon because, you know, more and more just all the generative pieces of it as well where podcasters want to know. On our platform, for instance, we’re partnering with hosting companies and ad networks and such through, you know, an API that will allow them to do all the things that we’re doing also, right? because we really believe in serving the whole ecosystem.  And so, a podcaster, for instance, so what’s the best title for my podcast? I’m going to be most easily discovered. The best way to market this can be to generate marketing content around my podcast based on that original go all go back to the transcript.

Ryan:  It’s just incredible. I mean, I know you’ve just touched on it there, and this was where I kind of wanted to continue the conversation. What future trends do you see at this intersection of AI and podcasting that’s coming where, you know, it’s going to be, this stuff’s going to become the mainstream, this is going to be the expectations off the table stakes, right? For what people can expect. Hyper-personalization, as you mentioned, is coming. Do you see the entire? It’s probably where entire content, entire episodes, and entire series are AI-generated, and things like that are going to be custom to a listener, right? Is that where you see things happening?

Melinda:  That’s happening more and more; I mean, you know, in the AI technology, we’ve already seen things like voice cloning, like, you know, being able to take a snippet of someone’s voice and then just like make a podcast in Japanese or like, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of speech-to-text, you know, generative content, and in all of that, let’s talk about the good part first and then some of the downsides and then some of the solutions that we see for those downsides. But one of the good things is podcasters want to create great content, right? They have a mission, they have something they want to teach or something about the world that they want to change or whatever, right? And it’s a lot to create really good content, and not all podcasts, you know, are great. So podcasters want to get better, but because they’re so focused on their content as they should be, it’s really hard also to be a marketing expert, also to be a great ad salesperson, also to be a great technologist, all these things. And so one of the best things for the podcast ecosystem is just making it easier, you know, for all the podcasters, right, just take all that like overwhelmed because a lot of them are very overwhelmed, with all of this, you know, to help them. That’s really huge, and it speaks to monetization, the discovery of all the things, and just improving their content, especially when you start to add insights about the audience and what the audience likes. So, a podcaster can be more responsive to their audience.

So these are all the really great things, and there’s a lot of generative content and whatnot, the downside though, can be. How does a podcaster actually protect their content and their content ownership? And we’ve seen this in AI where all the debates about copyright and increasingly it’s in the courts and such because if I could take a snippet of your voice, Ryan, and just create this podcast in Japanese or Spanish or like monetize it all over the place. You’d be like, hey, wait, that’s my content. And it’s the wild west. There’s nothing, right? So this is a bigger, bigger issue, and our solution is the Blockchain. And why the Blockchain because it is a ledger of who owns what, you know, very soon on Podopolo and people are on there, you know, they automatically be able to authenticate the ownership of their work. That is critical in a Gen AI world; one of the things that people haven’t seen in terms of technological trends is where, you know, Blockchain is associated with crypto. But it’s just so much more than that in terms of what it can do. So it’s that protection of ownership, but it also can aid in the discovery of content as well because you can see who’s associated with what AI discovery. It also aids there. There are so many other different things about just a podcaster wanting to reward their audience, or they want to crowdfund around their podcast, or they want to give gamified tokens, right? That can bring some value. There are so many different things that can be done in that space. And so we really see the convergence of those two being the solution to a lot of the issues around AI.

Ryan: That’s incredible. It throws that serial number almost in the way of, you know, this is mine. Still, it’s also leaving that open source idea of being able to share it, the knowledge, the creative aspect of the podcast out there for you whether it’s in podcasting or tech, you know, again, this is where your podcast comes in. But, you know, for aspiring female entrepreneurs and podcasters and people looking to enter this space. Do you see it as a, is there a difference? Is there now, is this kind of the great leveling between the two in terms of, hey, there’s a lot of tools out there so you can get out there. What’s your experience and advice around that?

Melinda: Yeah, a lot of ways it can be, right? Because it becomes, you know, as long as it’s not cost prohibitive, I mean, AI is not cheap, like, you know, when we’re talking about the processing level that we’re doing, it’s pretty significant, but, obviously just over time, you know, access to these tools and just the way podcasters are using them already, it does. It can really level the playing field. However, it’s not easy for everybody to just create their own large language model, you know. Because you can afford a Nvidia chip, you know, I even want.

Women in Entrepreneurship and Tech

Ryan:  Yeah, especially in today’s landscape and everything else. There are still many barriers to entry that exist, right? And that’s just one of many for you. Like again, personally, how do you see the future of this going, particularly for women in this space, whether it’s in tech entrepreneurship or podcast entrepreneurship? And, is there a movement to foster greater inclusivity in this space?

Melinda: And I’ve been for years now, and one of the reasons I launched my podcast is I really wanted to affirm and acclaim the female entrepreneurial journey.

Very few women take on the excitement and the burden equally of saying, I’m going to transform an entire industry using kind of cutting-edge technology and build a billion-dollar-plus unicorn. There aren’t very many role models, first of all, for women who dare to do that. And it is hard, for sure, for anybody. But there’s an extra degree of difficulty because women still are getting 2% of the venture capital. You know, all those kinds of structural kind of issues that you have to push through. It has the impact, though, of doing better businesses because if you’re determined and you’re going to do this as I am like, you have to be better, like you just have to do more and like, because often you find yourself doing things with your arms tied behind your back. You have to do; you have to get good at doing more with less. I mean, it, so either you’re going to be great, or it’s going to kill you kind of, or you’re just not going to take it on to begin with. And I would like to see more women thinking bigger because the bigger we think, the more likely it can happen. But if you cancel yourself out as no, I’m going to do like a consumer pro, you know, not that there’s anything wrong with this, right? Like any kind of entrepreneurship, it is great, but there’s a real temptation to stick to industries, right? Do you know? Or lifestyle businesses or cash flow businesses, all these things where women really do excel, and it is easier because there’s more of a proven path in that. So, I want to see more women daring to do this. There’s a lot that women bring to the table is very unique. It’s the way our brains work. It’s the kind of same thing that allows us to be doing lots of different things and say, yeah, your socks are over there at the same time as we’re doing this because over millennia, you know, we, you know, raised kids, ran the house, did this, did this, did all these different things? We connect the dots and are less linear. A lot more relationship-focused, which is really good in business. And Podopolo is a living, breathing example of this because it is a connect-the-dots thing. It’s like, how can we put chocolate and peanut butter together in this unique way? I see women just through all the women I’ve mentored over the years, just the ecosystem itself. And through my podcast being more likely to develop businesses like that, they are a lot more transformational women who come into it with a lot more domain expertise and like actually lived experience.

Melinda: They tend to start start-ups later in life, and they don’t necessarily fit the VC pattern of like I. I remember coming away from a meeting for the cut several start-ups ago having I was innovating a company called News it 2011, 2012 where we had innovated natural language processing, unstructured data search, and unsupervised machine learning to understand the relevance and the reliability from a veracity standpoint of user generated content. That was really hard because there was no AI, and doing that business now would be much easier. We were essentially solving the fake news problem before anyone knew there was a fake news or disinformation problem. But I had seen how social media was going to go. Sadly, you know, right? And the problems we have now at the time, it was very difficult to make that case to investors because people really couldn’t see it. But I had 500,000 people on this app creating content. And I took a VC meeting, and the VC said, well, Melinda, this is all really great. It’s very exciting, somebody’s going to do it. I said, what do you mean, like looking behind me like I am doing it?  I’ve got no money for this thing. I’ve got about 500, which is so innovative and like a bleeding edge of this technology.

Melinda: And like what? And, he literally said to me, we invest based on pattern recognition. And I was like, OK, well, that’s great because we’re using pattern recognition in our technology, like obviously missing that. He was like, no, what I mean is, you know, we know that, OK, these start-ups got here and what were the attributes, and, I was like, ok, well, I’m not getting anywhere with this guy, and as I was walking down the street I was thinking, I’ll see, how do I not fit the pattern? I’m like, ok, well, I didn’t go to MIT Stanford or Harvard.

And moreover, I did not drop out of any of those schools. I didn’t invent anything in my garage because I don’t have one. Like I was in New York at the time. I don’t have a garage. So, that’s not open to me. Let’s see. not 20-something, and oh, I don’t eat ramen noodles because they are too many carbs, you know. Like literally, no, I’m not wearing a hoodie, you know. And it was literally like that, and so I challenged VCs to be more open-minded, knowing that there are lots of different founder journeys. Not every founder’s journey is the same. In fact, they’re all different. There are some patterns, there are some things that are true of everybody, you know, around rules like product market fit, and you know, being resilient and all these sorts of things, right? Like being good at sales, like all the things, right? But everybody’s journey is different because every individual is unique, and the entrepreneurial journey is surely a unique one for everybody, also for women to think bigger and also for women who have had exits to invest in other women. And you asked a little bit about how the ecosystem is changing. And that’s where we’re going to start to see more of that impact, but there needs to be more exits. Women investors need to raise bigger check sizes from the insurance companies and the pension funds and such. And you know, it’s a continuum, but like, the more of us dare just to do this and walk this path, however hard it is, the more license it gives to new women. And like the hashtag around my podcast says, we’ve got to lift as we climb. Women really do need to be helping each other and allies with men who see our potential, and that’s important, too. 

Leadership Style and Future Aspirations

Ryan:  I mean, it’s just that. The story right there is of being typecast within a pigeonhole or pigeonhole and then typecast. I don’t know which one comes before. I’ve had so many stories like that. I could go on to put it. It’s unbelievable. I mean, with that, I want to ask one key question about you personally, like your leadership style. You said you’ve been doing this for a while; the evolution of your leadership style? Has it changed over time? What have you noticed? And what do you really embrace with that leadership style to stand out and be brave again, be that leader that you’re trying to, you know, to bring out in everybody else?

Melinda: It starts with the fact that if you want therapy, just become an entrepreneur. Because you’re going to go on a personal growth journey, whether you like it or not, like, you know, right, and with that comes better leadership, the more conscious you are, like literal people who live in the past, live in the future and live in their own egos. But the more kind of really conscious you are and present, the better a leader you’re going to be, and I’ll start on that kind of consciousness. Sounds a little spiritual. But that’s where I’ve really evolved the most, and how that impacts creating a company where people are really aligned on, like, what are our shared values, and how do we operationalize those values?

So, in Podopolo’s case, for instance, their innovation, integrity, abundance mindset, and collaboration. So, it’s one thing to stick those things up on a website and then forget about it. And it’s a whole other thing to really lean into. How do we operationalize that? What does that mean for who we’re being as well? As what we’re doing on the team. I’ve become much more collaborative. I do believe that in a team, you need people who have joy in their work and who actually love what they’re doing. They’re really aligned in the mission, and they’re given they have a clear understanding that in a start-up or an emerging growth company, it’s not what you’re doing is the result that matters, right? And by fostering a culture where people feel safe. They’re heard, they’re listened to but safe to say, and to think outside the box like to say, hey, Melinda, no, that’s not going to work, you know, not be afraid to do that, right? So, I like to create space for that. But, you know, again, it’s not easy because I think a lot of people, when they’re applying for a job at a start-up company, kind of think it’s like a job. That’s the way we’ve all been trained as entrepreneurs, and it’s something I’ve had to be thinking: God, why isn’t everybody entrepreneurial? Like, come on, you know, and so there can sometimes. Because I am getting better and better in the hiring or recruitment process of repelling people almost, right? It’s like if you want security here or you just want to show up, and no, this is going to be the right kind of thing, maybe not. Like we really, kindness is one of our highest values, all these things, but all the same, at the end of the day, you’re building something against, sometimes against, headwinds. You know, in a really competitive environment where you have to pivot in an instant, you have to be constantly learning You can’t be afraid of failure. you can’t have any shame around failure because there are failures every day. And, like, so how do you bring in the right people? They’re going to be able to go with that and obviously, as you get much bigger, you know, but that initial core team, you know, from like there’s one of you to 50 to 100, I mean, that’s just so vital, especially in those stages.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s so many amazing points to take away from there. And I want to close on the idea of looking ahead for you for the industry. We will focus on women in the industry. Still, I mean, you touched points on there’s lots of marginalized people, whether it’s in tech, whether it’s in podcasting, trying to get out there, whether it’s, they just don’t have the budget to do so they don’t have the resources, they don’t have whatever it is.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the future here? Where do you see it going? And with what you’re doing at Podopolo, that’s part of what you’re trying to do, right? It creates an open playing field and open access. So everybody can follow and chase that dream that they’re looking for.

Melinda: Well, one of the things I mentioned was one of our highest values, which is the abundance mindset, and the way we approach it is, how can we make everybody kind of better? Like we don’t like, for instance, we don’t have to be the only destination, right? It’s not really about ego; it’s about service. How can we partner with people who may, in another context, be a direct competitor? How can we leave the world better and like everything we do? And now it’s not true of all women. Still, I think I, I see the business landscape eventually moving more towards that, more inclusive, more, you know, more ecosystem focused more, you know, of service, and maybe I see it that way because I wish the world were more like that, you know.

So I say that with a caveat, but businesses that do approach things with more of that kind of abundance mindset are the new businesses. It is happening, just like command control models, which don’t work culturally anymore. And you see it in things like the evolution of Blockchain or even social media where the move from Web Two to Web Three and Web Three being interoperable, decentralized where creators own their own audiences rather than, that’s where we’re moving. Still, that’s where people ultimately want to be; it’s empowering for everybody concerned. That’s my vision of what I’d like to see more of because it’s better for people all around us.

Ryan: As a dad to two young girls, I’m trying to give them the advice not to be afraid to go out there and just give it a go and things like that. It looks like that, and that’s exactly it. And I mean, my oldest is a perfectionist. She hates everything that I can’t do right away. I’m never doing this again. She gets that from me.

Melinda: Perfectionism is actually one of the biggest things that holds women back because we’re almost taught to be like that,  in school. Like, I remember when my kids were really little and like, the difference between my daughter and my son, like, she’d want to make sure that her homework looked really neat and pretty, and it’s like, don’t it doesn’t matter, you know what I mean, where he was running around and being right. Perfectionism keeps us playing a smaller game because you can just plan and plan and, like, perfect; the market just passes you by. So you’ve got to be willing to go out with something that’s not completed yet to co-create with your customers. Let them tell you that something kind of sucks. So you can do better, you know. And that requires you not to take failure or feedback personally to just see it as learning. So that’s all it is. Failure is feedback.


Ryan: It’s just such an incredibly important point for everybody to remember. But yeah, especially for young women, don’t worry about that perfectionism; you know, it has to be just doing something new. Innovative and exciting is perfect really in its own sense. So, Melinda, I could talk to you all day about this., We could do it; I want to have you back as many times as possible. I thank you so much for this podcast. There’s so much to take out of this, and for our listeners they’re going to love it absolutely. And thank you for this incredible podcast today. Breaking Glass algorithms, women entrepreneurs, and podcasting at AI.

Melinda: You’re welcome. It was a delight. I could do this all day, too

Ryan: We’ll have to do a few of them. I’ll have to get you back for a few. Like I said before this, we said I got about 50 questions. I’m going to limit the time not to ask all 50. So there’s still 47 on the list, almost for where we went. So,  Melinda Wittstock, thank you so much. I want to thank our listeners as well. We can’t do what we do without you. So, until we meet again with another amazing TBR episode, I’m your host, Ryan Davies; you know, before we get back out here at Podopolo.com, Melinda, I want to give you one more chance here.

Anything that you want to plug here to drive people where they can get to know you better and things like that, of course.

Melinda: Oh, yeah. So, I can just be found on LinkedIn; LinkedIn is one of all the social platforms. The one that I use the most is just for stock and, you know, download Podopolo. It’s free in both app stores; you know, if you’re a podcaster, you can take advantage of our free offer when you come in for free as a Podopolo pro just by authenticating; you know that it’s your podcast. You get really advanced analytics, extra juice in our recommendation engine, a whole bunch of monetization tools, and such. So I invite you to join us.

Ryan: This is fantastic. Thank you so so much again. As I mentioned, we can’t do it without what we do without our listeners. So until we meet again with another amazing TBR episode, I’m your host, Ryan Davies. Thank you, Melinda, and thanks everybody. Take care out there.

About Our Host and Guest

Director of Marketing – Ekwa.Tech & Ekwa Marketing
Read More
CEO and Founder Podopolo
Read More

” And our solution is the Blockchain. And why the Blockchain? It is a ledger of who owns what. So, you know, very soon on Podopolo and people are on there, they automatically be able to authenticate the ownership of their work.”

– Melinda Wittstock –