Castos, a WordPress-powered podcast hosting provider, announced a $756K pre-seed fundraising round today from Automattic, Joost de Valk, founder of Yoast SEO, and other individuals. The company raised money from all the investors in this round via a SAFE note, which founder and CEO Craig Hewitt said is a fairly standard investment vehicle for companies at Castos’ stage of growth.
“On both the individual and corporate investor side I think the investors see the vision that we have for what the Private Podcasting market can mean for Castos and want to help us achieve that potential,” Hewitt said.
Private Podcasting is a growing trend where creators and organizations broadcast to supporters in a more intimate format that isn’t open to the public. Hewitt likens them to membership sites, except in audio format. It is often used by people who are running membership sites, courses, or online communities as a way to stay connected with members.
“The other application is companies wanting a way to connect with their employees in audio format,” Hewitt said. “Podcasting is perfect for that because it’s mobile-first, on-demand, and can be consumed asynchronously. We call it the Step Away Experience. Companies that are adopting Private Podcasting internally are giving their team members a way to consume their internal content without being tied to their computer on a Zoom call or glued to Slack.”
Castos is developing a mobile app specifically targeted at the private podcasting market. Hewitt’s team is aiming to have the app become a place where people can listen to all of the private podcasts for which they have a subscription. Listeners would simply use the app instead of going through the process of manually subscribing to all their private podcasts via RSS feed. New episodes will appear automatically in the app for subscribers.
“For our corporate clients, the ability to white label our app with their own branding/style is a big win,” Hewitt said. “It’s also a much more secure way to distribute private podcast content. There’s no RSS feed to share around, no files to download (our app is streaming only to offer more security to those files).”
The pandemic ramped up unprecedented interest in podcasting when lockdowns were in place across the globe. Even with vaccines more readily available now, Hewitt said Castos is still witnessing strong growth in the podcasting industry.
“There are all the new podcasters in the market now since so many launched podcasts during the pandemic, but now that people are traveling again and commuting to work we’re seeing listenership going up quite a bit,” he said. “This is a trend we expect to continue into the future.”
In the past 10 months, Castos has grown to serve nearly 3,500 customers and the team has grown from seven employees to 13. The company’s Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin is used on more than 30,000 WordPress sites. Castos is actively hiring for several roles right now, thanks to the new round of fundraising.
“All of the funds will go towards growing our team,” Hewitt said. “This will be pretty evenly split between product (designers and developers) and Sales and Marketing roles – more people, more energy, more great minds working on ways that we can better serve our customers.”