Metacast: Behind the Scenes
Metacast: Behind the Scenes
#10: The overdue update on 2023 & plans for 2024

#10: The overdue update on 2023 & plans for 2024

This newsletter and our podcast are our diary of building Metacast, a podcast app that reimagines what listening to podcasts could be like. We’re building “in public,” sharing our learnings as we go. Join the 386 readers who follow our journey on this newsletter.

In this issue

  • Year 2023 in review

  • Plans for 2024

Hiya folks,

It’s been a while since we sent out our last newsletter!

Well, I should probably say *I*, not we and take all the blame for it. After all, “we” is the least effective team member who never gets anything done… In any case, the three of us had a great time taking some time off during the holidays season and so did the newsletter. Next time, we’ll talk about guilt that came with that.

A quick update first — starting from this issue, the newsletter will cover the same topics as the latest podcast episode. The podcast is a lively long-form discussion whereas the newsletter is more structured and thought out. You can listen to the podcast right here on Substack, on Metacast, in other podcast apps, or watch us on YouTube. So, do whatever suits your taste better — read, listen or watch.

Year 2023 in review

2023 was a life-changing year for the three of us on a personal level.

Here’s a brief timeline of Metacast:

  • Fall of 2018-ish — Arnab and I take a stroll in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, discussing that we should leave our jobs at AWS and start a company. We establish the principles of how we want to run a company — bootstrapped, no unnecessary pressure, powered by our own passions.

  • March-ish 2022 — Arnab and I take a stroll along Lake Washington in Kirkland, WA. He tells me about his plan to leave AWS and work on a gaming app for kids. We start talking about podcasting and realize that for years we’ve nurtured similar ideas. Building on each others’ thoughts, the idea for Metacast is born.

  • August 2022 — Arnab leaves his job as a Principal Engineer at AWS. We start chatting regularly to bounce ideas.

  • November 2022 — We record the first episode of “Metacast: the podcast about podcasting” with a hypothesis that we can attract an audience of podcasters. We get some amazing guests we’re fans of like Brian McCullough, Jake Knapp and Jonathan Courtney.

  • January 2023 — The first episode of the podcast is out. Brian shares our episode on the Techmeme Ride Home show. We get a lot of listens and are encouraged to record more episodes (fast forward, we’ve done 52 episodes in 2023!).

  • March 2023 — Arnab builds a prototype of what will become Metacast. We apply to YC but don’t get in. By that time, I make my mind up about leaving my job but am not fully comfortable with my finances yet. Around the same time, we start to casually chat with our ex-colleague and friend Jennie who also plans to leave AWS.

  • June 2023 — I leave my job at Google. We incorporate the company in Delaware. Shit gets real. We plan to launch publicly in November (how naive…) Check out episode 24 part 1 and part 2 to hear us talk about these big career decisions.

  • August 2023 — We launch Metacast in private beta. Jennie leaves Amazon and moves to Costa Rica.

  • October 2023 — Jennie joins Metacast as a Sr Engineer. Check out this episode with Jennie to learn more about her decision and our pre-revenue compensation approach.

  • January 2023 (now) — We’re on the final stretch of completing features and fixing bugs for a public launch.

We’ve talked at length how awesome it is that the universe brought us together for this experience. The stars aligned. All ducks are in the row. We have no idea if we’ll succeed but we’re in this for the long haul, so we believe we will succeed eventually.

Not having external funding and the pressure that comes with it gives us the freedom to make quick decisions, experiment and pivot if necessary. Truth be told though, we’re a bit desperate (in a good way) to launch, because we want to start validating the features and willingness to pay for the app.

Could we have shipped Metacast faster?

The answer is yes but with caveats.

Caveat 1: Focusing on table-stakes features can be a trap.

Initially, we focused on our “secret sauce” features and disregarded table stakes functionality until a later stage. The secret sauce took a bit of time to build, which we could’ve instead spent on building yet another podcast app that has all the basic functionality like speed control, sleep timer, and downloads.

The cost of focusing on the table stakes features is that the app would be just like everyone else’s. Users would not be impressed and almost certainly not willing to pay for it. We personally might have lost motivation to keep doing it because it wouldn’t be any special.

Caveat 2: Avoiding hard work now == pushing hard work to later + complexity tax.

We could’ve build our app without a backend and implemented it entirely on the client. But that would’ve limited our ability to add backend-dependent features at a later stage. We’d have to build the backend pretty soon anyway because our secret sauce depends on it. If we had users by that time, we’d have to consider backward compatibility and data migration, which is never fun.

How about validation and “failing fast”?

We’re plugging into an existing podcasting ecosystem with apps that already charge subscriptions while offering less functionality than we do (much less in fact), so we’re quite confident we’ll find our users and the business will be viable. However, if we don’t, we are building Metacast such that the platform can be reused for other use cases.

We’re in it for the long-term and do not intend to fail. It might sound like hubris but hey, entrepreneurs must have a bit of hubris and self-confidence to keep pushing.

Our favorite Metacast podcast episodes of 2023

Both Arnab and I are big fans of our episode 24 part 1 and part 2 where we chat about leaving corporate to start a company. It’s a fascinating look into the decision making process right after the decision happened with minimal hindsight.

Arnab’s top episodes:

  • Ep. 7.5 - Bonus Primesode: Enter Sandman, Isaac Asimov and Dogman — the most unplanned Metacast episode ever. We got so carried away with a discussion about books at the start of a recording session that we forgot about the topics we want to discuss initially. We published this heartfelt discussion about books, movies and comics as a bonus episode.

  • Ep. 10 - Hearts in Taiwan — our interview with hosts of the Hearts in Taiwan podcast Annie and Angela. It has quite a lot of depth about parenting and culture. We got to reflect on our experiences as immigrants to the US and Canada.

Ilya’s top episodes:

  • Ep. 4 - Jake & Jonathan Do America — our second interview episode. It has laughter all around but also some deep topics about leaving corporate to be entrepreneurs.

  • Ep. 28 - Jason Fried, Co-founder/CEO of 37signals — Jason doesn’t need an introduction. It was the episode where both of us felt like “wow, we’re talking to Jason Fried himself!” It was an insightful conversation and I was impressed by Jason’s calm humbleness despite all the fame of 37signals.

What’s up for 2024?

Early in 2024 we will be shipping Metacast publicly.

We may do a public beta but we’ve not decided if we should or shouldn’t do it yet. For now, the plan of record is to finish the features that are in development, add monetization capabilities, fix bugs and papercuts, and ship!

We’ll do a “soft launch” first — get the app into Apple App Store and Google Play Store, announce it on our own social media, and wait to get some feedback from users at a larger scale. The next step would be to do an announcement on Product Hunt and Reddit, collaborations with podcasters and entrepreneurs we know, etc.

I strongly believe that our content will play a major role in getting us access to distribution and partnerships, so we’re doubling down on content this year. We’ll discuss our content strategy more in the next issue of this newsletter and the podcast.

Stay tuned, sign up for the app waitlist and subscribe to our newsletter below.

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