Storiyoh: An online platform for podcasts


Storiyoh takes a social approach to content discovery for podcasts. The app allows you to listen podcasts pertaining to your interests and follow others and share your list with others. Rahul the co founder believes that this way the app is tapping the power of social power to discover and listen good quality audio content.


Give a brief info about your startup?

My start-up is called Storiyoh. Storiyoh is an on-demand non-music audio platform that allows its users to search and discover podcasts. We serve up to more than 23 million episodes worth of content from more than 460,000 podcast shows. What is unique and exciting about Storiyoh is that we take a social approach to content discovery. This means that when you join Storiyoh, you can start following others with similar interests and share what you are listening to with others on the platform.


                     Rahul Nair – Co founder                                                                                                     

What excites me most about Storiyoh is that we are part of an audio renaissance. There is, first of all, an inherent beauty in audio and in the act of listening. It expands our imagination and lights up our mind’s theatre.


What made you start your start-up and what problem does it solve?

A few things were clear to me very early in the journey. 1) Whatever I create should be an everyday use product; 2) it should be general enough to be used by anyone with a smartphone; 3) it should be interactions focused. So, I started to look at problems to solve across industries and chose the education sector to begin with. I wanted to create something broader, that is about lifelong learning and education. It didn’t take long to narrow down to audio because of my personal learning experiences with BBC. So my brother Rohit, my dad and myself became co founders of the firm. The first thing Rohit and I realised was the black-box experience of podcasting we have right now. Our professor friends at London School of Economics (we both are LSE grads in fact Rohit is still there doing his PhD) also nudged us in very helpful directions, and shaped our thinking about networks and content traps etc.

Content is growing every day in the podcasting world. Discovery remains a problem and for us user connections were a critical way of looking at discovery. Take movies or restaurants for instance. You surely have your preferences, but time and again, you rely on your social capital to make decisions about which movie to watch or where to dine..right? So, why should it be any different for podcasting? That was the starting point for us. So the app has a social architecture around podcast content – you can create user profiles and follow others on the platform. Activities are then reflected in a news feed like UX and UI. This immediately helps with content discovery as you can see what others are listening to, and if they are trusted connections, you might give that content a shot yourself – content you wouldn’t have discovered by yourself. Secondly, it allows you to create playlists that others can follow if you make them public. You can add shows to a smart playlist so that the playlist always picks up the latest episodes of those shows, keeping the playlist automatically updated. We think playlisting in podcasting has a lot of potential and playlisters as taste makers will be key influencers within the podcasting world.We have quite a few playlists on Storiyoh already, especially smart ones, ranging from global news, economics and international affairs, cricket, entrepreneurship, business and management and many more.

Our discovery section is also very easy to use – designed around things you can discover on Storiyoh i.e. shows, playlists, smart playlists, collections, people and podcast networks. Collections are also very useful, especially for a podcast virgin. Simply go to the collections page and you can browse shows for kids, teens, BBC buffs, murder mysteries, tech, entrepreneurship…even for lawyers!

We are trying to make the apps as friendly as possible even for podcast virgins. Of course, the vast majority of users of Storiyoh are people who are already into podcasting. But we would want Storiyoh to be the entry-point or the gateway to the world of podcasting for all those hundreds of millions, billions, who are yet to experience the magic. Of course, anyone in the world can use Storiyoh, but we are particularly passionate and purposeful about India.


Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?

For me the fascination was always with building stuff – finding problems to solve; and it started during my university days. I co-founded the enterprise society in my university to promote entrepreneurship within the student body. But opportunities started crystallising during my stockbroking days. I spent my spare time doing research on various problems and narrowed down to the lack of safe student housing in India as key problem. Student housing is a really interesting real-estate asset class (the one closest to being recession-proof) and I was exposed to it and understood it pretty well being in England and being a customer myself. I thought it was a brilliant idea to start a company focused on providing clean and safe, managed housing for students in India. And so I quit my brokerage, made my first pitch at 22-23. And then as I failed, I learned what didn’t work and when I ran out of change, I went back into various jobs and then ventured out again…it’s been cycles. So, I’ve worked with big consultants (EY, PwC), financial services, started two ventures in between which failed for various reasons, then worked with a global education company called GEMS. And now Storiyoh. So, my pattern has been one of trying out new things…sometimes they are own ventures, sometimes they are different kinds of jobs. I’m in permanent beta.


Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?

My tech team is based out of Mumbai and I work from Cochin. I think Mumbai offers great talent and Kochi has a lot of potential but we will have to wait and see. I am passionate about promoting entrepreneurship in Kerala. Rohit is based out of London because of his PhD at the London School of Economics. My father is based out of Dubai. So, you can see that we are pretty global already.


As a start-up founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?

Firstly, product-market fit. No Founder wants to end having built something nobody wants to use. That is every Founder’s worst nightmare – all the sweat, blood and tears (literally) and nobody really needs or uses your product.

Secondly, running out of money!! Every Founder out there also realises that she needs the money to continue her mission. Reaching product-market fit and then scaling up and bringing in revenues. These are the top goals of every Founder.


Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?

There are many podcast apps available on both iOS and Android operating systems. But most (if not all) the apps currently offer a black-box user experience. We are different and better in the sense that we take a social approach to content discovery and consumption.

I think social is who we are and how we go about finding stuff. It’s just fundamental to human nature. Connections are – and will be for the foreseeable future – at the heart of any digital business. Things like product quality and creative marketing have given way to terms like networks, communities, and conversations.


How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?

I don’t think it’s actually possible to have a balance in the beginning. The balance starts coming in later on in life when things have gotten more stable, sustainable and secure. The early days for any Founder are filled with massive challenges, delays, setbacks, risks and uncertainties, both, professionally as well as personally. It depends on each founder how he or she deals with these realities. But I think most of them will agree that some things got to give, especially in the early days. You cannot devote enough time to family and friends, forget about holidays, forget about outings, dinners and parties. Even if you end up going, you will never enjoy it because you are paranoid about your start-up, you have a million questions at the back of your mind, a million problems to solve. I manage it by communicating clearly with everyone and allowing them to reset their expectations about me. People around you also have to understand this. You will have less stress if they do and more stress if they don’t.


Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you’re looking to raise?

No, we are fully bootstrapped for now but we will be going out to raise our first round sometime in 2019.


What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?

I think sometimes I come across as insensitive because I may not have an emotional response or may not see something as urgent enough for me to focus on. The reality is that when you are running a start-up you’ve got to be able to take helicopter view and understand where you need to judiciously invest your time and attention, both of which are the ultimate scarce resources. You have to be able to say NO to almost 99% of things and 99% of times and you come across as someone who just doesn’t care, and you will make enemies.


What gets you excited about this company?

What excites me most about Storiyoh is that we are part of an audio renaissance. There is, first of all, an inherent beauty in audio and in the act of listening. It expands our imagination and lights up our mind’s theatre.

I believe there is a lot of good work we can do and offer great experiences in audio. But that is about the format of the content made available on Storiyoh. We are also deeply concerned about the impact of technology on human beings. Traditional social media spaces like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn to some extent, have been designed around your life updates. They are also to a large extent about creating and crafting an image of yourself, and sometimes obsessively.

All of these guys rely on an ad-driven model, which means their priority is to have maximum eyeballs or user engagement, as delivering ads by hacking into human psychology. You sleep for 8 hours, work for 8 hours and it’s the remaining 8 hours of your life that they and everybody are competing for. I call this attention extraction.

So, they focus on features to be built to ensure users do not leave the platform. In other words, “how can we make the product as addictive as possible”?- this is unhealthy.

To keep our attention, they turn to serving us sensational content to the extent that we lose our ability to converse and agree on what is true or even disagree on stuff in a civilised manner.

We believe you can build communities not just around your “daily me” but also around pieces of content – in our case that is non-music audio content. So we are really about tapping into the power of social discovery to find interesting stories to listen to…stuff that might educate, entertain and inspire you.

So where do we fit in?


Our endeavor will be to design and develop products that people love, enjoy and find meaningful rather than churning products that people can’t stop using. We are not interested in hacking human psychology.


Over-personalisation simply leads to all of us living in a bubble; suspended from reality. So, while we love to recommend content based on your likes, we will also give you opportunities to hear viewpoints that you wouldn’t typically come across going purely by your likes.

And this approach is EXCITING. It is going against the grain, against common business models. We are going to take that risk and stand up for our values, which are sacrosanct in terms of serving our members and users in the most simple and transparent way possible.


Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.

My day typically starts at around 4am. I avoid digital contact in the early hours…no mails no messages. I spend my early morning hours meditating and scribbling in my notebook. It is my creative time, free from distractions of every kind. Think, imagine, plan, write, schedule. For me creativity comes first and I will always give it the utmost priority. I need time, space and the quietness for this.

By 7am, my daughter Kukku needs to be woken up, prepped and readied for her school. After dropping my kid at school, I head to my office at 9 am. Once in my office, I review my notebook before looking at anything on my laptop or phone. And then it is EXECUTION time. Keep killing and shooting down things to do. In between there are always random fire-fighting as start-ups are unpredictable.

This goes on till about 6-7pm after which I go home. Once home, I freshen up and interact with Kukku and Divya my wife, eat dinner and sleep. Next day…..repeat, with surprises!


Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?

I know Rohit from the time he was born and my father has known me from when I was born. Simple! That is how we met 😉

But there is more to the story….we met Zahir and Burges in Mumbai. They run their own agency called Brand Catalyst Media (BCM). They are a fantastic bunch of people who are not afraid of pushing boundaries…..and that is what we love! Zahir and Burges are not only our friends but also our partners in crime. I am fortunate to have my brother Rohit and my dad as co-founders and I am fortunate to have friends like Zahir and Burges who literally make it happen.


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