61. Zach Moreno and Rock Felder: Making an impact in podcasting

Sue Stockdale talks to Zach Moreno and Rock Felder, co-founders of SquadCast to discover how they are making an impact in podcasting. She learns how they collaborate and inspire others based on their values of listening, transparency, and flexibility, and hears their thoughts on how the podcasting industry will evolve in the future.

SquadCast is a remote recording platform that empowers podcasters, capturing quality audio and video conversations their listeners love. Simplifying post-production and collaboration, SquadCast’s patent-pending cloud-based technology is essential for podcasters producing multiple shows. Launched in 2017, SquadCast has customers in 120+ countries. Among those are marquee brands such as Microsoft, Spotify, ESPN, NPR, iHeartRadio, Kara Swisher, and Shopify. The company is headquartered in California, USA.

Find out more at www.SquadCast.fm

Listen to their podcast: Between 2 Mics https://between2mics.simplecast.com.

Find SquadCast on Twitter and Zach and Rock 

We are proud to announce Squadcast as one of the sponsors of this not-for-profit podcast for 2022.

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Key Quotes

‘We don’t have a lot of overlap in our more formal technical background and training. And, that’s I think really key to a lot of startups.’

‘there’s a lot of forms of collaboration and specifically remote collaboration that our team practices on a day-to-day basis.’

‘I think if I had to sum it up into one word, it comes down to trust.’

‘it’s our leadership style to empower other people to lead.’

‘our values first approach, values based approach that’s one thing that can’t be copied. I think our attitude and approach and tenacity for solving problems in an innovative manner. That’s another thing that differentiates us.’ 

‘I have this immense privilege of creating an asset that does build wealth and that is solving some really challenging problems for a large group of creators. That is kind of core to my personal mission is to connect creatives.’

Zach Moreno and Rock Felder Transcription

Sue: Welcome to the podcast, Zach and Rock. It’s great to see you both today.

Rock: Hey, Sue. Thanks for having us.

Zach: Yeah, appreciate it.

Sue: I’m delighted to be on the other side of the microphone today, because the last time we all spoke together, you two were having a conversation with me on your Between2Mics podcast a while ago. So it’s lovely for me to be able to turn the tables on both of you today. The first thing that’s curious in my mind is how did you come up with the name SquadCast?

Zach: Yeah, appreciate you coming on our show. That’s a great episode. And check that out for  some of sue’s story as a podcaster. But the name behind SquadCast was interesting. We had the idea before the name to help podcasters collaborate and record studio quality content like remotely, from anywhere in the world. And we wanted a name that I’ve heard people since coming up tell me that it passes the caveman test. I don’t know where that term came from, but kind of like, you know when people hear that name, does it actually communicate something about what’s meaningful about the work that you do?  And SquadCast was really it was a short list of trying to come up with words for for our company that helped our mission to amplify collaboration and kind of how we help people do things. And, and that’s where the name squad cast? came from. It also rhymes with podcasts, so that that’s really cool.  And is something that I wasn’t very sold on right away. So the team helped me gain confidence in it. As we kept using the name more and more,  it just kind of stuck and I love it five years later today. So I’m, I’m really grateful we could come up with a name that works.

Sue: well, it’s certainly easy to remember. Zach. I definitely agree with you there. And it leads me onto them thinking about how did the two of you get into business together then? Because sometimes finding a really great co-founder or partner to work within a business is one of the biggest struggles that many entrepreneurs have. How did it work for both?

Rock: Well, we’ve known each other for many years now. We’ve known each other since high school.  So kind of growing up in those adolescent years and then going through university years, finding ourselves as young adults and then growing into more professionals. And now adults, we’re in our early thirties, Zach just became a father. So we’ve gone through a lot of different patches in life together. But I think the thing for me that made it really easy to get excited about getting into business with Zach was just knowing that he was the type of individual that anything he put his mind to he was almost always very ambitious and he would accomplish it and I, I fancied myself as being someone similar that I put these really high expectations, always found myself like raising the bar. I’d set these goals that I thought were, were high milestones and didn’t expect to actually accomplish them. But I thought, well, I want to try and then I’d reach it and then I’d have to reset and rinse and repeat that process.

And so I wanted to start a business. I didn’t necessarily want to be my own boss, but I wanted to be part of building something at the ground level. I really like the team aspect of a startup. It feels very similar to team sports that I played back in, back in middle school, and so just being a key contributor to building something special where everybody has their own talents and experience and can add that and create something truly special was always appealing to me. And so when Zach approached me about the idea that later became SquadCast it was easy to get excited about because I knew he was going to accomplish whatever he set his mind to, like I said before, but then the idea of being rooted in podcasting, something that I was like a big fan of on a personal level, something that I had a connection with and was surprised at how it was not mainstream and how unfamiliar people were with podcasts. Just on the name alone, let alone like what the shows were, what the content was, stuff like that. So I figured it was inevitable that it was going to become more mainstream and so us playing a role in helping those creators create that content just sounded like a no brainer and something really fun to pursue.

Sue: Just what to pick up on that question about collaboration you already mentioned Zach that your mission is to amplify collaboration. So I’m wondering how both of you role model that together. If you’re collaborating as a team, how does that show up in how you work together?

Zach: Yeah. And it also builds off of what Rock was saying is that our skills are complimentary to each other. We don’t have a lot of overlap in kind of our more formal technical background and training. And, and that’s I think really key to a lot of startups that I’ve come to meet the founders of and talked with them about their stories. So the fact that that just kind of came natural to us and it worked out that well, I think that sets up the foundation. Collaborating and respecting each other’s skills and learning from each other while not necessarily like trying to go out of your lane where it’s like, I shouldn’t necessarily be doing our finances or our accounting. Right. And, Rock trusts  the prowess of our engineering capabilities. And, and we learn a lot from each other in those roles. But I think that that helps set up the, kind of the context for our form of collaboration. And then a lot of ways,  I am the CEO and CTO of SquadCast, but a lot of what I would consider to be like, CEO kind of level decision-making Rock and I talk about and come to consensus and collaborate on almost always. I’m trying, I’m like not even able to come up with like an example to the counter, but a lot of times that’s also involves conversation with our teams and the stakeholders that really have the information that can help when it comes to decision-making or planning or strategy. And I think that that there’s a lot of forms of collaboration and specifically remote collaboration that our team practices on a day-to-day basis with with us being spread over a couple of states, a couple of countries, a couple of time zones. Like we we use squad cast a lot. We use slack and a host of other tools to to make sure that we are like having this balance between synchronous collaborations, like we are having right now. And as well as async collaborations and kind of providing some space to focus and work as a team. So that’s really, something that is, is yes, it’s our mission, but it’s something that we also practice in in our culture.

Sue: it’s good to get, to hear that perspective from use Zach. Would you agree with that Rock that does collaboration look the same to you?

Rock: Yeah. I think if I had to sum it up into one word, it comes down to trust. Like Zach said, like they put a tremendous trust in me to handle the finances, but we trust each other on all the different departments or aspects of our business, whether it be support or marketing or community. And like Zach said, a lot of it is we’re just looking for the best idea to win. It doesn’t matter who it comes from. It doesn’t matter. You know how we get there. It’s just all about like, what’s the best thing for the business and that includes customers, all the other stakeholders, our employees and so, yeah, I don’t think there’s been any like major disagreements. Like there’s been certainly positions. Different team members will have in a certain position wins, but I think it’s because usually , the winner, if you will, if there is a winner in that, in the, in that decision-making process, they’re just more passionate about it, or they have a better case for it, or they’re just able to win over and build in some type of compromises to , the decision-making So I think that’s how we do it because it’s, it’s not something I would have expected or I’ve ever seen play like in any other circumstance, but here, but I think it’s because we all trust each other.

Sue: well, I would add in something else from the perspective that I’ve gained as a guest on your show and just as a user of squadcast or ourselves to record this podcast series, I kind of see you both role modeling, listening, and I know that makes sound corny. Cause we’re talking about podcasting. I think it comes out in what both of you have just said that you’re not coming at this by saying we have the right answer and we’re going to just plow ahead. I really get the sense that both of you are listening to stakeholders to one another to, to the wider world. And that you’re allowing that also to drive how the business move forwards.

Zach: Absolutely. Absolutely agree. and I mean, it’s almost works against us sometimes because too, many opinions, too many voices, stuff like that. But, we think that , it helps. And it’s our job to kind of distill and synthesise, where our heading is , from all that information. So that can feel sometimes like, it’s a lot of different options to consider depending on the circumstance. But I do think that, it is also worth noting that it’s our leadership style to empower other people to lead. And a lot of times if I don’t say something, it can be assumed that everything is decided by the CEO. I don’t know. I just feel like it needs to be explicitly said that like going into this conversation, this is the decision we need to make. And And we’re empowering this person to make the decision. And then they will practice some of these things and we will practice it alongside them and provide any guidance that is helpful. And that’s almost always worked. We trust our people. They’re great. And they’re all growing as leaders. And I, I frankly learned a lot from them. So it’s it’s really beautiful to see that kind of growth from, from all the different people on our team.

Sue: I was just mentioning to Rock off air a minute or two ago. Zach that I think I see Squadcast as a really values led business. And the reason I say that is because the two of you really are accessible. You, make an effort to engage with the wider world. And my sense is that the values that are important to both of you and the values of the business really drive things forward as well. Would you agree with that or not?

Zach: Absolutely. And I mean, you have noted listening , transparency, accessibility. These are some of our literal values that, that we have for our team and our culture. So to hear that. You have experienced our behaviour following through and practicing those is, is really music to my ears. And is it’s some sort of a validation that, that what we’re doing is working in at least some ways. And is something that, it’s important to me that we we all engage , in listening and transparency in these things that I mentioned because . It is who we are , as an organization, as a group of people. So that’s a growing list and occasionally we’ll have members of our team propose like an additional value that is either seems obvious as soon as they say it or is, is sometimes less obvious you know, over the holidays, we got one of those new one of those news. So I’ll keep you in suspense for now on that. Cause we’re still working through the process, but we definitely value our values and it’s, key to who we are.

Sue: It was mentioned at the outset as well that you’re always developing, you’re continually changing and I know you’ve had a new update recently that squadcast is available on a wide range of platforms now, including safari and for those users of apple products and mobile devices, they can get ahold of it there as well. Now, is that right?

Rock: That’s right. And we’re so excited about it. So it was a huge mountain to climb for us. And I think one of the things that at least for me, made it a difficult pill to swallow, to not be available on safari or iOS devices like iPhone and iPad is really because it was outside of our control. There was nothing that we could do that could change it. We had to wait on Apple to make these changes. And that was really tough, not just because we couldn’t offer something that we wanted to offer, but then also the perception was a hit on squad cast is like a brand, like, why aren’t you on Safari? Why don’t you function on iPhones or iPads? Like that was our decision, which it wasn’t. So just super excited that we can finally offer that and just be like Zach said, available and accessible across all these platforms. We’re the first to do that. So very proud of our continued record of being innovators. And even though others will follow. I think us pushing the boundary forward is something that much, like you said, our values first approach, values based approach. Like that’s one thing that can’t be copied. I think our attitude and approach and tenacity for solving problems in an innovative manner. That’s another thing that differentiates us. That’s going to be hard to copy.

Sue: well, one of the things that, in the title of our podcast is, is the word inspiration. And I think inspiration can help anybody to come up with new ideas, be creative and push things forward in a different way. So what inspires or who inspires?

Rock: Not to sound corny, but Zach  inspires me, the company, I keep inspires me. My team inspires me. One example, I’ll give you, so I’m sure like everybody else, the start of the year, you come in with a lot of ambition and you’re just gonna, you’re going to conquer the world. You’re going to, this is going to be the year that you, that you kicked butt. Right? So I was no different. I was starting off the first week of January like that, but I was also like, okay, how am I going to summon this kick-butt attitude, but also sustain it over the long-term. And then I saw our team members starting to schedule things, you know, like two quarters away or whatever, just to see how like long-term thinking their minds are. And I’m just like, I don’t need to look any further for inspiration. I get it from my team. So that’s my answer. Sue.

Sue: What about you? Zach

Zach: thank you for saying that you, you inspire me as well. And what I’ll add is that I often think about my grandparents and my family that like the work that they did compared to the, the work that I have the privilege of doing. And when things get hard, it always makes whatever my hard problem of the day seems super trivial compared to like working in the fields or, like really doing things that aren’t necessarily creating like a generational wealth and it’s really hard work manual, physical labor. For that was that making the best of their situation. And, you know, I have this immense privilege of, creating  an asset that, that does build wealth and that is solving some really challenging problems for a large group of creators. That is kind of core to my personal mission is to connect creatives. Squad cast is the best way that I’ve found to do that. And you know, I’m incredibly grateful that that they made those sacrifices and like did those hard jobs so that, so that I can sit here and focus on a different kind of hard problem and and grow something.

Sue: I bet that having a child knows Zach as well, perhaps this shaped your view of, of work and life in a different way as well. How’s that changed you if at all?

Zach: it’s definitely added a different relationship to time, which time is already a warped thing inside of a startup is like like I like to call it a rollercoaster time machine. And then to grow our family in with a new baby Sagan is, is something that you know, I didn’t quite understand before how my time would change, but I, feel that , it has added perspective for me to to not just like succeed because it’ll be cool or something like that. Or that all? Achieve something that was on my bucket list. I’m like, okay. It sounds kind of contrived but what’s my legacy gonna look like , to him or them. And that really is just an added thing that goes through my mind when making tough decisions or thinking about the long-term. I’m really trying to think like big picture about how I. Set him up for, for a life that can transcend a mine, you know? And I think that’s a weird thing for parents to grapple with over the longterm of year by year. So I’m trying to prepare myself mentally for that now. So that in, 20, 30, 40 years I’ll have a, bit of a different perspective on. The ways that he can change the world and grow and all of that. That’s all good. Like  I have an amazing partner and you know, we’ve put some great kind of practices in place to, in service of that. So we can kind of make it, make it a little bit easier for ourselves on a day to day, but it definitely does reframe the work that I do and kind of the choices that I make even on small stuff, like I’ll spare you the details, but it does go through my mind often maybe I shouldn’t, like peel away from that, that red light or whatever. I should be a little bit safer with my my, minutae decisions that I make. Yeah.

Sue: Well, it’s, it’s given you a different context and I love the way that you use the word legacy, because many of the guests that we’ve interviewed so far in this series. I’m always asking that question to to find out what people see as being their legacy or their bigger purpose. And it’s great to hear you using that word as well. They’re a sack, I guess that might mean that rock can get in touch with you in the middle of the night. Then if you’re not doing a baby care or whatever, If there’s a different timescale and they Rock that you, that you can access

Rock: Well, this is one of the parts where we compliment each other. Cause he tends to be an hour a night out. I’m an early bird, so I will be sleeping, but I’ll be up a little bit early perhaps.

Sue: Fair enough now for our listener that may not be familiar with the intricacies of let’s say, SquadCast over other platforms. One of the things that I often am asked by a users or people that I’m engaging with. Well, why are you using a platform like that? And not just Zoom because that’s something that’s really easy for everyone to get ahold of. And, at the risk of getting too technical. I think there’s probably some value in helping just to listen and understand what is the difference and why therefore, the service that you’re offering is different to the lakes.

Zach: yeah, I guess it’s like a one, one mental model that might be helpful. It’s like it’s, it’s a little bit different to like walk into a phone booth and call somebody and have a conversation then like walking into a recording studio. And having that, same conversation you can have a conversation and information will be exchanged. But the constraint of wanting to, to create content and grow a show and monetize or add value in different ways. The quality of what you’re creating becomes a more of a focus and how people sound and look and the audio and video that we help them create really adds concrete value to the credibility of the speaker, the speakers, the people you’re helping to lift up and share their story and inspiration for your listeners in this case. So that is how I think about it. There’s a bunch of technical details about how we do that, but I think it’s that, that shift of focus like, okay. You know, zoom has recording. Yes, but it’s more for like the people who were out sick or the person who needs to get that information. Like, async, that’s really different than wanting like millions of people to listen to at four hours of their day. Right. And, thinking about that as like the quality of the product versus like a way to have a conversation.

Sue: So looking ahead, in terms of the future tech moves at such a piece, I did, I even asked the question, you know, three, five years down the line, where do you think podcasting is heading?

Rock: Yeah, I think that’s, what’s so exciting is it is starting to pick up momentum. And when I was originally talking about us getting started in 2016, where podcasting was not very mainstream. It, it seems like it’s moved more mainstream now, especially like this last year, 2021, I feel like was the year where podcasting broke into more of pop culture. Like I’m seeing a lot more characters in TV shows and movies having podcasting their career, or there’s like a podcast element to the show. And I get excited every time. Cause I’m like, we made it, we made it, we made it, but then it’s like, yo, how many times are you going to say this? Cause like, it just seems to be kind of normalizing, which I think is a good sign. And I think that’s what we’re approaching is it’s just going to be a normal thing. I think it’s similar to how companies and individuals all more or less have some type of social media presence. I think the next step, especially for organizations is to have a, more of a media presence when it comes to high quality podcast productions, high quality, YouTube videos, or videos of any sorts, really, because it’s just a great way for them to build connections with their audience, have their own voice, similar to what Zach and I are kind of just naturally doing with being the faces of squad cast. Like these companies are trying to do that and do that through storytelling, really. And so I do think that it’ll become more of just everywhere really, and just a great way to build authority and build relationships with people. And it’s so crazy to me that even if you look at like the amount of ad revenue that’s expected to be spent this year, it’s still like a tiny sliver of radio. So I think and that’s not like the true measurement of podcasting versus radio or they’re not necessarily opponents of each other, but I do see that as a good metric to see where we are at in the space. And I think I think podcasting will take that over to

Zach: yeah, I agree. It’ll take it over because of the targeting that advertisers can do compared to radio. Okay. But we’re not there yet. So a lot of headroom to grow. What I what I see happening is , as organizations continue to grapple with this, like remote hybrid, whatever you want to call it, work set up these days. You know, the, the need to communicate within and outside of the organization with still being hybrid or remote, like I think a lot of things were put on pause or put on hold, but you can’t pause an initiative indefinitely. Right. So I think that’s kind of things that organizations are grappling with and They’ll they’ll need to find ways to, to collaborate.

And I think that podcasting is a way to do that. Both in like synchronous conversations, like we’re recording right now, but then also providing an experience for their teammates or their employees or their stakeholders to listen to things async I think is a great way to spread information whether that’s like building loyalty and telling stories with customers or internal kind of a internal kind of dialogue about where we’re headed over the course of the next year, the next quarter. Whatever. So I think that podcasting was kind of like outside of that for a long time, it was like having conversations and my audience is somewhere else. But with these organizations, it’s like, you know who your audience is, it’s a fixed size. Like you’re not necessarily worried about growth in those situations. You’re worried about engaging with with people and getting, getting those stories out. So I think that that’s something that The hybrid work environment will, will require. So podcasting really serves that serves that need in, in new ways. In addition to all the other things that like Rock mentioned and other people are working hard to create the future that we’re talking about today,

Sue: Well, one of our guests in a recent podcast that we did talked about within her hospital, you know, very small proportion of people were reading email now in terms of corporate communication. And she was going to be experimenting with podcasting as a way of reaching that audience in a different way. So I think like future is boarding wealth. For squadcast, no doubt to claim it space as the industry develops going forwards. And if people want to find out more about both of you and squad cast, how might you do that on social

Zach: yeah, we are we are everywhere at squad cast, FM, and then our website is squad cast.fm. I’m Zach in space on Twitter and there’s, there’s a lot that we do when it comes to investing in the success of podcasters and squad casters. So like the podcast community is very vibrant and we’re proud contributors to that. So wherever you’re at in your podcast journey, even if solo recording, not in the cloud, like we are invested in helping podcasters succeed and grow in the ways that that we’ve discussed and and even open to ideas that are new opportunities to grow. So yeah, come to one of our events, like grow with us and all that stuff. That’s all easy to find on the website and on social and where can where can people find you at rock?

Rock: They can find me at Rockwell Felder mainly on Twitter.

Sue: We all have our favorite place to hang out in socials. Last question, last question to both of you, since we’re speaking about podcasts, what’s the, last podcasts that you listened to and that you enjoyed particularly?

Rock: Oh, I’m glad you asked this Sue. Cause I actually wanted to share this with Zach cause he would find this fascinating and I forgot to share it with with him earlier today in our weekly team meetings. So the one that I’ve been really geeking out on is called the Huberman lab, but he’s like a neuroscientist in Stanford and I’ve been getting really back into like health and fitness. And so listening to podcast to see like what’s the latest trends, what are, what are all the people talking about? And so he had on this breathing expert from UCLA and the breathing. Doctor, he was like an actual doctor. It wasn’t just some like some, some dude they were experimenting on trying to make rodents meditate and they got them to change their breathing patterns for 30 minutes a day, once a day for like 10 days in a row or something like that. So kinda wild. So that’s, that’s my show. Huberman lab.

Zach: I got to listen to that. Yeah, I’ve, I’ve been getting back into listening to the NFX podcast helps, helps me grow as a founder and stay up to date with all the things that are happening in kind of the startup land. And I think that that’s a really, insightful conversations that they have there and their focus on quality is great to great experience as a listener. So That’s yeah. That’s where I’m at NFX.

Sue: fantastic. Great to speak to you both today. I hope you’ve helped our listener to get their head around podcasting the, the platforms that can provide them support to be able to do that. And I wish you well as Squadcast grows into the future.

Rock: thank you so much.

Zach: Yeah. I really appreciate you having us on.

Sue: great to speak to. Thank you.

Sound Editor: Matias de Ezcurra (he/him)

Producer: Sue Stockdale (she/her)