This week, a podcasting firm asks where to find suitable software developers. –Dan Beyers

The entrepreneur

Oscar “Santana” Zeballos had a successful career in radio as a talk show host, but a 2009 format change to all-sports talk at Washington’s 106.7 FM left him at a crossroads in his broadcasting career. The change also left nationally syndicated radio personality Mike O’Meara without a radio home as well. Zeballos saw an opportunity to repackage and re-launch the popular content that CBS Radio had dropped and independently distribute and produce “The Mike O’Meara Show” on iTunes and online at mikeomearashow.com

Since they launched in 2009, the daily “Mike O’Meara Show” podcast has commanded a sizeable audience with over 30 million downloads to date and they have signed additional personalities into the Washington, D.C.-based company, MORE Broadcasting, to produce additional podcasts. Now Zeballos is working on a new star-tup in the podcasting business: a technology for content producers to distribute podcasts through their own branded individual apps.

Oscar Zeballos (Photo courtesy of Marshall Stukes) Oscar Zeballos (Photo courtesy of Marshall Stukes)

The pitch

Zeballos, Co-founder and CEO, Free App Co.

“I was able to transition national top-tier talent and content into the podcast world, but one of the biggest pain points for me was controlling the content that went out to our listeners and the platform that it was served on. There are some major third-party platforms that are monetizing podcasts across the country and most are not sharing the revenue with the podcast creators or presenting the content in a way that the content creators intended.

“I launched Free App Co. with my co-founder Todd Moore to level the playing field to allow content creators to control and own the way their content is being served, and also offer them opportunities to monetize the content to their listeners. Podcasters are not typically software engineers, so they’re unlikely to be writing their own apps for their content.

“We streamline the process for accessing podcasts. Rather than asking listeners to take multiple steps to find, download and listen to podcasts, our platform would allow listeners to just download one app to enjoy their preferred podcast with content that is automatically updated.

“Through the customer discovery process, we have found that content providers really just want an easy-to-use, clean way for listeners to download their podcasts. We want to be like the website builder Square Space for podcasters – an easy and intuitive way for content producers to create an app for their podcasts.

“Now that we know what our customers want, how do we launch the next step? There are some hard costs that come into our next phase of tech development. I have a great co-founder and I’ve tapped into a pipeline of tech developers. I know a big issue in this region is finding the right talent – the right programmers, the right Android developers, etc. Many times people don’t know where to look. What’s your advice for start-ups looking for tech talent?”

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

“There is no one right answer to where to find the right people to hire. You know where to find people interested in podcasting, audio, broadcasting, etc. Some of those people will most likely know someone in the space where you are looking to find talent. In addition to finding someone with the right skills, you need to find the right person who is also interested in the podcasting world.

“Sometimes people feel there is a whole separate tech world that they have to tap into to seek out talent and bring to their sector. In reality, entrepreneurs should stick to the sector they know best – their own – to find the talent they need. Use the connections you have in your own sector to network and find the right people. Most likely, you’ll find someone within one or two degrees of separation of your contacts who can connect you. This strategy will be much more likely to connect you with the ideal person, rather than meeting a developer at a tech meetup who is just looking for a short-term gig.

“The value is often in your own network; you may just have to ask your contacts a different set of questions”

The reaction

Zeballos

“I have been attempting to recruit software engineers outside my circle that were connected to tech firms. I’m excited to reach out to my podcast family per your advice and see what connections can be made. I had completely siloed the app company and the broadcasting company, when in reality they are working in tandem. Recruiting new engineers who have ties to the broadcasting/podcasting world would be ideal for this project and the corporate culture we are building at Free App Co.”

Looking for some advice on a new business, or need help fixing an existing one? Capital Business and the experts at the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business are ready to assist. Contact us at capbiznews@washpost.com.