Glow Technologies, a startup whose platform lets podcast creators set up payment options for fans to fund their shows, has raised $2.3 million in seed financing from backers including venture-capital firm Greycroft, rap artist Nas and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo investment company.
Greycroft led the round with participation from WndrCo, Norwest Venture Partners, PSL Ventures, and Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. Angel investors in the round included Nas and Electronic Arts CTO Ken Moss.
Seattle-based Glow (glow.fm) positions its platform as enabling podcasters to build media businesses, initially through tools to let them generate revenue directly from listeners. The startup launched in beta in June. Glow hosts a web page for customers’ podcasts, processes payments, and lets listeners to access content in multiple podcast players. Over 100 podcasts have begun to use Glow, including Twenty Thousand Hertz, Techmeme Ride Home and The Newsworthy.
Nas, in a statement, said, “The direct relationship between artists and their fans is more important than it’s ever been, and podcasting is the perfect medium to build that relationship. Five years from now, people are going to be earning annuities off of podcast content, and Glow is going to help make that happen.”
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Glow co-founder and CEO Amira Valliani previously served as an adviser in the Obama administration and a special assistant in the U.S. State Department, before launching a career in tech and media. says she started the company after launching a local news podcast only to find that despite her listeners’ willingness to pay for more content, she lacked the infrastructure to be able to turn her hobby into a business.
Valliani teamed with Ben Gilbert, co-host of tech podcast “Acquired,” who was looking to solve the same problem. They collaborated on launching Glow out of Pioneer Square Labs, the startup studio Gilbert co-founded. Glow now powers subscriptions for the premium version of “Acquired,” which generates more revenue than the original ad-supported podcast.
Also coming on board for the company’s launch was chief product officer Brian Elieson, a former Amazon exec who most recently was senior manager of product and engineering for Alexa Shopping.
Glow isn’t trying to build a “Netflix for podcasts,” according to Valliani — that’s closer to the model of Luminary Media, which offers a $7.99 monthly subscription-based service for access to exclusive content. Rather, Glow is like the “Shopify for podcasts,” she said, referring to the company that lets merchants set up their own ecommerce businesses. “Glow is building a solution targeted at these hundreds of thousands of podcasters feeling the pain of this monetization gap,” Valliani said.
Greycroft, whose portfolio focuses on internet and mobile companies, has made other investments in the podcast space including Hernan Lopez’s Wondery and analytics platform Chartable.
“We’ve been looking for a company tackling the subscription business model in podcasting in the right way that’s native to the medium,” Alan Patricof, founder and managing director of Greycroft said in a statement. “Creators have relied solely for advertising for too long, and we love the sustainable way that Glow enables podcasters to thrive in this incredibly fast-growing media category.”
Glow said that down the line, it plans to build additional “richer and deeper” tools for creators to connect with their audiences and build sustainable businesses.
Mikel Ellcessor, an independent podcast producer/consultant and co-creator of WNYC Studios’ Radiolab podcast, serves as an adviser to Glow. “Despite the incredible amount of attention going toward podcast listening in 2019, creators have lacked the tools to be able to monetize the incredible relationship they have with their audience,” he said.
Pictured above: Glow co-founders Brian Elieson (l.) and Amira Valliani