Have We Entered The Age Of Audio?

Featuring Guest -
Colin Keeley
September 29, 2020
| Evolve
044
hosted by: Brandon Stover
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Colin Keeley is Co Founder & CEO of Avocado Audio, Host of the Tech in Chicago Podcast, and has been ferociously building & growing internet companies for the past decade. He’s been on both sides of the fence as a serial founder and venture capitalist, and done everything from building a personalized tv/movie guide, a stretchy denim company for men, a sharing economy startup, and a multi-million dollar software marketing business. With no plans of slowing down, he has just launched a platform for the world’s best audio courses with instructors who range from best selling authors, youtube stars, investment bankers, to Wharton professors.

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One, Two, Three Times Through The Startup Ringer

Brandon Stover: [00:01:34] You've had quite a few different startups in your time. Was Geneva denim, your first one, or how did you get into startups?

Colin Keeley: [00:01:42] how did I get into it? so a little bit of my background, my undergrad, yes. Went to McAlester college and studied econ and math. And I want to get into startups. I didn't have any technical jobs of any sort. I was lucky enough that Seth Levine, a venture capitalists came and gave a talk in my class from the Foundry group.

And I followed up with them after I was like, Hey, I'd love to get into startups. I don't have any really marketable skills for one. And he connected me with a serial entrepreneur that was starting his next company. And that was called Luma, which was a TV and movie recommendation company. And I had just sent it, I guess it wasn't a cold email.

I got an introduction, but kind of got my foot in the door. I did an unpaid internship and then became like the first hire. And we went from there.

Brandon Stover: [00:02:22] Okay. And then you eventually decided to go on your own with Geneva?

Colin Keeley: [00:02:27] Yeah. So after that we raised about one and a half million dollars. We launched the maps, didn't have enough traction. We shut the company down. that took about three years. And then I moved back to Chicago where I'm from. And. Yeah, this was like scratching my own itch. I, I don't know, like in college you wear sweatpants.

I played basketball in college and then I went to work and you weren't really supposed to wear sweatpants every day. So I didn't love wearing jeans and I'm kind of an odd body type. I'm six, seven. So I have long legs. And so I just wanted to make something comfortable for myself. I ran a Kickstarter, it was actually pretty successful and I could have built like a nice apparel business with it, but I just decided I didn't want to be in apparel for the next 10 years of my life.

so at that point around then I applied to business school.

Brandon Stover: [00:03:09] Okay. and then eventually you have another go around with bevy, which you've shared a pretty solvent, like post-mortem of. Can you share briefly what bevy was and why, and ultimately failed.

Colin Keeley: [00:03:21] Yeah. So I launched that business at school with a few of my business school friends. I went to the university of Chicago and it was a, we rent everything out you want out for different experiences. So if you wanted to go camping one weekend, we give you a really nice tent, really nice sleeping pad, like things you wouldn't even think of, like marshmallow sticks and lanterns.

And then the next weekend you have friends over. You want to do like a karaoke night or something. We give you everything you need for that. So that was a similar thing where you could make a nice, like party, small business out of it. But I was never interested in that. I wanted something venture scale and it was just, it proved that I kind of walked into a bad market. A lot of people raise $30 million, a few different competitors did, and they all took different variations on the business model and nothing ended up working. so it was a asset intensive. I wasn't loving it. I was like basically a low-paid Uber driver. And so we ended up sunsetting it and I wrote that postmortem of like everything I kind of learned, it's a.com, check it out.

but hopefully that helps other entrepreneurs. I get a lot of people that have a similar idea and I want to be like, Don't do it unless you have a really clever variation on it, which is yeah. Some people are nowadays, but, and trying to dissuade people from walking into the market as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:04:32] Yeah. so you've also flipped kind of to the dark side sometimes and been on venture capital. why have you gone back and forth between the two?

Colin Keeley: [00:04:41] You know, they actually very different jobs. So venture capital is let's say more intellectually stimulating you're meeting with super smart entrepreneurs all day, learning about new markets and really evaluating people and evaluating markets more so than operators or founders. It's more like you figure out something that works and you just have to execute on it ruthlessly.

So it's a lot of, you know, I wouldn't say repetition day in, day out, but you have to be laser focused on one thing and just do it. And why did I switch back and forth? I guess my process was through a bevy in business school. There's the new venture challenge. The big competition at university of Chicago that grub hub went through is their most famous alumni.

And, I met a VC through that who hated the startup, basically hated the business idea, but like me well enough. So we kind of stayed in touch and he was looking for help. And I was sunsetting bevy and I was like my foot in the door. but yeah, I really enjoyed my time there. I had a lot of great people and continue to work with them today.

Lessons From Podcasting For 4 Years

Brandon Stover: [00:05:36] So I think another important note before we get to avocado audio is you've been in podcasting for 4 years. What originally drew you to podcasts and what, why do you think it's a worthwhile frontier?

Colin Keeley: [00:05:48] Everyone has a podcast nowadays, I guess, as like kind of early to it. so this is four years ago. The tools are not nearly as good. It was more, I'm going to be more tech savvy to definitely get one out there. But so the initial inspiration for tech in Chicago, where I interview founders and investors was I was huge fan of podcasts, listening to them. It's all like San Francisco, New York stuff, stories. And I thought there should be one more for Chicago and there wasn't, which I thought was weird. So I knew there was some demand there. And then personally, it's just a networking machine. And, you know, back when we saw people in person, you show up with two microphones and everyone in the city would be happy to talk to you.

So it was very effective for building my network and, you know, becoming well known in that industry. I recommend it to anyone else that like wants it as like a insertion to be the center point of an industry to start a podcast and do like five episodes and you'll get enormous inbound. if you just pick the right niche,

Brandon Stover: [00:06:37] Yeah. And I think your note about it being a great networking tool, that's the biggest thing that I've seen on it is being able to meet people that I necessarily maybe wouldn't have been in room with I not had a podcast.

Colin Keeley: [00:06:49] Absolutely. Yeah.

Brandon Stover: [00:06:50] what has been some of the biggest lessons you've taken away from your guests about their startups?

Colin Keeley: [00:06:57] Startups and challenging, like there's the highs and lows are far more extreme than a traditional job. So it really helps to have a larger mission. Like don't fall in love with your solution, just really fall in love with the problem. And that will generally keep you going through the highs and lows to like eventually like success. It takes a long time, longer than people think.

Brandon Stover: [00:07:17] Do you make any revenue right now through your podcast?

Colin Keeley: [00:07:21] so I've had a variety of sponsors. I've actually slowed down on it. I think, you know, your actual location just matters so little, like we're just internet natives. At this point, I made everyone on line. I don't even know where they are even ask you where you're located at the moment. So I, you know, I have slowed down on the podcasts.

Have I made revenue on it? Yeah. It's pretty easy to get sponsored, especially if you have, an audience that is valuable. So I had a sponsor that was a PR firm that specialized in like Chicago startups. So it's easy. I'm sure he got a few clients and is well worth it for him. so for other podcasts out there, try to break away from the like CPM model.

You don't want to get charged on a thousand listens. You want to sell the value of your audience. And then I also had a venture capitalist. I was starting a new venture firm and just want to get his name out there. That's sponsored the podcast as well.

The Future Of The Audio Market

Brandon Stover: [00:08:06] Okay. So when did the idea for avocado audio come about? Because it's in a very adjacent niche, but it's still in the same topic.

Colin Keeley: [00:08:15] yeah, so it's kind of two different sides. I was initially looking at the opportunity. This is looking at investing in audio companies and in audio, what lags the furthest behind is monetization. So podcasting bizarrely kinda monetizes about a 10th as well as radio, which is insane because it's effectively internet radio, right, targeting and tracking should all be significantly better.

And then if you look at the video space, if you record a few hours of video and you call it a course where there's a clear return on investment, you could charge thousands of dollars. And there's no real equivalent for that in the U S in audio there isn't China, it's called the pay for knowledge economy.

But it seems like just a fluke of history that we've basically been required to stare at screens to learn. So I knew the future was heading there. I just knew that there was no chance that we're staring at screens for 10 hours a day in the future. And so, just, you know, set off to build it. And so we kind of entered the market and now we've, pivoted the business model a little bit.

So I know you mentioned like Spotify and Amazon and audible. Audible is owned by Amazon for the listeners that maybe don't know that. And they're trying to like vacuum up all the audio out there. So we are thinking of it more as like arming the rebels. So we want to arm the creators with their own storefronts to sell their own audio courses, which we think are just about the easiest info products to produce and to consume.

Brandon Stover: [00:09:33] Hmm. Yeah. where did the name, avocado come from? How did that decide to audio?

Colin Keeley: [00:09:39] So, you know, I love alliteration, so I'm a sucker for alliteration. It was more like a working name and it just became our actual name. So avocados are tasty and they're also healthy. So we had a similar idea that our audio is going to be, you know, educational, but also, like entertaining.

Brandon Stover: [00:09:56] Yeah. Got it. so this is your third startup or maybe more than your third startup? What is just giving you the confidence that this one is going to be successful one?

Colin Keeley: [00:10:08] so it's far more than my third. you just know the projects that, you know, satellite a day. So we actually, we also, operate as a startup studio. So we were once, twice a year spinning up new companies. so we tested out a lot of ideas and it's way easier now with all the no code tools out there. I think I am significantly better at evaluating markets now. And we tested the demand. We know there's lot of demand there, so I feel good about it.

How To Evaluate Startup Ideas & Markets

Brandon Stover: [00:10:33] You have a course on your platform about evaluating startup ideas. So what advice or criteria maybe using the avocado audio as an example that you give to founders?

Colin Keeley: [00:10:44] so it's actually a free trial, a free seven day trial. So you can check it out and immediately cancel your trial if you want. So I recommend listening to that, like 30 minute course would be a good start.

my advice to founders would be take a lot of care in, you know, selecting your next project. Do you want to just wander blindly in like spend a lot of time doing it because you know, like 10 years of your life is a big commitment or even just wasting a few years on a project that's going, nowhere is a big mistake.

Brandon Stover: [00:11:12] there's been obviously a lot of interest in the audio space. I talked about Spotify and, the other giants kind of moving in. What insights about the audio space, have you seen that maybe others aren't seeing?

Colin Keeley: [00:11:24] There's a big trend towards, you know, bite-size content or like audio Lunchables as calling it. So we always try to create our courses or recommend our creators, create our courses to be. They have super short lessons, like two day, eight minutes, so people can consume them, you know, doing laundry, doing the dishes, you kind of bite-sized segments.

you seeing that in podcasting as well, a lot of innovative podcasts are coming out with shorter and shorter clips. That's maybe something that most people haven't seen yet, but is definitely where the future is heading.

Brandon Stover: [00:11:54] Yeah, I think, especially in podcasts, that's like the one of two extremes. Like you either do something super short or you do like really long form content, like Joe Rogan for hours.

Colin Keeley: [00:12:04] So that's kind of a difference between podcasts and audio courses is that centers are kind of flipped. So like with Joe Rogan, he gets paid in advertising, right? So the longer, I think you do a three for our podcasts. He makes a lot more money than if he does, you know, two day, minute podcasts.

How This Bootstrapped Startup Is Gaining Traction

Brandon Stover: [00:12:17] great. you guys are just starting. You're bootstrapped. What are you doing right now to get your first customers?

Colin Keeley: [00:12:24] a lot of direct outbound. So you could look at other market places, you could find other creators and you could, scrape their emails or have someone in the Philippines Bambora board LSR and grabbed the emails. And then just scaled outbound. so we're, we're not doing like Facebook ads or like a Google ads as much, or we're doing a little, but nothing meaningful. And it's really on the creators. They're bringing their audience to us.

Brandon Stover: [00:12:46] As a consumer, why would I pay for a learning service when I could listen to an audio book or podcasts for free?

Colin Keeley: [00:12:53] So the biggest difference between audio books are just the written word and it was transformed to audio. So I think they're great. I don't think they're ever designed audio first and then podcasts. You could listen to them all. And the big difference is that we're just structured. We take you from a to Z. We don't like you don't have to look through 400 podcasts to learn what you're trying to learn.

Brandon Stover: [00:13:14] Yeah. even with Google too, I think, basically like searching podcasts now and being able to like, Certain things. I think it's easier just to go through like a structured course than having to do that. Searching yourself.

Colin Keeley: [00:13:27] Yeah. And the reality is like all information is basically free nowadays. It's just all how you're packaging it for convenience infrastructure and everything.

Brandon Stover: [00:13:34] Yeah. it seems like a lot of the courses on the platform around like business development, which means nicely to those that may be like working a nine to five or in the middle of a career shift or something. For something like that I personally did when I first listened to podcasts. how have you seen consumers using this so far?

Colin Keeley: [00:13:53] yeah, so kind of the dirty secret in, like online learning is that completion rates are abysmal. You're really just selling, like a better version of yourself and people like, Oh, great. I bought this course. I want to learn something. And then completion rates are sub 5% on average. And so with audio, people just have way more your time.

It's our completion rates, you know, blow that out of the water. that's one big thing we've learned. And then. We kind of settled on the business segment because we are targeting people who have limited time. They have demonstrated willingness to pay for learning opportunities and business. People were like that the best segment initially to start, and you don't really need a screen. Most of the stuff's not visual, not learning like programming or something. That would be a little more complicated.

Brandon Stover: [00:14:37] Yeah. Do you guys have any way to kind of track the success rates or like them executing? Because when you're listening it's it seems like. Very passive thing. You might be doing something else. So how much are they retaining and actually putting into action later?

Colin Keeley: [00:14:51] So we've led with content. I think content is a key, cause most people are consuming this as a secondary activity, so we're not going to throw quizzes up on the screen. So they have to look down to the screen. a lot of that stuff is like in the plans, we're going to build it out, but we haven't done it yet.

Some creators do have like at the end of a lesson or the end of a course, they'll have some like deliverable that people create are great, but it's completely optional. So that's kind of how you test skillsets.

How Audio Course Can Support Higher Education

Brandon Stover: [00:15:17] I'm pretty interested in the higher education space. And I was wondering how you might see audio courses like supporting that education landscape?

Colin Keeley: [00:15:25] Yeah, a big thing with COVID is everyone that was doing stuff in person. So both like undergraduate education, elementary school education, and then a lot, actually there's a huge corporate education market where people are giving in person talks and they all have to sort out this all like online thing.

And so a lot of them are having to figure out how to do video courses and audio courses are just so much less work to create. So a lot of them are really pumped about it and you know, the engagement rates are significantly better as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:15:54] Yeah. And I think, as you said, like there's a lot of different subjects that would lend itself better to, you know, an audio course than a talking head video course or something like that.

Colin Keeley: [00:16:05] Yeah, it's a super boring to stare at someone talking on the screen.

Brandon Stover: [00:16:08] what has been the best format for these courses? You had mentioned like the five day kind of 20 minute, like multiples. how have you seen these working the bus?

Colin Keeley: [00:16:18] Yeah. We like to keep them relatively short and very dense. So to day minutes to cover a lesson generally, and then a total course is probably, you know, one to two hours on average. And we'd like the course to be so good that people end up listening to it through it multiple times. and that's kinda an opportunity you have in audio instead of video, once again, because people don't want to stare at the screen for, you know, six hours on re repeat, but with audio, you could, you know, if you're going to your next meeting and it's on some topic, at least you get burned through it to refresh yourself quickly on that topic.

Brandon Stover: [00:16:49] Yeah, absolutely. I did a, a podcasting course teaching others how to podcast and I did it in five to 20 minute little audios. and then I had like supplemental worksheets that went with it and then anything that was technical, like they had to edit audio or whatever. I would have a video for it. and just let them know, like in the audio, go check out the video.

And that seemed to work out pretty well. I think people were able to get it fairly well. And with like the worksheets, it kind of followed the audio, and were able to execute on those actions.

Colin Keeley: [00:17:20] Very cool. Yeah. So audio first doesn't mean audio only, and that's something we learned pretty quickly is like you could link to, you know, PDFs and, you know, God forbid, but videos are also in there as well as they come up.

Marketing A New Platform

Brandon Stover: [00:17:31] you have successfully grown up podcasts. Are you using the same like marketing strategies that you did in the podcasts for audio courses or what works best for each medium?

Colin Keeley: [00:17:42] So, yes, to some extent, we like that. Everything you learn in cold emailing to get like guests on the show, it's exactly all the same stuff I'm using to get people to bring on their own courses. And so bringing on the creators and the creators are bringing their audience. So like our creators are our customer and they are paying us or we're doing a rev-share with them. And then the end consumer is the creator's job to bring those guys on.

Brandon Stover: [00:18:06] Yeah, right now you're building a marketplace, which is really a hard thing. Cause it's like a chicken and the egg problem, which side you build up first. So how are you tackling that?

Colin Keeley: [00:18:15] yeah, that's partially why we're pivoting away from it. And by the time this is live, it will probably just be that, like, the rebels approach of enabling other people. yeah, it was effectively a bundle in our conversion rate from free to paid was reasonably good. It was just becoming more and more apparent that the best creators want it and to stand alone, they wanted to create their own courses. If you're building like a, you know how to podcast course, you don't want to be next to a hundred other ones doing something similar. You worked hard to build your knowledge. You worked hard to build your audience and you just want to share it with them.

Brandon Stover: [00:18:47] Yeah, I see a lot of creators, come to these different marketplaces and they'll put up the same course just to kind like get traffic, but then they'll, we'll try and convert that back. So like wherever their main hub is.

Colin Keeley: [00:18:59] How many other courses do you have?

Brandon Stover: [00:19:01] so right now I don't only have that course up.

Colin Keeley: [00:19:04] Okay. And how's it doing for you?

Brandon Stover: [00:19:06] I was monetizing it for awhile and then I went to hub and because I released it as a podcast, cause there wasn't necessarily like an audio marketplace to put up. And so I get a lot of people listening to that podcast and I went ahead and just put the worksheets and stuff up for free. I used to do coaching with it and that's what I charged for. and when I was doing that, it was working out pretty well. I just didn't have the time to keep up with it.

Colin Keeley: [00:19:30] Oh, cool. Yeah. Well, we'd love to get you on.

Brandon Stover: [00:19:32] Yeah, yeah, for sure. I'll have definitely check it out. what challenges or surprises have you had while launching a startup during a pandemic?

Colin Keeley: [00:19:40] Yeah, it wasn't that big of a change for us. We weren't going to the office that much, maybe like half the week anyway. So I was actually like decking out my at home office. So I got like a nice standing desk and I didn't have, I had the microphone. Didn't have the nice camera. and then Brent, my cofounder like mostly stopped going to the office.

So I was only seeing him once every couple of weeks. So we still talk every day, but I just haven't seen him in person in like four months. So, I don't know, not really a massive change for me. There were bigger changes. Like the rest of the world that time outside of work is, you know, basically the same.

You're just at home every day. It's not that different.

Brandon Stover: [00:20:15] Yeah. Have you seen any challenges in like your marketing or. getting customers or anything?

Colin Keeley: [00:20:21] Not really like a Facebook ads and all that stuff got cheaper for a little while. But I'm not sure anything is drastically different. You know, people at home a lot more. And I guess the biggest change for us is just like the creator economy is really taking off. It's a lot of people lost their jobs and they're looking to supplement or compliment their income.

So a ton of people are out there looking for that. And then all the people that are doing in person stuff for like four, I have to do something online. Now it's a lot more inbound interests, even from big companies. Like we'd like to bring this. Coaching to audio. How do we do that? How do we use your platform for that?

So definitely like pivoted the company a little bit to really take advantage and ride the wave. But we feel good about the wave now.

Brandon Stover: [00:21:04] Yeah. So it seems like a beneficial thing to you guys is as horrible as it could be.

Colin Keeley: [00:21:10] Yeah. I recommend to all like internet entrepreneurs, like this is a special time. People are at home. People are trying different things like figuring out how you could pivot your business to take advantage of the moment.

What A Recession Means For Startups

Brandon Stover: [00:21:20] Yeah. you wrote about what startups to do during a recession based on like analyzing some past bunks. what is your advice for startups right now? You know, going into what we may see as another recession?

Colin Keeley: [00:21:33] I wrote that, while I was in venture capital, I wanted to see or study previous recessions and depressions. And what happened in the early stage market? So, what basically happens is there's a pretty big between the public market and the private market, because all these venture capitalists have all those dry powder or like money to invest for the people that don't know what that means.

And so there's roughly like a six to 12 months delay. after a downturn happens in the public market, when it actually happens in the privates as well. But I don't know if that has any real bearing on what's going on right now because the stock market hasn't really crashed. I think it just hit record highs.

Again, all tech companies are doing really, really well because we're kind of pushed to, you know, a progression maybe jumped ahead a few years. So if you're doing a tech company like valuations have not really fallen, I'd talk with VCs fairly often. And it's one of the hotter August is in the venture market in awhile.

Brandon Stover: [00:22:26] Through all the ups and downs of your own journey through the startup world. What do you think has pushed you the most going through all the different iterations?

Colin Keeley: [00:22:35] Pushed me the most. I think it just as important to take care of yourself, like the highs and lows are pretty extreme. So I'm very diligent about like getting eight hours of sleep. And I'm very regimented about that every night. and exercising, eating well, like doing as much as you can to control the things you can, and then you're better prepared for the rigors of the day.

So, I don't know, you just, you do it enough and you kind of like roll with the punches. You run into walls and it's like, Oh, I've seen you before. I was just walk around you the next one and it just keeps going. So I don't know. Hey, get used to it.

Brandon Stover: [00:23:07] Yeah. I seen you required a avid reader. Is there any books that kind of helped you formulate that mindset?

Colin Keeley: [00:23:14] I don't really read self help books at all. I don't enjoy them. Like I just job as quickly separating them. And my biggest recommendations for people that haven't really read that much American kingpin is like my go to recommendation for folks. So that's the story of Ross Albright and the silk road, which is basically the Amazon of illegal drugs and other illegal things.

So it's just, it's written kind of like fiction and it is, is one of the best entrepreneurial stories ever. I think he basically built like a billion dollar company, all illegally, all online. So it's all the traditional, you know, startup challenges just on a more entertaining scale.

Brandon Stover: [00:23:50] Yeah, but I think, it's, it's very interesting when you look at, the drug world or, you know, the illegal world, all of those people are entrepreneurs, too. They just are doing it in a different way.

Colin Keeley: [00:24:00] Yeah. The stakes are a little bit higher. I'm like, how do you enforce contracts and stuff is a little more complicated.

Predictions For Education In The Future

Brandon Stover: [00:24:06] Yeah, for sure. so you went to a traditional college and you've talked about like the various alternatives that are out there. and you now are kind of started something that's kind of adjacent in the education space. What do you think the future of higher education looks like?

Colin Keeley: [00:24:22] I think most of the not top ones go out of business. Cause I don't think they're really delivering the value. If you could go to a top one and get it that stamp and build the network and it's definitely still worth it. So I imagine in the near term here, a lot of those businesses are going to. Figuring out that they are not actually that valuable.

And a lot of them will go on there. That's my prediction pretty quickly here. I actually think most college kids should really consider a gap year. Like the biggest value of going to a decent school is like the friends you make and the network you make. And you're not doing that on zoom. So if you're a freshman, I would say, don't do it.

Like take the year off. And if you're not, evaluate whether everyone else has going back to campus or not, otherwise I would wait a year and do a bunch of startup internships or something.

Brandon Stover: [00:25:06] Do you do any type of continuing education? Like whether it's audio, of course. Is there anything now?

Colin Keeley: [00:25:11] Oh yeah. I mean, I read all day long. I'd save everything to instant paper pocket. Often I do text to speech, which is a little hack to finger down on an iOS device or redo the text. A lot of audio books, podcasts. Yeah. Read a decent amount as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:25:29] Would you think, if you were in the same spot, like talking to your younger self, would you go through traditional higher ed or do you think you would take one of these alternative paths?

Colin Keeley: [00:25:37] yeah, I mean, I think I played basketball in college. Do that again. I think athletics is like the biggest loophole to get into basically any school you want. So like, I have a cousin that's a really good swimmer now. And I was like, you should just go to Harvard for swimming. Like whether you want to actually swim there or not, you could jump out right away, quite the team. At least you're still at Harvard.

so yeah, I would still go, I try to go to the best school I could for sure. But what people don't realize is the best schools, actually the cheapest schools. Cause they have the biggest endowment. So if you need money though, they'll pay for you. yeah, it's kind of weird. I mean, I'm a bit of a hater for schools, but I went to, you know, traditional schools as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:26:12] Yeah, I think there's a space for them. And I also think that there's a space for, you know, these alternative educations that are popping up. and we're always going to need educated, always upscaling. So I don't think it's, it's a scarce environment.

Colin Keeley: [00:26:25] Yeah, continuing education is just going to become more and more important. Important as the world is changing more and more rapidly.

How Colin Believes We Can Push The World To Evolve

A pandemic is pretty damn effective. So I don't know who came up with that one. But, I definitely think pushing technology forward quite a bit. Otherwise I think audio courses are going to unlock billions of hours of learning. So I think that we'll do quite a bit of good for the world as well.

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Have We Entered The Age Of Audio?

Featuring Guest -

Colin Keeley

hosted by: Brandon Stover
044

September 29, 2020

Colin Keeley is Co Founder & CEO of Avocado Audio, Host of the Tech in Chicago Podcast, and has been ferociously building & growing internet companies for the past decade. He’s been on both sides of the fence as a serial founder and venture capitalist, and done everything from building a personalized tv/movie guide, a stretchy denim company for men, a sharing economy startup, and a multi-million dollar software marketing business. With no plans of slowing down, he has just launched a platform for the world’s best audio courses with instructors who range from best selling authors, youtube stars, investment bankers, to Wharton professors.

With the audio industry booming, it is easy to see why this insightful entrepreneur is on a mission to turn your spare listening time into productive learning time. Podcasting alone is forecasted to reach over 160 million listeners by 2023 and will continue to grow an extra 20 million each year after. Streaming giant Spotify has invested hundreds of millions of dollars on podcast-related acquisitions while behomeaths like Amazon are expanding their audio library into podcasts within the next few months.

This explosion of growth is something Colin knows well. Through his highly acclaimed podcast Tech in Chicago, which has been a top 100 business podcast with 100,000+ downloads to date, and has been sharing the inspiring stories of Chicago’s top founders and investors and their startups like Chowly, Leaftrade, and Cameo.

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One, Two, Three Times Through The Startup Ringer

Brandon Stover: [00:01:34] You've had quite a few different startups in your time. Was Geneva denim, your first one, or how did you get into startups?

Colin Keeley: [00:01:42] how did I get into it? so a little bit of my background, my undergrad, yes. Went to McAlester college and studied econ and math. And I want to get into startups. I didn't have any technical jobs of any sort. I was lucky enough that Seth Levine, a venture capitalists came and gave a talk in my class from the Foundry group.

And I followed up with them after I was like, Hey, I'd love to get into startups. I don't have any really marketable skills for one. And he connected me with a serial entrepreneur that was starting his next company. And that was called Luma, which was a TV and movie recommendation company. And I had just sent it, I guess it wasn't a cold email.

I got an introduction, but kind of got my foot in the door. I did an unpaid internship and then became like the first hire. And we went from there.

Brandon Stover: [00:02:22] Okay. And then you eventually decided to go on your own with Geneva?

Colin Keeley: [00:02:27] Yeah. So after that we raised about one and a half million dollars. We launched the maps, didn't have enough traction. We shut the company down. that took about three years. And then I moved back to Chicago where I'm from. And. Yeah, this was like scratching my own itch. I, I don't know, like in college you wear sweatpants.

I played basketball in college and then I went to work and you weren't really supposed to wear sweatpants every day. So I didn't love wearing jeans and I'm kind of an odd body type. I'm six, seven. So I have long legs. And so I just wanted to make something comfortable for myself. I ran a Kickstarter, it was actually pretty successful and I could have built like a nice apparel business with it, but I just decided I didn't want to be in apparel for the next 10 years of my life.

so at that point around then I applied to business school.

Brandon Stover: [00:03:09] Okay. and then eventually you have another go around with bevy, which you've shared a pretty solvent, like post-mortem of. Can you share briefly what bevy was and why, and ultimately failed.

Colin Keeley: [00:03:21] Yeah. So I launched that business at school with a few of my business school friends. I went to the university of Chicago and it was a, we rent everything out you want out for different experiences. So if you wanted to go camping one weekend, we give you a really nice tent, really nice sleeping pad, like things you wouldn't even think of, like marshmallow sticks and lanterns.

And then the next weekend you have friends over. You want to do like a karaoke night or something. We give you everything you need for that. So that was a similar thing where you could make a nice, like party, small business out of it. But I was never interested in that. I wanted something venture scale and it was just, it proved that I kind of walked into a bad market. A lot of people raise $30 million, a few different competitors did, and they all took different variations on the business model and nothing ended up working. so it was a asset intensive. I wasn't loving it. I was like basically a low-paid Uber driver. And so we ended up sunsetting it and I wrote that postmortem of like everything I kind of learned, it's a.com, check it out.

but hopefully that helps other entrepreneurs. I get a lot of people that have a similar idea and I want to be like, Don't do it unless you have a really clever variation on it, which is yeah. Some people are nowadays, but, and trying to dissuade people from walking into the market as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:04:32] Yeah. so you've also flipped kind of to the dark side sometimes and been on venture capital. why have you gone back and forth between the two?

Colin Keeley: [00:04:41] You know, they actually very different jobs. So venture capital is let's say more intellectually stimulating you're meeting with super smart entrepreneurs all day, learning about new markets and really evaluating people and evaluating markets more so than operators or founders. It's more like you figure out something that works and you just have to execute on it ruthlessly.

So it's a lot of, you know, I wouldn't say repetition day in, day out, but you have to be laser focused on one thing and just do it. And why did I switch back and forth? I guess my process was through a bevy in business school. There's the new venture challenge. The big competition at university of Chicago that grub hub went through is their most famous alumni.

And, I met a VC through that who hated the startup, basically hated the business idea, but like me well enough. So we kind of stayed in touch and he was looking for help. And I was sunsetting bevy and I was like my foot in the door. but yeah, I really enjoyed my time there. I had a lot of great people and continue to work with them today.

Lessons From Podcasting For 4 Years

Brandon Stover: [00:05:36] So I think another important note before we get to avocado audio is you've been in podcasting for 4 years. What originally drew you to podcasts and what, why do you think it's a worthwhile frontier?

Colin Keeley: [00:05:48] Everyone has a podcast nowadays, I guess, as like kind of early to it. so this is four years ago. The tools are not nearly as good. It was more, I'm going to be more tech savvy to definitely get one out there. But so the initial inspiration for tech in Chicago, where I interview founders and investors was I was huge fan of podcasts, listening to them. It's all like San Francisco, New York stuff, stories. And I thought there should be one more for Chicago and there wasn't, which I thought was weird. So I knew there was some demand there. And then personally, it's just a networking machine. And, you know, back when we saw people in person, you show up with two microphones and everyone in the city would be happy to talk to you.

So it was very effective for building my network and, you know, becoming well known in that industry. I recommend it to anyone else that like wants it as like a insertion to be the center point of an industry to start a podcast and do like five episodes and you'll get enormous inbound. if you just pick the right niche,

Brandon Stover: [00:06:37] Yeah. And I think your note about it being a great networking tool, that's the biggest thing that I've seen on it is being able to meet people that I necessarily maybe wouldn't have been in room with I not had a podcast.

Colin Keeley: [00:06:49] Absolutely. Yeah.

Brandon Stover: [00:06:50] what has been some of the biggest lessons you've taken away from your guests about their startups?

Colin Keeley: [00:06:57] Startups and challenging, like there's the highs and lows are far more extreme than a traditional job. So it really helps to have a larger mission. Like don't fall in love with your solution, just really fall in love with the problem. And that will generally keep you going through the highs and lows to like eventually like success. It takes a long time, longer than people think.

Brandon Stover: [00:07:17] Do you make any revenue right now through your podcast?

Colin Keeley: [00:07:21] so I've had a variety of sponsors. I've actually slowed down on it. I think, you know, your actual location just matters so little, like we're just internet natives. At this point, I made everyone on line. I don't even know where they are even ask you where you're located at the moment. So I, you know, I have slowed down on the podcasts.

Have I made revenue on it? Yeah. It's pretty easy to get sponsored, especially if you have, an audience that is valuable. So I had a sponsor that was a PR firm that specialized in like Chicago startups. So it's easy. I'm sure he got a few clients and is well worth it for him. so for other podcasts out there, try to break away from the like CPM model.

You don't want to get charged on a thousand listens. You want to sell the value of your audience. And then I also had a venture capitalist. I was starting a new venture firm and just want to get his name out there. That's sponsored the podcast as well.

The Future Of The Audio Market

Brandon Stover: [00:08:06] Okay. So when did the idea for avocado audio come about? Because it's in a very adjacent niche, but it's still in the same topic.

Colin Keeley: [00:08:15] yeah, so it's kind of two different sides. I was initially looking at the opportunity. This is looking at investing in audio companies and in audio, what lags the furthest behind is monetization. So podcasting bizarrely kinda monetizes about a 10th as well as radio, which is insane because it's effectively internet radio, right, targeting and tracking should all be significantly better.

And then if you look at the video space, if you record a few hours of video and you call it a course where there's a clear return on investment, you could charge thousands of dollars. And there's no real equivalent for that in the U S in audio there isn't China, it's called the pay for knowledge economy.

But it seems like just a fluke of history that we've basically been required to stare at screens to learn. So I knew the future was heading there. I just knew that there was no chance that we're staring at screens for 10 hours a day in the future. And so, just, you know, set off to build it. And so we kind of entered the market and now we've, pivoted the business model a little bit.

So I know you mentioned like Spotify and Amazon and audible. Audible is owned by Amazon for the listeners that maybe don't know that. And they're trying to like vacuum up all the audio out there. So we are thinking of it more as like arming the rebels. So we want to arm the creators with their own storefronts to sell their own audio courses, which we think are just about the easiest info products to produce and to consume.

Brandon Stover: [00:09:33] Hmm. Yeah. where did the name, avocado come from? How did that decide to audio?

Colin Keeley: [00:09:39] So, you know, I love alliteration, so I'm a sucker for alliteration. It was more like a working name and it just became our actual name. So avocados are tasty and they're also healthy. So we had a similar idea that our audio is going to be, you know, educational, but also, like entertaining.

Brandon Stover: [00:09:56] Yeah. Got it. so this is your third startup or maybe more than your third startup? What is just giving you the confidence that this one is going to be successful one?

Colin Keeley: [00:10:08] so it's far more than my third. you just know the projects that, you know, satellite a day. So we actually, we also, operate as a startup studio. So we were once, twice a year spinning up new companies. so we tested out a lot of ideas and it's way easier now with all the no code tools out there. I think I am significantly better at evaluating markets now. And we tested the demand. We know there's lot of demand there, so I feel good about it.

How To Evaluate Startup Ideas & Markets

Brandon Stover: [00:10:33] You have a course on your platform about evaluating startup ideas. So what advice or criteria maybe using the avocado audio as an example that you give to founders?

Colin Keeley: [00:10:44] so it's actually a free trial, a free seven day trial. So you can check it out and immediately cancel your trial if you want. So I recommend listening to that, like 30 minute course would be a good start.

my advice to founders would be take a lot of care in, you know, selecting your next project. Do you want to just wander blindly in like spend a lot of time doing it because you know, like 10 years of your life is a big commitment or even just wasting a few years on a project that's going, nowhere is a big mistake.

Brandon Stover: [00:11:12] there's been obviously a lot of interest in the audio space. I talked about Spotify and, the other giants kind of moving in. What insights about the audio space, have you seen that maybe others aren't seeing?

Colin Keeley: [00:11:24] There's a big trend towards, you know, bite-size content or like audio Lunchables as calling it. So we always try to create our courses or recommend our creators, create our courses to be. They have super short lessons, like two day, eight minutes, so people can consume them, you know, doing laundry, doing the dishes, you kind of bite-sized segments.

you seeing that in podcasting as well, a lot of innovative podcasts are coming out with shorter and shorter clips. That's maybe something that most people haven't seen yet, but is definitely where the future is heading.

Brandon Stover: [00:11:54] Yeah, I think, especially in podcasts, that's like the one of two extremes. Like you either do something super short or you do like really long form content, like Joe Rogan for hours.

Colin Keeley: [00:12:04] So that's kind of a difference between podcasts and audio courses is that centers are kind of flipped. So like with Joe Rogan, he gets paid in advertising, right? So the longer, I think you do a three for our podcasts. He makes a lot more money than if he does, you know, two day, minute podcasts.

How This Bootstrapped Startup Is Gaining Traction

Brandon Stover: [00:12:17] great. you guys are just starting. You're bootstrapped. What are you doing right now to get your first customers?

Colin Keeley: [00:12:24] a lot of direct outbound. So you could look at other market places, you could find other creators and you could, scrape their emails or have someone in the Philippines Bambora board LSR and grabbed the emails. And then just scaled outbound. so we're, we're not doing like Facebook ads or like a Google ads as much, or we're doing a little, but nothing meaningful. And it's really on the creators. They're bringing their audience to us.

Brandon Stover: [00:12:46] As a consumer, why would I pay for a learning service when I could listen to an audio book or podcasts for free?

Colin Keeley: [00:12:53] So the biggest difference between audio books are just the written word and it was transformed to audio. So I think they're great. I don't think they're ever designed audio first and then podcasts. You could listen to them all. And the big difference is that we're just structured. We take you from a to Z. We don't like you don't have to look through 400 podcasts to learn what you're trying to learn.

Brandon Stover: [00:13:14] Yeah. even with Google too, I think, basically like searching podcasts now and being able to like, Certain things. I think it's easier just to go through like a structured course than having to do that. Searching yourself.

Colin Keeley: [00:13:27] Yeah. And the reality is like all information is basically free nowadays. It's just all how you're packaging it for convenience infrastructure and everything.

Brandon Stover: [00:13:34] Yeah. it seems like a lot of the courses on the platform around like business development, which means nicely to those that may be like working a nine to five or in the middle of a career shift or something. For something like that I personally did when I first listened to podcasts. how have you seen consumers using this so far?

Colin Keeley: [00:13:53] yeah, so kind of the dirty secret in, like online learning is that completion rates are abysmal. You're really just selling, like a better version of yourself and people like, Oh, great. I bought this course. I want to learn something. And then completion rates are sub 5% on average. And so with audio, people just have way more your time.

It's our completion rates, you know, blow that out of the water. that's one big thing we've learned. And then. We kind of settled on the business segment because we are targeting people who have limited time. They have demonstrated willingness to pay for learning opportunities and business. People were like that the best segment initially to start, and you don't really need a screen. Most of the stuff's not visual, not learning like programming or something. That would be a little more complicated.

Brandon Stover: [00:14:37] Yeah. Do you guys have any way to kind of track the success rates or like them executing? Because when you're listening it's it seems like. Very passive thing. You might be doing something else. So how much are they retaining and actually putting into action later?

Colin Keeley: [00:14:51] So we've led with content. I think content is a key, cause most people are consuming this as a secondary activity, so we're not going to throw quizzes up on the screen. So they have to look down to the screen. a lot of that stuff is like in the plans, we're going to build it out, but we haven't done it yet.

Some creators do have like at the end of a lesson or the end of a course, they'll have some like deliverable that people create are great, but it's completely optional. So that's kind of how you test skillsets.

How Audio Course Can Support Higher Education

Brandon Stover: [00:15:17] I'm pretty interested in the higher education space. And I was wondering how you might see audio courses like supporting that education landscape?

Colin Keeley: [00:15:25] Yeah, a big thing with COVID is everyone that was doing stuff in person. So both like undergraduate education, elementary school education, and then a lot, actually there's a huge corporate education market where people are giving in person talks and they all have to sort out this all like online thing.

And so a lot of them are having to figure out how to do video courses and audio courses are just so much less work to create. So a lot of them are really pumped about it and you know, the engagement rates are significantly better as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:15:54] Yeah. And I think, as you said, like there's a lot of different subjects that would lend itself better to, you know, an audio course than a talking head video course or something like that.

Colin Keeley: [00:16:05] Yeah, it's a super boring to stare at someone talking on the screen.

Brandon Stover: [00:16:08] what has been the best format for these courses? You had mentioned like the five day kind of 20 minute, like multiples. how have you seen these working the bus?

Colin Keeley: [00:16:18] Yeah. We like to keep them relatively short and very dense. So to day minutes to cover a lesson generally, and then a total course is probably, you know, one to two hours on average. And we'd like the course to be so good that people end up listening to it through it multiple times. and that's kinda an opportunity you have in audio instead of video, once again, because people don't want to stare at the screen for, you know, six hours on re repeat, but with audio, you could, you know, if you're going to your next meeting and it's on some topic, at least you get burned through it to refresh yourself quickly on that topic.

Brandon Stover: [00:16:49] Yeah, absolutely. I did a, a podcasting course teaching others how to podcast and I did it in five to 20 minute little audios. and then I had like supplemental worksheets that went with it and then anything that was technical, like they had to edit audio or whatever. I would have a video for it. and just let them know, like in the audio, go check out the video.

And that seemed to work out pretty well. I think people were able to get it fairly well. And with like the worksheets, it kind of followed the audio, and were able to execute on those actions.

Colin Keeley: [00:17:20] Very cool. Yeah. So audio first doesn't mean audio only, and that's something we learned pretty quickly is like you could link to, you know, PDFs and, you know, God forbid, but videos are also in there as well as they come up.

Marketing A New Platform

Brandon Stover: [00:17:31] you have successfully grown up podcasts. Are you using the same like marketing strategies that you did in the podcasts for audio courses or what works best for each medium?

Colin Keeley: [00:17:42] So, yes, to some extent, we like that. Everything you learn in cold emailing to get like guests on the show, it's exactly all the same stuff I'm using to get people to bring on their own courses. And so bringing on the creators and the creators are bringing their audience. So like our creators are our customer and they are paying us or we're doing a rev-share with them. And then the end consumer is the creator's job to bring those guys on.

Brandon Stover: [00:18:06] Yeah, right now you're building a marketplace, which is really a hard thing. Cause it's like a chicken and the egg problem, which side you build up first. So how are you tackling that?

Colin Keeley: [00:18:15] yeah, that's partially why we're pivoting away from it. And by the time this is live, it will probably just be that, like, the rebels approach of enabling other people. yeah, it was effectively a bundle in our conversion rate from free to paid was reasonably good. It was just becoming more and more apparent that the best creators want it and to stand alone, they wanted to create their own courses. If you're building like a, you know how to podcast course, you don't want to be next to a hundred other ones doing something similar. You worked hard to build your knowledge. You worked hard to build your audience and you just want to share it with them.

Brandon Stover: [00:18:47] Yeah, I see a lot of creators, come to these different marketplaces and they'll put up the same course just to kind like get traffic, but then they'll, we'll try and convert that back. So like wherever their main hub is.

Colin Keeley: [00:18:59] How many other courses do you have?

Brandon Stover: [00:19:01] so right now I don't only have that course up.

Colin Keeley: [00:19:04] Okay. And how's it doing for you?

Brandon Stover: [00:19:06] I was monetizing it for awhile and then I went to hub and because I released it as a podcast, cause there wasn't necessarily like an audio marketplace to put up. And so I get a lot of people listening to that podcast and I went ahead and just put the worksheets and stuff up for free. I used to do coaching with it and that's what I charged for. and when I was doing that, it was working out pretty well. I just didn't have the time to keep up with it.

Colin Keeley: [00:19:30] Oh, cool. Yeah. Well, we'd love to get you on.

Brandon Stover: [00:19:32] Yeah, yeah, for sure. I'll have definitely check it out. what challenges or surprises have you had while launching a startup during a pandemic?

Colin Keeley: [00:19:40] Yeah, it wasn't that big of a change for us. We weren't going to the office that much, maybe like half the week anyway. So I was actually like decking out my at home office. So I got like a nice standing desk and I didn't have, I had the microphone. Didn't have the nice camera. and then Brent, my cofounder like mostly stopped going to the office.

So I was only seeing him once every couple of weeks. So we still talk every day, but I just haven't seen him in person in like four months. So, I don't know, not really a massive change for me. There were bigger changes. Like the rest of the world that time outside of work is, you know, basically the same.

You're just at home every day. It's not that different.

Brandon Stover: [00:20:15] Yeah. Have you seen any challenges in like your marketing or. getting customers or anything?

Colin Keeley: [00:20:21] Not really like a Facebook ads and all that stuff got cheaper for a little while. But I'm not sure anything is drastically different. You know, people at home a lot more. And I guess the biggest change for us is just like the creator economy is really taking off. It's a lot of people lost their jobs and they're looking to supplement or compliment their income.

So a ton of people are out there looking for that. And then all the people that are doing in person stuff for like four, I have to do something online. Now it's a lot more inbound interests, even from big companies. Like we'd like to bring this. Coaching to audio. How do we do that? How do we use your platform for that?

So definitely like pivoted the company a little bit to really take advantage and ride the wave. But we feel good about the wave now.

Brandon Stover: [00:21:04] Yeah. So it seems like a beneficial thing to you guys is as horrible as it could be.

Colin Keeley: [00:21:10] Yeah. I recommend to all like internet entrepreneurs, like this is a special time. People are at home. People are trying different things like figuring out how you could pivot your business to take advantage of the moment.

What A Recession Means For Startups

Brandon Stover: [00:21:20] Yeah. you wrote about what startups to do during a recession based on like analyzing some past bunks. what is your advice for startups right now? You know, going into what we may see as another recession?

Colin Keeley: [00:21:33] I wrote that, while I was in venture capital, I wanted to see or study previous recessions and depressions. And what happened in the early stage market? So, what basically happens is there's a pretty big between the public market and the private market, because all these venture capitalists have all those dry powder or like money to invest for the people that don't know what that means.

And so there's roughly like a six to 12 months delay. after a downturn happens in the public market, when it actually happens in the privates as well. But I don't know if that has any real bearing on what's going on right now because the stock market hasn't really crashed. I think it just hit record highs.

Again, all tech companies are doing really, really well because we're kind of pushed to, you know, a progression maybe jumped ahead a few years. So if you're doing a tech company like valuations have not really fallen, I'd talk with VCs fairly often. And it's one of the hotter August is in the venture market in awhile.

Brandon Stover: [00:22:26] Through all the ups and downs of your own journey through the startup world. What do you think has pushed you the most going through all the different iterations?

Colin Keeley: [00:22:35] Pushed me the most. I think it just as important to take care of yourself, like the highs and lows are pretty extreme. So I'm very diligent about like getting eight hours of sleep. And I'm very regimented about that every night. and exercising, eating well, like doing as much as you can to control the things you can, and then you're better prepared for the rigors of the day.

So, I don't know, you just, you do it enough and you kind of like roll with the punches. You run into walls and it's like, Oh, I've seen you before. I was just walk around you the next one and it just keeps going. So I don't know. Hey, get used to it.

Brandon Stover: [00:23:07] Yeah. I seen you required a avid reader. Is there any books that kind of helped you formulate that mindset?

Colin Keeley: [00:23:14] I don't really read self help books at all. I don't enjoy them. Like I just job as quickly separating them. And my biggest recommendations for people that haven't really read that much American kingpin is like my go to recommendation for folks. So that's the story of Ross Albright and the silk road, which is basically the Amazon of illegal drugs and other illegal things.

So it's just, it's written kind of like fiction and it is, is one of the best entrepreneurial stories ever. I think he basically built like a billion dollar company, all illegally, all online. So it's all the traditional, you know, startup challenges just on a more entertaining scale.

Brandon Stover: [00:23:50] Yeah, but I think, it's, it's very interesting when you look at, the drug world or, you know, the illegal world, all of those people are entrepreneurs, too. They just are doing it in a different way.

Colin Keeley: [00:24:00] Yeah. The stakes are a little bit higher. I'm like, how do you enforce contracts and stuff is a little more complicated.

Predictions For Education In The Future

Brandon Stover: [00:24:06] Yeah, for sure. so you went to a traditional college and you've talked about like the various alternatives that are out there. and you now are kind of started something that's kind of adjacent in the education space. What do you think the future of higher education looks like?

Colin Keeley: [00:24:22] I think most of the not top ones go out of business. Cause I don't think they're really delivering the value. If you could go to a top one and get it that stamp and build the network and it's definitely still worth it. So I imagine in the near term here, a lot of those businesses are going to. Figuring out that they are not actually that valuable.

And a lot of them will go on there. That's my prediction pretty quickly here. I actually think most college kids should really consider a gap year. Like the biggest value of going to a decent school is like the friends you make and the network you make. And you're not doing that on zoom. So if you're a freshman, I would say, don't do it.

Like take the year off. And if you're not, evaluate whether everyone else has going back to campus or not, otherwise I would wait a year and do a bunch of startup internships or something.

Brandon Stover: [00:25:06] Do you do any type of continuing education? Like whether it's audio, of course. Is there anything now?

Colin Keeley: [00:25:11] Oh yeah. I mean, I read all day long. I'd save everything to instant paper pocket. Often I do text to speech, which is a little hack to finger down on an iOS device or redo the text. A lot of audio books, podcasts. Yeah. Read a decent amount as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:25:29] Would you think, if you were in the same spot, like talking to your younger self, would you go through traditional higher ed or do you think you would take one of these alternative paths?

Colin Keeley: [00:25:37] yeah, I mean, I think I played basketball in college. Do that again. I think athletics is like the biggest loophole to get into basically any school you want. So like, I have a cousin that's a really good swimmer now. And I was like, you should just go to Harvard for swimming. Like whether you want to actually swim there or not, you could jump out right away, quite the team. At least you're still at Harvard.

so yeah, I would still go, I try to go to the best school I could for sure. But what people don't realize is the best schools, actually the cheapest schools. Cause they have the biggest endowment. So if you need money though, they'll pay for you. yeah, it's kind of weird. I mean, I'm a bit of a hater for schools, but I went to, you know, traditional schools as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:26:12] Yeah, I think there's a space for them. And I also think that there's a space for, you know, these alternative educations that are popping up. and we're always going to need educated, always upscaling. So I don't think it's, it's a scarce environment.

Colin Keeley: [00:26:25] Yeah, continuing education is just going to become more and more important. Important as the world is changing more and more rapidly.

How Colin Believes We Can Push The World To Evolve

A pandemic is pretty damn effective. So I don't know who came up with that one. But, I definitely think pushing technology forward quite a bit. Otherwise I think audio courses are going to unlock billions of hours of learning. So I think that we'll do quite a bit of good for the world as well.

Selected Links & Resources From This Episode

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Colin Keeley Interview

Brandon Stover: [00:00:00] Hey, everyone. Welcome to evolve.

Today's guest has been ferociously building and growing internet companies for the past decade. He's been on both sides of the fence as a serial founder and a venture capitalist and done everything from building a personalized TV movie guide, a stretchy denim company for men sharing economy startup and a multimillion dollar software marketing business.

With no plans of slowing down, he has just launched a platform for the world's best audio courses with instructors who range from bestselling authors, YouTube stars, investment bankers, to board and professors. With the audio industry booming it is easy to see why this insightful entrepreneur is on a mission that turn your spare, listening time into productive learning time. Podcasting alone is forecast to reach over 160 million listeners by 2023 and will continue to grow an extra 20 million each year after. Streaming giant, Spotify, has even invested hundreds of millions of dollars on podcasts related acquisitions, while behemoths like Amazon are expanding their audio library into podcasts within the next few months.

This explosion of growth is something that our guests knows well. Through his highly acclaimed podcast tech in Chicago, which has been a top 100 business podcasts, with over a hundred thousand downloads to date has been sharing the inspiring stories of Chicago's top founders and investors and their startups like Cali leaf trade and cameo.

I'm honored to welcome the co founder and CEO of avocado audio, host of the tech in Chicago podcast, and a man who can break down startup problems while shooting threes on the basketball court, Colin Keeley.

Colin Keeley: [00:01:31] Thanks for having me. That was an excellent introduction.

One, Two, Three Times Through The Startup Ringer

Brandon Stover: [00:01:34] Absolutely. Well, you've had quite a few different startups in your time. Was Geneva denim, your first one, or how did you get into startups?

Colin Keeley: [00:01:42] how did I get into it? so a little bit of my background, my undergrad, yes. Went to McAlester college and studied econ and math. And I want to get into startups. I didn't have any technical jobs of any sort. I was lucky enough that Seth Levine, a venture capitalists came and gave a talk in my class from the Foundry group.

And I followed up with them after I was like, Hey, I'd love to get into startups. I don't have any really marketable skills for one. And he connected me with a serial entrepreneur that was starting his next company. And that was called Luma, which was a TV and movie recommendation company. And I had just sent it, I guess it wasn't a cold email.

I got an introduction, but kind of got my foot in the door. I did an unpaid internship and then became like the first hire. And we went from there.

Brandon Stover: [00:02:22] Okay. And then you eventually decided to go on your own with Geneva?

Colin Keeley: [00:02:27] Yeah. So after that we raised about one and a half million dollars. We launched the maps, didn't have enough traction. We shut the company down. that took about three years. And then I moved back to Chicago where I'm from. And. Yeah, this was like scratching my own itch. I, I don't know, like in college you wear sweatpants.

I played basketball in college and then I went to work and you weren't really supposed to wear sweatpants every day. So I didn't love wearing jeans and I'm kind of an odd body type. I'm six, seven. So I have long legs. And so I just wanted to make something comfortable for myself. I ran a Kickstarter, it was actually pretty successful and I could have built like a nice apparel business with it, but I just decided I didn't want to be in apparel for the next 10 years of my life.

so at that point around then I applied to business school.

Brandon Stover: [00:03:09] Okay. and then eventually you have another go around with bevy, which you've shared a pretty solvent, like post-mortem of. Can you share briefly what bevy was and why, and ultimately failed.

Colin Keeley: [00:03:21] Yeah. So I launched that business at school with a few of my business school friends. I went to the university of Chicago and it was a, we rent everything out you want out for different experiences. So if you wanted to go camping one weekend, we give you a really nice tent, really nice sleeping pad, like things you wouldn't even think of, like marshmallow sticks and lanterns.

And then the next weekend you have friends over. You want to do like a karaoke night or something. We give you everything you need for that. So that was a similar thing where you could make a nice, like party, small business out of it. But I was never interested in that. I wanted something venture scale and it was just, it proved that I kind of walked into a bad market. A lot of people raise $30 million, a few different competitors did, and they all took different variations on the business model and nothing ended up working. so it was a asset intensive. I wasn't loving it. I was like basically a low-paid Uber driver. And so we ended up sunsetting it and I wrote that postmortem of like everything I kind of learned, it's a.com, check it out.

but hopefully that helps other entrepreneurs. I get a lot of people that have a similar idea and I want to be like, Don't do it unless you have a really clever variation on it, which is yeah. Some people are nowadays, but, and trying to dissuade people from walking into the market as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:04:32] Yeah. so you've also flipped kind of to the dark side sometimes and been on venture capital. why have you gone back and forth between the two?

Colin Keeley: [00:04:41] You know, they actually very different jobs. So venture capital is let's say more intellectually stimulating you're meeting with super smart entrepreneurs all day, learning about new markets and really evaluating people and evaluating markets more so than operators or founders. It's more like you figure out something that works and you just have to execute on it ruthlessly.

So it's a lot of, you know, I wouldn't say repetition day in, day out, but you have to be laser focused on one thing and just do it. And why did I switch back and forth? I guess my process was through a bevy in business school. There's the new venture challenge. The big competition at university of Chicago that grub hub went through is their most famous alumni.

And, I met a VC through that who hated the startup, basically hated the business idea, but like me well enough. So we kind of stayed in touch and he was looking for help. And I was sunsetting bevy and I was like my foot in the door. but yeah, I really enjoyed my time there. I had a lot of great people and continue to work with them today.

Lessons From Podcasting For 4 Years

Brandon Stover: [00:05:36] So I think another important note before we get to avocado audio is you've been in podcasting for 4 years. What originally drew you to podcasts and what, why do you think it's a worthwhile frontier?

Colin Keeley: [00:05:48] Everyone has a podcast nowadays, I guess, as like kind of early to it. so this is four years ago. The tools are not nearly as good. It was more, I'm going to be more tech savvy to definitely get one out there. But so the initial inspiration for tech in Chicago, where I interview founders and investors was I was huge fan of podcasts, listening to them. It's all like San Francisco, New York stuff, stories. And I thought there should be one more for Chicago and there wasn't, which I thought was weird. So I knew there was some demand there. And then personally, it's just a networking machine. And, you know, back when we saw people in person, you show up with two microphones and everyone in the city would be happy to talk to you.

So it was very effective for building my network and, you know, becoming well known in that industry. I recommend it to anyone else that like wants it as like a insertion to be the center point of an industry to start a podcast and do like five episodes and you'll get enormous inbound. if you just pick the right niche,

Brandon Stover: [00:06:37] Yeah. And I think your note about it being a great networking tool, that's the biggest thing that I've seen on it is being able to meet people that I necessarily maybe wouldn't have been in room with I not had a podcast.

Colin Keeley: [00:06:49] Absolutely. Yeah.

Brandon Stover: [00:06:50] what has been some of the biggest lessons you've taken away from your guests about their startups?

Colin Keeley: [00:06:57] Startups and challenging, like there's the highs and lows are far more extreme than a traditional job. So it really helps to have a larger mission. Like don't fall in love with your solution, just really fall in love with the problem. And that will generally keep you going through the highs and lows to like eventually like success. It takes a long time, longer than people think.

Brandon Stover: [00:07:17] Do you make any revenue right now through your podcast?

Colin Keeley: [00:07:21] so I've had a variety of sponsors. I've actually slowed down on it. I think, you know, your actual location just matters so little, like we're just internet natives. At this point, I made everyone on line. I don't even know where they are even ask you where you're located at the moment. So I, you know, I have slowed down on the podcasts.

Have I made revenue on it? Yeah. It's pretty easy to get sponsored, especially if you have, an audience that is valuable. So I had a sponsor that was a PR firm that specialized in like Chicago startups. So it's easy. I'm sure he got a few clients and is well worth it for him. so for other podcasts out there, try to break away from the like CPM model.

You don't want to get charged on a thousand listens. You want to sell the value of your audience. And then I also had a venture capitalist. I was starting a new venture firm and just want to get his name out there. That's sponsored the podcast as well.

The Future Of The Audio Market

Brandon Stover: [00:08:06] Okay. So when did the idea for avocado audio come about? Because it's in a very adjacent niche, but it's still in the same topic.

Colin Keeley: [00:08:15] yeah, so it's kind of two different sides. I was initially looking at the opportunity. This is looking at investing in audio companies and in audio, what lags the furthest behind is monetization. So podcasting bizarrely kinda monetizes about a 10th as well as radio, which is insane because it's effectively internet radio, right, targeting and tracking should all be significantly better.

And then if you look at the video space, if you record a few hours of video and you call it a course where there's a clear return on investment, you could charge thousands of dollars. And there's no real equivalent for that in the U S in audio there isn't China, it's called the pay for knowledge economy.

But it seems like just a fluke of history that we've basically been required to stare at screens to learn. So I knew the future was heading there. I just knew that there was no chance that we're staring at screens for 10 hours a day in the future. And so, just, you know, set off to build it. And so we kind of entered the market and now we've, pivoted the business model a little bit.

So I know you mentioned like Spotify and Amazon and audible. Audible is owned by Amazon for the listeners that maybe don't know that. And they're trying to like vacuum up all the audio out there. So we are thinking of it more as like arming the rebels. So we want to arm the creators with their own storefronts to sell their own audio courses, which we think are just about the easiest info products to produce and to consume.

Brandon Stover: [00:09:33] Hmm. Yeah. where did the name, avocado come from? How did that decide to audio?

Colin Keeley: [00:09:39] So, you know, I love alliteration, so I'm a sucker for alliteration. It was more like a working name and it just became our actual name. So avocados are tasty and they're also healthy. So we had a similar idea that our audio is going to be, you know, educational, but also, like entertaining.

Brandon Stover: [00:09:56] Yeah. Got it. so this is your third startup. What is giving you the confidence or maybe more than your third startup? We're just giving you the confidence that this one is going to be successful one,

Colin Keeley: [00:10:08] so it's far more than my third. you just know the projects that, you know, satellite a day. So we actually, we also, operate as a startup studio. So we were once, twice a year spinning up new companies. so we tested out a lot of ideas and it's way easier now with all the no code tools out there. I think I am significantly better at evaluating markets now. And we tested the demand. We know there's lot of demand there, so I feel good about it.

How To Evaluate Startup Ideas & Markets

Brandon Stover: [00:10:33] You have a course on your platform about evaluating startup ideas. So what advice or criteria maybe using the avocado audio as an example that you give to founders?

Colin Keeley: [00:10:44] so it's actually a free trial, a free seven day trial. So you can check it out and immediately cancel your trial if you want. So I recommend listening to that, like 30 minute course would be a good start.

my advice to founders would be take a lot of care in, you know, selecting your next project. Do you want to just wander blindly in like spend a lot of time doing it because you know, like 10 years of your life is a big commitment or even just wasting a few years on a project that's going, nowhere is a big mistake.

Brandon Stover: [00:11:12] there's been obviously a lot of interest in the audio space. I talked about Spotify and, the other giants kind of moving in. What insights about the audio space, have you seen that maybe others aren't seeing?

Colin Keeley: [00:11:24] There's a big trend towards, you know, bite-size content or like audio Lunchables as calling it. So we always try to create our courses or recommend our creators, create our courses to be. They have super short lessons, like two day, eight minutes, so people can consume them, you know, doing laundry, doing the dishes, you kind of bite-sized segments.

you seeing that in podcasting as well, a lot of innovative podcasts are coming out with shorter and shorter clips. That's maybe something that most people haven't seen yet, but is definitely where the future is heading.

Brandon Stover: [00:11:54] Yeah, I think, especially in podcasts, that's like the one of two extremes. Like you either do something super short or you do like really long form content, like Joe Rogan for hours.

Colin Keeley: [00:12:04] So that's kind of a difference between podcasts and audio courses is that centers are kind of flipped. So like with Joe Rogan, he gets paid in advertising, right? So the longer, I think you do a three for our podcasts. He makes a lot more money than if he does, you know, two day, minute podcasts.

How This Bootstrapped Startup Is Gaining Traction

Brandon Stover: [00:12:17] great. you guys are just starting. You're bootstrapped. What are you doing right now to get your first customers?

Colin Keeley: [00:12:24] a lot of direct outbound. So you could look at other market places, you could find other creators and you could, scrape their emails or have someone in the Philippines Bambora board LSR and grabbed the emails. And then just scaled outbound. so we're, we're not doing like Facebook ads or like a Google ads as much, or we're doing a little, but nothing meaningful. And it's really on the creators. They're bringing their audience to us.

Brandon Stover: [00:12:46] As a consumer, why would I pay for a learning service when I could listen to an audio book or podcasts for free?

Colin Keeley: [00:12:53] So the biggest difference between audio books are just the written word and it was transformed to audio. So I think they're great. I don't think they're ever designed audio first and then podcasts. You could listen to them all. And the big difference is that we're just structured. We take you from a to Z. We don't like you don't have to look through 400 podcasts to learn what you're trying to learn.

Brandon Stover: [00:13:14] Yeah. even with Google too, I think, basically like searching podcasts now and being able to like, Certain things. I think it's easier just to go through like a structured course than having to do that. Searching yourself.

Colin Keeley: [00:13:27] Yeah. And the reality is like all information is basically free nowadays. It's just all how you're packaging it for convenience infrastructure and everything.

Brandon Stover: [00:13:34] Yeah. it seems like a lot of the courses on the platform around like business development, which means nicely to those that may be like working a nine to five or in the middle of a career shift or something. For something like that I personally did when I first listened to podcasts. how have you seen consumers using this so far?

Colin Keeley: [00:13:53] yeah, so kind of the dirty secret in, like online learning is that completion rates are abysmal. You're really just selling, like a better version of yourself and people like, Oh, great. I bought this course. I want to learn something. And then completion rates are sub 5% on average. And so with audio, people just have way more your time.

It's our completion rates, you know, blow that out of the water. that's one big thing we've learned. And then. We kind of settled on the business segment because we are targeting people who have limited time. They have demonstrated willingness to pay for learning opportunities and business. People were like that the best segment initially to start, and you don't really need a screen. Most of the stuff's not visual, not learning like programming or something. That would be a little more complicated.

Brandon Stover: [00:14:37] Yeah. Do you guys have any way to kind of track the success rates or like them executing? Because when you're listening it's it seems like. Very passive thing. You might be doing something else. So how much are they retaining and actually putting into action later?

Colin Keeley: [00:14:51] So we've led with content. I think content is a key, cause most people are consuming this as a secondary activity, so we're not going to throw quizzes up on the screen. So they have to look down to the screen. a lot of that stuff is like in the plans, we're going to build it out, but we haven't done it yet.

Some creators do have like at the end of a lesson or the end of a course, they'll have some like deliverable that people create are great, but it's completely optional. So that's kind of how you test skillsets.

How Audio Course Can Support Higher Education

Brandon Stover: [00:15:17] I'm pretty interested in the higher education space. And I was wondering how you might see audio courses like supporting that education landscape?

Colin Keeley: [00:15:25] Yeah, a big thing with COVID is everyone that was doing stuff in person. So both like undergraduate education, elementary school education, and then a lot, actually there's a huge corporate education market where people are giving in person talks and they all have to sort out this all like online thing.

And so a lot of them are having to figure out how to do video courses and audio courses are just so much less work to create. So a lot of them are really pumped about it and you know, the engagement rates are significantly better as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:15:54] Yeah. And I think, as you said, like there's a lot of different subjects that would lend itself better to, you know, an audio course than a talking head video course or something like that.

Colin Keeley: [00:16:05] Yeah, it's a super boring to stare at someone talking on the screen.

Brandon Stover: [00:16:08] what has been the best format for these courses? You had mentioned like the five day kind of 20 minute, like multiples. how have you seen these working the bus?

Colin Keeley: [00:16:18] Yeah. We like to keep them relatively short and very dense. So to day minutes to cover a lesson generally, and then a total course is probably, you know, one to two hours on average. And we'd like the course to be so good that people end up listening to it through it multiple times. and that's kinda an opportunity you have in audio instead of video, once again, because people don't want to stare at the screen for, you know, six hours on re repeat, but with audio, you could, you know, if you're going to your next meeting and it's on some topic, at least you get burned through it to refresh yourself quickly on that topic.

Brandon Stover: [00:16:49] Yeah, absolutely. I did a, a podcasting course teaching others how to podcast and I did it in five to 20 minute little audios. and then I had like supplemental worksheets that went with it and then anything that was technical, like they had to edit audio or whatever. I would have a video for it. and just let them know, like in the audio, go check out the video.

And that seemed to work out pretty well. I think people were able to get it fairly well. And with like the worksheets, it kind of followed the audio, and were able to execute on those actions.

Colin Keeley: [00:17:20] Very cool. Yeah. So audio first doesn't mean audio only, and that's something we learned pretty quickly is like you could link to, you know, PDFs and, you know, God forbid, but videos are also in there as well as they come up.

Marketing A New Platform

Brandon Stover: [00:17:31] you have successfully grown up podcasts. Are you using the same like marketing strategies that you did in the podcasts for audio courses or what works best for each medium?

Colin Keeley: [00:17:42] So, yes, to some extent, we like that. Everything you learn in cold emailing to get like guests on the show, it's exactly all the same stuff I'm using to get people to bring on their own courses. And so bringing on the creators and the creators are bringing their audience. So like our creators are our customer and they are paying us or we're doing a rev-share with them. And then the end consumer is the creator's job to bring those guys on.

Brandon Stover: [00:18:06] Yeah, right now you're building a marketplace, which is really a hard thing. Cause it's like a chicken and the egg problem, which side you build up first. So how are you tackling that?

Colin Keeley: [00:18:15] yeah, that's partially why we're pivoting away from it. And by the time this is live, it will probably just be that, like, the rebels approach of enabling other people. yeah, it was effectively a bundle in our conversion rate from free to paid was reasonably good. It was just becoming more and more apparent that the best creators want it and to stand alone, they wanted to create their own courses. If you're building like a, you know how to podcast course, you don't want to be next to a hundred other ones doing something similar. You worked hard to build your knowledge. You worked hard to build your audience and you just want to share it with them.

Brandon Stover: [00:18:47] Yeah, I see a lot of creators, come to these different marketplaces and they'll put up the same course just to kind like get traffic, but then they'll, we'll try and convert that back. So like wherever their main hub is.

Colin Keeley: [00:18:59] How many other courses do you have?

Brandon Stover: [00:19:01] so right now I don't only have that course up.

Colin Keeley: [00:19:04] Okay. And how's it doing for you?

Brandon Stover: [00:19:06] I was monetizing it for awhile and then I went to hub and because I released it as a podcast, cause there wasn't necessarily like an audio marketplace to put up. And so I get a lot of people listening to that podcast and I went ahead and just put the worksheets and stuff up for free. I used to do coaching with it and that's what I charged for. and when I was doing that, it was working out pretty well. I just didn't have the time to keep up with it.

Colin Keeley: [00:19:30] Oh, cool. Yeah. Well, we'd love to get you on.

Brandon Stover: [00:19:32] Yeah, yeah, for sure. I'll have definitely check it out. what challenges or surprises have you had while launching a startup during a pandemic?

Colin Keeley: [00:19:40] Yeah, it wasn't that big of a change for us. We weren't going to the office that much, maybe like half the week anyway. So I was actually like decking out my at home office. So I got like a nice standing desk and I didn't have, I had the microphone. Didn't have the nice camera. and then Brent, my cofounder like mostly stopped going to the office.

So I was only seeing him once every couple of weeks. So we still talk every day, but I just haven't seen him in person in like four months. So, I don't know, not really a massive change for me. There were bigger changes. Like the rest of the world that time outside of work is, you know, basically the same.

You're just at home every day. It's not that different.

Brandon Stover: [00:20:15] Yeah. Have you seen any challenges in like your marketing or. getting customers or anything?

Colin Keeley: [00:20:21] Not really like a Facebook ads and all that stuff got cheaper for a little while. But I'm not sure anything is drastically different. You know, people at home a lot more. And I guess the biggest change for us is just like the creator economy is really taking off. It's a lot of people lost their jobs and they're looking to supplement or compliment their income.

So a ton of people are out there looking for that. And then all the people that are doing in person stuff for like four, I have to do something online. Now it's a lot more inbound interests, even from big companies. Like we'd like to bring this. Coaching to audio. How do we do that? How do we use your platform for that?

So definitely like pivoted the company a little bit to really take advantage and ride the wave. But we feel good about the wave now.

Brandon Stover: [00:21:04] Yeah. So it seems like a beneficial thing to you guys is as horrible as it could be.

Colin Keeley: [00:21:10] Yeah. I recommend to all like internet entrepreneurs, like this is a special time. People are at home. People are trying different things like figuring out how you could pivot your business to take advantage of the moment.

What A Recession Means For Startups

Brandon Stover: [00:21:20] Yeah. you wrote about what startups to do during a recession based on like analyzing some past bunks. what is your advice for startups right now? You know, going into what we may see as another recession?

Colin Keeley: [00:21:33] I wrote that, while I was in venture capital, I wanted to see or study previous recessions and depressions. And what happened in the early stage market? So, what basically happens is there's a pretty big between the public market and the private market, because all these venture capitalists have all those dry powder or like money to invest for the people that don't know what that means.

And so there's roughly like a six to 12 months delay. after a downturn happens in the public market, when it actually happens in the privates as well. But I don't know if that has any real bearing on what's going on right now because the stock market hasn't really crashed. I think it just hit record highs.

Again, all tech companies are doing really, really well because we're kind of pushed to, you know, a progression maybe jumped ahead a few years. So if you're doing a tech company like valuations have not really fallen, I'd talk with VCs fairly often. And it's one of the hotter August is in the venture market in awhile.

Brandon Stover: [00:22:26] Through all the ups and downs of your own journey through the startup world. What do you think has pushed you the most? going through all the different iterations.

Colin Keeley: [00:22:35] Pushed me the most. I think it just as important to take care of yourself, like the highs and lows are pretty extreme. So I'm very diligent about like getting eight hours of sleep. And I'm very regimented about that every night. and exercising, eating well, like doing as much as you can to control the things you can, and then you're better prepared for the rigors of the day.

So, I don't know, you just, you do it enough and you kind of like roll with the punches. You run into walls and it's like, Oh, I've seen you before. I was just walk around you

Brandon Stover: [00:23:03] Yeah.

Colin Keeley: [00:23:03] the next one and it just keeps going. So I don't know. Hey, get used to it.

Brandon Stover: [00:23:07] Yeah. I seen you required a avid reader. Is there any books that kind of helped you formulate that mindset?

Colin Keeley: [00:23:14] I don't really read self help books at all. I don't enjoy them. Like I just job as quickly separating them. And my biggest recommendations for people that haven't really read that much American kingpin is like my go to recommendation for folks. So that's the story of Ross Albright and the silk road, which is basically the Amazon of illegal drugs and other illegal things.

So it's just, it's written kind of like fiction and it is, is one of the best entrepreneurial stories ever. I think he basically built like a billion dollar company, all illegally, all online. So it's all the traditional, you know, startup challenges just on a more entertaining scale.

Brandon Stover: [00:23:50] Yeah, but I think, it's, it's very interesting when you look at, the drug world or, you know, the illegal world, all of those people are entrepreneurs, too. They just are doing it in a different way.

Colin Keeley: [00:24:00] Yeah. The stakes are a little bit higher. I'm like, how do you enforce contracts and stuff is a little more complicated.

Predictions For Education In The Future

Brandon Stover: [00:24:06] Yeah, for sure. so you went to a traditional college and you've talked about like the various alternatives that are out there. and you now are kind of started something that's kind of adjacent in the education space. What do you think the future of higher education looks like?

Colin Keeley: [00:24:22] I think most of the not top ones go out of business. Cause I don't think they're really delivering the value. If you could go to a top one and get it that stamp and build the network and it's definitely still worth it. So I imagine in the near term here, a lot of those businesses are going to. Figuring out that they are not actually that valuable.

And a lot of them will go on there. That's my prediction pretty quickly here. I actually think most college kids should really consider a gap year. Like the biggest value of going to a decent school is like the friends you make and the network you make. And you're not doing that on zoom. So if you're a freshman, I would say, don't do it.

Like take the year off. And if you're not, evaluate whether everyone else has going back to campus or not, otherwise I would wait a year and do a bunch of startup internships or something.

Brandon Stover: [00:25:06] Do you do any type of continuing education? Like whether it's audio, of course. Is there anything now?

Colin Keeley: [00:25:11] Oh yeah. I mean, I read all day long. I'd save everything to instant paper pocket. Often I do text to speech, which is a little hack to finger down on an iOS device or redo the text. A lot of audio books, podcasts. Yeah. Read a decent amount as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:25:29] Would you think, if you were in the same spot, like talking to your younger self, would you go through traditional higher ed or do you think you would take one of these alternative paths?

Colin Keeley: [00:25:37] yeah, I mean, I think I played basketball in college. Do that again. I think athletics is like the biggest loophole to get into basically any school you want. So like, I have a cousin that's a really good swimmer now. And I was like, you should just go to Harvard for swimming. Like whether you want to actually swim there or not, you could jump out right away, quite the team. At least you're still at Harvard.

so yeah, I would still go, I try to go to the best school I could for sure. But what people don't realize is the best schools, actually the cheapest schools. Cause they have the biggest endowment. So if you need money though, they'll pay for you. yeah, it's kind of weird. I mean, I'm a bit of a hater for schools, but I went to, you know, traditional schools as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:26:12] Yeah, I think there's a space for them. And I also think that there's a space for, you know, these alternative educations that are popping up. and we're always going to need educated, always upscaling. So I don't think it's, it's a scarce environment.

Colin Keeley: [00:26:25] Yeah, canoeing education is just going to become more and more important. Important as the world is changing more and more rapidly.

Brandon Stover: [00:26:32] so before I get to my last question, where can everybody find you on avocado, audio and all that?

Colin Keeley: [00:26:38] Yeah, avocado audio, just avocado, audio.com. I'm really active on Twitter. So Colin Kelly on Twitter and then my website, as well as his calculator.com. DMS are open. Emails are open. Send me anything. If you have any questions

How Colin Believes We Can Push The World To Evolve

Brandon Stover: [00:26:52] Awesome. Well, my last question is how can we push the world to evolve?

Colin Keeley: [00:26:57] a pandemic is pretty damn effective. So I don't know who came up with that one. But, I definitely pushed this technology and technology wise forward quite a bit. So I mean, that is the only thing I can think of right now. Otherwise I think like audio courses, I think we're going to unlock like billions of hours of learning.  So I think that we'll do quite a bit of good for the world as well.

Brandon Stover: [00:27:17] Absolutely. Thanks for coming on the show today. I appreciate everything that you share.

Colin Keeley: [00:27:22] Yeah, good to chat. Thanks for having me.

About The Host

Brandon Stover

Brandon is an entrepreneur, certified professional coach, and podcast host. His aim is to evolve the individual through education, entertainment, and philosophy so together we can ask the world's biggest questions, build businesses to solve them, & live fulfilling lives in the process.

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