#55: How Melinda Wittstock is Shaping the Future of Podcasting with AI

Welcome to The Creator's Adventure where we interview creators from around the world, hearing their stories about growing a business.

Today we explore the future of podcasting with Melinda Wittstock, the CEO and Founder of Podopolo, the world's first AI-driven podcasting platform.

Join us as we dive into Melinda's journey, from her beginnings as a successful journalist and entrepreneur to her current role as an innovator in the podcasting industry. With decades of experience in media and technology, Melinda has a unique perspective on the intersection of AI and podcasting, and how it's changing the way we consume and create content.

Throughout the interview, we explore how AI is revolutionizing the podcasting industry, making it easier for podcasters to connect with their audiences and for listeners to discover new shows. We also discuss how Melinda's platform, Podopolo, is leading the charge in creating a personalized podcasting experience for listeners, with recommendations and community features that enhance the listening experience.

Learn more about Melinda and Podopolo: https://podopolo.com/

As an entrepreneur and investor, Melinda shares her insights on building a successful startup, and how she's leading her team to innovate and create a new paradigm in podcasting.


Bryan McAnulty: Welcome to The Creator's Adventure, where we interview Creator's from around the world, hearing their stories about growing a business. Today's guest started her career as a journalist and got to interview people like Steve Jobs, and since then, she's become a five time serial entrepreneur, growing four businesses to seven and eight figures.

Hey everyone. I'm Bryan McAnulty. I'm the founder of Heights Platform. Let's get into it.

Hey everyone. We're here today with Melinda Wittstock. She's the founder of Podopolo, a podcast app that makes listening, social, and podcasting profitable for Creator's and advertisers. She is a five-time serial entrepreneur who founded companies in media and tech growing four businesses to seven and eight figures.

Melinda is also an award-winning journalist and executive spanning the world's biggest media brands and the host of The Entrepreneur Magazine, top Ranked Wings of Inspired Business podcast. Melinda, welcome to the show.

Melinda Wittstock: Hey, it's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Bryan McAnulty: Sure. So my first question for you is, what would you say is the biggest thing that either you did or you are doing that's helped you to achieve the freedom to do what you.

Melinda Wittstock: Oh, what a wonderful question. I love that. And, and I'm, I'm, I'm gonna look a little bit within, because I think one of the things that I've learned along the journey of a serial entrepreneur is that ultimately success comes from within you. And I think it's something that I wish I'd understood a little bit earlier, like in my twenties, thirties, forties even that it really is to do with your mindset and it's to do with enjoying the journey.

And it's to do with a whole bunch of things. I mean, I joke to people that if you want therapy, just become an entrepreneur. Because surely it's gonna confront you with all sorts of things, deep subconscious beliefs and such that you have that aren't even yours. You know, they were formed when you were a toddler.

You might have overheard your parents arguing or something on a TV show or all manner of experiences. We make those things mean something about us. And then, and then we find that, you know, as entrepreneurs or executives or any other job that you could do in your life, you basically, the world's being run by toddlers,

And so how to, how to let go and release a lot of those things. And, and some of the triggers that definitely happen as an entrepreneur because you're creating something out of whole cloth that hasn't been done before in many cases. Or you're up against things that you can't control. And circumstances are going to trigger you.

And those things are opportunities for your growth. And ultimately, I think the word freedom was in the question, and I, it it's very, very important because when you're free to just be who you are and like fully accept yourself and free to be in the present moment. That's where the magic of creation and scaling and attracting great teams and all those things that, that have to happen to make you extraordinarily successful as an entrepreneur.

So I, I would say there are many more. I've got a long list, but I, I'd say it all comes down to that. Everything emanates from that. Awesome.

Bryan McAnulty: All right. Yeah, I like. So since you were little, you always had a entrepreneurial mindset, and we read on your website that as a a five year old you went door to door in your neighborhood to pre-sell this show that you were putting on

So can you tell us a little bit about that and what do you think sparked your entrepreneurial spirit at such a young age?

Melinda Wittstock: You know, I really have no idea. I think about this a lot. Like, I, I wonder like, did I hear my parents arguing about money or something and think that like, oh, well I guess someone's gotta do something about it.

I, I really don't know. I just remember I had this idea for this show and I just couldn't fathom that, you know, any reason why. Everyone wouldn't wanna see it . So I, I'm not sure. I just had this kind of internal confidence that, of course, you know, everyone's gonna wanna come to this show, you know? So I went around with my black Labrador retriever knocking on doors, demanding prepayment for this show, because of course, somewhere I knew inside that prepayment was important.

and I came home and I, I had a hundred dollars cause the ticket price was a dollar, which I thought was fair, you know? And and I asked my dad, where could we get a hundred chairs? And he was like, what? What have you been doing? And it was back in the day when, you know, kids used to be able to go out kind of unsupervised and walk around the neighborhood.

I don't know if that could happen. Everybody's doorbell. Yeah. Some like tight organized play date or something. But but yeah, and the show. You know, it had music, it had costume changes, and, and at the time I was doing ballet and figure skating, so it was very kind of artistic and, and I, I love just the, the production of like, producing things which I guess might explain why all my companies have, have, have, had a lot to do with content

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, that makes sense. So, yeah. Jumping forward, you started your career at 22 years old. You were living in London, working for the Times as a journalist, writing about business, and you got to meet Steve Jobs and interview him together with other high profile entrepreneurs. So how did this period in your life influence both your journey as an entrepreneur and your professional career?

Melinda Wittstock: oh gosh. So many ways. And a, a, a terrific question. I mean, I, the, the journalistic bug bit back in university at, at McGill in Montreal, it had a daily student newspaper. So I was the kid there that was writing stories every day and like, Breaking news and doing these big investigative scoops. One of them got picked up by the Wall Street Journal.

But meantime, you know, somehow, like if I made it to class, you know, I was also creating the advertising department for the student newspaper and making a profitable. . And so it, it, it, I, I remember all my friends telling me when I said, Hey, I'm gonna go to London and work for one of the national dailies there.

And like every single one of my friends said, you can't do that. And I was like, well, why not? And I guess it was totally against the odds. But here's the, the, here's the critical thing. I just couldn't imagine why not. Like I couldn't even see the, no, I couldn't even, right, right. And I think this is a necess.

Character trait for very successful entrepreneurs and apparently journalists and you know, didn't immediately get the job in the times of London. I worked very, very hard to get that job. I, I became a financial correspondent. I learned a, a tremendous amount from that early, those early days of just reporting on company results and mergers and acquisitions, and understanding all this in all manner of companies across all industries.

I started specializing in this new thing called the internet and also media. And I was the media correspondent and you know, got to meet, you know, so many in incredible sort of uh titans of industry, whether it was spending a whole day with Richard Branson or getting to interview Steve Jobs or Ted Turner or whatever.

And I was the type of journalist who, I just wanna know where the story was going next and actually what it. For people in their, in their daily lives. And I have always been obviously very interested in business, so I wanted to understand their secrets and, and and such. So I just learned a lot from them that obviously has shaped my business career.

Bryan McAnulty: Awesome. I, I wanna go back to how you mentioned the the idea of the Why not? I really like that and I, I, I agree that that's necessary in some. To really become a successful entrepreneur. .

Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Like if you can't conceive it, there's no way you can achieve it. It's as simple as that. Yeah. So, so you have to just be a little bit crazy, I mean, to the point where your friends just think you're completely nuts.

And if you don't mind them having that opinion of you, then, then you're probably suited to be an entrepreneur because everybody around you will tell you things and, and they mean well. , you know, it's not like they're trying to kind of push you down or keep you down or whatever. They're just concerned for you , you know?

Don't you think it would be safer to get like a job job? You know, don't you think it would be right? But that kind of thing can really hold you back. So it's very necessary for an entrepreneur to have a group of people around them that really do have their. have their backs, you know what I mean? And that like, and allow that, that dreaming well being constructive in the constraint.

Right? So you don't like, you know, jump off a, you know you know, but you, you, you really do have a l have to have a little bit, especially if you, if you're the type of person like me that says I'm gonna build a billion dollar business there's a lot of, not a lot of people who can say that with a straight face.


Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, definitely. I think that, . I would encourage anybody who has has these thoughts and they're thinking to themselves, why not? But then they, they're, they're met with this confrontation, get talked out of it when they, when they tell their friends here, they're getting talked out of it. Yeah, I, I think it's important to, to lean into that thought that like, if you feel, why not?

Then chances are maybe that's something good and, and I can attribute a lot of good things that happened to me from having those same feelings of, well, why not? It might, it seems crazy that some other people have told me, but me, it. . I, I can't, I can't figure out the reason why not. So why not go and do it?

Melinda Wittstock: Well, the thing to ask yourself too is like, what's the worst that could happen, right? Mm-hmm. . And once you go through that, I mean, you know, if, if, if you're, if you're startup, if you have a failure and a startup, I mean, a startup is like being a scientist in a lab, you know, I mean, you have a hypothesis.

You test it, you test it six ways from Sunday. It takes a while. Iterative. It's a very agile process. And then, and then you get it right? And so failure is part of the process. So you have to be comfortable with failure. You have to be comfortable, you have to really see it in a positive way. It's an opportunity, it's feedback and whatnot.

And it doesn't mean anything bad about you, but like worst case scenario, just go get that job that you were gonna get. It's still, you're still gonna be able to do. You know, you're still gonna be able to, or a different startup, or maybe that one didn't work, but there's something else. You know, so, so I, I think thinking in that kind of way, it's, it's a big mindset shift, I think for a lot of people because, you know, our, our society doesn't, our society's getting better at teaching that, but for the most part, our school system doesn't, it teaches us to be good workers.

It teaches us, you know just to come do the work, leave on that kind of employee mindset rather than a more entrepreneurial. .

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I agree. So now you're the CEO and the founder of Podopolo, an AI powered platform revolutionizing the podcast industry. How did you come up with the idea for that and what have been some of both the biggest challenges and successes so far that you've experienced?

Melinda Wittstock: Wow. A hundred percent. Well, thank you. Yeah, so a little bit of long story. I mean, all my previous companies, so this is my fifth significant business. There have been other side hustles and other kind of things along the way as well. But each of my previous businesses, w you could think of as my lab for this, because they all had some sort of algorithmic component at that intersection between using technology to change media or social media and such.

They all. Theme of the best content is conversation and and such. So a lot of the different things that are going on in Podopolo, I've proven out previously in, in a, a number of these other companies that I've built, you know, over the years. But Podopolo specifically I started podcasting myself a little over five years ago, and I came at podcasting as an award-winning content creator.

I'd created a show for the BBC and I'd grown that television show to a 20 million audience in a very short period of time. I'd created financial Times the newspaper, financial Times Television and Broker to deal to get that distributed all over the world on, on C N B C. You know, I'd done all these.

You know, I had business expertise, marketing expertise, technological expertise and whatnot, and here I come, I launch a podcast and oh my God, it's like really difficult to be discovered up against the Apple algorithms. Apple was kind of the only game in town at that stage, right? It was really hard to grow an audience.

It wasn't enough just to create a great podcast. You had to suddenly become a really great s e o expert. You had to be on social media all the time. You had to be doing this, that, that whatever. And it was near impossible to monetize a show unless you had more than 10,000 downloads an episode. And just, just as a marker here, only 1.5% of all podcasts in the world reach 10,000 downloads.

And. . So, so most and, and in fact, 80, like some podcasters are really enterprising and they figure out all these different side hustles to make money from their podcast, which I did at one point. I had six different side hustles around my podcast, like creating like online summits or like membership courses or like.

Masterminds, like events, like and all these different things. And I realized, wait a minute, I have six businesses I've created just to support my podcast, so there's something really wrong with that. This doesn't really make any sense. So there was this sense that there was a structural problem for podcast Creator's, and I looked around, I didn't see anybody solving it.

I saw all the big platforms, apple, Spotify, everywhere, and the social networks by extension, just treating podcasters as as the product. Because if it's free, you're the product. And that offended me, I guess. Right? Something has to change there. So that was the first little glimmer. What can I, what can I do about that?

And through that lived experience. And then the next was being at a podcast mastermind. We all went out around the room and shared our download numbers and, you know, 40 successful podcasters. And I thought, gosh, you know, like if we all got together, actually we could be bigger than Netflix. and I looked at a podcast industry that was very fractured and there was nobody really, like, we've seen the growth of a lot of kind of podcast networks of like folks getting together based on shared themes and things like that, and trying to aggregate so they can drive advertising and all of that's very, very positive.

But having a background in, in mobile app development and, and in the beginnings of very, very beginnings of ai. And, and in content and whatnot that's really where Podopolo came from. So the app is doing three very significant things. The first I would say is really revolutionizing podcast discovery, using AI to power a recommendation engine that puts the right podcast, you know, sends the right podcast or clip or playlist to the right person at the right time around their interests, you know, and also their behavior on the app, but also by extension you.

they're friends. Because the second part is Podopolo is really leveraging podcasting to remake social media itself. The nature of podcasting is very intimate and authentic. People tend to listen to podcasts cuz they wanna learn something or have like a positive experience. And so connecting people to each other around podcasts, helping people to put what they're learning from a podcast of action in their daily lives.

But moreover, Really where we look at social media right now and we see kind of like, I'm just gonna say it, assess pit of like judgment, outrage, you know all the things, right? If you can write an algorithm to reward that, you can just as easily. Write an algorithm as we have to reward more positive empowerment and enlightenment and such.

And, and we see podcasting as a really nice jumping off point to that. And of course, the third leg of the stool is the creator economy and all the different ways in which podcasters who've been left out of the equation through a structural problem around advertising, but also through other things like subscriptions and tip jars and uh myriad other solutions.

Can actually start to make money from their podcast for the first time, as Podopolo also helps them grow their reach and grow their engagement through all the social tools.

Bryan McAnulty: Cool. Yeah. Well, I a hundred percent agree with what you're saying. Having also built a, a business it's a platform in the creator economy.

And for me, what, what were you saying about the, so yeah, it's hard to monetize. It's hard to grow, to reach and and how social media works. Yeah. So like, . Part of my thought in, in building Heights Platform with what we built is there's these social media companies, there's these video games.

They have psychologists and, and teams of people focused on how can we get you to spend as much time on the app as possible so then they can show you as many ads as possible, or so that you can buy more things from them, or whatever it is. So my thought was, well, why can't we use that for a good reason to help people learn?

And so that, that was some of the The kind of initial thoughts behind Heights Platform as we started building that, and I like to hear that with Podopolo. It's a similar idea that, well, why can't we create an algorithm that's going to have a positive impact like this?

Melinda Wittstock: A hundred percent. And I think it's create your approach.

I mean, I think we're sort of thinking alike here. Cuz one of the things, Podopolo, as it gets more sophisticated over the course of this year, as our AI gets, continues to get more sophisticated, our recommendation engine, just all the feature functionality and such, I mean, we're still relatively new but with each iteration it gets more and more powerful.

And one of the aspects of this is gamification, because if you really understand. What really rewards people and, and like in any community, people wanna feel seen and heard but in really like deep dive, sophisticated gamification is about really understanding what is a meaningful reward. So you might be motivated by a sense of ownership, or you might be motivated by a sense of epic meaning and calling, or maybe it's social connection or maybe it's achievement or such.

And so how can we leverage that to really in not only incentivize people to put learning into action, but to contribute in a way that lifts other people up. And such, and, you know, it's early days, but that kind of fools into some of our work on the ai to, to to, to, to really work that. So rather than having some sort of restrictive content moderation that.

You know, censoring, we, so we really don't wanna do that. We want really a plurality of opinion and free speech and all these things, which are very kind of at the moment to be talking about. But you know, you, you want all of those things, but at the same time, you wanna really reward. So it's carrot or stick.

It's maybe a little bit of combination but it's, it's a big problem to go solve. But we think that podcasts and shared interest communities where people are already. Gotten together around something that they jointly wanna learn or there's a connection that they can make that would either advance their career or somebody they wanna hire, or they're just, you know, having a conversation or an epiphany with friends that, that can make a really big difference and, and have a positive impact in the world.


Bryan McAnulty: Yeah again, I like to hear that with our platform as well. One of the first things when we started building it was gamification elements. And, and realizing how important that is. Oh, God. And so, so to everyone listening here Melinda and I are not here just to promote our businesses or whatever.

We have not spoken together until two minutes before I hit record here. So we're, we're both discovering all, all of this about each other at the same time here as well. But yeah, I like to hear that.

Melinda Wittstock: It's great. Well, actually, it's really funny about this cuz like, when, when you have an idea, chances are, you know like a lot of other people are having the same idea, but there's so many different ways in which it can be implemented and, and you know, I like to come at this from a place of abundance.

It really is room you know, you know, for everybody. I think sometimes some founders get kind of paranoid like, oh, I'm not gonna share my idea cuz someone's gonna steal it. Mm-hmm. . And that's just like so ridiculous. It's all in the execution and everybody, every founder's gonna go about it in a different way and.

The more the merrier and, and especially in, in something where entrepreneurship can and business can be leveraged for social good, you know, to improve our society rather than just take from it. Yeah,

Bryan McAnulty: yeah. Completely agree. And yeah, I, I'd encourage anybody listening to this to say to themselves, like, or, or to, to go out there and, and take action and, and release that thing or, or not be afraid of telling people about that thing.

Even before it's quite ready because. Like, the way I think about it is if you're worried that your competition's gonna see that and, and then do that right away, well, they're always gonna be a step behind you if all they're doing is just trying to see what you're doing and then, and then copy it. So that's the best case being a step behind you.

But then also as you said, like they're not you. They're going to have a different way that they're going about going about it in some way. And so you can, you can tell somebody what you're doing, but you can't like give them your brain and your way of implementing.

Melinda Wittstock: And the other answer to an investor, if you're, if you have a type of business that needs investment, like Podopolo is, you know, they, they say, why isn't Google doing this?

Why? I don't know. Like, they're not like, just look at what happened between them and chat g p T. Right? They haven't really been innovating. When, when companies get very, very large it's much harder to innovate because and it's just the whole disruption you. Say Kodak, which led in digital photography, but, but digital photography was gonna cannibalize their main business.

This is like the innovator's dilemma. So these large companies, and really the line to always use with investors is, I don't know, they can build it or they can buy it . So, you know, startups, you know often get bought because you're, you're creating, you're creating value. in a significant way that some of the larger folks you know, you'd think with all their money and all the talent and all the engineers and whatnot, they'd be able to innovate, but they become very burdened with the bureaucracy of that.

And we've seen that over the years at, at all these big tech giants now. Right. Where it takes enough, a hundred percent always to power the innovation. Definitely.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. That's one, that's one of the reasons I, I like. Trying to grow very deliberately and, and stay as small as possible with our team to, to keep that, that spirit of innovation as long as possible and avoid the, the bureaucracy and all that.

And of course, what we're talking about and what you're discussing is like Google versus like a startup. It's a huge, huge difference. But still, yeah, I agree. Yeah, we're agree.

All right. So obviously you've, you know, and you've been learning a lot about AI and technology. You've spoken at a number of events regarding like future of AI and social media. What do you think are some of the most exciting developments in this field? How do you see kind of AI shaping the future of business?

Or even.

Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Oh gosh. Very, very big question. And so let's, let's think about business. There's so many different ways in which it can be applied for lots of different reasons, whether to increase the efficiency of a business or just as business becomes more data driven. So I can talk about it in the context of Podopolo first more easily.

Sure. And also some of the implications. And so the way we use. Specifically is to first off power that personalization of the recommendation engine. And, and this works almost like matchmaking, right? Where the more we know about what actually interests a pod average podcast listener, right, from what they tell us and what they actually listen to and and such the more we understand which podcasts are gonna be relevant to them, and we can recommend those podcasts to them, the other side of it, and.

Podcasters are growing. Their reach on Podopolo is because they're being put in front of audiences that we know are pre-qualified for their podcasts. Like they're already interested in that, in that topic, you know, for instance, and there's other ways of doing it as well. But the AI. Also is able to go into the transcript, say of a podcast and be able to tag it and actually understand what are all the different topics that were discussed.

So like this podcast here right now, it could be about entrepreneurship, but it's about so much more. It's about AI and it's about, you know, it's about mindset and it's about this and that, and like so many different things. And so being able to understand. is, is critical not only to really change the game for advertising, it speaks to brand safety.

It speaks to making sure that people always have relevant content and so much more. But it also helps us and it helps podcasters understand their audiences. So here's a, an important caveat. Uh,Podopolo puts user privacy first and foremost. Like we don't sell data, we don't share data, we don't expose first party data, we don't do any of that.

So like privacy is sacrosanct, and that's one of the reasons why when we're sharing the AI driven audience insights. Of we group them in personas. So he is saying, you know, Joe, you know, tends to listen to podcasts. Well, jogging in the MO morning, he's like, 62% of your audience, here are all the things you need to know about Joe

Okay. Right? Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of these like overlap audiences where we could say to you, okay, so you this podcast has an overlap with I don't know, crypto or like people who like comedy or whatever, but also where you. Overlap audiences with other podcasts that allow you to take action based on that data.

Whether to make your content more responsive, cuz you understand how people are listening when they're listening. You know you know, all, all of this rich, rich data. There's no other platform that shares that with the podcasters. It allows the creator to be more responsive to their audience, but it also allows for that kind of targeted advertising.

So those are just a few of the ways. That we're using ai. There's, there are going to be in the generative AI space and what's called general ai. This is where AI starts to get sentient, and this is where we start to think about, oh my gosh, like, the implications for society are huge. So just step back a couple minutes at the, at the origin of social media, it was so exciting.

Like, think of all the things you could do, you know, think of like, , the role Twitter played in like democracy movements around the world and like how positive and amazing, like everything, there's two sides of a coin. That same thing that allows, that is also a mirror to us in our society. It also allows, you know, genocide.

Like, you know, there was, you know, Facebook actually being tied to, to, to genocides in certain parts of the world as, as the platform allowed for not only conspiracy theories, but just, and, you know, really, you know, there's a real impact to that. So now think about that for a moment. Now think about AI , and.

And, and just even with chat G P T or any of these things, all of its information is coming from what's on the internet already. What's on the internet already is a hodgepodge of good and bad, um Right. And it's gonna take all of its information and it's gonna mirror us back. . And so, you know when at at at Podopolo we're very, very focused on ethical ai.

So you've gotta think about, okay, so what are the biases that are already in the ai. , right? How can the AI be ethical? We've had all kinds of issues about just even facial recognition, even with like, Tesla cars not recognizing African American people as pedestrians. I mean, you know, there are some really, really serious implications here.

So I don't think it's settled. I think it requires significant oversight. It's, it's somewhat worrying when you have a whole bunch of octogenarians in our, our. You know, in our government, like say in the Senate or whatever, can't, can't even understand how Facebook works, and they've gotta figure out how to regulate ai.

You know, so it's gonna be interesting. And I think what it means though, and I come full circle back to the more optimistic side, but also the necessity for companies like yours. And what Podopolo is doing is helping people to think more critically so they can value, so they can stop, take a couple of breaths, like, can I really believe this?

What is the, and this may be my journalistic background, but what's the source here? Like , I mean, right. Because it's gonna be very difficult to establish trust in that sort of scenario. So it's a very big topic. Like we could talk for hours about ai. I think a lot of it is really awesome. There's so much good that's gonna come out of it, but I think there's a lot of dangers as well that we have to go in, like really think very, very clearly and level headedly about.

Bryan McAnulty: Definitely. I agree. And yeah, it's, it's a, it's difficult to get into it with how how long we could probably discuss that in itself. , I think that it's true. One of the interesting things that everyone can keep in mind as they, they start to look into things like Chat GPT and what's becoming more prevalent right now is the idea of using AI to.

Augment things that you're doing. I think people who say of like having it do things for you, I think have the, a little bit of the wrong idea and depending on how they describe it, but I think it's better to provide the AI with information of, of what you want it to understand or, or know about you.

And, and then have it help you evaluate things, help you research things, help you accomplish things rather than do something for you. Cuz you say, Hey, ai, write me, write me this. And that's all you. It's not giving you anything different than what it's gonna give everybody else. There's no, there's nothing good about that in,

Melinda Wittstock: well, the other.

Yeah. But the other thing too, that chat G P t found through the integration with Bing is where chat G P T can, I think they called it Hallucinate . Yep. And what's its, what's the, and what they're trying to work on right now, just fascinating to me is where it's being really kind of, you know, factual and where it's being creative and how do you know?

Yeah. Hallucinating was the word. I think that was pretty funny. Yeah. But I agree with you.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, definitely. That's it. That's a huge problem. So what, what I would say about that is so our company, we, we started building like an internal AI for ourselves on like company documents, things like that. So we could basically be able to get answers quicker without having to ask somebody else in our team.

And it's not something that we can release to like, allow our customers to use yet because of the hallucination problem. And it's something that's really hard to get around because we, we told it. Okay. Like, try, like give us the source if you, if you know the source url, like provide the source URL so we can go look up more.

And like if there is, if there is no specific URL for this, this item, like don't share a url. And like we try to be really, really specific about that, but every once in a while it just shares a URL that just doesn't exist. It's like, go to Heights Platform dot com here and, and we never wrote that.

It's just not there. . It's like,

Melinda Wittstock: I'm gonna get that.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, so that's a problem. But but yeah, I like the idea of like, so you're talking about the, the recommendation engine and, and everything you're building there with the algorithm. And what's really cool is previously we had Google, we had things like that and there was this power in being able to more easily discover things.

But the, the discovery still took a significant amount of effort that, like you could spend all, all this time Googling and, and getting really good at that, to find that specific thing year. and now, or defined increasingly. Yeah. Yeah. And so now thanks. Think was kinda broken actually. Yeah. Oh, definitely. I think that actually there, there's so, yeah, there's so many articles now where they're just trying to get ad revenue and, and things like that.

And it's not, it, it was better a couple years ago than it is now actually, I think. Yeah,

Melinda Wittstock: but I find, I find like I can't get search results, like just even something as simple, like I live in Santa Monica and I was looking for like a, where is there a furniture store near me and like, it, it didn't come up with any results, which is, it can't be that there are no furniture stores in Santa Monica, California and they were all way out and like, I'd have to drive to Burbank or whatever.

What I mean, so just that is, it's really broken. . Yeah.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. Well now, now things like algorithms, ai, e, everywhere that we're going with all this is making it. So once you discover one thing or, or something that you're interested in, like your recommendation engine can then go and show you all these other things that would've taken all this effort for you to have discovered in the past.

So that's something I think is really. ,

Melinda Wittstock: the big challenge with recommendation. Yeah. The big challenge with recommendation engines though, just really briefly, is the filter bubble. And this is the issue that's led to so much disinformation or misinformation or earth 1, 2, 3, 4, where everybody has different facts and and such.

Right. And it's a real problem. Mm-hmm. . And so it's tricky to figure out how to personalize. Because people are gonna want more and more and more, and they're gonna go deeper, deeper into that rabbit hole potentially. So how do you personalize while also expanding access to different information, different viewpoints, you know, in you know, assuming that.

You believe in a pluralistic society in one where diversity is a good thing, right? You want people, you wanna broaden people's experience. So we, we play around a lot with what we call sort of Easter egg, where content that's really good, and this is, this is where friends sharing stuff can be interesting too.

But we always provide these sort of surprises. And so far it's working in our data set cuz the average person comes into Podopolo picks three interests, follows a couple of podcasts to begin with, but by about 10 days or 14 days or so in have started to listen outside their predetermined interests and are now listening to more than 20 podcasts.

And so that's something that we watch really carefully. Are people actually discovering things that they didn't. , like is there some sort of surprise or delight? So like you have to be aware of that with things like personalization and recommendation.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I think that's, that's really important to mention that you wanna be able to, to broaden that discovery instead of saying, oh, I know the person likes this, only gonna show them this.

And then, yeah. Yeah. It's, it's almost doing a disservice to them at that point.

Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. . Yeah. Yeah,

Bryan McAnulty: yeah. Yeah. Cool. All right, well, shifting right from that you have years of experience in building businesses, having founded five businesses to six or to seven and eight figure success. So what do you think sets a successful entrepreneur apart from those who are really struggling to get their business off the ground.

Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Number one, you, you have to really, really love what you do and be like fanatical about your mission because stuff is gonna go wrong, right? And, and like there's gonna be moments where like, oh my God, I can't pay myself. Or How am I gonna make payroll? Or just all these kind of things that feel and can feel really existential.

And so there's a certain zeal I think that's really required that you just can't not do it. That's vital. Because I think that speaks to the, the resilience that you need to do this. And of course, there's different types of businesses. You know, some are more risky than others. LikePodopolo is a big swing for the fence.

You know, creates something at a whole cloth, innovate, ch disrupt. Not just one, but several industries, you know? So like, that's like, you know, real kind of crazy in, in a, in a certain sense, right? Like it's, it's high, yeah, it's high risk, but extraordinarily high reward. So actually understanding what your risk tolerance is in that case, and just what your pace is gonna be.

And, and I mean, the resilience, the other part of the resilience is the mental heart health part in a way, right? That I call is, is that you really are an alchemist and you're growing at all steps of the process and the failures and the things really have to be seen as fail forwards, as feedback that it's, there shouldn't be any shame or anything like around that.

It's, it's just part of the process. So I think that's really necessary. I think the other thing too is that it is about the people that you're surrounded with. You, you really do need. A circle of people who really have your back and are gonna be encouraging and helpful and and such. And I think a mistake that a lot of entrepreneurs make, especially women entrepreneurs, actually is hiring too late or seeing team members or hiring as an expense rather than as an investment.

And really figuring out, because you just can't do it all by yourself if you think you have to do it all. To have it all. Like you're, you're done before you're done. You've gotta get really good at delegating. You gotta really good at receiving. You can't do it all yourself. So like the, the, the team is really critical.

And again, all businesses are different. Some businesses don't really need like a, a big team , you know. But then one last point on that this requires you to really know what your zone of genius. I like to look. When we're hiring people, we ask, actually ask them this question. Plot yourself on this foursquare zone of genius, zone of excellence, zone of competence, and zone of suck.

Okay? And everybody has things on all four quadrants of that. Most people don't know what their zone of genius is. Chances are it's something that comes so intuitively to them that they don't even value it because it's so easy, because we've been acculturated to think that it's valuable if we've had to work hard for it.

but, but actually Arizona genius often presents itself. We, we started the podcast talking about, , you know, my childhood Adventure, you know, building my little show or whatever. There was a lot of clue there in terms of what my zone of genius is and like how I could put all these pieces together and make some, you know, whatever, right?

There's some other like clues like that, but what's really intuitive to you is often a clue. Most people really don't know what that is. Zone of excellence is something that you're better than 80% of the world at. I mean, you're really hands down, great, but there's someone else who, who can also do it, you know as well as you.

But you're really great. A lot of people operate there and neglect. The zone of genius, zone of competence is where you're doing something that's not intrinsic to you. You, you can do it. You're self-taught. There's a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of things that I do and have had to do in the early stages of the business that are not intrinsic to me, but like all do.

The business has to advance. So someone's gotta do it. I'm gonna roll up my sleeves, get it done, but someone else could do it wildly better. Right? And then Z suck is stuff that you hate to do and you're really bad at. So you gotta, as an entrepreneur, you really gotta figure out what that zone of genius is.

And you gotta hire your weaknesses because you gotta cover all those things. And you can't do it as one person. It's, IM. . Yeah.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. That's great advice. And, and so many great points before that that you, you really managed to condense into a a lot of things that could be said into a couple really good points.

So that's great. But with, with this last point about the , mindful,

Melinda Wittstock: mindful of our time, just trying to fit in a whole bunch of value.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, no, that, that's great. So with this last point of the the different zones and and, and thinking about where you spend your time, I think that's great and it ties back to your earlier point of that you should pick something that you're passionate about that you can keep doing all the time because of everything that's gonna come up.

Because I think as an entrepreneur, no matter what, you're going to have to do certain things that are, are not the zone of genius all the time, especially as you're starting, are not the the thing that you enjoy doing there. There's something you're gonna have to do that you don't necessarily enjoy doing.

But one of the benefits is that you can hire, you can. those things to help yourself do more of what you enjoy doing. And yeah. So while, while there's difficult parts, you, you have this benefit that you wouldn't have in any other way if you weren't creating your own business to create it the way that you want it to be.

To, to allow yourself to operate in that way as best as possible. And like example for me is like right now, The podcast, I get to sit down and talk with someone like you and enjoy that part, and that's, that's the best part of it for me. Whereas I have someone on my team like reached out to you, someone on my team researched and helped me with the questions, things like that.

I just get to sit down and do the fun part, and that way I'm also able to go back after this, and then instead of having to find out the next podcast or something like that, I can focus on my zone of genius, which is like building a product. And, and all that. So, yeah, I, I think that's really important to mention, and I think you described it really.

Melinda Wittstock: That's actually one of the loveliest things about podcasts actually, I find just with my own, it's almost 800 episodes now. It's like on my own personal mastermind. Wow. With all these amazing female founders. Right. They've all built seven figure, eight figure, nine figure businesses and, and And, and what's really weird is all automated process, right?

So guests show up on my calendar with everything kind of prefilled. I tend to bounce into them five minutes before without really knowing much about the guest. I tend to be entirely conversational, like I'm approaching kind of beginner's mind, but it's not really, cuz I've also been an entrepreneur for 30 years or whatever, right?

So like just chances are like , I know something about or whatever. Right? But I, I love it because the, what's really weird, it's kind of serendipitous, is the right woman shows up on the right day, weirdly in my calendar and always talking about something that I'm actually working on that day in the business.

It's just the weirdest spookiest thing that's going on with that at the moment with my show. So I love it. I get a lot from it. Yeah. Yeah,

Bryan McAnulty: yeah, definitely. I mean, if the podcast had like no marketing value to us, I would still wanna do it just because of the people I get to sit down and talk. And have that experience.

So yeah, it's really helpful. A hundred percent. All right, so I really agree. I've got one more question for you before we get going. Yeah. And that is that we like to ask everybody who comes on our show if they have any questions that they would ask the audience. So if it could be something that you kind of want people to think about, something that you are just genuinely curious about.

So if you could ask our audience anything, what would. .

Melinda Wittstock: Okay. I would ask them, and this one just, this was a natural evolution. What is your zone of genius? Really? What is your zone of genius? Okay. And, and the follow up question to that is, now knowing your zone of genius, how do you wanna use that genius to make the world better, either as an entrepreneur or podcast?

Bryan McAnulty: Great. . Great question. Great thing to think about. All right, Melinda, thanks so much for coming on the show. Before we get going, where else can people find you online?

Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness. I'm kind of ubiquitous so you can find me like on LinkedIn is kind of where I check in a little bit. More often these days.

So I'm just Melinda Woodstock and the company Podopolo is there as well on Instagram. It's Podopolo or MelindaWittstock. That's Anne with an e, my middle name, which is like weirdly exposed there. And those are the two that are I'm more, most on. But I come on all the other platforms too. You can follow podopolo network on Twitter and we're.

Facebook and, and, and such. And of course come podopolo, but most importantly, download Podopolo. It's free in either App store, Google, or Apple. And when you get there follow me on, on the app and I'll follow you back. We have a nice little DM thing going on there. So any questions you have for me or anything at all that's the, the very best way to catch me.

Bryan McAnulty: Awesome. All right. That sounds great. Thanks so much for coming on the show, man. Linda.

Melinda Wittstock: Ah, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation, like any opportunity to geek out about any of this stuff, like makes my day. So yeah, I had a good time. Thank. Awesome. Thanks.

Bryan McAnulty: If you enjoyed this interview and won the chance to ask questions to our guests live, tune in on Tuesdays when new episodes premiere on the Heights Platform Facebook page.

To learn more about the show and get notified when new episodes release, check out The Creator's Adventure dot com. Until then, keep learning and I'll see you in the next episode.

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About the Host

Bryan McAnulty is the founder of Heights Platform: all-in-one online course creation software that allows creators to monetize their knowledge.

His entrepreneurial journey began in 2009, when he founded Velora, a digital product design studio, developing products and websites used by millions worldwide. Stemming from an early obsession with Legos and graphic design programs, Bryan is a designer, developer, musician, and truly a creator at heart. With a passion for discovery, Bryan has traveled to more than 30 countries and 100+ cities meeting creators along the way.

As the founder of Heights Platform, Bryan is in constant contact with creators from all over the world and has learned to recognize their unique needs and goals.

Creating a business from scratch as a solopreneur is not an easy task, and it can feel quite lonely without appropriate support and mentorship.

The show The Creator’s Adventure was born to address this need: to build an online community of creative minds and assist new entrepreneurs with strategies to create a successful online business from their passions.

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