Fatima Zaidi, was born and raised in Oman but moved to North America when she turned 17 to pursue a better life, a top-class education, and a career. After graduating from university, she tried her hand at the corporate circuit for a while before entering the start-up sector.
A salesperson by trade, with a love of calculating ROI bottom line, and helping over start-ups move from pre-revenue to a few million MRR, Fatima realised the time had come to create something of her own. An entrepreneur with a passion for tackling corporate pain points and difficulties, Fatima was sure to lead what became Quill Inc and CoHost to success.
In this article, Fatima explains how CoHost, created by the parent company Quill Inc, is the more inventive, easier way to create and grow your podcast, with a complete set of tools and features, empowering creators to take their podcast to the next level. Cohost leverages statistics to highlight your podcast’s performance by improving your content with comprehensive analytics.
Touching on all things CoHost, how podcasting is a recession-proof industry, how hiring for a tech company can cause significant stress, work-life balance, and much more.
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Quill is a full-service podcast production company that works with Fortune 500 organizations such as Microsoft, Salesforce, Expedia, and PwC to build podcasts from the bottom up. They’d been doing it for a long time and saw numerous pain spots and challenges in the industry, such as identifying who your listener was, where your audience was coming from, and then growing the audience.
The Quill team spent a considerable amount of time supporting businesses in determining the ROI of their podcast. The challenge was convincing them of the podcast’s value. Behind the scenes, the Quill team worked hard to compile analytics reports, calculating the gender, age, and household income of the individual who was listening, what firms do, who they work for, and whether or not individuals were listening all the way through to the end of the content. Prior to enlisting Quill’s help, Quill endeavoured to collect as many metrics as possible in order to demonstrate to customers whether or not they were targeting the right listeners.
“One thing people don’t realise is that there are over 2,000,000 million podcasts out there, and only 18% of those podcasts are active, which speaks to the fact that so many people will launch content and create shows, not realising how hard it is from a technical aspect.”
“The difficulty behind creating a good quality show, and the amount of work you have to put in to find your audience and grow it is often overlooked. So, many podcasts stop soon after launching.”
Aside from charitable and podcasting sites, no one was really playing in this space and so decided to launch our platform that would assist in hosting and measuring show analytics on a premium level, as well as finding your audience.”
“It’s like a one-stop shop. I hate using that term, but it really is a platform that allows you to do transcriptions, websites, and campaign attribution data. So you no longer need to use charitable and additional analytics, which we pull from Apple and Spotify.”
Like many start-ups, pushing through the early years, CoHost is still a work in progress, with ongoing revisions being implemented on the product every day. But with what the CoHost team has built so far and how the product is proving to be valuable and unique, they are pleased with the early stages of the journey.
“We formally developed the platform a while back, and we’ve been around for at least a year. As a result, we already have a sizable pipeline of customers using our platform. We just decided to perform a hard launch and open it up to the rest of the globe this year.”
CoHost was originally a product Fatima and her team at Quill created for their own use, and so became their very own case study, allowing them to set up the customer pipeline–it was pretty much ready to go and for other companies to benefit from the product.
“Our clients got so much value out of it that we started getting a lot of inbound inquiries from businesses saying they heard about us from a friend or another firm with whom they’re affiliated and that they’d like to try our platform.”
So, while the product was hot and in demand, Fatima decided to open it up to the rest of the world in early 2022. She describes how they have witnessed a significant increase in consumers using their platform in an attempt to understand who is listening to their show and obtain the necessary premium analytics for podcasts to thrive. The campaign attribution data, Fatima describes, can be used to evaluate where their downloads are coming from so they can double down on what’s working.
“We’ve promised our users that we’ll keep adding features to help you find new audiences. However, for the time being, we do SEO formatted transcripts, so all your episodes will be automatically transcribed. We also create SEO-friendly websites. So everything is formatted to help you rank higher on Google search pages over time. Our transcripts are also automatically published on those websites, so everything is in one place: your episodes, your social channels, the various links to Spotify, Apple, Google, and wherever else you want to listen.”
Work-life balance was not something Fatima had practised her entire life, she explains. In her twenties, she was that person running around, wearing multiple hats and attempting the impossible, pushing herself to the breaking point, just as many motivational speakers, such as Gary Vee, insist it must be. “The ‘Hustle 24/7. Life is a race. If you don’t get to the finish line before somebody else, they will beat you to it. Go, go, go.” Although now, with huge experience on her shoulders, she looks back and considers this approach pretty ridiculous.
“I think it’s unfortunate that we have so many tech idols and tycoons that we idolise. But, yet, they’re setting this example that you need to be hustling and working 24/7 and sacrificing your personal growth and, you know, work-life balance and mental health to get to the finish line faster than anybody else.”
“I would ask myself, how do I define success? Over time, my definition of success has become being a well-rounded person. And being a well-rounded person means having an exceptional career, an exceptional personal life, great relationships, having, you know, a couple of pets, and being physically active and fit. And just there are so many things for me that define being successful travelling every month or every two months and going somewhere new in the world.”
“I cannot define success based on my bank balance or the amount of revenue my company generates today. And, no, when I look back on my 20s, I worked so hard and always went, go, go, go. I don’t recall any nights when I worked late. I’m not sure why I missed out on certain trips because my career or work was more important to me. But I recall the missed trips and regret them. I recall the parties where I stayed up late. I recall the friendships I formed and the people I am still close to today.”
Fatima explains how, with time and experience, you can develop a sense of purpose that adds value and meaning to your life. And while your career and work can help, there is so much more that can come from outside sources that you must prioritise and focus on.
On the other hand, she explains that even with good intentions and a strict approach to knowing where the work-life line is, she is still a founder, and as such, you can’t always be sure to clock out when the clock strikes.
“If something urgent happens at eight or nine o’clock that requires my attention for five minutes, I’ll attend to it. However, when I’m on vacation, I like to tell people, ‘If this is an emergency, remember that we’re doing podcasts PR, not ER, but feel free to tweet at me using the hashtag #InterruptYourVacation.’ That is something I stand by. I’m not a brain surgeon. I’m not a medical professional. Let’s have a little bit of perspective here. What am I doing that is so important that can’t wait until eight o’clock the next morning?”
“I could talk about this all day.”
Fatima describes how, throughout her founders-journey, the most challenging thing she has encountered is hiring for technical skill sets, which is difficult, to say the least. Unfortunately, she has yet to go through it and come out the other side.
“We’ve been actually on the search for a full-stack developer. We’re looking everywhere. We want somebody reliable and a culture fit, full time. Ideally would prefer somebody with Ruby on Rails experience, and we’ve been looking for six months – it’s a needle in a haystack! We’re willing to pay above market value, so it’s not like we’re offering start-up salaries. Absolutely not. We have really big budgets for salaries.”
CoHost reinvests a large portion of its profits back into the team and retention. So far, no employees from the CoHost or Quill teams have left. Fatima understands the importance of investing heavily in their culture, so the original team has remained in place since day one–a huge victory.
“I got really lucky with my CTO. I knew him from my former life after meeting at an industry event and kept in touch organically. So when I knew that I needed a CTO, he was the first person I reached out to, and he’s amazing.”
The majority of the CoHost team was recruited through Fatima’s extensive network, taking the chance on a few hires even without product experience. And so, to tackle the absence of product experience, Fatima brought in external support to level up the team, demonstrating yet again how CoHost invests heavily in its team and development.
A saturated market of great tech talent, combined with hiring someone with a great company culture fit, is a huge challenge Founders face in the formative days of the startup. What makes it more difficult is that as a start-up, CoHost is not yet at a point where it can compete with companies like Shopify for double the pay and half the hours.
“We are, after all, a start-up, even if we are willing to get creative with unlimited vacation and remote work flexibility. But, you know, there aren’t that many developers out there, and the ones who prefer to work for companies like Shopify, where they don’t have to do as much innovation and problem-solving and get paid twice as much as we can. So, unfortunately, that has been a significant struggle.”
Something Fatima believes she has improved in her 30s but compared to the earlier days of her career, being able to cope with the rollercoaster ride of which the founder, sales, and any high pressured job in which you are trying to forge your way provides. There are really good and bad days, and you have to learn not to take rejection personally, which Fatima says she has gotten really good at.
“Being in sales, you’re so used to all the noes and the door being slammed in your face. In my 20s, I definitely took that very personally, with every rejection being a personal blow against me. Now I approach my sales quotas analytically. It’s impossible to simply command your ducks to line up; you have to work purposely towards it. And this has resulted in me overcoming my fear of rejection. I am more analytical with everything that I do, and if it’s a no, then it’s just not today, and another opportunity will open, and it always does.”
“There are ebbs and flows with every business and a new day brings a new set of challenges and you just can’t take that home with you.”