Our Podcast Hosting Platform Hit 7 Figures In ARR [With No Marketing Team]

Published: April 19th, 2022
Mark Asquith
Founder, Captivate.fm
from Sheffield
started August 2019
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I’m Mark Asquith and I’m the founder of Captivate.fm, the world’s only growth-oriented podcast hosting, analytics, and marketing platform.

Captivate is a bootstrapped SaaS platform for podcasters to host, distribute and market their podcasts in a way that helps them to achieve sustainable growth and build lasting audio influence in their niche. It’s the easiest way to start your professional podcast.

In the 15 months since Captivate launched, the platform has surpassed seven figures in ARR without a marketing budget or team.


What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I walked out of my last “real” job in 2005 at the age of 23 after less than four hours in the building. I’d switched roles from one company to another that did the very same thing and on day one, after a hellish commute, realized that I didn’t want to work for people with whom I had nothing in common and who didn’t see the world as I did - as a place to enjoy and not simply exist to pay the bills.

I had no plan, but being a fairly good communicator I found myself training some of the UK’s largest organizations, including the Ministry of Defense, on new platforms to help with their businesses. As a freelance contractor, I went from earning £18,000 per year to almost £200,000 within a few weeks.

I thought I’d made it! But, I realized that even with that revenue coming in at age 23 I was still at the mercy of people who didn’t care what I did, as long as it made their job easier and as long as I was there 8 hours per day, often when my job was already done and had been delivered with great feedback.

It’s important to be humble and not assume that you know everything about an industry, problem, or solution just because you have an idea.

So I walked away from that, too, at age 24 and went back to earning no real money. But I had a secret: during the year since I’d walked out of my corporate job I had been learning to code.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

That coding knowledge allowed me to set up my first business: a web design agency (like everyone in 2006, right?!).

With no business background, no college or university background, and zero clients, I began building websites for local businesses - but I made a fatal mistake: I tried to emulate the success of others in my local area by copying their format and business structure, not realizing that it’d taken them years to get to that.

No one had ever taught me how to run a business, manage clients, or close deals so, after 12 months, my first business was not doing too well at all. I was close to going back to freelancing and back to that £200k per year - but I didn’t want someone else to control my days, so I tried everything I could to avoid it.

During a deep chat with a friend, a local printer, he suggested that we start a brand new agency together alongside another friend, a photographer and so, we did.

With their friendship, experience, and mentoring (both of them were much older than me) I learned, quickly, what I’d done wrong originally and secured us two huge local contracts that instantly turned the tiny agency into a £500k t/o business which, at the time, gave us the space that we needed to grow.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Captivate was profitable from its early beta and we’ve pushed that to enjoy a very strong activation rate and wonderfully low churn rate.

The reason for this is that we spent so long as podcasters before building the business. We’re directly in tune with what our podcasters need because we ARE our podcasters!

We’ve gone from a team of two founders to a team of twelve within 15 months and our first hires were entirely in customer support & experience although we were very careful to keep me and my co-founder, Kieran, heavily involved in support so that we can learn from our customers.

We then bolstered the team by hiring a second developer and a content marketer, followed rapidly by a digital marketing manager, head of design plus a few more support staff in other timezones.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

We had a decent presence in the podcasting industry before starting Captivate so we’d met a lot of really friendly, experienced people. A big lesson was leaning on some of these people by strategically picking some core advisors to the team, each with a particular strength or focus. This keeps Kieran and me sane and helps us to not simply railroad our product into one particular direction, which could be very dangerous.

Another huge lesson is simply being present: building a community around honesty, openness, and maintaining a humble nature means that you can easily build out friendships with customers who will help you to understand what the business does well and where it can improve.

Also, putting a focus on excellent onboarding and being overly helpful all of the time is vital to every single business, regardless of niche or whether it’s online or offline.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use our own Captivate.fm platform to run my podcast network and lean heavily on SaaS for growing the business. Internally we use Notion and Monday for planning and our platform itself runs on Stripe behind Chargebee for billing and a myriad other cloud services for scalability, redundancy and more.

I use Superhuman to triage and stay on top of my productivity and emails and from a design & marketing perspective, the team enjoys SEMRush, Canva and Figma.

We’re also built on an Angular front-end.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’m a huge bookworm and the biggest books that have helped me in business have been The One Thing, The E-Myth Revisited and The Mom Test.

The One Thing helped me to understand focus, while the E-Myth Revisited allowed me to scale from working to working on my business. The Mom Test I truly believe is vital reading for any founder looking to test and validate a product or even a piece of content. It’s the book I recommend the most!

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Walk the walk before you try to talk the talk and sell!

What I mean here is that you need to deeply understand the industry you’re trying to get into or help. You have to be your customer for a while - learn what they’re dealing with every single day and understand what they’re willing to solve through investing in a solution versus what they’ll happily “Blu Tack and Sellotape” a solution to.

It’s important to be humble and not assume that you know everything about an industry, problem, or solution just because you have an idea.

Fall in love with the problem, not your solution and idea!

Where can we go to learn more?