Podcast startup Omny Studio is selling to LA-based Triton Digital, catapulting its young Aussie co-founders to millionaire status

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The co-founder of an Australian tech startup that distributes some of the world’s most popular podcasts says “the startup journey is very much a rollercoaster” after announcing that he had sold his company to a US digital audio company.

Australian entrepreneur Long Zheng, 31, said on Thursday that the startup he co-founded when he was 24, Omny Studio, had been acquired by Los Angeles-based digital audio tech and advertising company Triton Digital in a deal in which the financial terms haven’t been disclosed.

However, it’s estimated the acquisition will likely make Zheng and some of his co-founders millionaires. Other co-founders include chief technology officer Andrew Armstrong, 32, and former chief executive Ed Hooper, 33. Its current chief executive Sharon Taylor, 34, joined later in 2016.

While details of the deal made haven’t been revealed publicly, the business has raised at least $US1.7 million ($2.4m) in capital since its inception in 2012, according to investment tracking database CrunchBase, which would have put its valuation well into the millions.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age after finalising the Triton deal, Zheng said he would be “throwing a little get together” with advisers, investors and colleagues past and present to celebrate. “But for the most part it’s business as usual because we love building software,” he said.

After completing his first startup exit, Zheng said he was feeling fortunate to have experienced “a challenging, educational, emotional and fun journey” since starting Omny.

“The startup journey is very much a rollercoaster,” Zheng, Omny’s head of product, said.

“Prepare for the ups and downs because there will be many and frequent, which takes a toll over a period of time, so make sure you have a strong team, friends and family to help you recover.

“Mistakes and failures are unavoidable, so learn from them because each is an invaluable lesson.

“The startup industry and social media can paint a picture of glamorous success and dramatic failure, which is so easy to be distracted by. Most of the time, the work is not glamorous or sexy, it just needs focus, persistence and a bit of luck.”

Asked what was unsexy about startups, he said it was the fact early-stage businesses required “a lot of grunt work from a small number of people who need to wear many hats”.

“When you’re time and resource poor, it’s sometimes easier to only focus on the fun work,” he said.

“However, there’s a constant stream of administrative and operational tasks like HR, legal, accounting and managing relationships with stakeholders which needs to be done competently and repeatedly to build a successful business.”

Success didn’t come easy, he said, and his business originally “struggled” to build significant traction with its personalised radio consumer mobile app. It was only after it pivoted to an enterprise podcasting service that it started seeing significant growth and notable traction.

“When we started delivering podcasts for several of the top radio networks in the US, we proved that our business is competitive in the global market,” Zheng said, adding that he planned to stay with Triton “for the foreseeable future” and couldn’t comment on the sale price.

Omny powers many of the world’s podcasts, including those produced by CBS Local, Triple M, Mashable, Channel Seven, Mamamia, the Hit Network, and SYN Media. It also distributes The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Please Explain podcast, and podcasts for the Nine Network and Macquarie Media (2GB/3AW,4BC/6PR). Nine, owner of his masthead, is a major Macquarie Media shareholder.

Zheng said the acquisition — which involves all seven Melbourne-based Omny staff staying in Australia but coming under Triton Digital’s management — came about after partnering with the US company in 2017, who he said helped Omny break into the North and South American markets.

“We developed a great working relationship across business and technical integrations,” he said.

“With the trust and familiarity that developed, we agreed to take the partnership to the next level since both companies are passionate about the opportunities in the booming podcast market.”

The podcasting industry has witnessed significant changes in recent years, which was one of the reasons why Zheng said he made the decision to sell his business so that he could gain the market power to “help dramatically scale the business to accelerate our growth and reach”.

Triton Digital chief executive officer Neal Schore said that Omny had been an “exceptional partner” that shared its passion for “enabling traditional broadcasters and pure play podcasters to grow their audience and revenue”.

Omny Studio makes its money by selling its podcast distribution software to enterprises. It started in 2012 as a personalised radio app called Omny Radio that offered commuters and drivers a customisable on-demand audio experience with news, shows and music, driven by industry excitement around the growth in mobile audio consumption.

This article was first published by The Sydney Morning Herald. Read the original here.