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Updated: Jan 3, 2020
Podcasts are an easy way for busy people to learn new things every day. Learning keeps you sharp, and as an entrepreneur or small business owner, one of your best assets is your ability to come up with strong ideas. You’re probably too busy to read every interesting article that gets tweeted on your timeline. Hey, maybe you’re too busy to even look at Twitter. Podcasts can be listened to on the go, whether you’re walking or driving, and so they’re often the best way for busy people like you to get new information.
There’s a wide range of podcasts in the pod-o-sphere to suit anyone’s interests, but there’s a particularly deep well of interesting podcasts for people who own their own business, build new companies or products, or just generally try to do new, exciting work at all times.
These 10 podcasts will give you interesting new stuff to think about, inspire you to be more creative, teach you how to be a better business owner and help keep your mind sharp.
StartUp is the brainchild of Alex Blumberg, a former producer from NPR’s Planet Money as well as This American Life. StartUp is two seasons deep into a project that finds the staff of the show documenting the ups and downs that new businesses face as they pursue their business dreams. Start with the first season, which in a meta-flip of traditional reporting, documented the formation of the very company which produces the podcast, Gimlet Media. StartUp is extremely well produced and includes all of the dramatic professional and personal ups and downs that will be familiar to anyone who has ever started their own business. The second season documents a different start-up: an online dating company. Chaos ensues.
Kai Ryssdal’s public radio classic publishes each episode of its show to the web daily. It’s hard to be in business without having a good understanding of what’s happening in the economy, and this show does a fantastic job of delivering the big bullet points that matter each day, along with the human stories that keep us informed and inspired. If you want extra credit, consider exploring the other podcasts that they produce, which include interviews with business leaders (Corner Office), in-depth looks at the technology that’s shaping our times (Codebreaker), and additional Marketplace weekend content (Marketplace Weekend).
This podcast is produced by Andreesen Horowitz, one of the premier venture capital firms shaping the funding landscape of Silicon Valley. Depending upon your view of how tech is influencing culture, these guys are either the cool nerds helping to build the future, or the psychotic capitalist tech bro demons destroying what’s left of our attention spans one social networking app at a time. The truth is that this is a podcast about the people, products and ideas that are defining our age. The people who host it are smart, and there is a lot of insight to be gained about business whether you work in technology or not.
In 1974, author Studs Terkel published a book that sought to examine the working lives of ordinary Americans, in an attempt to encapsulate what it meant to live and work in that era. Slate’s podcast, Working, has a similarly populist aim. Each episode examines a different profession, talking to people in varied positions, from a funeral director to a mediator, from a nightclub doorman to a stand-up comedian. If you want to learn about real people, what motivates them, what their lives are like, this is the podcast for you. After all, there’s a good chance your customers are people too.
The Harvard Business Review is a reliably consistent publisher of advice, opinions and inspiration for professionals in any business role. The HBR IdeaCast is a podcast discussing strategy, business philosophy, personal motivation, growth, marketing and many other topics that entrepreneurs and managers should always be thinking about. It’s the next best thing to being able to sit down and talk with some of the most notable figures in modern business.
If you don’t know Radiolab, be prepared to binge on one of the most purely informative and entertaining podcasts around. Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich produce one of the most consistently engaging, bizarre, surprising podcasts around. The fact that it typically doesn’t have anything to do with business specifically should not scare you off. You never know where your next idea will come from, and Radiolab’s stories about the most unusual and fascinating corners of science and knowledge are produced with care and feature next level sound design and production. Given the choice between a new episode of Game of Thrones and a new episode of Radiolab, I’d pick Radiolab (and yes, I love Game of Thrones just as much as everyone else does).
This podcast gets to the nuts and bolts of what it takes to get your business seen by potential customers. Duct Tape Marketing covers everything from branding to creating content and from mobile targeting strategies to what landing pages are and how they can help you generate sales. This podcast is a treasure trove of knowledge for anyone who wants to grow their business using the same marketing techniques as some of the top practitioners in modern marketing. There’s really only one obstacle that stops most people from becoming a great marketer, and that’s lack of knowledge. Marketing is about learning from experimentation, and this podcast will help you discover and understand the different techniques and approaches that are best suited to your business.
Terry Gross’s long-running public radio staple is perhaps the best one-on-one interview show that has ever existed in any medium. The podcast of each radio broadcast is uploaded daily. Gross is an uncommonly empathetic and curious host, which allows her to tease surprisingly private answers from her subjects, who often surprise even themselves by revealing what they share on her show. She speaks to heads of state, scientific researchers, writers, stand-up comedians, musicians, artists, CEOs and anyone else who earns her attention. Terry Gross seems to possess a special, verging on extra-sensory, quality in order to get such consistently fascinating answers from her guests. By asking questions that get at universal truths, Fresh Air is a pathway to understanding more about ourselves and all people.
Host Jessica Harris interviews founders of successful companies. There are some things about business that you can only learn by putting in the hours, but Harris has created a shortcut to experience by developing this repository of knowledge of what it’s like to start a business. She talks to founders from many different industries, so whether your business is a new energy drink, an eco-conscious alternative in a popular consumer product category, or a digital marketplace for selling artisanal crafts, you’re likely to find a wealth of relevant, actionable wisdom in this podcast.
Roman Mars’s podcast is nominally about design and architecture, but really it’s about the unseen forces that influence the world. It examines the 99% of the world that is invisible to most of us. It is easy to forget that nearly every object we touch and every building we enter began as someone’s idea. Entrepreneurs and business owners should know a thing or two about building something real with only a kernel of an idea. Roman Mars can help you better understand the world we live and do business in.
Michael Jones is a Senior Editor for Funding Circle, specializing in small business loans. He holds a degree in International Business and Economics from Boston University's Questrom School of Business. Prior to Funding Circle, Michael was the Head of Content for Bond Street, a venture-backed FinTech company specializing in small business loans. He has written extensively about small business loans, entrepreneurship, and marketing.