Making the Leap Into Podcasting with Refinery Ventures' Abby Fittes and Tim Schigel
This week, Tim Schigel and Abby Fittes of Refinery Ventures discuss their experience in starting a new podcast. Founded in 2017, Refinery Ventures is capital investment firm dedicated to bridging the gap and mentoring teams between post-seed and Series A funding, and, in 2020, they launched their own podcast, Fast Frontiers to share some of their investment knowledge with the rest of us. After wrapping up season two, Tim and Abby reveal their secrets for creating a successful podcast, from the ground up. From organizing your episode schedule, to post-production tips and tricks, learn some of the benefits (and challenges) of starting your own B2B podcast, from two people who have been through it first-hand.
Tim SchigelManaging Partner at Refinery Ventures
Abby FittesDirector of Operations at Refinery Ventures
Lindsay Tjepkema: Welcome to season six of the Casted podcast, where we are back with more of our very own users as our guests. Why? Because by becoming Casted customers, it's pretty clear how committed they are, not only to podcasting as a key piece of the future of their marketing efforts, but also to the bigger picture of how these shows all fit together into their integrated marketing strategy. They're the most forward- thinking brands that are harnessing the perspectives of experts with podcasts and then wringing out those interviews to be amplified across all of their channels. They're practicing what we preach and I want you to hear all about what they're doing, why they're doing it, and how you can do it too. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, I'm CEO and co- founder of Casted, the first and only amplified marketing platform for B2B marketers. And this is our podcast. So have you ever wanted to start a podcast but it seemed like there were too many barriers to entry? Probably. But today's guests know exactly how you feel and they have even laid out ways for you to tackle these challenges head on. I'm chatting with two members of the Refinery Ventures team, Tim Schigel, managing partner and host of their show Fast Frontiers, and Abby Fittes, their Director of Operations. And they've prepped for launch of their third season that they're rolling out very soon, as you'll hear in the show, and they've reflected on what it took to get that podcast off the ground, the challenges that they faced along the way, and how they used process, seasons and partners to create a recipe for success for their show that you are going to want to emulate. Listen in as Tim and Abby share their experience and unpack how you can take a page from their book to put your thought leadership on full display.
Abby Fittes: Hi, Abby Fittes, Director of Operations at Refinery Ventures in Cincinnati, Ohio, and our podcast is Fast Frontiers.
Tim Schigel: I'm Tim Schigel, Managing Partner of Refinery Ventures in Cincinnati.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's good. Well, thank you both for being here. I'm just going to open up the show and just come clean that we actually recorded the first few minutes already. At least I thought we did, but I wasn't recording. So this is actually going to be the second time we start having this conversation, but luckily, see it happens to all of us, everybody who's listening either has a podcast or is thinking about doing a podcast and sometimes you forget to record. So if you're lucky, like I was this morning, you only get a couple of minutes in, so let's do this again, Tim and Abby.
Tim Schigel: crosstalk in the spirit of true confessions, one of our best interviews with a extremely successful entrepreneur, who had a multi- billion dollar exit, we got through the whole thing and it was, I think a Friday afternoon, and I looked and... no record. And I just felt sick to my stomach, literally nauseous. But luckily he was super, super nice. He understood and we rescheduled and it was fine. So amazing how that happens. So we have a checklist, just like you do, you have to have a checklist and just say," Okay, got to remember this. Got to remember that," just like an airline pilot.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It's true. It's true. So there you go. If anyone listening has ever forgotten to hit record, it's happened to both of us on this show, all three of us, both sides of this equation here. So yeah, let's talk about the show. Let's talk about Fast Frontiers. So what is it? Why does it exist? And tell us about the show.
Tim Schigel: Sure. So Fast Frontiers is finishing up season two and it is about how innovation is accelerating in unexpected places. And the brief origin story, and I'll let Abby talk more about how we do it, but is as a venture capital firm our main audience is entrepreneurs. And there's an element of getting our name out there a little bit, but that really wasn't the motivating factor. And the truth was that we came to a kicking and screaming, to some degree, because our main activity is investing and helping entrepreneurs grow companies. But I started getting a lot of feedback that we get to talk to so many different interesting people and that people could really benefit and learn. And so the mission was really more of an education mission than anything else, which is to share some of the stories that we've seen and bust some of the myths that are out there about raising money in venture capital and entrepreneurship, outside of the traditional coastal hubs, like Silicon Valley. So what we saw was that there's interest in that topic globally, not just in the Midwest, which is pretty exciting. So we've gotten great reviews for the podcast and it's a great opportunity just to share our network with other people, people we know, and like I said, take on some of the myths and flip the script to help, hopefully encourage, entrepreneurs and give them more information to help them be successful.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, so in a nutshell thought leadership, right? You're sharing what you learn, you're sharing what other people know, you're pulling it all into one place and making it easily accessible to your audience of entrepreneurs that are not in the coast, like me. Yeah so that's-
Tim Schigel: And we're so excited about doing this with you because we've been really impressed with what you've been doing, at Casted, and turns out we're even a customer. Full disclosure. And it's been very helpful. And I think there is a growing trend of businesses that are finding out the podcast and interactive discussions like this are a really great way to tell stories and share. It's engaging and a lot of people I talk to say they listen to us in the car or when they're out in the morning. And it's just my habit as well, I don't listen to my own podcast, I listen to yours or somebody else's. But I think it really is a great medium for that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It is, it's true. And like you said, and I think a couple of reasons I'm so excited to talk with you is because I think people, quite often, especially this audience, it's like, okay, well marketers and marketing podcasts and SAS, and there's a lot in that space. And that's true, but venture capital, financial services, healthcare, there's manufacturing. There's space for and a need for this medium and this channel and these kinds of conversations that create these connections with your audience. Regardless, really, of what industry you're in. If you have an audience and you have the ability to have conversations with people that are interesting to your audience and really be seen as the beacon, as the source of that data, and really as a trusted guide and trusted leader for your audience as they're seeking information. Because everyone is, everyone is seeking information about something.
Tim Schigel: Right. And you mentioned the term thought leadership, and not to suggest in a way that we're the smartest or the brightest, but I think the good marketers understand that now more than ever authenticity is key. And it's not about selling, it's about providing solutions or ideas in that thought leadership in a way to your audience that can be very helpful. And if you do that, that's good marketing. It's not like the traditional marketing," Hey, buy this, these are all the great benefits," it's having just authentic conversations with people and learning from each other.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Exactly, exactly. And then using that to fuel everything else to start more conversations. Right? So let's talk about how it came about. You said you got dragged kicking and screaming into it. What did that look like? What does that mean? How did you snap the tape and say,"This is what we're doing," and how'd you get started?
Tim Schigel: It's kind of funny because if we're sharing the video, I'm sitting here in my studio and... A musician and any excuse to buy gear, I'm all over it. But the truth is that's always been the alter ego, it's not been... I haven't used it at work, so to speak. And we had tried writing, we were getting articles published and, for me, that wasn't necessarily natural. We also aren't really heavy on promoting ourselves, I'm completely off Facebook nowadays. I was very early in the social media but I kind of pulled back from that. So as we talked about content, some of our friends and advisors were suggesting that maybe we do a book and that's a process and that takes some time. And I thought, well, as we were brainstorming that, we were talking about a number of topics, including things like these ecosystems... Entrepreneurs and ecosystems, like Indianapolis or Cincinnati. And from 2012 to 2016, I helped start and run Cintrifuse and their fund to funds, which was backed by big companies like Procter& Gamble, and Great American Insurance, and Western Southern, Kroger and others. And so I learned a lot about the ecosystem, the challenges that are out there, and so part of my mind goes there now. And what are the opportunities and limitations, which is partly also why we started Refinery, which is focused on what we call early scale, after the seed round. What we found was that there's, outside of Silicon Valley, there aren't many entrepreneurs who've ever worked in a company that had hypergrowth, like zero to 10 million and beyond, or 10 to 100, or 100 to a billion. And in Silicon Valley, there's a lot of them, there's a concentration of them. And that's usually where future founders are trained, they've worked in one of those companies and they take with them more experience than they understand. And we just don't have that in other areas. So we said we want to solve that problem by investing at this specific stage, because if we can help companies go from product market fit to early scale, is what we call this stage, if we can help them with that transition, raising money gets a lot easier. I often call it the first principle, which is capital follows growth. It turns out investors just like making money, they don't care where you are, and today in the age of remote work and cloud computing and mobile, there are advantages to being outside of those crowded, noisy hubs. And so there's a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs. So that's a gap we're trying to fill. And so there's a lot of different stories and myths that go along with that, and when you're talking to ecosystem development, they think," Oh, very long- term, this is a 20, 30 year thing," which is good, we should think long- term. However, look at how old current unicorns are that go public. They're seven years old.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, the sweet spot is six years, right?
Tim Schigel: Yeah. So I've had this notion of the seven year miracle. The next unicorn and leading company in your city is probably right under your nose. And it's just a matter of getting through that early scale and helping create a market leader. And so that's just one of the stories that we started talking about with the book, and then what emerged was this concept of fast frontiers, meaning there's all sorts of frontiers, not just geographical frontiers. It could be geographical, the Midwest or Dubai, as we've learned, or Australia. This season we had many global interviews, but it's also frontiers of health tech, frontiers of marketing, frontiers of you name it, frontiers of leadership. So we just thought, wow, this is a really interesting topic. We don't really see anybody talking about it in this way and the world is getting, one final point on this, which is, the world is just moving faster and technology... Every company has to think of themselves as a technology company. If you look at the churn rate of public companies in the Fortune 500, I mean, if you're not on the bandwagon, you're going to be lost. And COVID helped accelerate the digital transformation of so many companies. But it can be dizzying, especially, if you don't understand technology.
Lindsay Tjepkema: 100%, yes.
Tim Schigel: It can be very confusing, these frontiers are moving faster, so you need a helpful guide and a way to interpret some of that, to understand what's really going on, so that you can create some clarity through the chaos and navigate it. And so that's the purpose for Fast Frontiers, and then we thought... I have these conversations all the time, what better way to do this than just record a podcast and then generate content from that point on.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes, exactly.
Tim Schigel: One thing I'll tee up for Abby here first though, that she knows is, my one rule was, I can't spend a lot of time on this. Meaning, I'm helping entrepreneurs, we're investing, we have to have a process and a mechanism that this can be something we do and we're able to crank out in a production sort of way, without it being... creating a custom tailored suit every time.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. I think a lot of people are nervous about that. Because there's you, for every you, there's a marketing director, there's a head of product, there's a CMO, there's a founder that is like," Okay, I get it. This cannot be my life because I'm building a business, I'm building product, I'm leading a team. I'm saving lives. I can't spend a lot of time on this." So how have you solved for that? What does your process look like?
Abby Fittes: I think when you're approaching any project, you think of, what are the barriers to entry? What are the ways in which I have to jump over something, or things that I have to tackle, in order to be successful at this? And Tim set it up perfectly is, our barrier to entry sometimes is time. And then sometimes it's resources or finances. And so you have to go through, if we want to do a podcast, how do we make it so those barriers to entry are easy to overcome? And so the way I convinced him to do it was, if you record all of the interviews, I will do everything else. We need your storytelling, we need your connections to this, to bring it to life. And I promise you, that's the only part you'll have to do. And I think I've kept pretty close to it.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I'm going to say, how's that working?
Tim Schigel: crosstalk Abby, yeah, she stays on top of it. And if it wasn't for Abby doing that, it might languish. But that is also related to one of the requirements, and why I dragged my feet for a little bit, because I said," If we start it, we have to continue it." It can't start and stop. So this has to be something that we get good at over time, but that we continue.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Oh, go ahead.
Abby Fittes: We had come up with this idea, or tossed around the idea of a podcast, back in 2019, and looking at my notes from when we were going to really get started on the podcast, was during COVID. During shut down. It's not that work got less busy, work just shifted. People weren't traveling, you weren't having to get ready to do all of these different conferences and other things. So it allowed for a little quiet to wrap our heads around it and say," Can we do this? Do we want to do it? And then how do we do it?"
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, so how did you answer those questions? You're doing this for me. How are you going to do it? Why do you want to do it?
Abby Fittes: For me, I love podcasts. I'm just a listener to all podcasts. Never thought I would be working on one, kind of a dream. Like, wow, I get to put out something that people can go on Apple Podcasts and hit play on their drive like I do? So that has been the coolest thing, is to really then see how it gets made. And I think it takes someone that maybe really enjoys process, and is okay with that, and is really okay with figuring out how is then the best way to do that process. And I learned that the hard way, for sure. Season one was way harder than season two. Way harder. Because it was the first time I'm doing anything. And I think the best suggestion we give anyone is to surround yourself with people that know how to do this better than you do.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Always, for all things.
Abby Fittes: Yeah, exactly. That's where we have experts. So I don't have the audio technology background to know how to slice and edit a podcast and make it sound really good. I also don't have all of the marketing background to say," What do we do with this now that we have it?" And so for me, it was finding and learning from two partners in that aspect, which was Astronomic Audio, who does all of our audio engineering. They're in Canada. And then Content Callout really helps us, then, also in Canada, with taking that content... We have the transcriptions of all of these great interviews, how do we use it to our advantage? And so we're able to write articles about, just summaries of the episodes, which is great. To get it, not only in audio, but also in text. And then we can also slice and dice that into different social media posts, audio grams, and those became that much easier. When in season two, we added Casted into the mix. I think that really also helped in making it more my own. Casted really, quite frankly, allows you to have more control over the whole process.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Yeah and then, and thank you for that, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention Content Callout because they're... Thanks to you all, because you introduced them to us, and they're a partner of ours now. And so now everyone who's listening can also work with both of us. And it's nice to have that resource because you have somebody, like Contact Call- out, who can help with strategy and execution and then Casted, that can help be the platform to make it happen. And hopefully lift some of the burden for you all as you are, somebody like Tim who is having great conversations, and somebody like you, Abby, is bringing it all to life. So yeah, it works. What advice do both of you have for someone else who's listening and thinking," How do we do this? Thought leadership is important. We're having all these great conversations. I get it." What advice do you have?
Tim Schigel: I think one of the first questions was, what's the format? Is it just us talking? Is it interview? Is it panels? Just what is it? And we decided the easiest thing was just, and best thing, was interviews. Just basically me interviewing entrepreneurs and investors and ecosystem leaders, researchers, whoever. So I think one was that, what's the right format? Well, actually before that it's even audience. But that, for us, that was obvious. It was the entrepreneurs. But for some, they may have to think about that. Who is the audience? What's the right format? What is the frequency? And for me, some of the podcasts I enjoy the most are actually fairly frequent. At least once a week or more because I go back. Because if you don't go back to something, you forget about it. So you want it to be recent, and actually, I think it was your idea of packaging it up in seasons.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I was going to say, and you're doing seasons, which is one of the things I always talk about.
Tim Schigel: We're doing seasons, yeah, so that was a huge help, actually, to think about it. So we typically do 12... 12 or 15 episodes in a season. And that helps us a lot in terms of, who do we want to talk to? How do we go out and ask people," Hey, can we have you on the podcast? Would you like to get on the podcast?" And it was a big step in terms of helping us just to organize the work. What do you think, Abby?
Abby Fittes: I could not live without seasons. Again, for us, it doesn't have a specific theme that we maybe thought it would, because sometimes the seasons comes together close to the end. But in terms of how do you make this happen, it's the recency. You have to have ideas right in front of you of, what do I need to do today or in the next week to get these things done? But I have had a one- year, two- year calendar of when the seasons would be, on my desktop, always. So that I know I can plan our lives around it. I can plan when," Hey Tim, this is when we're going to need to invite a bunch of people." And we're going to have to spend some time... That's another place that I use his time and energy is, we have to go invite people to do this. So we have to have a couple of weeks where we're doing that, a couple of weeks where we're recording, and then a couple of weeks where I'm going to sprinkle you in for some intros and outros work. And then the rest of it is just reading and approving articles and helping push things out when they go live. crosstalk by those seasons, sorry.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I was just going to say, that's so important. And I've had a few conversations like this where there's somebody who's managing it, like you Abby, and there's somebody who's hosting it, like you, Tim. And it's like, okay, how are we going to do this? Seasons makes it possible because otherwise you get into this feeling where it's going to be always, always, always forever and ever and ever, how am I always going to be doing interviews all the time? And it's like, nope, a couple of times a year we're going to kind of block you off for a week. And this is going to monopolize your time for a week, or something, it's different for every company, it's different for every show. But it does, it makes it attainable and it helps you get your arms around it.
Tim Schigel: Yeah, I think one of the other first things was a concern or reticence that, hey, can I get people to show up? Can I get people to want to be interviewed? And that is probably easier than you think. People love telling their stories. Your point in the podcast is to make sure that they look good and smart and so it's a good thing. And people are receptive to it. We'll see, maybe there comes a point when people are doing too many podcasts and they don't. But our experience has been that people love to participate and jump at it. And so that's been good. One of the things we did, or Abby did early on, that also helped, was she listened in on every one of the interviews and took notes. Maybe Abby you can talk about that, but that was a big help, I think.
Abby Fittes: Yeah. I think just being able to, one, I mean, you're going to do some prep beforehand. You need to tell your guests a little bit of an idea of, these are some of the things we want to talk about. Because some of the guests Tim has known for years and years and they could dive in and talk about anything, but we need to get to the point on something in a 45 minute recording. So you prep them a little bit and so I can listen in and make sure that we are hitting that, but also, Tim's a really good interviewer and it gets easier as you keep doing it, I think. Your first couple you're like," Did I do it right?" Or," Did I transition well?" And so I can send some of those behind the scenes and I was like," This is going great," or," Make sure we can land the plane towards this question." And then I can also take notes of like, just a reminder that person's internet went out 20 minutes in and then we had to re get back on. So it's just helpful to know some of these little quirks that happen in any recording. Or if someone said something really cool and I can see Tim's reaction to it, it's like, I got to make sure that I send that to Content Callout or I remember to look for that when I'm doing the editing. That was really an aha moment.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I think, too, that might actually, I'm guessing, save you time later because otherwise you'd have to go back and listen to it later anyway. So again, of course, depending on how processes work and how you're doing things, so just being in on it in real time, kind of saves everybody time. So as we wrap things up, what's one thing that you've both learned that you wish you knew going into it? That you can share with others, so other people can learn that lesson faster.
Abby Fittes: I think, for me, this was the one of the first times in a while where my work was so depending... My work was impacting what everyone else's workflow was. So when you have all these other partners that are helping you make this possible, you have to give them a final product, for them to do something with, in order to really amplify that episode. So just making sure that you're scheduling time to get all these things done was really important for me. And that everyone understood what the workflow process was going to be like for each season. So I have onboarding calls before each season with the audio engineers, with Content Callout, to say," This is when we think we're going to have each of the guests roll out per season. This is when I'm going to get you the text edits. This is when you're going to get me back the audio edits. And this is when we're going to give you the article back," so that all of this can align and go out the day that we've said it's going to, on all the streaming platforms. So making sure everyone's on the same page, just like in any project, is really important.
Tim Schigel: Yeah. I think people can.. I know people that have big audiences and they don't do as much production as we do, and now there's the do or do more, and so I think that just reminds you that the content is the most important thing. So when we see what people react to, it's the content. Our theory was, we wanted to make sure that it was well- produced. It was professional, it wasn't sloppy. The thing I would say that I'm learning, learned and learning, is to actually schedule the recordings on certain days of the month, just one whole day or two whole days. I know some people that have some very popular podcasts and they'll say they'll do eight recordings in a day.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's a lot.
Tim Schigel: Which I think is a lot.
Lindsay Tjepkema: crosstalk five. I was like, never again. This is ever happening again.
Tim Schigel: Exactly, yeah, because if you're doing a good job and truly listening and on Zoom, it takes energy. And you need to think, you need to take some notes, you need to make sure you're guiding the discussion in the right way. But on the other hand, as it relates to scheduling and your own mind space, instead of having interviews interspersed throughout the week, that also gets rough. And for scheduling the guests, it's easier when you say," Look, here are the dates we have in the next two or three months when we're doing production." So they appreciate it, it helps you contain your time, but I think probably four is our... I think we decided is our limit.
Abby Fittes: And three is more comfortable, but four is definitely the max.
Tim Schigel: Yeah, but grouping them together, I think, is the biggest learning that we've gone through as a process improvement.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It's a good recommendation. Great. Well, okay, so tell us... you're wrapping up season two, when are you hoping for season three? When can everybody who's listening join in on that?
Abby Fittes: Season three will start at the end of April and will lead us right into the summer season before we take a break. So if you're looking for that nice Spring, early Summer inspiration, season three's coming in for that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love it. Fast Frontiers, you guys are doing really cool conversations. As somebody who's a member of your audience, keep it coming because it's really... It's educational, it's entertaining, and you're doing a great job. So thanks for being here today. Thanks for sharing behind the scenes, what you all have learned, and helping our audience learn along with you. That's our show, thanks so much for listening. And for more from today's guest and some pretty amazing content that they've inspired, visit casted. us, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest on all things amplified marketing. Even podcasting and a lot more.