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Melinda Wittstock: “If You’re Happy with Your Product You’ve Launched Too Late”

“If You’re Happy with Your Product You’ve Launched Too Late” — LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman knows that the best innovations are iterative and require co-creation with your customers. The biggest mistake many founders make is toiling for what they envision “perfection” to be — and this approach can risk missing a market opportunity. It can also lead to a […]

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If You’re Happy with Your Product You’ve Launched Too Late” — LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman knows that the best innovations are iterative and require co-creation with your customers. The biggest mistake many founders make is toiling for what they envision “perfection” to be — and this approach can risk missing a market opportunity. It can also lead to a “solution in search of a problem”. The best founders get very close to their customers and create specifically with them to solve their biggest pain points. Executing on the ultimate vision takes time and many failures large and small along the way. Perfection can be your biggest enemy: Simply toiling to make it perfect is a dead-end in business, and when you invite your customers on your journey and empower them to co-create with you, magic happens. Your customers become invested in your mission and your success.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Melinda Wittstock. Melinda Wittstock is the CEO and founder of Podopolo, the world’s first socially-interactive and gamified podcasting network. A serial entrepreneur who has built 4 businesses in media, mobile, and tech to 7- and 8- figure success, Melinda hosts “Wings of Inspired Business” named by Entrepreneur Magazine as #8 of 20 of the top business podcasts for 2020. Also an award-winning journalist and TV anchor for the BBC, ABC News, Financial Times and Times of London, Melinda also helps business owners and entrepreneurs launch magnetic and profitable podcasts.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Entrepreneurship has always been in my DNA, and my grandmother was the first to diagnose it. “You’re disruptive!” she said, upon learning that as a 5-year-old I had gone “door to door” with my black lab demanding pre-installment for my “show”. I had dreamt up a whole routine set to music, with costumes, dance and more — and come home with $100 asking my dad where we could get 100 chairs.

Somewhere along the line like most people though I thought I had to get “a job”. For me at 22 this was as a business and media correspondent on The Times of London — and my innate entrepreneurialism spurred me to learn from the big-name CEOs, entrepreneurs and magnates I interviewed, among them Apple’s Steve Jobs, Comcast founder Ralph Joel Roberts, CNN’s Ted Turner, and Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson among them. Soon my award-winning reporting career evolved into becoming a TV anchor and host for the BBC, CNBC and ABC News — and soon “disrupting from within” I ultimately created a new show for the BBC and grew it to a 20 million audience.

The late Steve Jobs famously said you can only connect the dots looking backwards, and when I finally made the leap into “entrepioneering” full time it was in all things media-tech, whether innovating the world’s first scalable “personalize news” business with Capitol News Connection, growing a crowd-sourced and interactive news app to 3 million users in 8 months, innovating algorithms to parse and filter mobile user-generated content for relevance and reliability with NewsiT, or now with Podopolo, creating the world’s first gamified and socially interactive podcasting network.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

As a five-time serial entrepreneur, I like nothing better than to “disrupt” an industry with innovation that provides unprecedented value and solves real problems for real people.

I founded Podopolo, the world’s first socially interactive and gamified podcasting network, because 85% of podcasters don’t earn any money from their content from any of the other platforms, even though podcasting is the fastest-growing media with 123 million Americans listening 6 hours+ a week.

On Podopolo, podcasters unlock growing shares of advertising and sponsor revenue, as well as earnings from our premium paywall, as listeners and viewers discover, share, and engage around their favorite podcasts. Most podcasters have small niche audiences and they lose out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartMedia, and all the other hit-driven aggregators out there that don’t share any revenue, deep audience data or a place to interact around content like Podopolo. Advertisers and sponsors tend only to invest in podcasts that have 10,000+ downloads an episode, something only 2% of podcasters achieve by virtue of their niche appeal. Insufficient listening data prevents podcasters from knowing who is listening or how they are listening, and lack of data also keeps most advertisers away from the fast-growing medium.

We are disrupting an entire industry by putting power and money into the hands of content creators as well as advertisers and sponsors, who for the first time have predictive and reliable data to match their ads to highly engaged audiences pre-qualified for their offers. We take the “guesswork” out of advertising to deliver unprecedented ROI for brands and businesses wanting to interact with highly engaged and motivated listeners and viewers.

At Podopolo, everyone wins — including consumers, who earn valuable rewards and cool products as they engage with hosts and each other, put learning into action to enhance lives, and join world-changing initiatives with our social gamification.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m not sure it was a “mistake” per se — it was funny. Back when I was running my political news agency Capitol News Connection, I was a new mom. The business launched when Sydney was only 6 weeks old. In the first year, I was doing everything: Reporting stories, running payroll, raising money, closing customers, training journalists, all of it. In the US Capitol Building, I had my reporter kit in one shoulder bag (microphone, recorder, camera, notebook) and in another black bag, my breast pumping kit. I had to pump every two hours. One day after reporting 14 stories, landing 7 new clients, and much more, I was ending the day interviewing Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State. I was so tired I pulled out my breast pump funnel thinking it was my microphone and pointed it at the Senator. I had no idea why she was laughing!

The lesson I learned from this experience is simple: Don’t try to “do it all”.

There is no badge of honor in neglecting your self-care and working yourself to the point where you don’t know the difference between a breast-pump and a microphone! Because some months later on this odyssey of martyrdom, putting everyone else’s needs above my own, I got pneumonia and was off sick for weeks, no use to anyone!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I believe in having lots of mentors and coaches along the way, and recently the mentor who has had the biggest impact on my life is Steve Little, CEO and Founder of Zero Limits Ventures. Steve works with founders like me to discover what’s truly driving the valuation growth in your business. He’s a serial entrepreneur who has sold 6 of his own businesses for 9-figure sums, and helped countless other founders get to exit with very high multiples. Steve is my lead investor and Board Chairman now with Podopolo and it was Steve who mentored me to get into true alignment and double down on my unique strengths, insights and talents.

One day back when I was running the social intelligence platform Verifeed, Steve suddenly looked at me and said, “Stop! You’re doing the wrong thing.”

Deep down somewhere inside me I knew I was out of alignment, yet every day priding myself on my “resilience” as I plodded forward in a role I no longer loved or enjoyed.

“You’re a media person, a communicator, you’re all about building community,” he said. “Do what you love and the life you love will manifest.”

It was the kindest thing anyone had done for me. And it couldn’t have been easy for him to say as the lead investor in Verifeed.

On that day, we pressed pause on my active engagement in Verifeed and from there, magic began to manifest.

I took on a passion project — launching my podcast Wings of Inspired Business. It was a massive “give forward” with no expectations of return.

Yet as I promoted the businesses of hundreds of female founders and shared wisdom gleaned from my successes and failures as a female founder, doors began to open. It fostered deep connections and relationships, learning, and ultimately a fast-growing community and 5 profitable revenue streams.

It led me to my true path, founding Podopolo. There were synchronicities and serendipities along the way.

Best of all, I am creating in joy, every day a delight (even the challenges).

If you know deep down that you’re putting off living into your dreams — out of obligation, fear, or any of those stories we tell ourselves, then stop.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is a positive force when it aligns with innovation that solves real-world problems for real people. All too often corporate cultures can stagnate in comfortability and can become resistant to change, even when innovative change is required. Think of Kodak. A small team within Kodak innovated digital photography — and their disruptive innovation was quashed because it would have disrupted a very lucrative existing revenue stream. Existing companies can easily miss the opportunity that ever-changing customer needs, challenges, and demands necessitate. They lose their nimbleness and flexibility, which is why it is almost always the scrappy startup spots the problem, innovates to solve it, and in so doing, creates whole new markets, even behavioral change. Who knew they “needed” an iPhone until the visionary Steve Jobs came along and saw the elegant simplicity and convenience of having all everything — your work, your entertainment, your communications — in one easy-to-use device?

Disruption is all about spotting a problem, challenge or need and innovating to create a better way of doing things — one that improves many (hopefully millions of) people’s lives.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Build the Plane as You Fly It” — My friend Kara Goldin, who has built Hint into a $2bn brand, shared in one of my earliest podcast episodes on Wings of Inspired Business how she had to innovate on the fly, driving sales and innovating to capture new markets without yet having fully executed her ultimate vision. Often, we have to pivot many times along the way to find the “product-market fit”, that killer feature that is going to resonate with our customers, or simply a better way of doing things. People will tell you all the reasons why you can’t do something, and the disruptive entrepreneur’s mission is to “find a way or make one”. As she “flew the plane”, Kara figured out how to avoid adding preservatives to her fruit-flavored water by pasteurizing it — a massive innovation.

If You’re Happy with Your Product You’ve Launched Too Late” — LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman knows that the best innovations are iterative and require co-creation with your customers. The biggest mistake many founders make is toiling for what they envision “perfection” to be — and this approach can risk missing a market opportunity. It can also lead to a “solution in search of a problem”. The best founders get very close to their customers and create specifically with them to solve their biggest pain points. Executing on the ultimate vision takes time and many failures large and small along the way. Perfection can be your biggest enemy: Simply toiling to make it perfect is a dead-end in business, and when you invite your customers on your journey and empower them to co-create with you, magic happens. Your customers become invested in your mission and your success.

“When the lesson is learned, the experience is no longer necessary” — my mentor, board chairman, investor and serial entrepreneur Steve Little of Zero Limits Ventures says that

all you have to do is look at someone’s circumstance to know what they truly believe in their subconscious. We are all driven by the stories and beliefs we’ve concocted as small children, and we need to release these limiting blocks from our subconscious to succeed. I have learned over the years that whenever I’ve been “triggered” by something and felt emotions of anger, fear, anxiety or sadness, it is an opportunity to release the belief that attracted those feelings. I simply let it go. There are profound lessons in each of these experiences, something a situation or a challenge is showing us about ourselves. Use these challenges, failures, blocks as lessons and again, when the lesson is learned, the experience is no longer necessary.” Success is all about mindset.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I believe the best businesses have a social mission impact and do good for the world as they drive value creation and profit. At Podopolo, we are committed to donating 10% of our annual earnings to charities, minority-owned businesses and social impact businesses meaningfully addressing the 17 UN Global Goals. We’re also architecting ways in which our podcasters, advertisers and audiences can engage in “gamified” quests, contests and challenges to do good for the world. I know that my life’s work is about having a positive impact on the world, and this is the North Star that drives everything we do at Podopolo.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Knowing our own value.

All too often, even the most brilliant women step back from fully stepping into the light and owning their brilliance. Somewhere along the line, many of us learned to apologize for our brilliance, or worse, play a smaller game.

The biggest problem is “fear of success” not failure. Perhaps subconsciously, we fear that if we really swing for the fences, we’ll alienate men — and other women. We’re naturally very collaborative, and we’ve been nurtured to put others’ needs ahead of our own.

Our natural empathy, intuition and nurturing is a tremendous strength in business if leveraged positively, that is, to grow and inspire great teams, connect the dots in fresh new ways, and see the whole “matrix”.

Yet just because we’re wired in a way that enables us to work all parts of the process and “do it all” doesn’t mean we should. We all tend to be good at giving — often over-giving until we have nothing left in the tank — and neglect to receive. It is vital for women entrepreneurs to develop their “ask for help” and “delegation” muscles and be open to receiving.

The “over-giving” and “doing it all” is a symptom of undervaluing ourselves. So too is a tendency toward perfectionism. In business this can manifest as pricing too low, not paying ourselves our due, not asking for the help we need, or simply playing too small a game. It can also mean burning out because we’re so busy serving others we forget to take care of ourselves. It’s important for women founders to remember that we’re the number one asset of the business we’ve founded.

One of my mentors took me through an exercise once: He asked me what my hourly rate would be if I was landing a major strategic client or investor who would add millions to the bottom line or hiring a team member who would create a whole new revenue line. “Is it $100, $1,000, $10,000 an hour?” he asked. “Now what would you pay a cleaner or a VA or someone to fix a broken link?” In effect you are robbing your own company if you do those tasks when someone can do it less expensively than you.

Value your time! Value yourself!

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I’m a voracious reader and podcast listener, and this could be a very long list!

Two books, however, have had a massive impact on my life as an entrepreneur: The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks and The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.

The Untethered Soul taught me how to quiet my mind so I could let inspiration or “divine downloads” be my guide. So now, rather than “to-do” lists, I have “intentions lists” guided by the inspirations I get in my morning meditation. I learned how to focus much less on the doing or the “how” and instead the result I wanted to manifest. That opened the door to seeing new paths to get to where I wanted to be. Each day I orient myself to the inspired actions that have the highest impact and leverage, and then my focus becomes massive action on those items.

The Big Leap taught me that we all have “upper limits”, that is what our subconscious minds tell us is possible for us. We know our upper limits when we get close to achieving something and then self-sabotage in some way, or when we succeed at one thing and suddenly have something else go wrong in another area of our lives. I learned from this a focus on clearing those limitations from my own mind, quieting that “inner bully” voice, and daring to live into my dreams. When I come up against an obstacle, my reaction is now one of curiosity and compassion: What is the lesson, and what is subconscious belief that I can let go of.

I always joke that if you want therapy, simply become an entrepreneur because to succeed in building a successful enterprise, particularly a disruptive one, you must let go of a lot of subconscious drivers that limit our dreams and execution of those dreams.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When the lesson is learned, the experience is no longer necessary”

All you have to do is look at someone’s circumstance to know what they truly believe in their subconscious. We are all driven by the stories and beliefs we’ve concocted as small children, and we need to release these limiting blocks from our subconscious to succeed. I have learned over the years that whenever I’ve been “triggered” by something and felt emotions of anger, fear, anxiety or sadness, it is an opportunity to release the belief that attracted those feelings. I simply let it go. There are profound lessons in each of these experiences, something a situation or a challenge is showing us about ourselves. Use these challenges, failures, blocks as lessons and again, when the lesson is learned, the experience is no longer necessary.” Success is all about mindset.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Podopolo! At Podopolo we are committed to donating or investing 10% of our earnings each year to charities and mission-driven / minority-owned businesses doing good for the world. And in our gamification engine on the Podopolo app, we also feature quests and challenges that address the UN Global Goals and issues like racial and LGTBQ diversity and women’s empowerment and encourage podcasters to engage their listeners around such activities. We are a media company — and more than that we are a “consciousness company” and we believe entrepreneurs have the power and responsibility to use their businesses for social good.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://wingspodcast.com/itunes
https://linkedin.com/in/melindawittstock
https://facebook.com/IAmMelindaWittstock
https://facebook.com/PodopoloNetwork
https://instagram.com/MelindaWittstock2020
https://instagram.com/Podopolo
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