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Welcome back to Who Are These Startups. Podcast shorts featuring founders of Canadian startups, hosted by the Startup Coach. This episode features uCast with Rand Abous Ras.
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Short Startup Interviews with Canadian Founders
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uCast on Who Are These Startups Transcript (Automated)
Startup Coach: Welcome to who are these startups podcast shorts, featuring founder interviews of Canadian startups. Welcome back to who are these startups? I’m your host. The founder of Toronto starts one of the largest startup communities in Canada. And with me today is Rand of uCast welcome Rand.
Rand Abou Ras: I’m doing great.
Startup Coach: Let’s jump right into it. What does uCast do?
Rand Abou Ras: So we are a marketplace and ad management platform that helps connect podcasters and brands who want to advertise on audio platforms. And we do all host read ads and our main revenue stream is through CPM and CPA campaigns.
Startup Coach: What is uCast startup story?
Rand Abou Ras: I started podcasting a really long time ago. I started, when I moved to Canada, I started getting featured on platforms like globe and mail CBC, a lot of other, you know, Toronto news outlets. And the title was always no Syrian refugee does this or Syrian refugee does that? It was tokenizing. I really didn’t like the way it was portrayed. I actually tried taking the stories down.
They wouldn’t agree. They said to you. No, this is the story that we got, and this is the headline that we’re running with. Take it or leave it. And so the first time I went on a, actually on a CBC based podcast called fresh air to talk about it. And that was like the first, the first exposure to podcasting that I ever got.
And then. We really liked it. I started podcasting on my own. It was just as a hobby. I’m really nothing serious. Um, but when you’re in podcasting, you very quickly understand the, the, the, the setbacks of the podcasting world or the industry. So I started doing these different product mock ups, cause I have a product design background or user experience design background.
And so I would create these like different product mock-ups and these are flows and I would post them on Reddit. Discord podcasting communities. And I would just let people, you know, vote for whichever solution they like. And eventually the idea of podcast monetization for the long tail was the one that everybody was interested in.
So I said, Hey, let’s, let’s try doing it. I contacted a very good friend of mine. Who’s a software engineer. His name is Daniel Martinovich and he’s now my co-founder and we started building EUCAST and, uh, that’s how we started.
Startup Coach: What drives you?
Rand Abou Ras: Honestly, my love for product more than anything, a lot of people, you know, have that, that passion about their startup.
Uh, but to me, it’s my passion for, for product, really, for innovation, for creativity. Um, my ability to just wake up in the morning, talk to customers, understand what, you know, what, what is, what is their setbacks? What is their pain points? And being able to design that process to me that. I love doing that more than anything.
So yeah, that’s what drives me.
Startup Coach: How do you define success?
Rand Abou Ras: Honestly, I define success by your failures and I’ll, I’ll explain what that means. So, you know, if you’ve, if you’ve had somewhat of a successful life, but your entire life has been. Quote unquote successful. It is very difficult for you to perceive success because you’ve never had that failure or setback for you to understand, you know, the equivalent of success because, you know, they say for you to be, to be happy, you need to experience sadness.
Otherwise happiness is not happiness, or you can not understand really what happiness is. And I take. The same as success, you know, it depends on your failures depending on your failures and how you’ve come out of it really, you perceive success differently. So for us, for example, we came to Canada and we have the Syrian passport and the Syrian passport is a terrible passport to, to, to have.
And so we just got our Canadian citizenship. And like, to me, that is one of the biggest successes that we can have as a family because now, you know, we have freedom, we have a government that protects us, but someone’s Canadian passport might not be their success. Right. So to me, it’s really, it’s defined by your failures or your setbacks.
Startup Coach: What is your business model?
Rand Abou Ras: Our business model. Three tiered model. We do GMV through the marketplace. So transaction fees, we do a flat fee to create CPA campaigns for companies. And then we do subscription models to help podcasts whether as an entrepreneur solution or as a professional solution to build their podcasts and build engaged communities on it.
Startup Coach: What is your funding situation?
Rand Abou Ras: We have been bootstrapped the entire time. We have been really great at winning grants and pitch competition. So luckily we collected over $30,000 through that started EUCAST and uh, now we’re eligible for another $25,000. So we thought why, you know, delete ourselves when we technically got her like age 11.
And so right now, we’re just using that money to hire. And then we want to start our proceeds of very soon, we actually tried starting our proceeds, uh, but very quickly learned that we’re not really there yet for VCs. Um, so we decided to take a step back, look at non-dilutive funding and, uh, continue with, with, with our current state.
Startup Coach: What do you wish you knew before you started?
Rand Abou Ras: Don’t focus too much on competitors and don’t focus too much on what VCs say? I feel like one of the biggest advice I would give another founder is forget about your competitors. Understand if someone’s building the same solution as you. But I feel like when you get too involved in what your competitors are doing, you start creating the same processes as your competitors.
And I found that with ourselves, Instead of coming up with like, you know, a creative solution. I would be looking at pods core and their gumball, and then I’d look at their solutions. And like in my head I would be copying it or like trying to create the same user flow. And I found that to be such a big mistake.
And it took me a while to get out of my head to understand the problem from like trying from an innovative or creative practice. Um, and just not get too stuck on what my competitors are doing. So just understand if someone has built your solution, but I think that’s like the most you need to go into when you’re that early in a startup.
And then the second thing is, you know, VCs don’t know at all. I used to get so hung up on what a investor would tell me to a point where I would just like redesign everything and change our model and everything. And at one point in our advisor said, listen, and you need. You know, shut up and listen to me.
You cannot change your business every time an investor does not like it. And that took me a while also to, to wrap my head around, especially when someone’s so important, it tells you, oh, your business is not good enough for me.
Startup Coach: The biggest lesson in pitching your startup?
Rand Abou Ras: Don’t talk about the product. Don’t go into the details. Don’t talk about the product too much, especially when you’re in love with it. Just keep it high level. Talk about your story. What makes you qualified? Make sure that everything is very cohesive and very interesting as well. What’s your favorite productivity hack? Chico. Just put everything in the Chico when you’re waking up.
When you’re sleeping, when you’re having lunch, when are you going to call clients? When do you have team meetings? Just everything has to be organized.
Startup Coach: So I’m old school. So that’s Google calendar. Okay, Google calendar or whatever calendar you use.
What Canadian startup resources have been the most helpful to you?
Rand Abou Ras: I would say subsidies to hire people. I think those saved us so much. Do you have any tips for. My biggest tip is just stop planning, start doing, I think that’s the tip everybody gives when they go into entrepreneurship. Before I started uCast I was stuck in the planning phase for a year, and I was just like trying to find, you know, different problems to solve.
I would design, I would. Plan plan and plan. And it wasn’t until I just called up my co-founder and said, Hey, let’s start doing this. That the bull actually started rolling. And so of course I plan things, but I don’t stuck. And I don’t get myself stuck in the planning phase for more than two days. Um, or else that would like become a red flag and it would stagnate our operations to just don’t get stuck in the planning phase.
Just do it. If it fails, that’s fine. Test something else. And that’s the entire concept of failing fast rather than. Planning for years and then failing at it.
Startup Coach: What’s one book. Every founder should read.
Rand Abou Ras: There’s a lot of books that I think every founder should read. Of course, like the lean startup, the business model.
Those are like the most basic ones that every entrepreneur should read before they go into entrepreneurship. But then others about like company culture, about leadership, even about psychology that I think people should. Read, but the one that I recommend most is actually trauma of the gifts or the drama of the gifted child.
And it’s more of a self-reflection book than it is anything else. And it tells you a lot about your style and leadership, how you respond to people, how you lead, why you do the things you do. And I think it’s very important for you as a founder to understand. A lot about yourself before you try to get people to do things.
Because if you don’t know your own behaviors, if you don’t know your own reactions, I think that’s going to translate very terribly to the team. So to me, it’s all about doing that in their work. Before you actually try to, to run a team,
Startup Coach: where can our listeners connect with you? And uCast online?
Rand Abou Ras: Twitter is the best place to reach me. I’m very active on there. I’m always posting, but also LinkedIn, if people prefer LinkedIn, um, or my. Directly
Startup Coach: I really appreciate you taking the time to be on who are these startups?
Rand Abou Ras: Thank you so much, Craig. It’s always a pleasure.
Startup Coach: This has been who are these startups find out more at who are the startups.com and check out our live events at torontostarts.com slash events.