Our Investment in Podia — An Interview with Spencer Fry

Today, Podia is coming out of private beta, and we’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Spencer Fry and his team. Education has been an important area of focus for Notation Capital in the past year, particularly the unbundling of the supplemental education ecosystem. Tutors, more than ever, have the opportunity to build independent businesses outside the traditional brick and mortar test prep behemoths like Kaplan or Princeton Review. Podia is a set of single-player tools as well as a platform and marketplace that will help these educators (and soon freelancers of all shapes and sizes) build toward a more independent future. We’re thrilled to be along for the ride.

Spencer Fry — CEO, Podia

What is Podia’s mission?

We built Podia to make working independently easier. As an entrepreneur, I know how rewarding it can be to invest in your own business, and I wanted to give other independent professionals the same opportunity. While we’re currently focused on tutors, our end goal is to become the go-to platform for any freelancer or independent professional who’s looking to manage, market and ultimately, grow their business.

What are the key moments in your life that led you to start this company now?

The biggest inspiration for me was my four years at Carbonmade. At Carbonmade, we helped artists and designers make careers and lives for themselves and it was very rewarding. As an entrepreneur my entire life, it’s an amazing feeling to help other people go out on their own and build their businesses. I’ve helped hundreds of people make the transition from employee to entrepreneur and helped guide them through the ups and downs. I believe that I’m in a unique position as a product designer to help people manage, market and grow their businesses, and I’m excited about the good we’ll be doing at Podia.

What’s the most important thing you learned having previously founded a company? And why the hell would you want to do it again?

There are many important things that I’ve learned since founding my previous companies. One thing I learned at Carbonmade is to “always stay on brand.” You don’t get any do overs with your own brand.

Another point I’ve been making for years (and everyone is saying this now) is that sales and marketing are everything. Great product, engineering, and design is commonplace nowadays and won’t get you anywhere without excellent marketing and sales. Ev Williams talked about this in a recent blog post.

Podia is actually my fourth startup. My previous three are TypeFrag, Carbonmade, and Uncover. I honestly don’t know anything else other than building businesses on the Web dating back to early experiments I made as a teenager in the mid-to-late nineties. I’ve never had a paycheck from anyone other than myself and to me it’s the freest way to live. Everything is riding on your shoulders, but at the same time you can build the company that you want to work for.

What’s it like being a solo founder?

For all of my previous startups, I had co-founders, but at this stage of my life and career, I felt confident enough to start Podia on my own. It’s stressful at times, but no more than having a co-founder would be. I rely on my employees more than I might with a co-founder, but I actually think that’s a good thing especially at an early stage startup. Everyone is given autonomy over their work and we all have complete trust in each other.