Startups

This Maryland founder created an AI-based personal listening experience

After spending tons of time driving back and forth between home and work, founder Mark McMahon created a startup that builds a curated listening experience for users.

Mark McMahon, CEO and cofounder of AudioOne Inc.

(Courtesy photo)

Founder Mark McMahon’s startup journey began in a place that, for him, was like a second home: his car.

A few years back, he moved from Montgomery County, Maryland to Howard County, but his work didn’t move with him. With the constant driving back and forth, naturally, he got tired of the radio, news and podcasts coming his way.

“I said, ‘Look, there’s got to be a better way,'” McMahon told Technical.ly. “I’m literally in the car for three to four hours [a day], and when I got home, I couldn’t catch up on the reading I was supposed to do or the industry news or any of that.”

In April of last year, he decided to solve his own problem. McMahon is the founder of AudioOne, an audio-first platform that converts written news stories (yes, like this one) into an audio format. Once in audio form, the platform lets users search what they want to listen to by topic or category, using AI to help them find new and similar content.

The idea, according to McMahon, is to make an entirely customizable listening experience, as opposed to searching a specific category of podcasts and then having to switch over to a new genre or news hour. Drawing from a user’s selected categories, the platform — which is built with a mix of Javascript, AWS Amplify and more — sends a personalized newsletter with news articles, podcast episodes and other audio products up to three times a day.

“I just think everybody’s looking for ways to save time and gain knowledge to occupy what I call ‘dead time,'” McMahon said.

He’s also working to add another capability based on his own childhood experience of being a “CliffsNotes kid.” AudioOne is developing an option called “shorts,” where it takes can take something like a 45-minute episode and get it down to four minutes. It’s aimed at users who either want to try out an episode before committing to the whole thing or don’t have time for the full production.

Earlier this month, the startup, which had been entirely bootstrapped, landed a $150,000 investment from Maryland funding agency TEDCO. To qualify for the funding, McMahon and cofounder Antonio Bray added a B2B capability on the site that allows newsletter writers and producers to turn their writing into an audio product. Essentially, McMahon said, it lets newsletter creators make a mini podcast out of their newsletter, with the capacity to add music or other voices (or produce it themselves if they’d like). After conversion, the newsletter would be sent out through AudioOne.

Advertisement

For listening, the team layered podcasting apps like Spotify into the platform, so the streaming service will recognize the AudioOne podcast. What it’s lacking at the moment, according to McMahon, is a native app for mobile listening. While it’s currently mobile-friendly, it still exists as a web app.

He also wants to partner with more curators and news delivery platforms to use AudioOne. The startup is additionally looking to work with groups that focus on English as a second language, as well as entities that serve people with dyslexia and other learning conditions, to see how the service can help.

But really, he hopes that AudioOne can be an asset to all ears.

“We’re all trying to be entertained in some way, shape or form,” McMahon said. “I’m hoping to make that entertainment more of a learning process.”

Companies: TEDCO
-30-
Subscribe to our Newsletters
Technically Media
Connect with companies from the Technical.ly community
New call-to-action

Advertisement