August 18, 2020

1983 words 10 mins read

Interview with Jo Webber Podio

Interview with Jo Webber Podio

Today’s interview is with Jo Webber, the CEO and founder of, a startup which has developed an app to help people connect with others over shared interests. Jo told us why, in a world full of social networking apps, why is necessary, how it’s different, and how the company is approaching a launch during a global pandemic.

What is

Jo Webber: Why we created Pod, was we’ve look

at sites like Facebook, which has really taken off with friends and family, and helped them communicate online. It does a fine job at that, and as you know many people around the world use Facebook to communicate with family and friends who are far apart. However, if you want to meet new people through Facebook, it’s very difficult. We’ve created a social media platform which helps you meet new people, and we’re also very focused on privacy, and don’t sell your data, don’t spy on you, but provide an environment where you can meet other people based on shared interests and shared locations.

What’s your background and how did you start the company?

Jo Webber: I am originally from the UK, but I am loving life in Southern California. I joke that the number one import to Southern California is a Brit, because there are quite a few of us here. The land and the weather is very favorable for us. This is the fifth company I’ve run as a CEO, and I’ve always thought that technology is about making complex problems simpler. I’ve run a number of other technology companies where software was used to solve a problem, and I felt the time was right to solve this issue and help the world connect better, to help people create meaningful connections, and to help them expand their network and meet people to enrich their lives.

How is the company funded?

Jo Webber: We’ve done a seed round of $5M, which we raised earlier in 2020. That was a little bit of a feat in itself, given everything that’s gone on this year. We’ve used that funding to product our app, which is based on React Native, which allows us to simultaneously develop and release on both iOS and Android. That’s proving very useful for our design. We are heavily standardized on AWS, and are using a lot of AWS technology, including the database, Elastic Search. We’re using Google Maps for our GPS component. With the money we’ve raised this year, we did that and also made an acquisition earlier this year, acquiring a company called STEMconnector, which has a component called Million Women Mentors, a movement around creating mentoring relationships mostly among women, but not exclusively, adult mentors and girls and women, to help encourage them to pursue a career in STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I have a STEM degree, a Ph.D. In physics, and I look at America, the land of Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft, and all these big tech companies here, all the leading technology companies in the world, and see that science, technology, engineering, and math is incredibly important to this country and our economy. There is something like $2.7 trillion in federal tax revenues from STEM generating businesses. What STEMconnector does, is help to connect and network STEM interested individuals in the United States, and also around the world. Million Women Mentors has a network of both women and men, helping underrepresented women pursue careers in STEM and STEM related fields.

It’s interesting to hear you have a Ph.D, which is somewhat unusual for an entrepreneur. How did you make the transition from academics to become an entrepeneur?

Jo Webber: It’s been a whole lot of time since I was in quantum physics in the UK! I could actually see then that it was a very academic life, particularly in physics. There are not a lot of practical applications. Even as a young person, I saw that I was never going to stay in the world of academia, and although I admire people there it was not my journey. While I was doing my Ph.D., I was running a VAX4300. Your readers are probably too young to remember those, but it was one of the early computers, and my university gave me a whole VAX, because of the calculations I was doing. I ended up getting access to a Cray supercomputer in London, and got lucky, because the company that gave that computer technology to my university saw I was one of the few people using their computers heavily, and then asked me if I’d like to travel all over the world for them, helping to work on that technology in Italy, America, and other places, and also told me they’d pay me a lot of money. They kind of had me at going to Italy and America, and I would have gone even if they didn’t pay me, so that was even better. That company is now known as Thermo Fisher, which is one of the leading analytical instrument companies in the world. It was a tremendous place for me to start my career, and helped foster my entrepreneurial spirit. I am very grateful to Thermo Fisher for being the first company I worked for.

Switching back to the company now, how have you handled things with the pandemic-we imagine connecting people when people aren’t meeting is difficult?

Jo Webber: Around April, I was sitting down and running a company whose mission statement was to bring people together, and we were entering a pandemic that we had never seen before. It was everything about staying apart, while our company was about bringing people together. For a bit, we thought, we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’ve realized now, is that if you look at now, the whole of humanity is now connected, all together, in this fight against an existential threat, united behind a common enemy as a planet. In these times, people are turning to technology like POD< to help them build and maintain and connect together as humans. As several people have said, during this pandemic, it’s not the material things we are missing, it’s that we’re missing our friends, our connections, our colleagues, the excitement of going to a bar and talking to other human beings. That’s the challenge for us, because it’s a very basic, human need. Although POD can’t completely replace that, we’re allowing people to connect, to meet each other, and form relationships, and stay connected, so that once the world opens up again, hopefully late next year, we’ll be perfectly placed to get together in small group settings and help to start re-establishing those physical connections, which are so important for us.

Finally, what’s next for the company?

Jo Webber: It’s one of those really cool things. With our acquisition of the STEMConnector group, you are going to see POD’s technology expand. Five million people are using POD right now, and we expect we’ll see much more great growth next year, particularly in the STEM field, as students at universities comes on board. This allows them to connect with other, like-minded students around the world. We are seeing the Million Women Mentor’s movement using POD to stay connected, and to help them find people with similar interests and passions. The really big news during this time, as we focus less on physically meeting, is a big focus on helping people find each other, and making connections, and staying in touch.


Date: 2020-11-13


Pacific Defense Acquires Spear Research (2020-11-06) El Segundo-based Pacific Defense which is backed by private equity investors Emerald Lake Capital Management and HCI Equity Partners has acquired New Hamphire-based Spear Research Financial terms of the acquisition were not announced According to Pacific Defense the acquisition will add a team of engineers with core competencies in RF engineering advanced signal processing autonomous command and c..
Newegg Teams For Charity Donations (2020-11-19) Los Angeles-based online electronics retailer Newegg is teaming up with a group to make it easier for people to donate their gently used items to charity According to Newegg it has launched a partnership with Give Back Box so that its customers can repack their Newegg shipping boxes with household products they no longer need and ship them to a local charity free of charge The new program allows N..
Report: Bird Considers Going Public Via SPAC (2020-11-16) Santa Monica-based on-demand last mile transportation company Bird is considering going public via a Special Purpose Acquisiton Company SPAC according to a report from Bloomberg Its unclear how far along the SPAC might be however Bloomberg said the discussions are in an early stage Entering public markets by bypassing an initial public offering IPO and instead using a SPAC has been very popular wi..
Trust & Will Takes $15M More In Series B (2020-11-17) San Diego-based Trust & Will which operates an online estate planning service has raised $15M in a Series B funding round the company said on Tuesday The round was led by Jackson Square Ventures and also included Fifth Third Capital Holdings Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures AARP Rosecliff Ventures Hack VC Actium Partners and Noah Kerner CEO at Acorns & Jeff Cruttenden Cofounder at Say Acorns an..
Faraday Future Joins New Electric Vehicle Group (2020-11-25) Los Angeles-based electric vehicle manufacturer Faraday Future has joined as the founding member of a new group that is looking to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles According to Faraday Future it has joined the Zero Emission Transportation Association ZETA as a founding member joining 29 other companies as part of the new group which is pushing for 100 percent electric vehicle sales b..
ThinkIQ Connects With $11.6M (2020-10-20) Aliso Viejo-based software developer ThinkIQ which is developing software for the manufacturing industry said today that it has raised $116M in its Series A funding round The funding was led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund EIF and also included Hitachi Ventures and ArcTern Ventures The company says it is developing a digital manufacturing platform which manufacturers use for material traceability and ..
AECOM Sells Power Construction Business To Private Equity Investor (2020-10-16) Los Angeles-based construction giant AECOM announced this morning that it is selling off its Power construction business to affiliates of CriticalPoint Capital LLC Financial details of the deal were not announced The company said the sale is part of an effort to transform itself into a higher-margin lower-risk professional services business AECOM said it was advised by Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz..
Relativity Space Raising $500M, Says Report (2020-11-17) Los Angeles-based printed rocket technology developer Relativity Space is in the midst of raising $500M in a funding round which values the company at $23 billion according to a report today from CNBC The report–citing people familiar with the financing–says that so far investors such as Tiger Global Social Capital Playground Global Y Combinator Bond Capital Tribe Capital Jared Leto and Mark Cub..
SpaceX Puts Another 60 Satellites Into Space (2020-10-19) Hawthorne-based SpaceX put yet another 60 satellites for its Starlink system into space on Sunday using a Falcon 9 first stage which was previously used to launch the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station SpaceXs launch occurred at 8:25 am EDT from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida The company said that Falcon 9 in addition to supporting the Crew Dragon demonstration m..
Esri Rolls Out New Tool For Improving Coastal Water Quality (2020-11-05) Redland-based GIS software giant Esri announced this week that it has rolled out a new free and open tool it says helps countries monitor their coastal water quality The company said its new tool is being released in partnership with the United Nationas and GEO Blue The company says the tools can be used to help guide policy and reduce pollution from land sources Esri said the tool helps analyze a..