CastDex

Castdex is a podcasting search engine developed by Madison entrepreneur Matt Lea.

PHOTO BY ERIK LORENZSONN

There’s no shortage of podcasting software available 2017. There are apps for listening to podcasts, tools for discovering podcasts, even an online database for the historic preservation of podcasts.

One Madison entrepreneur is taking a less-traversed route. He’s made a search engine for podcasts.

Most podcast-listening tools, from iTunes to Stitcher, have search fields for podcasts. But Matt Lea said he’s found them to be lacking.

“I listened to podcasts a lot, and I didn’t find anything that I thought really did the trick,” he said.

Search for “dogs” using Lea’s tool, called Castdex, and the returns won’t just include shows with “dogs” in the title, or episode names featuring the word “dogs.” CastDex gets granular. It scrubs through the actual words spoken on any given podcast episode. If a podcaster has uttered the word “dogs” on a show, that episode will pop up as a hit.

Results come with a 15-second clip featuring the exact point at which those very words are spoken.

“If (a podcaster) is going to talk for five minutes about a topic, I didn’t want to sift through an hour long thing to find it,” explained Lea.

Lea acknowledged the tool still has “rough edges.” It currently exists as a tech demo, something to serve as a proof of concept. While you can use it, it does not yet return a representative slice of the tens of thousands of active podcasts currently being published.

Lea said the project of building software that melds voice recognition technology with a search engine has been a hefty one.

“There’s a lot of trial and error,” he said.

Lea described himself as an avid consumer of podcasts, particularly business-centric shows like BiggerPockets and the The Tim Feriss Show. He’s also someone with a broad and multifaceted resume. He has worked at tech companies in Madison like Broadjam, a music licensing and web hosting platform, to Snowshoe, a company that made small stamps that could interface with smartphones for authentication purposes. He’s worked as a consultant in the realm of “Internet of Things,” tech involving physical gadgets like FitBits that can connect to wireless networks. He’s also a gymnastics coach and hosts a podcast on the topic.

Now, he said, developing Castdex is becoming his fulltime job.

“It has definitely become my main focus. It is no longer a side project,” he said. “We’ve got plans for the future.”

The podcasting industry is one that’s increasingly well-funded. The podcasting network Gimlet Media, for example, has raised $28.5 million in venture capital. Lea said he’s discussed his project with out-of-state venture capitalists, although for now the project will remain bootstrapped.

Lea said he could potentially see Castdex as a tool that companies might incorporate into their podcast-listening software as a “discovery” mechanism. Based on the types of shows a user listens to, Castdex could harness its searching capabilities to suggest other shows they might be into.

“Do I think it’s going to be a billion dollar company overnight? No,” Lea said, regarding Castdex’s prospects. “I think it’s going to be sustainable.”

Erik Lorenzsonn is the Capital Times' tech and culture reporter. He joined the team in 2016, after having served as an online editor for Wisconsin Public Radio and having written for publications like The Progressive Magazine and The Poughkeepsie Journal.