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Oskar Serrander

Oskar Serrander

· Time to read: ~8 min

This interview was first in the Podcast Business Journal newsletter, with the latest podcast news and data. Subscribe free today.

Oskar Serrander is the co-founder of Wondercraft, and former COO of Acast — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability

Sam Sethi interviewed Oskar for the Podnews Weekly Review, where you can hear a longer version of this interview. Wondercraft’s $3mn funding round was announced earlier this week.

OS: Wondercraft is the audio studio for creators: the easy and enjoyable way to create professional studio quality audio for all your projects, whether that’s podcasts, audio books, audio ads or company communications, and then effortlessly be able to translate that content into any language for a global audience. And it all happens in one place, which right now is a web application on the Wondercraft website.

SS: So - I go into WonderCraft, I type out what I want, and then it translates that into a voice and a foreign language, or do I speak it and then have it dub it over into a foreign language?

OS: One module lets you generate a podcast script or ad copy or anything from different inputs. It could be an image that you received from an advertiser, for instance, that haven’t worked in audio before. You can upload that image and it turns it into a podcast host read. You can upload a creative brief PDF, or you can start a template that lets you fill in all the messaging points that you want for your ad. Or you can link to a website to start a podcast. Maybe you have a company blog that’s sitting around that no one really pays much attention to, but you can turn that into a podcast very easily.

The second module is the translation and dubbing, so you can take any of your projects and localize those for a more of a global audience. 80% of the world doesn’t speak English, so this is a fantastic way to kind of grow your content and, again, a big mission for us is to help creators expand in many ways. You can basically turn it into any major language out there. We use different AI technologies to get it as far as we can, but then we also we have over 100 translation expert translators - we have created a process where we hire them for projects that are coming in and then they sit in an interface to really fine tune the translation to make it really local.

So if you are in Mexico City, you want to make sure that your British podcast that is dubbed into Mexican Spanish really resonates with that local audience, and so forth. We’re doing this in fifteen languages now and we work with a lot of big creators like Steven Bartlett and Ali Abdaal, who has 5 million subscribers on YouTube, translating his book into six languages including Hindi and Arabic - and it’s all in his own voice.

SS: Let’s talk about two of the investors, ElevenLabs and Stephen Bartlett. Did you approach them? Did they approach you? How did that relationship occur?

OS: The relationship started with our entry into dubbing and working with languages for creators, and Stephen is very much in the forefront of this. He is an incredible innovator in his space, so we’re privileged to really work with him early on, pioneering this and making sure that the technology worked, it sounded good, and his voice was intact - but also getting the workflow of it right. We really want this to scale. We want to make this available to any creator and podcaster at a price point that actually works.

This professional translation and dubbing costs thousands of dollars per hour, but now we’re in a place where we can get that down to just hundreds of dollars depending on the scope of the project and length. Stephen was very keen on that and obviously had a tremendous growth on his YouTube channel and his podcast. I think it’s one of the fastest growing in the world and I think that speaks volume for his ambition with that and how he’s looking at worldwide distribution and not only looking at English as one language.

MrBeast was quite early with dubbing his content into more languages and his subscriptions skyrocketed for it, and I think that’s a great kind of case study here - but not everyone has MrBeast funds to do it, so this provides a more approachable and accessible option for any creator or publisher out there.

SS: Yeah, I read Stephen Bartlett’s girlfriend’s Spanish and when he had the podcast dubbed into Spanish, he was super happy because his future in-laws could now hear what he was doing. They didn’t understand English, and when they got the Spanish version, they were very pleased. So, yes, congratulations for that.

OS: It’s something I’m very passionate about. I mean, everyone in our company is bilingual, at least. We’re from various different backgrounds. I was born and raised in Sweden and if you didn’t learn English, you only had a population of 10 million to really deal with. So there’s something about breaking down those language barriers that makes it really interesting.

We did a project with a Dutch publisher, and I don’t speak Dutch. I can probably pick up a word every 10 or so, but really listening to and understanding what they’re talking about felt a little bit magical in a way, and - not to be too aspirational here, but I think that’s really beautiful, and I think that will lead to us understanding at each other a little bit more.

SS: You’ve got a really good example podcast called Hacker News Recap. How did you make it - and why?

OS: This was Dimitris [Nikolaou] and Youssef [Rizk] and it was a fantastic part of the first version of what they created back in May last year. Coming out of Y Combinator, Hacker News was obviously near and dear to them and they used that as a case study to create a listening experience that really worked and it blew up. It became a bit of a viral success. We were happy now in December to see on a lot of people posted their Spotify wrapped and Hacker News recap was there. Basically what it does - and anyone can do this using Wondercraft - you can use one of our templates that’s called a daily news rundown. You can select a couple of articles that you want. In this case, we take the 10 most red articles on Hacker News every day and that’s it. The AI will then transform that into a podcast. You can decide if it’s one host or two talking about it, and it just creates a lovely experience where it’s read through in a voice that you don’t want to turn off. That’s where the technology is now. It’s really good. It’s been a great case study and a validation of the listening experience and I think that was very important when we got started. If that isn’t there, we’re not going to be able to do this.

SS: You went to Spotify, then you went to iHeart, and then you were COO of Acast, through an IPO. Wasn’t that enough? Didn’t you want to just put your feet up and go to a beach, somewhere?

OS: That was actually what I was trying to do when I left Acast! I thought I was going to take a long break. After four weeks, I was done. I’m not good at not working, and I started to miss it a lot. When I met my co-founders, it was kind of a sign from above that I needed to get into it.

SS: Let’s look forward to the future of Wondercraft. Where do you see it going? I mean, what you’ve described so far is the creation of audio. Would you go as far as doing what Descript does and ingest audio to allow you to edit it and then promote it?

OS: I think now it’s most important for us to invite more people into the process of working with audio. There’s so many great writers out there, so many great authors who are so clever in their language, and I want them to discover Wondercraft and start exploring audio.

SS: My wife’s a director for six large companies. The amount of board-papers she gets as PDFs - if you could convert all of those to audio so that she can be down the gym listening to them, rather than sat in front of the screen reading them, she would love you, I promise you that!

OS: That’s a kind of the beautiful use-cases that we’re looking forward to! We’re speaking to a lot of big companies, and everyone’s looking for kind of more operational efficiencies. I think dubbing into new languages is a new exploration for publishers to see if they can grow their content much faster, find new audiences to then turn on whatever monetization they’re on, subscriptions or advertising for ad sales teams, and brand partnerships Very excited about that.

SS: Where can people meet you?

OS: I’m going to be in LA for Evolutions by Podcast Movement; I’ll be at South by Southwest as well, and I’ll definitely come to London. Anyone who’s open to it, please reach out - I’m happy to say hi to everyone.

SS: Well, we’ll take you for a beer in LA.

OS: I love that. Thank you so much, Sam. Thank you so much for having me.

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