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Luminary gets new CEO, raises more money

Amidst on-going leadership change

The development was announced earlier this morning, via Variety. Matt Sacks, who founded the company, will now serve as Executive Chairman, and taking up the CEO role will be Simon Sutton, most prominently the former President and Chief Revenue Officer of HBO between 2016 and 2019. As Deadline notes, Sutton was part of the HBO exec team that departed the company following AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. (Deadline: “Sutton’s role reportedly became redundant when WarnerMedia recently named Turner’s Gerhard Zeiler as chief revenue officer.”) Background on that situation can be gleaned from this summer 2018 New York Times write-up.

Anyway, the company has already raised a $30 million Series C, which adds to the estimated $100 million that’s already been extracted. The official press release states that the Series C funds come from “new and existing investors.” Existing investors, by the way, includes Sinai Ventures and, more pertinently, New Enterprise Associates. (Note that Sacks worked at NEA prior to creating Luminary.) I asked the press contact if they will disclose who the new investors are. They declined to comment.

Sutton’s appointment seems to be part of big on-going changes in leadership. Earlier this month, The Verge reported that Luminaries co-founder Joe Purzycki had stepped down from the company earlier this year, with former VP of Product and Technology Jeff Saunders coming in as Chief Product Officer. (I later pegged Purzycki’s departure to this past August.)

The fundamental question, obviously: does any of this matter? Particularly given the company’s rough and community-rankling roll-out, and whatever appears to be its general lack of traction. (Or so it seems on the outside anyway.) I asked the press contact if they were willing to disclose information on the company’s current listenership or paid subscriber numbers. They also declined to comment.

In case you’re new to the scene: Luminary, which officially launched back in the first quarter of this year, was supposed to be the first big swing at the question “will people pay for a paid podcast platform?” (No disrespect to Stitcher Premium.) But the actual pursuit of that question, I think, has become little waylaid, as the company instead, and rightfully, became a flashpoint for debate, anxiety, and criticism over the increasing involvement of big money, venture capital, and corporate interests in podcasting.

Not that my personal tastes or experiences matter, but Luminary hasn’t really factored into my own listening. I’ve only bumped around in the app to check out The Ringer’s limited-run series on the Seattle Supersonics, but that’s only because I’m a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder. (I miss you, Russ.)