Photo courtesy of Michael Mignano | Artwork by Joy Smoker
October 17, 2022
University of Delaware alumnus Michael Mignano was the co-founder of Anchor, a podcasting software platform launched in 2016 and acquired by Spotify in 2019 for more than $100 million. Until he left the company earlier in 2022, Mignano led Spotify’s podcasts, live audio and video businesses and oversaw the introduction of features allowing users to directly create and edit podcasts. in the app.
As part of UD’s Homecoming 2022, Mignano will deliver the Department of Computing and Information Science Distinguished Lecture on Friday, October 21 at Mitchell Hall. The entrepreneur and venture capitalist will share with the UD community his career journey and what could be next. The conference is a free, in-person event scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. and registration is required on the UD Homecoming events website.
Ahead of the event, Mignano shared what inspired him to study computer science, what motivated him to create Anchor, and what the future holds for podcasts and audio broadcasting. The Department of Computing and Information Science is part of UD’s College of Engineering.
Q: Why did you decide to study computer science when you arrived at UD?
Mignano: Growing up, I had two fundamental passions, music and technology. When it came time to go to college, it was the start of this new technological era – the internet had just taken shape and I wanted to be part of it.
It was a tough choice between music and computer science, but I had heard good things about UD’s computer science program and thought it was a great opportunity.
Q: What was audio broadcasting like in 2005 when you graduated, and what role did Anchor play in changing that medium?
Mignano: The iPod, which was still relatively new when I graduated, introduced a new audio format known as podcasts, where people could download radio shows the same way you could download a music file . But back then, the only people who could create and distribute podcasts were broadcasters because of the equipment, software, and technical know-how needed.
When Nir Zicherman and I were building Anchor, we felt voice was a powerful form of communication. While the Internet is full of text messages on platforms like Twitter or Facebook, audio broadcasting can convey more information, emotion and civility. This allows for healthy discourse and debate that can get lost in the text.
But because the people who had something to say lacked the necessary tools – such as expensive microphones, editing software and the means of distribution – they couldn’t communicate using this rich medium. That was our inspiration for Anchor – democratizing the creative process for conversational audio.
Now anyone can share their voice – not just their opinions on a topic, but their real voice – in a way that allows us to engage in real, healthy, and human conversations. It was a big change, and part of the reason podcasts are so popular is because they fill that void in today’s information age.
Q: What does the future of podcasts look like?
Mignano: The natural evolution of the Internet over the past 20 years has taught us that as tools become easier to use and the capabilities of those tools become more powerful, creativity becomes more and more democratized. With audio, it’s going to be easier and easier to deliver voice, and I’m really interested in seeing the creativity that’s unleashed when people have better access to new tools.
I will also be curious to see how AI will allow people to be even more creative. Right now there’s an explosion of new AI-enabled platforms like Dall-E2 that make it easy for anyone to generate awesome images, so it’s hard not to imagine how AI will find its way. path to audio streaming.
But with new technologies, there will always be both opportunities and dangers, and with things like AI, we need to both foster innovation while protecting ourselves from pitfalls.
Q: How has studying computer science at UD shaped your career so far?
Mignano: One of the things that the IT department, the courses, and the instructors have all succeeded in helping me understand is how to think like a software engineer. Even though I moved into product design and management after graduating, I feel lucky to have this second language that allows me to communicate and collaborate with others so that we can create software and design products together.
Overall, studying computer science at UD has been one of the most formative parts of my career that has allowed me to pursue many of my passions. I have acquired such a solid base that I have taken every opportunity with me since then.
Q: Are you looking forward to coming back to campus?
Mignano: I’m really happy to reconnect with some of the teachers I learned so much from when he was here. I’m also interested in walking around campus and seeing how it’s progressed and I’m looking forward to Saturday’s football game.
Overall, I’m just thrilled to be returning to a place that has been so foundational and formative for my career and how I think about the world.