//PICTURED ABOVE: Chelsea Watanabe and Catherine Jiang collaborate on the entrepreneurial podcast “Founder’s Couch,” which Jiang created at Stanford.
A pioneer in machine-readable duct tape that can store information, the CEO of a biotech company and a YouTube celebrity with over 1.2 million subscribers—these are just three of the entrepreneurs Catherine Jiang ’16 and Chelsea Watanabe ’17 have interviewed on their podcast, “Founder’s Couch.”
In the winter quarter of her junior year at Stanford, Jiang started the radio show featuring student founders and their journeys from ideation to implementation.
“I was thinking, ‘What am I super passionate about? What are some of the interests that I could combine to form something special?’” Jiang said. “I’m interested in media, entrepreneurship, storytelling and promoting community on campus and making it a better place.”
After a Stanford consulting session, Jiang wrote down the format, listened to other podcasts and researched software she could use to put together and record the podcast.
“It was the moment when I thought I actually want to make this happen and that I’m serious about this,” Jiang said.
In one of her earliest episodes, Jiang interviewed Evan Michelle Miller ’16, who founded her own music publishing company and released an EP her sophomore year at Hockaday.
“It was a nice reminder of some of the things that I’ve done over the past several years,” Miller said. “It was a really cool opportunity, so I’m glad Catherine reached out to me for that.”
Though the first couple of interviews were with friends in her personal network, Jiang began to meet new people through the podcast. She asks her interviewees for references and keeps a list of people she can interview.
“I’ve gotten to meet some really cool, really driven people,” Jiang said. “I also like the aspect of storytelling, so not just talking to people, but trying to draw out those really interesting stories that build who they become today.”
Miller said Jiang is encouraging Stanford students to speak about what they’re doing while they’re doing it, which is uncommon.
“Stanford’s always been a place where things are created, but we don’t really talk about it with our peers,” Miller said. “That’s good, but it can also work against you because you don’t know where there might be opportunities to collaborate, so I think this is a cool way to talk about these things.”
While Jiang recorded and edited the episodes by herself in the first couple of months, Watanabe, who attends MIT, reached out in the summer of 2019 to show her support. The simple comment ended up launching the podcast on the MIT campus.
“I’ve always loved listening to classmates who are really into entrepreneurship,” Watanabe said. “It was more of a side comment like, ‘Oh, it would be cool if MIT had something like this,’ but it ended up becoming a reality.”
Now, Watanabe records her episodes at the MIT radio station. She clips and processes her files before sending them to Jiang, who pieces them together with music.
Like Jiang, Watanabe said she enjoys learning about different people through the radio show. In fact, by interviewing a freshman who lives only two doors down from her, Wantanabe was able to learn something new about her.
“I knew who she was since the beginning of the semester, but I never knew that she had this really cool side project that she was building up as an entrepreneur,” Watanabe said. “You realize so much more about people that you’re living next to.”
However, without Hockaday and the support of former publications adviser Ana Rosenthal, the podcast may not have been born.
“Being on The Fourcast made me appreciate media and storytelling,” Jiang said. “Mrs. Rosenthal would always be like, ‘Where’s the story?’ and that definitely shaped my approach to this. If I didn’t do Fourcast, I don’t think I would’ve started this, actually.”
Similarly, Watanabe’s experience with Laura Day on the Wesley Rankin Teen Board taught her to appreciate giving back to the community.
“Ms. Day was always a super great advocate for community involvement, and that has always stuck with me,” Watanabe said. “What I love about talking to entrepreneurial students or people in general is that it’s just so inspirational to see a different perspective, and I think it’s cool that I get to use this platform to share how inspiring they are to everyone in this community.”
Watanabe was especially touched when listeners in Boston donated to WMBR, the MIT student radio station that played “Founder’s Couch,” and thanked the show.
“It’s been nice to have that community engagement aspect, especially because it’s very easy to get swept away with my classes, my job search and my research here,” Watanabe said. “It’s just so important to stay grounded and remember that there are people around you who support you and that there’s value in giving back and creating something that’s going to help the community.”
Story by Kelsey Chen, Copy Editor
Photo provided by Catherine Jiang