News & Announcements

Don was named New Jersey’s most influential tech leader by ROI-NJ in its inaugural “ROI Influencers: Technology” list.

Imagine the perfect tech visionary for the state of New Jersey.

They would see a coming technology before anyone else — something such as books on tape or what is now called digital spoken-word entertainment — name it Audible and grow it into a multibillion-dollar business.

They would see the true power of another tech company before others — a company such as Amazon — and join forces with it, bringing in $300 million while doing so.

They would see a need to have a bustling middle class of workers in urban centers — such as Newark — moving their company there long before it was cool to do so. And they would hire city residents and encourage and incentivize their employees to become city residents.


Don and Audible’s work in Newark is highlighted in a Wall Street Journal column titled “How a Company Can Help a City.” The piece spotlights Audible’s programs to hire Newark residents without degrees and encourage employees to move to Newark; Newark Venture Partners, the venture capital firm Don founded to attract tech startups to the city; and Newark Working Kitchens.

When the pandemic hit, Newark went into survival mode. Mr. Katz quickly set up Newark Working Kitchens to help save restaurants. Using much of Audible’s $10 million in suddenly unused food-and-travel budget, the group hired local restaurants to make 200 meals a day each and then used Audible vans, volunteers and logistics code to deliver meals to the homeless, public schools and homes without food. It worked so well—750,000 meals and counting—that the program just received $2 million from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Public funding for a proven private program: That’s a smart model.

Don wrote Audible employees on March 17 in response to the rise in racist acts against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders:

No one should be subject to slurs for speaking their native language on the subway or fear that their parents will be violently attacked while walking down the street. But these are realities and growing concerns as anti-Asian hate crimes and racist incidents, including physical assault, refusal of service, workplace discrimination and other insidious forms of anti-Asian bias, have risen precipitously as our society’s capacity for scapegoating and threatening the rights and lives of others exceeds all definitions of civility.

In an email to Audible employees around the globe the day after the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, Don condemned the undermining of democracy and the “complicity of many elected leaders” that led to the deadly siege on the Capitol.

As a longtime student of words and their capacity to define the human condition, and as someone who lived the dark days of 1968 through 1973 and has spent the past 46 years either writing words professionally or working with so many others to create a company that now conveys words to millions, I will pause to observe that yesterday’s tragedy was part of a dark continuum of anti-democratic actions that included the support and complicity of many elected leaders beyond Trump.

Don spoke about Audible’s mission, history and purpose in Newark and Ralph Ellison’s influence on him in an Aug. 12 profile in The Record (, titled “Audible transformed how we read. Now, the NJ-based company is out to change the world.”

“I often say to people, if you want to understand Audible, think of the pleasures of being read to as a child,” Katz said.

Did you love bedtime stories as a kid?

Well, how would you like it if Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet or Samuel L. Jackson read to you?

And if you like stories, how about nonfiction? Current events? Self-improvement? Get-ahead-in-business books? And if you like listening in cars, and while you jog, how about airplanes (Audible has kiosks in many major air hubs)?

And if you like books, how about podcasts? Radio programs? Newspapers and magazines, read to you as you drive? Original content, like the new 11-hour audio version of Neil Gaiman’s classic graphic novel “The Sandman,” with Gaiman, Riz Ahmed, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and many others? And if you like that, how about new works—specially commissioned by Audible, featuring local authors, read by local actors?

The piece highlights Newark Working Kitchens (NWK), an Audible-led effort activating local restaurants to provide meals to 10,000 city residents. “This is keeping the lights on, honestly,” Sean McGovern, a third-generation co-owner of McGovern’s Tavern, told The Record. “If we weren’t doing this, in terms of our bottom line, we’d be completely boarded up. . . . Audible is a tremendous corporate citizen.”

An Aug. 10 Fast Company piece celebrated NWK as a “creative way” Audible is helping restaurants survive. Bloomberg on Aug. 5 spotlighted the “all-star team” behind the effort, including chef Marcus Samuelsson, whose Marcus B&P restaurant in Newark has produced thousands of meals for NWK, and Newark native Michael B. Jordan.

Don shared a statement on behalf of Audible’s Black Employee Network with employees around the world in late June presenting Audible’s action plan on content, Newark and other areas.

At a time of profound societal and moral crisis, our most important voice — our most powerful means of empowering change across our fundamental institutions and the ideas that underpin them — is our content and the way we convey words and voices to millions of listeners. To harness this power, we are using our editorial voice to highlight Black voices. For a “Voices of Audible” editorial effort, we will pass the mic to Black Audible colleagues. We have already prominently featured a powerful list of antiracism listens and are donating our profits from the US sales of those titles from June 9 to 30 to Newark Working Kitchens, up to $250,000. We are offering stories featuring strong Black and Brown characters, works by diverse authors and antiracism titles to ~85,000 public school students around the country free through Audible for Schools and we intend to add many of those titles to, our free service for young listeners. We will continue to elevate our collection of literary and Audible Originals stories by diverse authors, featuring a wide range of perspectives. And we will continue to surface the hundreds of historical titles focusing on the American experience of slavery and Reconstruction, where the modern reality of deeply ingrained and legalized racism was designed, ordained, and then perpetuated by the political and judicial order.

Don also shared with employees at a global all-hands in June a statement on Audible’s support for trans rights.

Our People Principles that define our collective purpose call on us to “celebrate the glories of the human spectrum,” “protect inherent civil rights” and pursue equality as a core purpose. These values underlie our commitment to our colleagues as we build a shared sense of safety and belonging in our workplace, and they inspire our mission to elevate marginalized voices — because we have the ability to foster compassion, inclusiveness and understanding in our listeners through our content.

Trans women are women, trans men are men, and all forms of gender expression and identities including non-binary and genderqueer are valid.

Don and Arianna Huffington published an op-ed in Fortune about Audible and Thrive Global’s collaboration to bring free audio experiences to invite relaxation and sleep and donate meals for Newark residents most at risk.

This is why Audible and Thrive Global have come together, along with the strong voices of Sean “Diddy” Combs, Nick Jonas, and others, to introduce a collection of free audio experiences—from guided meditations and bedtime stories to sound baths and microsteps for better sleep—designed to help people rest during this difficult time.

Beyond helping people navigate an historically anxious time, we’ll also be sustaining and creating restaurant jobs in Newark and providing meals that will be delivered to Newark’s most vulnerable citizens—as well as to the city’s frontline health care workers. Audible and Newark allies—including famed chefs Marcus Samuelsson and José Andrés—recently launched Newark Working Kitchens (NWK) to fund local restaurants to help feed as many frontline workers and local residents impacted by the pandemic as possible. Audible has already committed to purchasing 100,000 meals from a network of relit restaurants, and we, along with our partners, plan to fund more meals and jobs following the launch of the sleep solution.

Newark Working Kitchens, launched in March, activates local restaurants to deliver nutritious cooked meals to low-income families, seniors and disabled citizens, frontline healthcare workers and the homeless.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka joined Don and Audible employees on March 4 at Fresh Coast, a popular restaurant with employees, to mark the 30,000th visit by Audible’s weekly lunch program aimed at supporting neighborhood businesses.

Every Wednesday, hundreds of Audible employees receive a $15 voucher card that can be used at 22 local restaurants participating in Lunch Out Wednesday. The program, launched in 2017, has seen 90% employee participation and injected hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Newark economy.

Audible will soon leverage the technology of MoCaFi, a Newark Venture Partners portfolio company, to provide a card services program that will seamlessly execute transactions with each participating restaurant’s point-of-sale system and expand the list of participating restaurants.

Read more about the event and Lunch Out Wednesday here.

While the Newark office is closed in response to the coronavirus, Audible will continue to support Newark small businesses and the local community during the shutdown by providing our Lunch Out Wednesday restaurants with ongoing financial support matching their average weekly revenue from Audible.

The Ralph Ellison Foundation presented Don with the 2020 Shadow and Act Award for “outstanding service in the spirit of Ellison’s legacy” at its annual gala in Oklahoma City on Feb. 29.

Ellison, author of Invisible Man, mentored Don as an undergraduate at New York University, encouraging him as he pursued a 20-year writing career, and Ellison’s understanding of the power of the oral tradition informed the vision and mission of Audible from the beginning, Don told the audience at the Oklahoma History Center.

“My experience of him up close when I was young is a testament to the profound, even defining impact a teacher can have on the course of a life,” Don said.

Read his remarks here.

Newark Venture Partners, the venture capital firm Don founded, presented its latest class of startups at Audible’s recently opened Innovation Cathedral.

The seven companies, which include six founders of color and one Newark resident founder, represent the fund’s efforts to attract cutting-edge tech companies to grown Newark’s tech ecosystem.

“Everyone loves a comeback story, and Newark has a great one.” Don said to investors, community members and government leaders. “The vision for Newark Venture Partners posited that old-fashioned capitalistic, measurable upside could create shareable wealth in the challenged urban core. Twenty-one of [NVP’s] companies have a presence in Newark, with 12 headquartered in the city and growing up here. This while academic analyses indicate that for each tech job in a changing neighborhood like ours in Newark three service-level economy and two professional jobs are spawned.”

Eliana Pintor Marin, an assemblywoman representing Newark and chair of the Assembly’s budget committee, highlighted her proposal for a $25-million state investment in NVP’s second fund, which is seeking to raise $100 million.

Read more about NVP’s 7th Demo Day and the companies presented on NVP’s blog.