News & Announcements

Don received the inaugural Founders Award at NJPAC’s 20-year anniversary celebration for his commitment to Newark’s revitalization, including moving Audible to the city in 2007 and launching Newark Venture Partners to catalyze the city’s tech ecosystem.

Don was introduced by NJPAC’s founding chair and philanthropist Ray Chambers before more than 1,000 guests at the gala in late September. In his speech, Don urged the audience to move their companies to Newark, back local businesses or invest in NVP.

“I continually celebrate moving Audible to Newark ten years ago as one of the best decisions we made as a company — over a history that included many near-death experiences early on, to today’s reality of a level of growth at scale that has exceeded my dreams,” Don said. “We came here hoping to find out what a company can mean in ways that can transcend what it does.”

Read more about the event on NJPAC’s website.

Elisabeth Moss performed a passage from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” at Toronto’s Union Station last week to mark the launch of audible.ca, Audible’s dedicated service for Canadians that elevates Canadian voices and listeners.

“We’ll be working with Canada’s incredibly vibrant Can-Lit community,” Don said. “We work daily to support the professional creative class wherever we go.”

The website offers a selection of more than 300,000 titles, including more than 100 new titles from Canadian authors in English and French. For one month, Canadian listeners are receiving free access to Audible’s special edition of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” narrated by Claire Danes and including material Atwood wrote exclusively for Audible, and Catherine Leroux’s Quebecois novel “Le Mur Mitoyen,” performed by Julie Le Breton.

“Audible is giving performers opportunities to lend their voices to some of the greatest stories in the world and expose the ideas and words of authors to entirely new audiences,” Moss said.

The launch also included an event at Montreal’s Gare Centrale, where Le Breton read from Leroux’s book.

Read more in CBC News.

Fast Company ran a profile of Don titled, “How Audible’s CEO Is Working To Lift Up The City Around The Company’s Office.”

The piece highlights the ways Audible is betting on Newark, taking on paid interns from Newark schools, supporting Newark Venture Partners to catalyze the city’s tech ecosystem by bringing in early-stage companies and paying a year’s rent for employees who moved to the recently developed Hahne building, a 10-minute walk from Audible’s headquarters.

Katz has gone from studying companies and cultures to building a culture of “activating caring” within Audible along with the city where they are based. As he explains, their work stems from “a core belief that companies can have hearts and souls and missions that transcend financial success.” It is this value that he is now looking to document and share with other CEOs around the country and world. “If other CEOs grab the model, it would be a tremendous legacy.”

In a July 3 interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance,” Don talks about the influence the novelist Ralph Ellison had on his career, what makes for a good audiobook and Audible’s push to create original content.

Don also discusses Audible’s Newark mission, which includes bringing on paid high school interns from Newark, planting early-stage companies in the city through Newark Venture Partners and encouraging Audible employees to live in Newark.

“When we position a book as a script, you see these great actors doing what they do to create these nuanced performances,” Don said. “But the key thing is the seductive intimacy of being read to personally.”

The interview with Don begins at the 31:55 mark.

Audible has announced a new $5 million fund to commission works from playwrights around the globe to be heard, further elevating the company’s focus on supporting the professional creative class of actors and writers, serving its millions of listeners and applying the best of emergent digital technologies.

The New York Times reports:

Grant recipients will be recommended by an advisory board made up of theater industry insiders: the actress Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”); the award-winning playwrights Lynn Nottage (“Sweat”), Tom Stoppard (“The Coast of Utopia”) and David Henry Hwang (“M. Butterfly”); the directors Trip Cullman (“Six Degrees of Separation”) and Leigh Silverman (“Violet”); and two artistic directors of Off Broadway companies, Oskar Eustis of the Public Theater, and Mimi O’Donnell of Labyrinth Theater Company.

Mr. Katz said he hoped that Audible’s format would help widen the reach of emerging playwrights, who might otherwise be writing for Off (or even Off Off) Broadway theaters.

“To celebrate live performance in the theater is one thing, but think of professional sports,” Mr. Katz said. “There’s the game, but it’s also being projected to millions of other people in a really powerful way.”

Audible’s new program to encourage employees to move to Newark — an element of the company’s mission to work, live, serve and play in the city and contribute to its turnaround — was covered in The New York Times.

Would you live in Newark if your boss paid your rent for a year?

That was the question that Audible.com, the audiobook company, posed to its workers when it announced a housing lottery in January. The 20 winning employees would get $2,000 a month in free rent for a year if they signed a two-year lease at the newly restored Hahne & Company building in downtown Newark, a 10-minute walk from Audible’s headquarters.

Of about 1,000 employees in the company’s Newark and Jersey City offices, 64 applied. In March, the company, which has 16 global locations, expanded the offer, pledging a $250 monthly rent stipend for a year to any employee who lives in, or moves to, Newark. More than two dozen employees have taken advantage of that offer.

The rental program was also featured in NPR’s “All Things Considered,” with host Robert Siegel saying, “Katz started the revolution in modern mobile listening and then did something equally radical. He moved his company from a leafy New Jersey suburb to Newark.”

At the Milken Institute Global Conference, Don sat down with CNBC’s Brian Sullivan to talk about how Audible has elevated the power of the spoken word, the importance of formative battles to a company’s success and how Newark Venture Partners fits into Audible’s activist mission in accelerating Newark’s comeback.

Don was also asked what advice he’d give to entrepreneurs:

I’m really lucky because I got to turn ideas into reality through two significant careers, one as a writer and now with Audible. And now with trying to be a catalyst: the company Audible is a catalyst in turning Newark around. And I think the learning is basically that you work backwards from a big dream and you celebrate the steps in that direction, and you don’t give up. … And I think the other thing is you just gotta be at the edge of science and culture, and studying and learning everyday to just see what’s coming.

Watch the interview here.

Newark Venture Partners, the venture capital fund and accelerator Don founded, recently welcomed its second class of entrepreneurs with exciting, distinctive businesses covering a range of sectors.

More than 70 founders and employees are now working in the 25,000-square-foot ultra-bandwidth accelerator on the seventh floor of the building Audible shares with Rutgers Business School. And 260 Audible employees with advanced skills across dozens of subject domains are on call to take the elevator down to coach the companies.

The first two classes have attracted more than 1,000 applications from across the country — including the Bay Area, Raleigh, N.C. and Washington, D.C. — and even London. NVP is focused on bringing early-stage companies to Newark to catalyze the city’s tech ecosystem and create jobs and taxable revenue.

One of the new companies, Envested, which engages employees by connecting them to volunteer opportunities, was recently named in Inc.’s “30 Under 30.”

Don’s book on Nike, “Just Do It,” offers an inside look at what was the most powerful force in sports, its reclusive, irreverent founder, Phil Knight, and the special rituals and practices that projected the Nike brand into the world.

Here’s Don’s introduction to the book:

The book, performed by the talented actor Brian Sutherland, is available for download here.

Along the Nike trail I met line workers gluing shoes together in one of the thousands of factories rising from the dust by the week in Southern China. I spent time with inner-city retailers in Newark, N.J., mall store proprietors in California, and retailers in running stores all over the country. I met hundreds of Nike customers who regard stores bearing Nikes as museums or churches. I talked basketball, baseball, and tennis with various Nike sports heroes—Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley, Andre Agassi, and Alonzo Mourning were all particularly helpful—and I got to know a great many Nike employees, most of whom, at first, thought I would never “get it,” because they thought others who’d tried to describe Nike’s separate way of life had failed.

After many months of observation and travel, I came to see that Nike is at once a state of mind and an intricate network connecting far-flung economic nodes.

 

During the Academy Awards, Audible ran ads — featuring Claire Danes, Zachary Quinto, Alan Cumming, Mike Colter and others — that convey the company’s celebration of the nuanced performances of well-composed words.