Audible’s commitment to Newark has become a key element of the company’s culture since the move in 2007 from suburban Wayne, NJ. “I consider the Newark move one of the best decisions we’ve made as a company,” Don has said.
One of Audible’s principles, “Activate Caring,” captures the urban focus:
We work to improve the lives of those without privilege in the cities and countries in which we operate, because Audible seeks to exemplify what a company can mean beyond what it does. We believe in giving people a chance, and we work to make this so, particularly in the urban core. Our focus on education innovation and urban economic and social renaissance is about advancing equality, and this mission should inform and inspire our days.
Audible is now the fastest-growing private employer in the city, with more than 1,500 employees in its burgeoning campus in Newark’s north end, in addition to hundreds more around the world. Audible is also rehabbing a historic church that closed in 1995 and turning it into a state-of-the-art innovation center that will preserve the organ pipes and iconic stained-glass windows, and feature a bowling alley, wood-burning pizza oven and other amenities.
Audible employees, as well as the hundreds of actors who record in Audible’s studios, commute to the company’s headquarters from Newark, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and all over New Jersey, taking advantage of Newark’s status as a transport hub — Broad Street station, one block from Audible, is an 18-minute train ride from Midtown Manhattan. A growing number of Audible employees are moving to Newark neighborhoods, receiving a subsidy from the company for living anywhere in the city. Audible also pays for employees to eat lunch at neighborhood restaurants on Wednesdays and provides employees tickets to concerts at NJPAC and Devils games at the Prudential Center and membership to the Newark Museum. All of this is part of Audible’s ethos of working, serving, living, and playing in Newark.
At Audible headquarters, the more than 70 conference rooms are named for significant people and places from Newark’s past and present: Philip Roth, Stephen Crane, Allen Ginsberg, Sarah Vaughan, James Moody and Shaquille O’Neal.
Audible runs a paid internship and college scholarship program for Newark students through a partnership with North Star Academy and Science Park High School. Thirty seven students work alongside technologists, English-majors-turned-business-people, data scientists and producers, and once they’re in college, they become Audible Scholars, who return to work at Audible full time during breaks. Audible also runs a Reading Pals program, pairing employees with struggling readers at North Star’s middle school, as well as students at Brick Peshine Academy in Newark’s South Ward.
Don is the founder of Newark Venture Partners, a $45 million early-stage investment fund and ultra-bandwidth accelerator that seeks to connect Newark to the early-stage technology start-up innovation economy. Nearly 300 Audible employees have signed up as specialists to coach the startups-in-residence who work out of the 25,000-square-foot, ultra-bandwidth (10G) accelerator on the seventh floor of the building Audible shares with Rutgers Business School.
Don has served on the board of Uncommon Schools, the charter school management nonprofit that runs North Star, since the organization was founded in 1997. Audible’s partnership with North Star has become the focus of shared company pride.
Don gave the keynote address at the 2013 Inner City Economic Summit in Cleveland. Don also gave the commencement address at Rutgers-Newark in 2014 and also addressed early-stage tech and urban renaissance at TEDx Navesink in 2015.
In the news
- Business Insider (4/22/18): Audible’s founder talks about selling his company to Amazon for $300 million, bonding with Jeff Bezos, and how he managed to have a ‘nontoxic’ midlife crisis
- NJTV (4/30/18): Murphy, Audible CEO keynote NJBIA ‘Tale of Tech Cities’ forum
- ROI-NJ (11/29/17): Audible donating tablets and more to Newark students, teachers
- The Guardian (11/7/17): Don Katz: the Audible CEO who’s jumpstarting Newark’s comeback
- Fast Company (7/13/17): How Audible’s CEO Is Working To Lift Up The City Around The Company’s Office
- NPR (6/5/17): Audible Offers Lottery For Employees To Live 1 Year Rent-Free In Newark, N.J.
- The New York Times (5/26/17): Work for Audible, Live Rent-Free?
- Urban Agenda Magazine (February 2017): The Spoken Word With Audible Founder & CEO Donald Katz
- TEDx Talks (4/28/15): Early-stage Tech and Urban Renaissance | Don Katz
- The Star-Ledger (2/11/14): Audible’s Katz to chair Brick City Development Corp.
- The Star-Ledger (12/8/13): Meet Don Katz, the visionary CEO of Audible
- NJTV (6/28/13): Interview on “One-on-One with Steve Adubato”
- The Star-Ledger (4/7/13): The key to much-needed job growth in Newark: Opinion