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USC Marshall’s top 10 podcasts about entrepreneurship

Listeners can tune in for inspiration on starting that next big business

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Popular podcasts downloaded by listeners include many that focus on being an entrepreneur. (Photo/iStock)

Podcast listenership has surged of late, as the medium has infused popular culture, embracing its potential as a means of entertainment and enlightenment.

It should come as no surprise that podcasts about entrepreneurship and innovation rank among the most downloaded. Who doesn’t love a good yarn about a maverick with an idea who takes a chance and prospers … or not.

But here’s where the lines blur. Entertaining, sure. But can a would-be entrepreneur really learn “tricks of the trade” over a series of short episodes?

They can certainly be inspired by the mindset, according to Helena Yli-Renko, holder of the Orfalea Chair in Entrepreneurship and director of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School of Business. But it’s no substitute for rigorous academics.

“When you take a class in entrepreneurship at USC, you’re not just getting soundbites or war stories,” she said. “You’re getting a sound pedagogical method that enables you both to learn entrepreneurship and to practice the skills to actually do entrepreneurship.”

That said, there are many popular, quality podcasts on the topic of entrepreneurship out there, Yli-Renko said. With a bit of curation, listeners can tune in for inspiration.

This holiday week, take some time to learn how it’s done. Listen to a top 10 list of popular entrepreneurship podcasts:

10) Rocketship.fm

Joelle Steiniger, Matt Goldman and Michael Sacca enjoy a large listenership due in part to their show’s simple structure: 20-minute interviews with startup founders. Many episodes feature topics in technology, though Rocketship has moved increasingly to conversations on work/life balance, organizational culture and social responsibility.

9) The Full Ratchet

Would you build a business differently if you knew just what investors are thinking? Angel investor Nick Moran uses his podcast to take us inside the minds of leading venture capitalists. When guests bring up complex financial strategies, Moran distills them to more basic terms. He masterfully turns conversations from “how” to “why.”

8) The School of Greatness

This top-rated podcast bridges topics of leadership, business and personal development. A former pro athlete and bestselling author, host Lewis Howes emphasizes holistic health of mind and body as central to top performance in any field. Through Howes’ interviews of an eclectic roster of high-achieving guests, listeners are often provided a glimpse of vulnerability that levels the playing field.

7) Entrepreneur on Fire

John Lee Dumas has explored nearly every facet of the entrepreneurial pursuit over the course of more than 1,200 podcast episodes. Espousing his F.O.C.U.S. (Follow One Course Until Successful) model, Dumas presses subjects to identify key moments and challenges along their journey to success. He wraps each episode with practical tips that can be applied to most any business venture.

6) The Side Hustle Show

“Your 9-5 may make you a living, but your 5-9 makes you alive!” Nick Loper’s podcast features savvy part-time entrepreneurs who have built side businesses that generate steady additional income. As the notion of a “gig economy” gains traction, The Side Hustle Show proves that those who dream bigger and work smarter will continue to hold an advantage.

5) StartUp

Unlike most entrepreneurship podcasts, StartUp structures a chronological narrative through which host Alex Blumberg follows the trials and tribulations of real people launching real ventures. The high production quality and adept storytelling might be expected from a former producer of Planet Money and This American Life. What surprises, however, is the incredible access into the hearts and minds of the show’s subjects. The fascinating first season follows Blumberg himself as he records the podcast about starting a podcast startup called StartUp. Go ahead, read that again.

4) Profit. Power. Pursuit. With Tara Gentile

In podcasting, Gentile has found her perfect medium for engaging an audience. The passion and energy in her voice invite you into a candid dialogue. Talking with creative people from all walks of life, Gentile elicits strategies for building a prosperous business that embraces one’s individuality and imagination.

3) The Tim Ferriss Show

Many know Ferriss from his bestselling book, The 4-Hour Workweek, which built his reputation as an entrepreneur. Leveraging access to business leaders and celebrities — and a borderline obsession with Roman philosopher Seneca — the charismatic Ferriss deconstructs his guests to uncover the tools, mindsets and habits that have brought about success. The podcast frequently ranks among the top downloaded, including several weeks at the #1 spot on iTunes.

2) GirlBoss

The hilarious Sophia Amoruso (founder and owner of the online retailer Nasty Gal) and her co-hosts interview remarkable women leading entrepreneurial ventures. Conversations take listeners down unconventional paths, offering lessons on business, life and amazing moments of absurdity that struggle to find context. You’ll be laughing as you are inspired.

1) The Founder’s Dilemma

Not a series but a single episode, this riveting podcast is one of the most popular of all time on the topic of entrepreneurship. Noam Wasserman expands on a decade of research into the early decisions entrepreneurs make that ultimately determine their success or failure in a startup. Wasserman came first to the USC Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurship in 2015 following two decades at Harvard Business School. He joins USC Marshall as a professor of clinical entrepreneurship and is the founding director of the Lloyd Greif Center’s Founder Central Initiative. He will begin teaching his seminal “Founder’s Dilemmas” class in the spring.

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