No Sleep Til Brooklyn

SoundCloud Hands Out Fellowships to Three New Yorkers

Nice work if you can get it!
 SoundCloud Hands Out Fellowships to Three New Yorkers

Mr. Noël (Photo: SoundCloud)

SoundCloud, the agreed-upon poster child for Berlin’s burgeoning startup scene, has been making aggressive moves here in the New World over the last year. So it came as no surprise when the company reached out to let us know that three users from “The city of Brooklyn/NYC” (so it’s come to this!) had fared well in the second annual Community Fellowship competition.

The local winners are a motley crew: Amy Costello of Brooklyn won support for her new investigative podcast, TinySpark, which focuses on “the business of doing good.” Nadia Wilson, also of Brooklyn, submitted a project called “From Hear to There,” about travels across the city. The third winner, Jonathan Mitchell (not a Brooklynite, but a Manhattan-dweller) wants to reinvent the radio play with his show The Truth.

We reached out to David Noël, SoundCloud’s head of community and the man behind the program, for a bit more detail about what went into the selection process.

The whole idea, he explained, is to “showcase the breadth of how sound can be used in many different ways.” In other words, it’s a goodwill-fostering way to model the type of content the SoundCloud team would like to see on the platform, and perhaps inspire users to new heights of creativity. (No mean goal, that.)

So, for example, they wanted to be sure to include an instance of storytelling, and an instance of investigative reporting, and so forth. Even better: replicable concepts. Mr. Noël pointed to one fellow, who proposed to create audio tours of Detroit, which might in turn inspire SoundCloud users in other cities to create their own versions.

SoundCloud’s aim, he told us, was to select “a broad variety of ways sound can be used for many different objectives. And hopefully then, through that, trigger ideas and trigger creativity from other people to really start thinking about sound as a powerful way, an emotional way, to express themselves.”

This is actually the second year the company has handed out the fellowships, but the first year there’s been an open call for applications. Last year the process was a bit more haphazard, Mr. Noël admitted to Betabeat. The team spotted several SoundCloud users doing interesting projects, so rather than dole out piecemeal support, the team figured, “Why not just create a fellowship around it and really formalize it?”

SoundCloud has now grown to 20 million users, and has around 50,000 people joining every day. Consequently, Mr. Noël told Betabeat, “we’ve seen many more use cases emerging, and we wanted to really scale it out.” Hence the call for entries, which garnered 184 submissions. A panel of judges then helped whittle the list down to the 15 finalists.

“Originally we wanted to select 10, but we had so many great ones that we added five more.”

The U.S. is one of the company’s largest markets, and it’s growing–hence the strong showing by applicants based in the States. “If you combine all major European countries, it’s almost on par. But the U.S. is really a strong growth market.”

Well, they’ve clearly got a headstart on Brooklyn.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com