With the recent conclusion of HBO’s landmark series Succession, the business world has rarely felt more beguiling, nor more unsettling. Many of the most popular business podcasts garner over 10 million monthly downloads, and despite various rallying cries to “slow down” and practice “self-care,” the hustle mentality endures. Somewhere between “quiet luxury” and entrepreneurs boasting about their first million on social media, business became a game more people want to play. And although corporate life and entrepreneurship both encompass more than investor meetings and triple espressos, some podcasters cast a cult-like aura around their work, often neglecting practical advice in favor of aesthetics. Early morning inbox batching. Cold showers. It might work for the Kendall Roys of the world, but what about the rest of us?
You can claim to be an start-up founder whether you run a tech company or a bakery. So why does so much of business media cater to one particular vision of success? A solution might be to sideline such elitist podcasts, but herein lies a quandary: many business podcasts excel precisely because they cover niche topics. “Specialization” and “establishment” are not dirty words in this realm. So when compiling a list of the best business podcasts, it’s important to recognize expertise as well as new voices. Rather than promoting a certain lifestyle, these business podcasts provide information first and foremost, and our best advice is to consider listening to several of these shows to gain the broadest perspective.
From New York Magazine and Vox Media, Pivot is an unfiltered conversation between journalist Kara Swisher and NYU professor Scott Galloway on topics spanning politics, business, and technology. The show marries classic “buddy” podcast banter with engaging analysis of the week’s events, utilizing Swisher and Galloway’s constant bickering to explore issues from two perspectives. It positions itself as the enfant terrible of the business genre, yet is unabashedly establishment, and this conflict between tone and content often infuriates. Take one look at the show’s listeners reviews and you’ll notice that Pivot is a show people delight in taking umbrage with. Although delivered with humor and gusto, Swisher and Galloway’s opinions are in constant debate: too far left, too far right. Don’t forget the accusations of “both sides-ism. Ultimately, Pivot is a show with wide appeal precisely because it takes a stance. The fact that Swisher and Galloway are “on the inside” isn’t a secret. In fact, it’s one of the best aspects of the podcast. Not only do the hosts cast judgment on the biggest stories in business; they offer snark and gossipy details on the industry’s biggest players. Politics be damned, the hosts of Pivot are on the side of their listeners.
For fans of: Trading sarcasm as a non-fungible asset
We all know someone who makes their job their entire identity. If you live in a big city, this might describe virtually everyone you know. Presented by The Wall Street Journal (who else?), As We Work is a podcast all about the problem we encounter when we make our work the focal point of our lives. We’re not talking about existential issues here. More like, “How to have a productive summer while your team is out of the office.” You get the idea. Yet, the reality is that, for many, work is their primary motivation to get out of bed — and we’re not here to pass judgment. If this sounds like you, then As We Work is a podcast worth adding to your list. The show poses many questions, not least whether business podcasts might have, on average, the best cover art in the medium. But on a more serious note, As We Work is a fantastic resource for those navigating the job market, regularly releasing episodes in response to a fluctuating economic picture. These episodes are compact, making them ideal for a coffee break or commute. Clearly, these producers know their audience.
For fans of: Going on expensive vacations to remote islands with your business partners
In classic Pushkin style, Started from the Bottom is a stylish podcast that explores the intersection of race and class in the business world by telling the stories of entrepreneurs who come from unlikely places. Host Justin Richmond interviews founders who didn’t get their start as the beneficiary of an emerald mine, instead finding out how they built their businesses while facing systemic disadvantages.
The podcast is a testament to the way many industries have been democratized through technology, removing some of the traditional barriers to entry that prevented “people on the outside,” as the show calls them, making waves in spaces that previously excluded them. Richmond is an expert at establishing rapport with his guests, who include the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks and the Creative Director of Supreme. Great production and effective interviewing harmonize to create extended conversations that feel relaxed and inspiring, qualities that make Started from the Bottom a realistic resource for anyone with ambition.
For fans of: Taking the side of the underdog
Bloomberg’s Odd Lots is a finance-focused podcast hosted by Joe Weisenthal and Tracy Alloway with one eye on the global markets and the other on domestic politics. Episodes are released bi-weekly, which is essential for a podcast that charts economic fluctuations. It’s not the most creative podcast out there, but the show’s functionality is its biggest asset. Odd Lots platforms the sort of conversations you would imagine take place around the coffee maker in the office of a large investment bank. By focusing on economics and geopolitics, it’s clear that this show is made for the big sharks and their pilot fish, making it ideal for fans of The Journal. Judging by its guests and stances on issues like crypto, it seems fair to say this show takes a fairly realist view of economics. If you can get over occasional sound issues and the incongruous acoustic guitar they’ve slapped on in the show’s intro, then Odd Lots will guide you through the biggest financial stories of the moment.
For fans of: Sherman McCoy’s life choices
Business Breakdowns is not, you might be disappointed to discover, about companies imploding (but if you run that podcast and want us to advertise it, get in touch). Rather, Business Breakdowns is an analysis show from Colossus that covers the origin stories of various companies with the help of investors and industry experts. These conversations explore the history and methodology (some might say ideology) of various large companies, including PayPal, Hermès, and DoorDash. After covering the background, the conversation moves on to the latest developments, helping contextualize a company within their industry and the larger market. It’s the sort of show that will be useless for anyone looking for everyday career advice. But for the right audience — and if you’re reading this, we must assume you are — Business Breakdowns is packed with juicy information that will quickly turn you into the smartest person at the water cooler.
For fans of: Never being caught out during a game of golf with your boss
Unless you’ve done it yourself, starting a business can sound like a monumental challenge. The prestige attached to successful entrepreneurship bestows an almost mythical status upon such winners in our culture, prompting us to yearn for a glimpse into their Pandora’s box of secrets. How I Built This caters to this curiosity. It’s a show that interviews business founders about their paths to success, a format that has made it one of the most popular business podcasts out there.
Hosted by seasoned journalist Guy Raz, the show makes an effort to contextualize each company before diving into the interview. Similar shows shill for their guests. How I Built This is invested in journalistic balance. Raz’s interview style is the key to this effortless dynamic. While never failing to be amicable, he’s on the side of the listener, asking the questions that we really want to know the answers to: Exactly how much money did you make? Was the business profitable? These probes never feel overwhelming. Raz balances difficult subject areas with ample opportunities for founders to talk about their personal development, and the result is a podcast that humanizes a lifestyle we often place on a pedestal.
For fans of: Socially-sanctioned nosiness
As a podcast reviewer, the worst mistake you can make is spelling someone’s name wrong. But for a business executive, you might have thousands of people’s livelihoods to consider. A few years of overspending and badly thought-out acquisitions — and poof, hundreds of jobs gone. Sadly, people at the top rarely tumble, but they can go on Mistakes That Made Me, a podcast that acknowledges the bumpy road to the top.
This independent British podcast is presented by Eman Ismail, a new podcaster on the scene, but one already making her mark on the industry. Mistakes That Made Me is a testament to the dexterity required to overcome failure, and thankfully, the women Ismail interviews tend to operate their business with an emphasis on employee welfare. Though this does raise the question of why so many “humble” podcasts, the likes of which include Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail, are focused on women. One would hope that dismantling hubris would be something that crossed the gender divide. But until then, we can enjoy Ismail’s impressive podcasting debut.
For fans of: Taking responsibility for your problems, rather than blaming your wife
Listening to the first season of StartUp, a podcast that follows the genesis of various businesses, is eerily prophetic. The show was pitched as “a series about what it’s really like to start a business,” but even creator Alex Blumberg couldn’t have foreseen just how meta this podcast would become. The first season of the show charted the rise of Blumberg’s own media company, Gimlet, the network that also produced it. It later documented the start of other companies, including a dating business, but it returned to Gimlet with every new development, including the network’s controversial sale to Spotify.
In the second episode of StartUp, Blumberg faces a crossroads as he reflects on his conversations with investors: “The problem is that I can’t really trust my gut. Lots of big companies out there started off as one thing and then became something else.” If you’ve followed recent developments in Gimlet’s story, that line is enough to make you shift in your seat. StartUp may be over, but it will remain a riveting document of a particular time in the podcasting industry, providing lessons for all aspiring founders.
For fans of: Giving people the side eye at the podcasting conference
Unthinkable with Jay Acunzo offers a familiar format with a distinctive twist. It’s a business podcast for the creatives out there, delivering a mix of one-shot episodes and longer narratives on how to start a business with intention. A show like this is a refreshing alternative to business podcasts that focus on bottom lines and corporate structures. Acunzo prioritizes thinking beyond convention, providing consistently good advice for creators seeking to turn their craft into a business. After all, anything is monetizable now, and with the rise of social media, people can launch entire careers off the back of likes and shares. Unthinkable explores the impact of technological developments like AI on creative industries, but its best episodes forgo click-bait titles to deliver polished monologues and interviews that will appeal to writers, podcasters, and those looking for an approach to business centered on true quality and intention.
For fans of: A more human approach to business
Alice Florence Orr is a staff writer and assistant editor for Podcast Review. She is based in Edinburgh. You can connect with her on Twitter or read her work on aliceflorenceorr.com