I'm the CTO & Co-founder of Breaker, and a former Dropbox Engineer – Leah Culver.Featured

Hi Elpha! I’m the CTO and co-founder of Breaker, the best podcast listening and discovery app with over 500,000 podcasts available. Before starting breaker, I was an engineer at Dropbox, and before that I founded Grove, Convore, and Pownce. As an engineer, I work in Swift and Python and I’m the author of both the OAuth and oEmbed API specs. I’m also an angel investor, focusing on developer tools and social media startups.I’d love to answer questions about startups, my programming experience, and fundraising and angel investing.
Thank you so much for joining us, Leah! Elphas – Please reply in the comments with your questions for Leah before this Friday (May 31st). Leah may not have time to answer all your questions, so please upvote the ones you'd most like answers to.
I recently saw a tweet from Charity Majors that said that women engineers should work in heavily technical roles for at least 10 years before moving into management or other areas, because it is so hard to build credibility as a dev/engineer. Not that you can’t be qualified with less time on the keyboard, but that you will not be perceived as proficient before about 10 years. (I am extrapolating a lot from a tweet- but I have been thinking about this a ton since I read it, and I am on the job search currently as a Data Engineer.) how does this match your experience?
I love following Charity Majors on Twitter because she isn't afraid to speak her mind and state controversial opinions. Personally, I've worked in technical roles 13 years post-college, so I'm also coming from a similar background.When first starting out as an engineer, I couldn't imagine how much better I would become at engineering, but every year I learn so much and become much more technically skilled. Having a background in engineering is incredibly helpful in working with engineers because I have a solid knowledge of current technologies and their trade-offs as well as how long projects take to complete. On the flip side, there are people management skills that have nothing to do with engineering, and I'm still working on improving those skills.
Would love to hear your approach to early hiring - especially when you needed to hire outside your specific wheelhouse. What are some successes and learnings you gained through your founding career? I'd also love to hear any tips you can pass on to those of us looking to hire engineering teams that are truly diverse. 🙏
I'm so glad you're interested in hiring diverse teams! I use Twitter and Facebook to gather inbound interest in jobs at Breaker, but also use tools such as Y Combinators Work at a Startup. We've also used a program called Startuplifers ( to hire internationally.Most of the hires we've made so far are technical, so it's been in my wheelhouse. We've only hired a couple people outside of engineering, and we look for people who are passionate about our product space (podcasting) and have unique perspectives and creative ideas.
Thank you for answering this question, good luck with Breaker!
What is your current investing portfolio? How did each of those people reach out to you and make the cut?
I love investing in developer tools and actively seek out early-stage founders in this area. I also reply to all inbound email and attend Y Combinator alumni demo day. Since I'm currently working on a startup, I don't spend very much time on angel investing, but I hope to have more time to work on it in the future.Similar to other angel investors I look at the team first, how they work together, and what they're able to build in a short amount of time. I also think about the market for the product and the potential customers. If everything sounds good to me, I'll make an investment!
As a software developer who is now in the position of being a founder, I find I'm having to level-up with a completely different skillset. Since you are now a CTO and Angel Investor, positions that a lot of us aspire to, what does leveling-up look like for you?
I love challenge of learning new skills! I don't think I'd ever really be content just doing engineering all the time. Right now I'm working on becoming a better manager and learning the financial aspects of angel investing. I'm very lucky to be surrounded by friends who have helped me learn and grow.The next level for me would be to become CTO of a larger company as Breaker grows and I'm very much looking forward to it!
What was your thought process behind starting Breaker? You must have had other ideas / lucrative opportunities around the same time.
Not so! I started Breaker as a side project while employed full-time at Dropbox. My cofounder, Erik Berlin, and I both had full-time jobs for the first nine or ten months of Breaker's existence.I didn't quit my job to start a company, but rather waited until the idea and team came to me before quitting my job. I highly recommend this strategy because it's way less stressful!
Since I first starting using Breaker 2 years ago, I've been one of its biggest fans and evangelists of Breaker to my friends (thank YOU so much for making it!). However, recently Breaker has gone through a lot of product changes that make it difficult for me to do the job that I rely on Breaker for: quickly navigate to and listen to my Saved Podcasts. My saved podcasts are now buried beneath multiple screens, and even the podcast search experience is much slower than Apple Podcasts, with the app often quitting out while I'm using it and certain audio files not loading.What is the reasoning behind all of these recent product changes? Who is the targeted/intended user of Breaker? I love Breaker so much and I really want it to succeed, but with all of the changes I'm unsure if I'm still the target user.
Thank you so much! Glad to hear you like Breaker!Sorry to hear the latest changes haven't worked well for you. We're trying to balance the experience for all kinds of users, from the very experienced podcast listeners to people who are new to podcasts.We'd love to get some more feedback on your specific use case. Want to send us an email at [email protected]?
I would love to connect and get your thoughts on the future of audio in social. The idea of "listening" to social. Eyes up, ears open. We're building the first platform for life after the swipe—a couples decision-making app that starts with where to go and what to do in your city. I've been thinking a lot about how couples share information with each other, and I'm fascinated with the idea of focusing on audio and capturing real couple's conversations. What gets you excited about audio? What do you want to see happen in the space?
I love that you're working on a couples decision-making app! Audio is such a fun platform to work on, because you can listen to audio while doing other things such as commuting or doing housework. It really occupies a different part of life than apps such as Instagram or Twitter.I'm excited to see more apps explore audio. There's a lot of innovation on the hardware side including AirPods and Bluetooth, car apps, and smart home speakers. I think these new technologies will enable audio apps to reach a larger audience.
I would love to know your/ Breaker's approach to diversity and inclusion and what sets Breaker apart from other competitive organizations in the Bay area? Being a female engineer and CTO and founder yourself what has your experience taught you about facilitating an inclusive workplace culture?
We fully support a diverse and inclusive workplace at Breaker! I've found that being a female founder it's been much easier to recruit women to join, mostly because they're not the only one on the team. We've also been fairly flexible on work schedule which has helped us be more competitive on hiring (not just women, we have several team members who appreciate more flexibility).Another way we're competitive is that we include every employee in our product process instead of having a single product manager or having product be founder-driven. This helps everyone feel like they're contributing a lot to the success of Breaker.
What was your motivation for going from being a founder to working at a larger, more developed company? And further, what was your motivation to found another company after working at an established company for some time?Related to your angel investing - have you/do you use any of the tools developed by companies you've supported as an angel investor for Breaker?
I enjoy working at companies of all different sizes and I think there's tradeoffs at different sizes. I loved the team at Dropbox and it was fun to work on a product that so many people use every day. I also love founding startups because it's incredibly challenging and uncertain.For Breaker, the podcasting market really drove me to get involved in creating a new startup. I saw an opportunity to create one of the only companies in a growing market space.I love investing in developer tools and we use two of them at Breaker - GitHub and Sentry. We're also exploring using Trestle ( for our company directory, but our team is still a bit too small for it to be useful yet!
How can we non-technical female founders find great female CTO's and engineers like yourself to help build our apps/dapps? I interviewed 20 developers for a contract role for our MVP and all were male who applied. I'd love to know if there is a hub where we can post jobs for female tech experts, advisors, CTOs, CTOs for hire, developers. Or is there some specific way to find more people like you? Thank you!
I wish I knew! I think it's incredibly hard to find the right people for startups and women in particular. I'm fairly proactive about following other women developers on Twitter and pinging them when there's a role available at Breaker. The best engineers are already employed, but it never hurts to ask if they're interested in a new job! I also seek out fellow female developers at conferences and events and try to keep in touch. Hope that's helpful!
Hi LEAH, what a CV! I am looking for a tech co-founder for a mission based start up, SURGLY., empowering patients to improve their surgical outcomes. We will do risk identification, then will provide the patient with simple tasks based on the principles of behavioral economics that improve outcomes. There will also be a marketplace because patients do not need the burden of getting supplies in the midst of a really stressful time. Finally, this even has implications in the 3rd world. A 1/2 cup of bleach in a bucket of water can decolonization the skin of staph and MRSA as well as chlorhexidine wipes.It is really very difficult to figure out how on earth to find someone that can help me with the tech component. I’ve been working with Medumo, a YC graduate. Adeel Yang, the founder, Hans been an amazing support for me and we are close to an MVP but then I need an engineer.Any idea how to discern who can help? Much thanks. Ellen
Leah thank you! I am desperately looking for a female engineer for my startup. We are making women the experts on their body and a man just CANT do that. Do you have any recommendations?