Don Katz is the founder and CEO of Audible, the leading provider of premium digital spoken audio information and entertainment. Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Newark, Audible serves millions of listeners and offers over 475,000 downloadable audiobooks, audio editions of periodicals, and other programs. Audible commercialized the first portable digital audio player in 1997, four years before the introduction of the iPod. Audible operates in nine dedicated digital storefronts, including in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Canada, Italy, and India. Audible was publicly traded on NASDAQ until it was acquired by Amazon in 2008. Don was recognized by NJ.com as one of the “25 Most Influential People in New Jersey” in 2016 and by Living Cities as one of America’s Top 25 Disruptive Leaders by Living Cities for his work on the urban transformation in Newark.
Don is also the founder of Newark Venture Partners (NVP), a $45 million venture capital fund and accelerator located in Audible’s One Washington Park headquarters that has invested in more than 60 early-stage companies to plant roots in Newark and recast the city as a frontier for innovation and growth. Hundreds of Audible employees are on call to mentor these startups.
Audible has embraced the economic and social renaissance of Newark as a defining cultural principle for the company. In 2007, Audible moved its global headquarters from Wayne, New Jersey, to Newark with 125 employees. It now employs 1,700 workers in Newark and is the city’s fastest-growing private employer. Audible employees, as well as the hundreds of actors who record in Audible’s studios, live in Newark and commute to the company’s headquarters from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and throughout New Jersey. In 2019, Audible opened the Innovation Cathedral, turning a historic church into a state-of-the-art innovation center that anchors Newark’s burgeoning tech ecosystem. Audible preserved many of the iconic features—including the mesmerizing stained glass, organ pipes, and bowling alley—while also updating the space to house 400 employees.
Audible runs a paid internship and college scholarship program for Newark students through a partnership with North Star Academy and Science Park High School. Dozens of 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 has also provided every Newark public high school student an Audible membership, 150 educator-selected audiobooks and an Amazon Fire tablet. And employees are paired with developing readers in Newark middle schools through its Reading Pals program. Audible’s Customer Care focuses on recruiting Newark residents without traditional job backgrounds and provides training that prepares them for long-term success.
Audible provides a $500 per month housing subsidy for any employee who lives in Newark, and its “Lunch Out Wednesday” program support local businesses by subsidizes meals for hundreds of employees each week at partnering neighborhood restaurants. Employees also get tickets to events at NJPAC and the Prudential Center, as well as yearlong memberships to the Newark Museum.
Don graduated in 1974 from New York University, where he studied with novelist Ralph Ellison; he attributes his fascination with audio to Ellison, who emphasized the role of oral and vernacular culture as a fundamental underpinning of American literature. Don also attended the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics, from which he holds an MSc in Economics. Before Audible, Don was a professional writer and journalist, serving as a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, Esquire, Outside, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal, and Worth. His books include Home Fires: An Intimate Portrait of One Middle-Class Family in Postwar America (1992) and Just Do It: The Nike Spirit in the Corporate World (1994). He served as a member of the public library board in Montclair, NJ, for nine years and has served on the board of Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit organization that manages several of the most outstanding urban college preparatory charter schools in the Northeast, since its founding in 1997. He also served as both a member and chair of Newark’s economic development corporation. Don is married, the father of three children, and an avid ice hockey player.