Naomi Shah is the founder + CEO of Meet Cute, a modern media company that produces original, scripted romcoms in podcast form. Meet Cute is already redefining the romcom category by creating bite-sized doses of feel-good content (over 300 stories) that prioritizes diverse storytelling and characters by telling stories across the full spectrum of love.
Before starting Meet Cute, Naomi was a member of the investment team at Union Square Ventures, where she spent most of her time talking to companies in the consumer and wellbeing space. Prior to that, she was a macro equities trader at Goldman Sachs and studied Mechanical Engineering (with a minor in Human Biology) at Stanford University.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and made my way down to Stanford for school -- I went in wanting to be a cardiologist or brain surgeon and ended up with a Mechanical Engineering degree, and a minor in Human Biology. Having spent my entire life on the west coast, I jumped at the opportunity to work in New York after I graduated and started out on the trading floor at Goldman Sachs. I soon craved something more people-oriented, creative, and tangible and applied to Union Square Ventures, an early-stage VC in New York. At USV, I developed a deep interest in our “wellbeing” thesis and investing in pockets of wellbeing that were often overlooked but extremely important to people. For example, the part that people opt into for fun and not because they have to. This category includes movies, podcasts, concerts, and the like. Through spending time with companies in this space, I knew there was something interesting in short-form content, audio as a medium, and feel-good content. I work at the intersection of all three of those now with Meet Cute.
Q: What motivated you to get started with Meet Cute?
As we were looking for this company to invest in - one that focused on creating short, fictional feel-good content at scale - I ended up spending time building out the business plan for what would become Meet Cute. Eventually, I was spending time on both building the idea of Meet Cute and looking at companies and two of the partners at USV asked if I had ever thought about operating a company rather than being on the investing side of the table — I hadn’t but I was curious and wanted to build something that didn’t exist yet. I started Meet Cute out of the USV office late fall 2019, without having fully transitioned off the investment team yet. What motivated me to take the leap of faith into founding was seeing a market gap and an opportunity to build something entirely new that we believe is good for the world.
Q: How have you grown your company?
Since inception, we have built a library of over 300 original, scripted rom-coms. We’ve scaled Meet Cute stories to over 2 million listens, or over 6 billion minutes of listening to rom-coms across over 150 countries and been featured in the top 10 of Fiction on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. To do that, we’ve worked with a creative network of over 500 writers, producers, sound engineers, and voice actors from around the world. We operate with a lean team of 5 full-time employees and 2 part-time employees.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
The vision of Meet Cute is to build a recognizable entertainment brand and be the official source of rom-coms for the world. All of that starts with creating interesting and nuanced stories that make people laugh and feel. Personally, I love being the CEO of a fast-growing startup, working with an incredible team of mission-aligned people, and doing something new every day. My personal goal is to learn as much as I can and develop as an adaptable leader to take on the responsibility that Meet Cute needs at each stage of company growth.
Q: What are the biggest challenges so far?
The biggest challenge has been navigating a young entertainment startup through a global pandemic over the past 15 months. COVID set in just a month after we officially launched. As a small team, we were able to pivot our processes quickly to be able to continue producing stories in a completely remote world. But it takes time to build culture, create meaningful partnerships, and raise funding among other things. For us, being completely remote was yet another constraint that forced us to get creative. I’m proud of the way we managed each facet of company-growth in a completely new market and pushed through the last year. Besides being a tough year for businesses, it was a tough year emotionally and mentally and it took recognizing that and communicating about it openly on our team to be able to work together through it all.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
Have conviction: Trust your gut and the people around you to back you up. Starting a company is full of decisions that just need to be made, and having conviction is a way to show up consistently for those around you and lead from a place of confidence.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice: There is nothing weak or wrong about asking people for help. In fact, it shows that you are curious and want to learn. People tend to lean in when they see you being vulnerable. It might seem easier to just do everything yourself or figure each piece out on your own, but it’s not sustainable and there will be breaking points in that strategy.