Naomi Shah’s podcast company packs original romantic comedies into 15-minute podcast episodes.
7 min read
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
Hello! I’m Naomi. I am the founder and CEO of a new entertainment company called Meet Cute.
A meet-cute is a term used in entertainment which means “an amusing or charming first encounter between two characters that leads to the development of a romantic relationship between them.” We develop and produce short, audio romantic comedies that take you from meet-cute to happily ever after in 15 minutes.
Essentially, we are making your favorite Nora Ephron-style rom-com movies, without visuals. We drop a new story every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and distribute widely across all audio and podcasting platforms, most notably Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
What inspired you to create Meet Cute? What was your “aha moment”?
In a burgeoning podcast space, the “aha moment” was realizing that there was a gap in the audio market for short-form, fictional content that makes people feel good and brings a sense of hopefulness — while being fun and binge-able. The goal of Meet Cute is to create a new format for content that delivers feel-good, human connection moments to listeners. Non-intuitively, in carving out our narrow wedge, it made us realize that the opportunity to disrupt the audio space by creating a new brand of rom-coms could be huge.
As a Google Science winner, how were you uniquely prepared to launch this idea?
Competing in science fairs like the Google Science Fair provided me with the confidence and resilience to enjoy the thrill of a competitive and fast-changing world at a young age.
Beyond that, it gave me a platform to communicate my research at a larger scale including at major conferences, like TED, and even the White House. Those experiences transformed the way I think about taking on the many verticals and tasks it takes to launch a new company and communicate my ideas both internally and externally.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in producing and marketing Meet Cute?
What makes Meet Cute particularly disruptive right now is that there is general fatigue from the existing news cycles that focus more on the negative and uncertain parts of life. People seem to be looking for moments away from that news, while still being entertained, and Meet Cute offers that escape. With the same format and same rom-com genre, listeners can relax and settle into the story knowing that they will get that hit of hope by the end. What I’ve learned is that that emotional connection to the brand is the most powerful brand promise we can make to listeners and what will keep them engaged and coming back.
Describe the creative process for writing and recording episodes.
For development and production, we work with a growing network of writers, producers, directors and voice talent to create Meet Cutes. A Meet Cute story starts with a treatment submission to our writing team (if you’re interested, you can send an email to [email protected]). Given the constraints of creating a rom-com in 15 minutes, broken into five, three-minute chapters, as well as an audio-only format, the Meet Cute creative process has enabled an incredible amount of creativity and diversity in stories — characters, settings, narrative style, etc. — and that stems from an incredibly talented and diverse group of creative people that we are lucky to work with.
What does the word entrepreneur mean to you?
Being an entrepreneur means being excited about delivering on the mission of the company every day and working with my incredible founding team to do so. It means feeling a sense of ownership over every aspect of the company, both big and small, and wearing so many different hats each day. The combination of a compelling vision, getting to work with people I respect, and feeling ownership is what defines the word entrepreneur for me and checks all the boxes for a job I love.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
When I first started writing this answer, I had something different in mind. But without a doubt, the most recent and biggest challenge has been steering the business in the face of this health crisis and city-wide shutdowns. This includes maintaining culture and structure, but just as importantly, continuing to allowing our listeners to “escape” into our content, especially at a time when hopeful and happy stories might be needed more than ever.
Reframing the challenges that a global pandemic posed — including work-from-home — as a creative challenge for us, allowed this challenge to turn into just another problem-solving opportunity. Once solved, Meet Cute can continue to create content during a time when people need stories about hope and happiness. It feels really good to be working with a team open to this type of reframing of a challenge in the most trying times, and who are committed to delivering “hope for the whole world” — our mission statement — to our listeners without fail.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs about fundraising?
I had a unique first fundraising experience because before starting Meet Cute. I was on the investment team at Union Square Ventures (our lead investor) and got to sit on the other side of the table and engage in investment decisions being made. One thing I couldn’t have learned without doing it first-hand is how highly emotional a process pitching a company to investors is because you feel ownership over the company and want it to succeed. It’s important to bring everyone around the table up the mountain with you and get them to see your vision and become as emotionally invested in what you’re working on.
When you reverse the way you think about the process — instead of asking for money, you’re asking for their emotional attention — you automatically invite them into your world, and they bring their area of expertise with them.
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions?
In making a decision, what helps me the most is sleeping on it and trusting my gut. So many of the decisions I make as a CEO, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer, but a decision needs to be made to keep things moving forward. After talking to a few people I trust and taking some time to weigh the pros and cons of each internally, I usually reach an answer I feel comfortable with and that I know I can stick with.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love…” I like this quote from Meditations because there are always small things that can stress me out on any given day — small bumps that might seem impassable in a given moment — especially in the founding days of a new company. But thinking about how lucky I am to be working on a new entertainment company centered around hope and happiness, with an incredible early team, investors who care and a positive mission statement is a feeling that inspires me to bring 110 percent to work every day.