E79: The Evolution of Startup Life with Read AI’s David Shim

In E79 of Localogy‘s This Week in Local podcast, we share one of the many great moments from the recent L24 conference in Arlington, Texas. Series entrepreneur David Shim, currently the CEO of Read AI, sat down with me in Texas for an engaging fireside chat. 

In our conversation at L24, David and I didn’t just talk about Read AI, which uses artificial intelligence to make online meetings more productive and impactful. We also got into his views on how building a startup has evolved since he launched Placed in 2011. Shim sold Plced to Snap, which eventually sold the company to Foursquare, which Shim led for a time as CEO.

Shim said one of the biggest changes he has seen is the rising cost of launching and scaling a startup.

“It’s a lot more expensive,” Shim said.  “When I started Placed in 2011, we raised a $300,000 seed round. That is almost impossible to do now.”

He said the cost of talent now means an early-stage company needs more money to get off the ground. Read AI recently raised a $21 million Series A. 

We also discuss how AI is changing the cost profile of early-stage startups. David acknowledged that a startup can probably get further faster now with less money using AI tools. However, he was highly skeptical of Sam Altman’s “one-person unicorn” notion that has made the rounds in startup circles. Altman believes we are on the verge of seeing a business with no employees (other than the founder) use AI to scale to this level 

Shim dismissed the notion of a one-person unicorn (billion-dollar valuation) as essentially absurd. 

“No one is going to buy a one-person unicorn for a billion dollars,” he said. 

It All Began in Cabo

David had a lot of say about why the time is right for Read AI. The idea came to David while chilling out in Cabo after his last exit. After one too many Zoom calls, he noticed how many participants on these calls seemed checked out. 

L24: A Serial Founder’s Journey – Q&A with David Shim

This inspired David to build software to measure engagement on these calls. And provide data that helps organizations optimize people’s time more effectively. For example, Read helps organizations identify who doesn’t need to be in a meeting. They can then be freed to spend their time more productively. 

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