We are thrilled to announce our investment in Read, which announced its $10 million seed round today, alongside our friends at Madrona Venture Group (who led the round) and several strategic angel investors. The company was founded by three insanely talented entrepreneurs, executives, and technologists we know well: our long-time friend David Shim, former CEO of Foursquare (and prior to that, CEO-founder of Placed, which he sold to Snap and then Foursquare), and technology leaders Rob Williams and Elliott Waldron.
While addressing diverse audiences in our professional and personal lives, a lot of us struggle with “reading the room”. Some of us are high EQ, and some of us... not so much. But for all of us, the COVID-19 pandemic, and our increased reliance on virtual meeting platforms, has only exacerbated the struggle. How do I know if I am leading an engaging meeting? How do I know if half the room mentally checked out five minutes into the session to check email? And, hey, is it just me or did that opening “bit” result in some barely-suppressed eyerolls?
In small group settings, we have all struggled to build and maintain meaningful work and personal relationships in “2-D.” In large group contexts, it feels impossible to absorb what’s happening across the dozens of postage stamp-size Zoom boxes we all endeavour to scan repeatedly -- and often futilely -- throughout a meeting.
Read plans to change virtual meetings forever, giving each of us superpowers to interpret what is actually happening in that Zoom room. Read is launching today with a real-time meeting dashboard that measures engagement and sentiment for meeting attendees, along with overall meeting performance and attendee participation insights. Read Dashboard provides real-time transparency for meeting leaders and participants to understand how the meeting is really going. Every attendee is empowered with the ability to gauge meeting success and drive more productive meeting outcomes.
Using a combination of AI, computer vision, and natural language processing, Read takes its cues from agenda performance, participant talk-time, vocal expressions, gestures, facial expressions, and conversational dynamics to give all meeting participants a clear picture of meeting performance.
The technology is impressive, but even more importantly, the Read team is focused on privacy and transparency as core foundational principles. Any and all meeting participants can opt-out of any Read experience, and Read will immediately “leave” a meeting if any participant wishes. In all meetings, Read Dashboard notifies attendees that it is present and provides direct access to meeting metrics to all attendees. Insights from the Read experience are finding immediate resonance across many different contexts, including enterprise HR, education, sales, and, of course, large-scale conferences.
Several PSL team members, and Julie and Greg in particular, have known Read CEO David Shim for over a decade through his leadership building Placed into the world’s leading location analytics company (selling in large nine-figure outcomes to Snap and then Foursquare), all the way through to his tenure as Foursquare’s CEO earlier this year. David has picked two trusted long-time collaborators (not to mention incredible technologists) in his co-founders Rob Williams (VP Engineering) and Elliott Waldron (VP Data Science). The three founders have already hired a diverse, multi-talented, and fast-growing team of builders in these early months of the company’s story. Incidentally, we have noticed that we are always highly engaged in all our meetings with them (!).
The Read team is planning to change the way we all experience, understand, and engage in virtual meetings, and we are excited for the journey ahead with this inspiring group.