“Fund/Build/Scale” explains how to create a startup when all you have is an idea — and Season 1 is all about AI. My guests are sharing strategies and frameworks that listeners can adapt and use inside their own companies. We’re discussing the ins and outs of fundraising, product development, regulation, going to market, and other essential topics. Listeners will gain an insider’s perspective on what it takes to build an ethically responsible company in one of tech’s most competitive and rapidly evolving sectors. Entrepreneurs, VCs, academics, policy experts, enterprise leaders and others will share their thoughts on addressing technical challenges, building teams, breaking into corporate sales and other core issues AI startups grapple with. I hope you’ll join this ongoing conversation about the intersection of AI innovation and investment. Subscribe now — the podcast will be available on all major platforms, with the first episode launching in February 2024.


June 17, 2024 76 mins

The average failure rate for a tech startup is 90%. 

Around one-fifth will flame out in the first year, and the overwhelming majority of the ones that make it past that mark will never be acquired or go public. It’s brutal.

It takes years to build a sustainable technology company, and considering how unbalanced the risk/reward ratio is, each founder needs to craft personalized mental and emotional frameworks that suit their needs.


For this episode of Fund/Build/Scale, I interviewed Dipanwita Das, CEO and co-founder of Sorcero, about the journey of taking an AI startup from research to reality. She shared her experience of interviewing more than 300 people to shape Sorcero's product and technical requirements, as well as strategies for aligning customer needs with product development. We also discussed the challenges of building a capable team, fundraising, a...

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Going from zero to $1M in annual recurring revenue is worth celebrating, but it’s no guarantee that your startup is on a path to success.

How long did it take to reach this milestone? How much did you spend to acquire each customer, and how many have renewed or extended their contracts?

When it comes to sales, repeatability equals success. To learn more about the tactics startups use to reach $1 million ARR (and beyond) I intervie...

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Successful entrepreneurs must translate their personal visions into something tangible enough to attract employees, investors, and eventually, customers. 

There are best practices for product management and software pricing, but how do you make yourself persuasive (and authentic) enough to convince someone else to risk their time and money on your idea?

I interviewed May Habib (CEO and co-founder, Writer) and Gaurav Misra (CEO and ...

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In part two, Armon explained why he initially resisted investor advice to raise a Series A and spoke frankly about the challenges involved with stepping up into a leadership role, which led to some interesting talk about overcoming impostor syndrome, something a lot of us can relate to.

Part 2:

  • show Series A investors market opportunities you've already validated [1:51]
  • focusing on enterprise sales from the beginning was a winn...
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I interviewed Coalesce CEO and co-founder Armon Petrossian in February 2024 to talk about his company's journey from seed stage to Series A. I had no idea he was already working on his next round: just a few weeks after we recorded this interview, Coalesce announced a $50M Series B.

To help me prepare, his team shared their slightly redacted Series A pitch deck, which was immensely helpful. I'd intended to make this a mini-episode,...

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I interviewed Laura Bisesto (global head of policy and privacy at Nextdoor) in January 2024 to get her advice for AI startups that are just starting out. We talked about compliance, how to recognize when you need in-house help, and the overall importance of planning for worst case scenarios.

She also had some thoughts for rolling out new AI-powered features, creating user advisory boards, and navigating a patchwork of state, fed...

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For episode 5, I interviewed Maria Latushkin, GVP of Technology and Engineering at Albertsons, the second-largest grocery chain in America, and Jack Berkowitz, Chief Data Officer at Securiti (previously with ADP), to get their insider's perspective on how enterprise-level customers buy software and services from AI startups.


The most surprising thing I learned came early in the chat: spinning up a pilot program or a partnership c...

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Jorge Torres (CEO, co-founder, MindsDB) and Vijay Reddy (AI Start investor, Mayfield) were the first two people I interviewed for Fund/Build/Scale. 


We met up at Jorge's office in San Francisco's Mission District on a rainy Friday afternoon in November 2023. We spent time discussing the ins and outs of pitch tactics and investor outreach, but we also talked about the criteria VCs use to evaluate zero-day investments, which red fl...

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I wanted to learn more about how inception-stage AI founders can tap into developer ecosystems, so I spoke to Ozzy Johnson, Director of Solutions Engineering for NVIDIA Developer Programs.

In his role, he leads a global product team that accelerates its own work by interacting with outside developers who use the company’s technology. Johnson also works with NVIDIA’s Inception program, a virtual accelerator for AI and deep-learning ...

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Idea-stage investors are still excited about AI, but the savvier ones are looking for social proof and tangible takeaways from the customer discovery process. Before they commit, these investors are seeking evidence that the idea/team they’re considering won’t melt like snow in the rain the next time a major player improves their model.

With that in mind, I interviewed Rodrigo Liang, co-founder and CEO of SambaNova Systems, for Epi...

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In the first episode of Fund/Build/Scale, Mayfield Managing Partner Navin Chaddha spoke about the need for founders to identify investors they can trust, how to pitch Mayfield's AI Start seed fund, and why he’s specifically looking for inception-stage entrepreneurs who have “half-baked” ideas.

Our conversation covered a lot of ground: Navin described the elements of a fundable idea, shared what excites (and unnerves) him about AI i...

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December 3, 2023 1 min

Hi. I’m Walter Thompson

I worked in startups for years before becoming a journalist. 

Now, I’m launching “Fund/Build/Scale,” a podcast that explains how to create an AI startup when all you have is an idea.

If you’re seeking general thought leadership or predictions about AI, this is not the podcast for you. Guests on “Fund/Build/Scale” are sharing strategies and frameworks that listeners can adapt and use inside their own compan...

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