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How does one build WITH the users and NOT JUST FOR the users? 🥰

Updated: Jan 30

Welcome back to my weekly newsletter. This is going to be a series of articles covering how we came up with the idea of Calm Sleep, scaled to over a million users in less than a year, and all that with less than $1,000 worth of total investment. 🌱

I’m Akshay Pruthi, an entrepreneur who loves to build products from the ground up. Over the past 6 years, I’ve built multiple products from scratch and scaled them to millions of users. This is my attempt to share our most important lessons from building one of those apps - Alora (Android) and Alora (iOS)  🤗

Every week I will publish an article about a different challenge we faced while building Calm Sleep.

What is in this week’s read

There are two approaches to building your product: The community way or the monologue way!

We’ll know LEGO - most of us have played with it or had our legs poked by it! So, LEGO - The toys creation company was on the brink of bankruptcy UNTIL last decade when they made a remarkable turnaround to become the world’s largest toymaker. Their key fundamental shift in their strategy was building the community way by ditching the silo-closed working environment. They learned how to build with the help of their users (or the fan community)

Time and again, we have seen a strong cult around companies who gave opportunities to their users to talk about them - be it a critique or an appreciation.

LEGO understood this well and in 2008, they launched a LEGO ideas platform, allowing users to submit new ideas for LEGO. They also built a voting system where other users could see the submitted ideas and vote on them. The top ones were then reviewed by the LEGO staff and executed on-site. Currently, the community has grown to over 1 million users with more than 26,000 ideas submitted. Can you imagine the power of this?

By incorporating a process like this, you are turning your users into broadcasters. Users whose ideas were selected used to boast about it within their circle (you & I would too! OR who wouldn’t) which encouraged tremendous word of mouth.

LEGO is a perfect example of how an almost century-old company transitioned from building FOR users to building WITH engaged users.

I believe this is one of the most underrated ways of building a company. And that’s primarily because we don’t trust the users.

But you know what?

At Calm Sleep, after doing some secondary research I thought to experiment with a Journal feature. The study shows people who write their to-dos just before sleeping are able to sleep well as it helps reduce anxiety levels.

Remember, we launched the feature polls long back? That came in handy. Before designing or conceptualizing the feature, I decided to launch a poll asking my users their opinion on such a feature.

After a week, we looked at the results.

We observed,

  1. Almost 40% of the users said they would love such a feature.

  2. 33% of the users said they would love to try and see if the feature is useful. And the rest mentioned that it won’t help.

Just to double-check, we observed the behaviors of the users who participated in the polls as compared to their engagement metrics on the app. And we observed:

  1. People who opted for “I love it” and “I would love to try” were having higher engagement on the app compared to people who said they didn’t like the feature.

Now, I was absolutely convinced that we should explore this feature as it can add tremendous value to the users by helping them sleep peacefully at night.

We almost immediately conceptualized the entire feature and started the development. Until then one day, when a detailed email from one of our paid users took me by surprise.

The user had mentioned his apprehensions around launching the journal's own “worries” right before sleeping re sleeping which can create a spiral loop in users’ heads leading to more anxiety. I took this note seriously and contacted the user. Parallelly, I dug more into my research and discovered that writing to-dos for the next day help people sleep better and NOT writing the worries as had originally concluded.

How one small narrative can change the entire perception of the feature, right?

If I hadn’t launched the poll, I would have probably launched the feature without realizing how it may impact our users.

From this day on, I have started believing more in the power of building with users and not just for the users.


Building a community is all about what YOUR organization and a group of passionate USERS can do together for the betterment of the ENTIRE community. Focusing on the users (WHO) and not on features (WHAT) can bring what users need into the limelight, which then aligns with the company’s interests.

Like co-founder of Instagram Kevin Systrom explained, “Anyone can create a photo-sharing app; not everyone can create a community. If you can protect that asset — if you can help nurture and grow it — and your product doesn’t suck, you have created something much more valuable than a great product with a terrible community.”

My motto & advice - build a community of super users! Until then, keep calm :)

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