I asked Ankur Warikoo: How to carry a winning attitude, how to think of scale, how to attract talent

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 - Calm Sleep. 🤗


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


Last week, we discussed 80% of your product is onboarding


What’s in this week’s read

I often get asked:

  1. As a founder, how do you carry a winning attitude all the time?

  2. How to think of scaling the company?

  3. How to effectively hire and attract talent.



I turned to the expert - Ankur Warikoo to answer these questions and I was amazed to see how he breaks down the questions by giving simple yet impactful answers. (Note, the answers are transcribed from an audio :))


As a founder, how do you carry a winning attitude all the time?



Ankur Warikoo: "When it comes to me, my motivation always remains a sense of progress. If I have a sense of progress, I always feel like I am winning 😇


There was a time when I used to always think that winning was all about outcomes. Whether it was revenue, fundraise or the valuations, and so on but over time, maybe you just get to that point by age, I've realized that winning is all about the inputs that you're putting in, in the sense of progress you have for that. So for instance when it comes to a product, what are we doing in terms of the inputs? Shipping features or listening to our customers or increasing retention or increasing acquisitions or increasing NPS so on and so forth. If that is improving then I know that I am winning. And that's the same thing that I would encourage in the team as well.

Key learning: Winning = Inputs that you’re putting in = Sense of progress


How do you think of scaling the company?



Ankur Warikoo: "Scaling in its true definition is getting more done by less. That's the definition of scaling. Unfortunately in today's world, scaling has come to mean you're doing really big things. And that's it. It could also mean that those big things are coming at really big expenses.


So if you were 10 and now you're 100 but to get from 10 to 100 you spent 500 and it's called scaling. I used to be in that same trap for the longest time as a funded founder. Today I realize that scaling is all about doing more with less. So if I was doing 10 with 5, can I now do 100 with not 50 but 40, and if yes then I am scaling. That may mean that I can't do 10 to 100 and I should just do 10 to 40 but instead of it being, say only 50 percent I am now spending 40 percent of my energy doing that. And that abstracts you from the actual quantum that you're hitting. And that's how I think of scaling now. Continuously growing. But at lesser and lesser of what it was before"


Key learning: Scaling = getting more done by less



How to effectively hire and attract talent?





Ankur Warikoo: "I think there are three components to it.

  1. One is of course the founders, their story, their passion, their history, their pedigree. In the early days, the founder will attract the audience whether its customers, its product, whether its talent.

  2. You create a very compelling reason for them to work with you and that becomes your USP or in some way, it becomes the ESP - Employer Selling Proposition. And you can’t be competing on the same level as everyone else. You can’t be competing on the money with all the very well-funded start-ups, you can't be competing for on-brand with all the very well recognized brands. So you have to compete with something else and in my experience, I've found that

  3. Culture is a great way to compete

  4. The quality of work is a great way to compete

  5. The industry that you are working in is a great way to compete

  6. The kind of people that you work with is a great way to compete

  7. The founder and the exposure and the mentoring and coaching that they can give is a great way to compete

so that is what the ESP is"


3. Once the employees are in, you can retain them so that they become brand ambassadors. And that is how the flywheel will work. It's the same for customers. When you attract a customer and you do a good job of retaining them they start speaking about it to other people and that is how the best talent gets recruited. It's very rarely headhunted. It is almost always referred to."


Key learning: Hiring = Answer what's your ESP?

The next article is going to be about the changes we did in the onboarding which improved our payment conversion by 50% 🤩


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