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 growth and how to form a growth team.
What is in this week’s read
An incident that brought tears to my eyes.
Learnings from the setbacks of the last few weeks✨
It was 12:30 AM and I was planning to go to bed. I received an email saying - 'Your app is suspended by Google due to some policy violation.' An app that I have been working on for the past 1.5 years, day and night trying to create beautiful experiences for my users JUST GOT SUSPENDED! I didn’t have any clue how to go about it. So, I pinged my co-founder Ankur Warikoo and informed him about what had just happened.
After running the worst of scenarios in my head, I immediately filed for an appeal. It was 1 AM and I figured I can’t do much at the moment so I tried catching up on sleep.
Obviously I couldn't sleep because I had all kinds of thoughts coming in. In particular - 'What will happen if the app never comes back?'
And this is probably the time I missed my app the most. Because I knew, once I play a bedtime story I would be sleeping like a baby in no time!
Anyway, I tried to put the vicious cycle to rest, got whatever sleep I could and next morning again pestered Ankur. We decided to do whatever in our capacity to get the app back. To be honest, the list wasn't long. It only included - Reach out to Google!
It was that moment when it hit me that there is a possibility all our effort building Calm Sleep will go in vain. And I couldn't help but think continuously ~
That calm sleep wouldn't exist anymore.
That people who have trusted us with their hard earned money won’t be able to extract the value.
That all my team members who are working their asses off for the past one year without any salaries will be hurt.
And this brought tears to my eyes.
I was super angry at Google. I think they were a bit too harsh with their decision to suspend the app. For the first time, I understood the power they are sitting on and to be frank, it’s too much!
But I told myself, it’s not over until it’s really over. So, we continued the operations as is. We continued building the product, we continued looking at the data, we continued producing more content for the app.
Google looked at our appeal and decided to let go off the policy violation strike. Our app got back on the Play Store within 4 days. It was a dreamy moment. At the same time, it was a strong reminder for us to be more professional in our approach.
And I learnt a thing or two.
Not taking Google policies lightly: Okay, so don't judge me but despite being someone from a product background I was someone who would just click on and agree to all terms and conditions. And I know most of you who are reading this are in the same category. Thanks to this incident, I promised myself I never will. This is when I read the entire Google Policy document and we are currently in the process of making all things right.
It’s not over until it’s over: I could have paused operations until I knew that the app was coming back. I thought to myself, if it doesn’t - I won’t be able to do much other than request them to reinstate. If it does, I would have wasted a hell lot of time - first thinking about what will happen and then resuming operations after it’s back. This would have wasted some X days with no outcome. More importantly, I realised it’s the message that you give your team members. The strongest message my team members received through this exercise was to accept that it’s alright if some fuck up happens. That doesn’t mean you lose your hope waiting for some magic to happen. You continue doing everything you can do to ensure that everything goes back on track, in a minimal time frame.
Your energy = Your Team's Energy: This incident was like a weird but highly effective team-building exercise. It made my team and me stronger. I noticed that mostly everything floats top to bottom. If I act cool and strong, my team acts cool and strong. I never knew this until we went through this experience.
People are rooting for our success: When our app got banned, I don’t know why but I was embarrassed. In the next 2 days, I received some 20 whatsapp messages asking why they can't see the app on the Play Store. When I told them about what happened, they were furious and asked if I would need any help. This was surprising to me as I thought no one cared about what we were building. I felt more responsible and stronger.
If you are failing at something at the moment or feel you are trapped inside a tunnel, here's my pep talk of the day -
It’s not over until it’s over! :)
In the next article, I will talk more about the new set of things we are planning to launch, how a small change helped us increase our engagement time by 40% and more.
Until then, keep calm :)
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