Sameer Shariff launched a startup to make a big impact in the lives of 1.5B people that are dealing with the same challenge. On the journey, they’ve already raised $60M and built an international presence. His venture, Cambly, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Benchmark, Bessemer Venture Partners, ACME Capital, and Monashees.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Balancing a cash flow positive business with the scale VCs want
- Startup accelerators
- Sameer Shariff’s advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs
- Picking the right investors for your startup
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For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
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Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Sameer Shariff:
Sameer Shariff is the co-founder & CEO of Cambly, an education company that gives English learners on-demand access to English tutors over video chat. Sameer holds engineering degrees from Princeton University & Stanford University.
Before founding Cambly, Sameer was a Member of Technical Staff at blip.me.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Um, already hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So I’m very excited about the guests that we have today I mean we’re going to be talking a lot about building scaling becoming cash flow positive racing money after you know, not having luck I mean I think that you name it, you know, but without further do let’s welcome our guest today. Samir Shari welcome to the show. So originally you know out of New Jersey from a family of 5 you know with parents software engineers so give us a letter of a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.
Sameer Shariff: Thank you so much for having me I’m excited to be here.
Sameer Shariff: yeah so yeah I had a I had a good childhood. Yeah I um I have an older brother and sister I had you know my my 2 parents were yeah like I said both software engineers and so I think what that meant is I got a lot of exposure to technology at a pretty early age. Um. And so I started programming when I was pretty young and and was just super interested in it. Ah and I just in general like loved learning things. Ah you know I remember you know my mom teaching me some complex computer science. Ah computer science concepts when I was pretty young and ah. And it going way over my head and you know I think I think having 2 older siblings was great because I was constantly learning from them like my sister and I joke about how she would learn something at school and then come home and teach it to me and so I just I was in a really great environment for life learning and I I just really I think it. Help me really get a a love for learning and that stuck with me I think all the way until today I ah you know cambly as we’ll get into with an education company and so I think over time I really became fascinated by you know I loved being a student and I loved education. But I think over time I became really fascinated in the ways that. Technology could bring higher quality and english high quality education to people around the world and so I think sort of married my my love for education and my love for technology.
Alejandro Cremades: Got it and now were your parents here in the Us s born and raised to did they come from anywhere else that.
Sameer Shariff: No, they they ah they immigrated here I was actually born in Canada and I spent the first year of my life there before before we landed in New Jersey ah but yeah, a fun fact about my family all the 5 of us were born in 5 different countries.
Alejandro Cremades: Wow! what.
Sameer Shariff: And so ah, very much. Ah, a global ah global company right? there a global ah ah, family right? There? Um yes, they imigrated here. They both grew up speaking English and I I grew up speaking English as Well. And so as we get into cambly and and which is an English education service. Ah. Yeah I think that wasn’t an experience I had personally it was something I kind of I sort of came across later on in life.
Alejandro Cremades: Well I mean coming here to the us and and to to to give a better life. You know for you and your sister I mean I’m sure that they were very very much proud when you attended Princeton and then Stanford I mean oh my god you know they the schools that you attended. Yeah.
Sameer Shariff: Yeah I was I was really fortunate I think to to get to? yeah continue to pursue my ah you know my love for learning at at ah different places and I think even beyond the schools I went to you know I started my career at Google really fortunate to to get started. There. It was a really? ah. This was kind of in like the mid 2000 s and Google was just ah, a really really exciting place to be I think as a technologist a lot of really cool technology work was happening there. Ah.
Alejandro Cremades: But why why? why? why? Google because I mean here you are in Stanford you know you are you have like this love also for problem solving right? I mean obviously engineering and you are in the meca of of startups. You know, like why? why not explore because I mean obviously you.
Sameer Shariff: And.
Alejandro Cremades: I believe that you were exploring and you know doing your your little you know a weekend project here or a little startup startup project here or they’re why Google and maybe not taking a step at it. You know before Google.
Sameer Shariff: yeah that’s a really good question um so yeah I did I did do some sort of entrepreneurial endeavors while I was in college and I was always poking around trying out new things and so I was really interested in like business and and sort of startups even ah, even at that age. ah visited Google and it was just ah I mean I think about that it was a different time than I think startups actually were it was harder to figure out where to go in terms of startups. It was a very different time back then. Ah and Google was just I think a really exciting place I remember in maybe midway through college for me Google Maps came out and it just like. Blew. Everyone’s mind like how could you do this as Google was just doing stuff with technology that no one else was doing and so I visited and I was like I just want to be at this place I want to I want to participate in this and I think it was for me a really good opportunity to to. Learn a lot about technology building software scale. Ah um, you know, learn about how a really amazing company was run and so it was actually ah a wonderful place to to start my career and I I I didn’t think that’s seriously about during a startup at ah at a college honestly like I think I was just a little less aware of. Of that world and what was going on and Google was I think you could I guess it was a startup a few years prior but it it is scaling pretty fast. Ah, but but I think you know I wouldn’t I wouldn’t do it anyway. I think I had a really really good experience there and and learned a ton that but I think help prepare me to take that next step and and start to explore the startup world.
Alejandro Cremades: And what? what? what did you learn from Google I mean those were the years of crazy growth too. I mean Google had just gone public two years before that. So what? what? what did you learn? what? what lessons do you take out you know with you from Google.
Sameer Shariff: Yeah I mean I think really practically speaking like I learned how to be I learned how to be a good software engineer I learned a lot of like very tangible skills that that served me really well later on I worked with people you know the team I joined out of college I was this 22 year old electrical engineering major actually and. Everyone on my team had like a computer science ph d and so I was just in an environment where I I couldn’t help but just absorb all of these these people who are far far more experienced than than I was in you know in in software engineering and so I learned a lot about how to be a really good software engineer how to build software that scales really? well. Ah, so I think some really practical skills there in terms of what I was actually working on and then I you know I learned I think a lot of I think Google is a really well-run company like I learned a lot about how how those how really well a company is run like how they make decisions how the organization is structured how leadership. You know, ah thinks about problems and so I got a lot of exposure I think to just a great company and so I think that was super valuable I still draw lessons from that. Ah and then specifically the team I was on. It was sort of um, a metrics and analytics team and and so we were all about data. And and Google is a company I think is all very very focused about making data-driven decisions and so ah, that’s something that I learned really well I worked with some amazing software engineers some really good statisticians like how do you actually leverage data to to build the best service to build the best company you can build and.
Sameer Shariff: A lot of those have translated really well to to to the startup environment as well. We specifically worked on like an a b testing platform for search quality and and a b testing is a powerful concept that I think Google kind of pioneered in the technology space. And we were reckon kind of I was I fortunate to be right there in the mix is that a lot of that work was happening and and those things although they don’t apply perfectly right? when your company’s getting started as your company scales. There’s some really valuable things you can do ah to sort of build the best growth engine. You can. To iterate on the product and make sure you’re you’re using the data you have to to make the best decisions. So.
Alejandro Cremades: And you’re talking about being a good software engineer I mean I’m sure that there’s a lot of entrepreneurs right now that are are tuning in and and are maybe like thinking about like recruiting and now bringing for the first time their engineering team or or whatever that is but I guess. What does a good software engineer look like I mean what would you say are the 3 main you know skillsets of a really good software engineer.
Sameer Shariff: That’s a tough one because they come and I think come in different flavors. I mean Google I think had you know I get all types of software engineers. But I think a lot of my exposure was kind of more backend people that ah. You know, didn’t just know how to like write code to like get the job done but they would architect things in a way that would extend and expand to other areas like kind of anticipate problems and build the software in a way that would sort of flex in that direction. So I think that’s really valuable like. Kind of being a good architect and thinking a few steps ahead of where is this software going? Um, ah scale is one I’ve mentioned that like you know you could write code a certain way and it might work if you only have a few users. But if you want to scale up to millions or tens of millions of in Google’s case Billions ah there are really different ways to build software ah and and that’s a skill that like I mean it’s hard to learn in like in the abstract you you kind of need to like you know you need to like I think it’s really valuable to have folks that have actually. Built really really scalable services and I mean Google is operating at just such enormous scale that ah yeah, a lot of a lot of software engineers there have exposure to that and and I think that’s really valuable if your company actually starts to you know, get some traction and and have some success. It’s it’s really valuable to have people that have.
Sameer Shariff: Have seen how to build build software that that scales really? well.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your case I mean after almost five years at Google you decide to leave I mean it sounds like there was like a colleague former colleague that was building some exciting stuff I mean it’s it’s a really big deal. It’s a really big decision to leave Google so I mean what? what? What do you? think you know push you to do so.
Sameer Shariff: Um, yeah, it was. It was a tough decision I think I’ve been like ah and I want for for starters I like like actually still loved my job at Google at the time and so it’s always tough to leave something like it’s not like I was unhappy I was I was still really enjoying my my job there. Ah. And but I’d been really curious about startups I think you can’t help you’re hanging on Silicon Valley you’re hearing with startups all the time like I’ve been really really curious about them for a long time. But I think especially kind of while being here. Ah, and I think. What was helpful is all of a sudden there was like this concrete opportunity. It was like I could It’s not an abstract idea anymore like I could actually go join this company with this person I really trust and learn from them and so it became from this abstract thing to something that was very very concrete and and the way I thought about it is like i. You know I loved working at Google I’d learned a ton while I was there. Ah, but if you think about your your career as sort of ah you know a 45 year journey or whatever. Ah, you know I was still relatively early in my career and I I was curious about startups I wanted to learn more about them. And I wasn’t sure like yeah I love working at Google but maybe I’ll like working at startups even more and you know when I thought about my career as this you know longer journey I thought now was a good time to explore and figure out what I really like and so that that helped me I think make the leap I think the other thing that helped me make the leap is like.
Sameer Shariff: These decisions that sometimes aren’t as big as you make them mouth to be like if you if you make that decision and you realize it was a terrible decision. You could probably go back and and reverse it and and get a job at Google or another big company otherwise and so I think kind of having a little comfort that like this wasn’t a 1 ne-way door. This wasn’t a reversible thing I think helped me make the leap. And then I joined this startup with the former colleague of mine and and I like absolutely loved it. It was like very clear to me very quickly that this is actually way better for for me I I mean I just I love wearing like I love wearing lots of different hats I love understanding all of the different aspects of of a business I think there are things that I just didn’t even think about. When I was a software engineer at Google that I got to like actually focus a lot of energy on and there are things I discovered that I was good at that I didn’t know and so I just it was like a total It was a perfect It was a great fit for me and I’ve I’ve never looked back.
Alejandro Cremades: But what did you discover that you were good at come on. You can’t leave us on the uncertainty.
Sameer Shariff: Yeah, for sure. Yes I think like there were things like ah you know there were things like yeah I like I like the cell basically I like you know I like to be a salesman I like to kind of do that sometimes and I think that was the thing I realized at Gurula like. Just didn’t really have a lot of facets to to like exercise that skill like to to do that and so I think that’s one area that like obviously if you’re in if you’re in a startup environment. They’ll take whatever skills you can bring the table and then obviously the job that I’m
Alejandro Cremades: I mean now is a founder you’re selling all the time you’re selling investors you’re selling to future hires right? so.
Sameer Shariff: Ah that’s just the thing a thing that I kind of I knew I enjoyed doing but I didn’t really have a way to do it as a software engineer at Google I think 1 thing I discovered is like you know when I joined when I doing this startup out of Google like ah because of the the nature of the work I did at Google I actually didn’t think I thought a lot about metrics and data. And statistics but I didn’t really teach think that much about like product like consumer facingcing product just because I wasn’t really on a consumer facingcing product team. Ah, when you’re like at a Fourperson company like you kind of have to think about everything and I I think I learned that like one I I like um I really enjoy thinking about product and I actually. Think I realized I had more of an act worth than than I initially thought and so that was something that that like was a bit of a discovery for me because I just all of a sudden had an opportunity and a reason to start thinking about this stuff.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your case I mean you know you were there for close to 2 years you meet now your cofounder at cambly so what was that the journey because I mean as they say you know ideas they’re Doormant. You know they take time to incuate. They’re there. We don’t even know that they’re there. But then there are certain events that perhaps trigger trigger us or push us you know towards taking action. So what do you think you know was that you know process or that journey from inception to to lunch you know for you? All how did that look like well.
Sameer Shariff: Um, yeah, so ah yeah, I was really fortunate to get to meet my cofounder at this startup and he was employee number one and I was employee number 2 so I I didn’t just meet him but I worked in a um, highly unstructured startup environment I think very very. Similar to what it’s like to start a company ah together and and I was super impressed from him from from the early days and and I think I had you know told some of my family that hey this is this is the kind of person I’d love to start a company with one day. Ah, and ah, you know my co-founder. Kevin. He had been I think pretty interested in language learning in particular and and I think you know we we started talking a little bit about ah, kind of what what grew into the the idea for cambly and ah and I think you know cambly really? um, like the inspiration for cambly really came from our own experiences. Learning other languages and so ah, you know Kevin and I both grew up here in the us we went to public schools here took foreign languages as part of that and learned them in sort of a traditional classroom environment and then sort of independent from that we both love to travel and so we’ve been all over the world and. I took a trip one trip in particular to to Argentina where um I was traveling alone for a good chunk of that and I kept finding myself in situations where I was surrounded by people that only spoke spanish ah, and yeah I took spanish in high school I was like not that great at it.
Sameer Shariff: Ah, and I kind of thought I wasn’t really a languages person. Ah, but then when I when I immersed myself in an environment and surrounded myself with people that that spoke spanish it sort of forced me out of my shell it it got me talking and. What I found is I learned so much faster in that environment than I ever did in a classroom and not just that it was like way more rewarding than it ever had been ah, you know in sort of a more artificial classroom environment and so ah, my cofounder Kevin took took french in school and. Went to France and had a very similar experience there and so we kind of got together around this idea of like why can’t we know we should fail to practice these languages whenever we want. There’s plenty of people in the world that speak these languages they just don’t happen to live near us. Ah and you know as product people as technologists we we kind of felt like hey this this seems like the kind of problem. The technology could solve. And what we wanted actually wasn’t a formal lesson like a formal sort of structured lesson with a professional teacher. What we wanted was just a regular person. We could talk to. Ah you know very similar to what you do when you’re traveling you just strike up a conversation with with someone kind of on the street and. And we wanted to kind of recreate that and so that was sort of where where cambly came from and and as I mentioned Kevin wanted to learn french I wanted to learn spanish but as we looked at the market. We quickly realized the market wants the the world wants to learn english and.
Sameer Shariff: And so we decided to focus on that and what I’ve learned over time is that you know english is really different from every other language I think for those of us who are you know who grew up speaking english I think I think it’s easy to think that oh if I you know me learning spanish to someone else learning english those are kind of equivalent. But they’re not ah you know I think the the reality is that they are you know the world is kind of landed on english as being the language of international business and trade and ah if you want to participate in that. That economy ah learning english is is a prerequisite of that and and the result of that is is that there’s an immense demand to learn english because people know it will unlock huge economic opportunity for themselves and so ah, you know if you zoom out a bit. There’s about seven point five eight billion people in the world. There’s 6000000000 of them 6000000000 other people don’t speak english so in the broadest sense like that’s the market and by the way of those 6000000000 people. 1 point 5000000000 people are actively trying to learn english right now and so it’s this It’s this huge huge problem in the world. But I think what’s really interesting and fascinating about it is ah those of us who speak english like we just don’t see it like we don’t have the problem ourselves. Ah, but not just that like no one we know has the problem. Ah you know it’s not a coincidence that our our friends and family also speak english we talk to them all the time and so it’s this enormous, really important problem that’s kind of.
Sameer Shariff: I think largely overlooked by the english-speaking World. Ah, and yeah I think if if you’re someone who doesn’t speak English and you and you learn it. It just it can. It can completely change your life. It can get you a Job. You wouldn’t have gotten otherwise it can allow you to move to a place where you could have a better life. Um I Think. You know outside of the economic Opportunity. There’s there’s things like access to information. There’s so much information we think we have information our finger fingertips in this you know in this day and age but actually a lot of that information is in English A lot of the internet is in English and so um, you know we kind of take for granted as English speaker to that We have access to that. But if you don’t know english. And you know some other language only like the world of information you can play in including things like this podcast you know are much Smaller. You may you may not be able to listen to this because because this podcast is english.
Alejandro Cremades: Yeah, there you go. So so then what ended ended up being the business model of cambly. How do you guys make money. Yeah.
Sameer Shariff: Yeah, so the the product is super simple. You know it’s ah it’s an app you press a button and within a few seconds we connect you to a friendly native english speaker over videochat. Ah, and it’s a 2 wo-sided marketplace so students pay to subscribe to the service. And tutors get paid to talk to students and so yeah, pretty pretty simple like simple business model and and but yeah we make we make money off of kind of ah the the spread of those 2 things.
Alejandro Cremades: And how is the experience of going to y combinator for you all.
Sameer Shariff: Yeah, it was great. Ah, you know I think we so early on you know when we got started with the company. We just bootstrapped for like about the first year and so Kevin and I were funding the company ourselves ah pretty humble beginnings like we ah you know we basically you know we spent our days. Ah, we were the only 2 tuers on the platform initially and so we basically spent our days writing code and building the product and then when a student called in. We’d you know, run off to the other room and talk to them. Ah real quick and then come back and ah. You know we were basically like we were personally delivering all of the value in the marketplace ourselves. Ah, you know we’ve come a long way since then and and today we have like a huge community of tutors and we do um over 1 year of 1 on 1 tutoring every single day and so the the impact and the volume that we’re doing is is is much much bigger. Ah, but but the end those early days we kind of we were. We were pretty scrappy and we we figured out how to make this on-demand service with with very little capital and then about a year in we applied to Ycombinator we did that and it was a really great experience. I think you know Kevin and I are both first -time founders and so. Ah, a lot of this was a new newter us we knew technology. We knew to build a product. Ah but we didn’t know much about um, you know how to how to pitch it to investors how to fundraise. Ah the yc community is I just think a really amazing community to be part of and so we met some great people there that we’ve still kept in touch with.
Sameer Shariff: Think even after finishing ycomindator and which I think really helped us raise our seed round. Ah, you know we’ve kept in touch and benefited a lot from being part of thelyc community and so I think it was a really good decision to to do that? Ah ah, early on in the company’s history.
Alejandro Cremades: And in terms of capital. How much capital have you guys raised today.
Sameer Shariff: Yes, we’ve raised about $60,000,000 in the lifetime of the company. Um and the company’s actually cash flow positive and has been for the last five years happy to get more into how we got that god got got there later. Ah. but but yeah so we actually have like you know we raised $60000000 and we have more than that in the bank today. So so puts it some like a pretty healthy financial position.
Alejandro Cremades: And I mean for you guys, you know, very early on I mean you you really tested. You know the whole cash flow positiveness which is not the norm right? when you’re like a hypergrowth company there you know out of the Bay area. But but I guess for you guys I mean how has it been? the.
Sameer Shariff: A.
Alejandro Cremades: Fundraising experience. You know for raising all this money too because I mean I know that at the beginning was a little bit rocky and.
Sameer Shariff: Yeah that’s absolutely right? It’s it was a mixed experience I would say like ah you know I’ve I’ve ah I’ve attempted to fundraise many times and I’ve succeeded some of them and I’ve what I’ve found. Is it often goes kind of 1 of two ways. Ah. Either it goes really smoothly and it gets done. You know relatively fast. Ah or it’s really rough and it takes a long time and often it doesn’t end in us raising money and I’ve I’ve had both those experiences both both those experiences multiple times. Um. You know, early on in our history I think it was tough. It was you know it was honestly tough like even before y cominator we explored fundraising and it was tough to get you know, get people across the finish line there like and I think that the reason for that I think there are think of a couple reasons for that I think one. Ah. You know as I mentioned like this is just not a problem that people who speak english think about very much and so we got a lot of questions that were along the lines of like oh is this actually like a big problem in the world like are people willing to like spend money to to learn english and and I think you know you may may know that like the the the answer is yes, absolutely like it. Enormous problem in the world. It’s a huge market. But I think people just didn’t see it every day like they didn’t need the product. You know the people they knew weren’t talking about this problem and so I think that made it more challenging. We kind of had to educate um, educate the at least the investor community about about what we’re doing and I think the other challenge was there’d been a handful of companies that had.
Sameer Shariff: Tried to build language learning service before and and you know they hit some challenges and so a lot of the questions we got in the really early days were like okay well well why you know how are you different like why is why is that not going to be your destiny as well and it’s tough to I think answer those questions I think a lot of what we had to do was just kind of. Prove with scaling the business that that hey cambly’s different and and um, you know some of those fundraising conversations like that that didn’t go our way. Ah you know I think we had to go back and and kind of yeah prove folks wrong and and try to come. You know come with some evidence and data that that. Was it a bit more irrefutable.
Alejandro Cremades: Now I think that at least that they served you guys very well I mean there’s always a positive in in a negative none I think that from that early experience of finding it a little bit rocky to find capital I think that you guys have been able to benefit at least from what I hear where you still have a ton of that money. You know that you’ve raised in the bank because. The last round that you did you know was a few years ago I mean we’re talking about 2020. so so I guess how the question that comes to mind is how were you able to also balance. You know that mentality of being capital effective as um as a team with perhaps you know the mentality of. Vc firms of go go go spend spend spend and burn. You know as much as you can to grow as fast as you can.
Sameer Shariff: Yeah, yeah, so you know I mentioned that you know we got to cash positive about five years ago and um you know that I think in the very early days. We were just really efficient because we were spending our own money and so we built a lot of stuff in a way that like scaled really well and scaled efficiently were 2 engineers. So like. Every time something got repetitive or expensive. We’d we’d say hey can we write some code to automate this and I think we had of had this foundation where we we built a really like lean marketplace um from from like the very very early days. Um, but you know that always kind of evolves over time and so. You know we weren’t casual positive for the first few years of the company and you know when we got to capital positive. It wasn’t really out of choice I think we we were kind of forced to go that route because we went out to raise a series a um, you know we didn’t have a ton of money in the bank. We were burning a decent amount per month. Ah, and you know the plan was. We’re going to raise a series a and then we’ll we’ll go on from here. That’s what that’s what startups do and and obviously things did not go as planned. We were not able to get ah the you know offers we were excited about or or you know things we were willing to move forward with ah and so we had to circle up and kind of come up with plan b. Basically and plan b was that we’re going to get the company to cash flow positive and so um, it was definitely like ah ah, a challenging and stressful time but also a really productive time because it it gave an immense amount of clarity and focus. Ah for what we needed to do and um, you know.
Sameer Shariff: Four months after you know four months later we had a cash flow positive company and and this is late 2017 ah, and yeah, we basically we’ve been cash flow positive ever since and about a year after that we went back out and talked to a lot of those same investors who would who would in 1 way or the other not. Decided to invest in cambly earlier and we got a really really different reaction. Ah you know the the company had actually we had we’d went out and said hey we’re going to accomplish all these things if you give us money ah and and then no one gave us money and then we were actually able to like buy buy.
Sameer Shariff: Dialing in the business still accomplish those things without the capital and so it ended up being this really compelling story of like hey we told you were going to do this stuff. You know if we had this extra capital. We never got the capital and we still did it. Ah and I think like we just built such a more robust and healthy business in that year that I think kind of seeing seeing you know our perseverance to push through that and then also seeing how how well we are really improve the business I think was just made for made for like a compelling story for investors coming back to your question about like how do you balance the like. You know Vc is wanting to push you and to spend a lot of money and and also keeping kind of a lean operation. Ah you know I think we’re you know the nice thing about being cash positive. You can be really selective about who you decide to work with and so we we were like you know we were we were picky about who we who we decided to work with and we found folks that I think were’re. Philosophically aligned with with our approach. Um, and the way I think about this actually is like a little bit different like the you know ah we we’ve always been I think pretty lean and efficient as a company and um and I think we actually have pretty good alignments. We’re pretty good alignment with the. Vcs we work with in that and you know the way I think about this is like I’m not looking to like just get to some scale no matter what to sort of hit just hit some next milestone. Ah what I really want to do is I want to figure out like 1 of the mechanisms that are going to allow us to scale the but that scale the company for a really long time.
Sameer Shariff: Ah, and so if you if you kind of frame it that way and you take the timeline away. You don’t think like what do I need to get to the next fundraiser. What do I need to get to this artificial milestone if you think about it as like how do I how do I set this company up so it can grow for the next ten or twenty years ah you know you’re kind of in the early stages there and and a lot of what what we’re doing is experimenting and figuring out what mechanisms work and I think it’s really easy if you just throw loads of capital at the problem to like learn the learn and take away the wrong lessons and so um, that’s sort of how we approach it and. And I think we’re pretty lined with our vcs there which is great because I think they’re they’re big believers and in scaling in a really efficient way as well and and they kind of believe that that’s what actually going to lead the company to the best long-term outcome.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing now for the people that are listening to get an idea on the scope and size I mean how big is kamli I mean anything that you can share in terms of numbers of maybe employees or anything else that you’re comfortable with.
Sameer Shariff: Um, yeah, we’re we’re a couple hundred people about a couple hundred people now. Um and a really global team so you know I mentioned english education is is a global problem. ah there um ah so yeah we have we have it. We are. We’re headquartered in San Francisco but ah we’ve got teams and operations in each of our biggest markets. Ah, and that’s sort of we’ve got a few teams in East Asia in like Middle East turkey we’ve got a Brazil team. Um, and so yeah, camley’s actually like been a pretty global business and operation from from day one and. We’ve built out a team to reflect that and so we have teams kind of in places where where our customers are um and we’ve taken like a pretty interesting model there like the ah you know I think because of the nature of the problem we’re working on teaching english. Ah. We we sort of had to figure out how to be global from from day one like I mean literally it was just the 2 of us you know, working on this on this company and we built an app and localized it in 10 languages because by definition your customers who are trying to learn english don’t necessarily. You don’t necessarily Knowl english and so. It’s very different from I think the other companies I’ve worked at where localization can kind of be an afterthought after you get to some scale for us. It was like something we had to figure out really really early on and then I think we’ve also kind of built out our team in that way and so we figured out pretty early on that like we’re not going to be able to. We don’t know how to.
Sameer Shariff: Market in Korea or Brazil or turkey like like we don’t know the language we know the culture and so we we hired basically country managers who who were from those places who really understood it and they were able to kind of launch our business in those markets. Ah, and the the ah and sort of the affected ad is like we have ah like we have a product and ah and a business. That’s like extremely localized like to the point where ah I think one of the really cool things is a lot of the folks like who use our service. Actually think we’re a local company. You talk to a Korean customer. They think they’re we’re a korean company you talk to like the saudi customer they think we’re a saudi company and it’s because of this sort of really decentralized approach. We’ve taken. Um, and so I think it’s yeah, it’s a really interesting, really interesting aspect of of our company.
Alejandro Cremades: Now Imagine if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of cambly is fully realized what does that world look like.
Sameer Shariff: Yeah, that’s ah, that’s a great question. It’s a good world. So I think that world would look like I think anyone you know those those one point five billion people that are trying to learn english right now I think any one of them has access to really high quality.
Sameer Shariff: English Education high quality English education. That’s that’s yeah, affordable, affordable for them and and really effective. Ah, and I think what that means is it’s going to unlock a lot of opportunity for them and you know I know like.
Sameer Shariff: It’ll be hard to ever get to a truly level playing field for for anyone in the world. Ah, but I believe that if we could make English education accessible ah to everyone. It’s going to be a huge huge step in that direction and so that that is our dream that is our vision. You know I think we’ve got. Ah, we’ve got ah a ways to go. We’ve got a lot a lot of work ahead of us. But but that’s where that’s what we’d like to accomplish as a company.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing now imagine I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time you know perhaps to that time that you know you had left Google now you were in the startup world. You know that you had met now your your cofounder and and where you’re like thinking about doing something of your own. Imagine if you have that opportunity of having a sit down with that younger self and giving that younger self one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Sameer Shariff: So I would ah I would probably tell myself that building a startup is ah a long journey and it takes a lot of time to build. Ah, really impactful company if I think about what I was like back then I think I was probably naive in a bunch of ways around. Oh We’ll just build this thing and then it’ll like it’ll be huge and that’s definitely not been the Case. It has been.. It has been a long road and I think there’s been lots of ups and downs along the way. Um, ah, but. But that’s sort of what you’re signed up for I Think that’s that’s that’s part of the fun. Ah, you know it’s It’s not a linear route. Ah you know there’s there. Yeah,, there’s ups and downs and ah but I think if you can kind of keep perspective of like you know what are we doing? Why are we doing it? Um, and. And do I do I believe that this is like a good thing. It’ll it’ll get you through a lot of that and I think that’s yeah, the the challenges and and you know things that that are hard about it I think it’s also why it’s really rewarding and if the thing you were trying to accomplish wasn’t hard then someone who’ve probably done it already and So. Ah, it’s you know I tell myself maybe more of a Pep talk than a specific view of piece of advice. But I tell myself that like yeah you know this is this is part of the journey part of the fun and yeah, if you want to make a change in the world like a company is a really good vehicle to do that. Ah, but but yeah, it takes time to to to.
Sameer Shariff: To fulfill the the impact you you want to have.
Alejandro Cremades: I love it so Samir for the people that are listening that would like to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so yeah.
Sameer Shariff: Ah, so we’re we’re hiring across the board and so if you’re interested in in working on a really highly impactful problem that ah that I think needs more attention. Ah you know, check out our careers Page. Ah. And if you’re interested In. You know you or someone you know is either interested in becoming a tutor on a platform or or wanted to learn English You can go to canbe.com and and check us out there and yeah, those are probably the the the best ways to get in touch. But yeah, we’d love to you know we’re you know a big part of our phase right now is we’re just. We’re investing a lot and growing the team and so looking for for amazing folks who are excited about excited about our our mission and the impact it can have.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well Samir. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show. It has been an on earth to have you with us today. Thanks.
Sameer Shariff: Yeah, thank you so much for having me.
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