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Invest Like the Best with Patrick O'Shaughnessy

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Aug 12, 2021

My guest today is Sameer Shariff, co-founder and CEO of Cambly. After starting his career at Google, Sameer founded Cambly in 2013 as an on-demand service to learn English. At the touch of a button, Cambly connects its global user base into a 1-on-1 conversation with an English speaker.

 

During our conversation, we cover the origin story of the business, what Sameer views as the core functions of the two-sided marketplace, and how the team approached scaling a product that was international from day one. Once you hear Sameer talk, you quickly realize the size of Cambly’s market opportunity and why it may have been easy to overlook this problem. I hope you enjoy this great conversation with Sameer Shariff.

 

For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content, check out the episode page here.

 

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Founder's Field Guide is a property of Colossus, Inc. For more episodes of Founder's Field Guide, visit joincolossus.com/episodes.

 

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Follow us on Twitter: @patrick_oshag | @JoinColossus

 

Show Notes

[00:03:05] - [First question] - What led him to the original concept of Cambly

[00:05:21] - Beginning to learn the scope of the problem and what solving it unlocked 

[00:07:58] - What Cambly is and how they started tackling the problem 

[00:09:15] - Lessons learned about the challenges of building an alive marketplace 

[00:11:41] - Technical challenges and the enabling technologies that allowed it to happen 

[00:12:59] - Deciding on what to focus on first when it comes to students 

[00:15:24] - Figuring out the formula for unit economics and the pricing structure

[00:17:02] - Learning what doesn’t work in their business model

[00:18:07] - Setting up quality control measures and moderation

[00:21:01] - Tools and services that will improve their experience in the future

[00:23:18] - What the 11-star version of Cambly would look like in a decade

[00:26:56] - Ways in which their software and concept could be applied elsewhere

[00:28:30] - Setting themselves up for success and fine-tuning the matchmaking component

[00:30:37] - Driving users to the platform and audience building strategies

[00:33:46] - Making the platform feel native to each country it serves

[00:35:59] - Surprising lessons learned around distribution and market penetration

[00:37:13] - The biggest boss battles faced as a business

[00:40:17] - Advice he would give to founders in a similar situation 

[00:41:32] - How he’s personally changed the most across this journey

[00:43:32] - Ways he’s shifted to a state of letting go and trusting his team more

[00:45:14] - Lessons learned from studying Airbnb

[00:47:22] - The kindest thing anyone has ever done for him 



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