In this episode of the GrowthTLDR, we have another excellent founder story. We talk to Amir Salihefendic, the founder and CEO of ToDoist, a productivity app with over one million active users.
We talk to Amir about:
- How it took him four years to realize his side project Todoist could be a real business and the investments he made when he had that realization.
- Why founders need to be great salespeople to attract talented employees who have a plethora of other options.
- What were Amir's most significant challenges in growing Todoist, and what his future plans are for the company?
Time Stamped Notes:
[3:40] - Amir takes us through some numbers for Todoist. It has tens of millions of signups, more than one million active users, with over 10 million in ARR, and Amir wants to grow it to hundreds of millions of active users.
[5:15] - Doist has two products, Todoist and Twist, with 75 employees, all fully remote.
[6:15] - Amir has entirely bootstrapped Todist. He hasn't taken any outside investment.
[7:20] - It took Amir four years to realize Todoist could be a successful business. Over that time, he treated it like a Sidehustle.
[9:30] - Amir started to work full-time on Todoist in 2011.
[10:50] - The reason Todoist has managed to be so successful in a crowded space is down to the team's passion for solving the problem.
[12:45] - When Amir started to get serious about Todoist, he began to focus on SEO tactics, implementing analytics, and concentrating on the upgrade paths to premium tiers. He then focused on developing mobile apps for the product.
[15:25] - One of the things you need to do as a founder is selling talented people on the mission and vision of the company because it's hard to compete on salaries.
[16:45] - Amir's first hires were people who complimented his weaknesses - for example, someone who could manage HR and deal with people issues. He also hired a COO. He also hired great mobile engineers because it was a key growth channel for them.
[20:00] - Amir hasn't spent a lot of time testing their pricing and packaging, but it's something he wants to start doing. For example, he wants to test moving to a limits model, where you can use all features in free, but only to a certain point.
[22:35] - Todoist had a growth team, but they weren't successful. They've moved towards squads, which are cross-functional teams dedicated to a metric.
[25:00] - The challenge with having a growth team is, you need to run through a high number of tests, and the majority fail, so as a startup, it's easier to invest in things where the result is more known.
[28:40] - Todoist generates hundreds of thousands of users each month. A lot of them are coming from Google and Virality.
[30:30] - Amir feels Todoist can be a billion-dollar business, and he wants to start focusing more on users who are using the product at work.
[33:10] - We talk about the opportunity for a company to be the number one collaboration platform for teams.
[35:25] - One of the biggest challenges Amir had in making Todoist a success was transitioning from being a developer to a CEO. Amir found it difficult to stop writing code vs. spending his time building the company.
[37:40] - As a distributed company, you have to add processes much earlier than companies predominately based in an office.
[38:40] - Amir has no concerns about Doist's ability to grow as a fully remote company.