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Growing Superhuman with Love-First Word of Mouth and Marketing During a Recession

Growing Superhuman with Love-First Word of Mouth and Marketing During a Recession

In today’s hyper-connected world, businesses are in constant competition to stand out and attract new customers. In order to achieve this, companies have to offer a unique and exceptional experience to their customers. This is where customer experience (CX) comes into play. A good CX can make all the difference in creating a loyal customer base and increasing sales.

Tune into this conversation to learn more about customer experience and its importance in the company’s growth. 

In this new episode, we are joined by Gaurav Vohra, a Growth & Analytics Leader, Startup Advisor, and Founding Team Member at Superhuman. He has previously worked at Oliver Wyman as the Lab Associate and before that, he had served the same company for more than three years in various capacities. He has also worked as a Sales Analyst at Red Gate Software Company. Apart from serving as the Head of Product Growth at Superhuman, Gaurav offers consulting services to other companies on a contractual basis. 

Throughout this episode, Gaurav discusses several topics, including the importance of onboarding customers, gaining essential skills, and using less budget in company marketing. He stresses the relevance of physically onboarding customers as through this way, customers are able to connect with the company at a human level and also learn the easiest ways of using the product. 

Gaurav further emphasizes the importance of creating an amazing customer experience as the core of any growth strategy and draws inspiration from companies like Zappos and Amazon. He also talks about the benefits of working with a sibling and the importance of building long-lasting relationships in the workplace.


  • Transitioning from Management Consulting to Tech 
  • Competition in the Email Space 
  • Gaining Impactful Overlapping Skills
  • Onboarding the Right Customers
  • Importance of Customer Onboarding Process 
  • How to Launch a Company 
  • Changing Landscape of Tech Industry Hype and Marketing
  • Doing More with Less in Marketing 
  • Co-founding with a Sibling 

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Key Takeaways:

[15:51] Transitioning from Management Consulting to Tech 

Personal analysis of your daily work discloses your true passion and ability

“Yeah, great question. Um, I’ll actually go back, uh, to a point in time prior to management consulting, uh, even, which is, um, you know, thinking about what I wanted to get into from a career point of view, I actually had my first gig as, um, kind of a sales analyst slash internal pm kind of like a, you, you could imagine it’s just like a growth associate, uh, or, or like a rev op kind of role at a software company called Redgate Software, which is, uh, was and is a tech startup based in Cambridge, in England. Uh, they build a sensibly like superhuman for database developers, right? It’s like all the power tools and productivity improvements if you happen to be a database architect or engineer or developer. And this precedes the whole wave of data science and analytics in the last 15 years. This is, you know, back when the job title was dba. But what I did was, you know, I helped their kind of go-to-market teams, the renewals team, the sales team, kind of be more effective by figuring out who they need to be talking to, how they kind of upsell and close and make more revenue, but also really understanding the product that they’re actually selling to these customers. It was a great gig. So I was kind of in tech before I even went into management consulting, uh, and that, you know, through that opportunity, it was cool because it also was a role where really early on I learned some pretty like transferrable technical skills, like sql, uh, obviously the whole company was to do with SQL and databases, but I wanted to get into more of a business, uh, you know, frame of mind. I wanted to understand kind of the commercials and, and how a company actually runs better. And that’s what drew me to consulting. So I did that for about, did consulting for about five years. And consulting, as I’m sure you know, runs the gamut, right? It’s like everything from organizational transformation and really high level stuff through to nitty gritty execution of specific projects, uh, and initiatives. And what I found myself being pulled onto both because I, I cared about it, but also cuz the company like put me on those projects was creating software that helped in, in, in that case our clients, uh, be more effective, right? So I would, I would be the person who has a consultant was actually like getting my hands pretty duy building software. And initially that was, yeah, so I, I would say I was kind of in tech building consultant, not slide decks. I did a couple slide decks and I hated it. Uh, so much so that I actually built a, a productivity tool in all, like within Oliver Wyman that automated the creation of, uh, slides. Um, wow. It allowed, you know, a consultant sitting in London to create a slide and then upload it to a central database and, and a consultant sitting in Sydney could use that in their deck like the next minute, right? And so, like, you didn’t spend any time creating slides. It was like, that’s how much I hated making slide decks. Was <laugh> nice? I built, I made an entire tool that just automated that. But, um, that was side of desk. That was a, that was a fun little project. Um, but yeah, what I was building was not slide decks, it was software that the clients would be using to do everything from make pricing decisions to figure out like risk profile of their investments to, you know, negotiate better with their suppliers, like all kinds of stuff that like companies need. And it was like tons of data on one end and a slick and clean UI on the other end and having to, you know, basically do everything, uh, do those pieces and everything in between while also figuring out business problems, understanding how businesses work. So I did that and I was, you know, fortunate enough to be invested in by people who were more senior in the company than me who were more technical and more business savvy. And, you know, just further along, and when I say invested in, I mean that they kind of opened up opportunities for me to join that team and like have those in, like, I guess make those investments in my skillset. I realized I wanted to get into tech. Why? Because couple things, all my experiences that I’d enjoyed were in tech, uh, the ones I just talked through. And also, you know, uh, I have family and relatives who at that point in time had been in tech for quite some time, including my brother who, uh, was the founder and c e o of Reportive. And that, you know, was a great story, uh, great product, loved by many and was acquired by LinkedIn.”

[27:29] Competition in the Email Space 

A competitive industry is a sign of the availability of a viable market and possible growth of the company

“That’s a great question. I did have that thought. We talked about that a lot. That was a common theme, especially in the first three years of the company, but especially in that first year. And, and in fact, um, and, and the reason why is that was a time in tech history, I suppose, when there was a massive proliferation in mail apps, uh, we had in that window a mailbox, which was really popular, acquired by Dropbox later shut down a complete. That I was very disappointed. <laugh>, I’m sure. Yeah. I mean, lot millions of people did. It was, it was the first big one, but there were others. There was, uh, a company and Astro and, um, you know, I’m forgetting, I’m forgetting like the full, the full set, right? But there were just so many that were around at that time or being started at that time. And a couple of things kind of gave conviction. So one seeing mailbox, and we were like, okay, look, there is clearly a market, there is also a product that could potentially, you know, reach product market fit or like approach product market fit. Um, it, we’ve seen that and, and like this is an area that is ripe for more innovation. Two is kind of a counterintuitive, uh, feeling in, in business or maybe counterintuitive to some, which is, it’s good when there’s tons of competition. What that means is that there’s a big enough market that it’s a place where you want to play. There’s nothing worse than being in a market that just doesn’t exist and won’t exist no matter how hard you try. Of course, if you can create a new market out of nothing, then you know, gods speed and, and, uh, you know, congratulations. But if there is competition in your space, that is fundamentally a good thing. And look at that, look at that with the glass, you know, glass half full kind of mindset. So we saw, I saw the competition. I’m like, great. Okay. But then it’s like, how do you win? How do you kind of have the conviction that you’ll have a different outcome to all those other competitors? And at the time, you know, it was hard to know this because those competitors were operating, and so are we. Right? I look back with hindsight and, and I know many of them have been acquired or, and or shut down, um, for various reasons. But at the time it was a question of what are our edges, why, why do we think superhuman could win? Or like, why do we think we might be able to succeed? A couple of things. One prior experience, like having done a startup before, not being a freshman founder, but having prior experience in this exact area, not just as reported, but also at a much larger tech company of LinkedIn. Uh, and indeed, you know, other founding members of Superhuman bringing to bear incredible experience in, uh, in, in this whole area. Uh, two, having investor backing and having the runway to make good long-term decisions. And not being in a position where we were making short-term decisions to gain, you know, users, but ultimately churning them all out because the product isn’t good enough. And we can talk more about sort of how we approach that in the first few years. And that’s something we did very differently to a lot of the other companies. And I think three was vision. It was, it was the idea that there’s this massive market, right? And it’s like as big as, you know, cars, like everyone, everyone drives a car. Like so many people drive a car. But, and we were going in with very much of an apple, or even like a Tesla sort of, uh, approach where we said, look, we wanna start at the top of this market. We will get to the entire market. That is absolutely the plan, but we do wanna start at the top. And the reason is we want to build the absolute best product and experience. You know, we’re playing this game on very hard mode. We want to go for the highest expectation customer in this huge, huge market, uh, and challenge ourselves to build the best thing imaginable. And that is vision, right? That is a vision of let’s build the best, let’s make it increasingly more available and accessible over time, but challenge ourselves to build the best product that solves the problem the most deeply. And that was a very compelling vision, right? That that set immediately in my headset things apart from, uh, other companies that were sort of trying to do the same thing. Those were some of the thoughts that, uh, we discussed and kind of Yeah, that makes sense. Went through our heads.”

[32:13] Gaining Impactful Overlapping Skills

Life-long learning mindset is essential in one’s skills and career development

“Yeah. I think the first thing I’m gonna say is, um, you know, pi uh, a big dose and pinch of humility, right? Like, there are, there are certain roles in that set that I’m really good at, and there are many that I am only passing at, right? Like, I’m sort of like a, a good person to do it for a chunk of time, and then you wanna bring in someone who’s been doing it for like a decade or two right? To, to really take it to the next level. But, and I think for anyone who’s a early startup, uh, founding team member or employee or founder, it’s, it’s important to have that, you know, mindset. It’s like, yes, I can take the on I’ll, I’ll do it right, I’m a team player, I’ll, I’ll learn and I’ll kind of roll my sleeves up. But it’s also important to recognize one’s own strengths in one’s zone. Um, I guess relative areas where you just don’t have that experience so you don’t have those skills. Um, so that’s the first thing I wanna say. <laugh>. Um, the second thing I wanna say is that I am, or I guess I consider myself a a lifelong learner. I want to be constantly learning about areas that I’m less good at and, and to kind of grow in those areas, which, you know, pulls me in different directions. I’m, I’m very much the generalist who, who, who wants to understand like the whole puzzle. Um, but I also appreciate that just being a strict generalist, uh, means that at some point, or indeed, like very quickly, you stop adding value because you can only go so far in a particular area. So I’m, I’m very drawn to the idea of t shapes, uh, individual or a t-shaped kind of skillset, which is a common concept in, um, you know, in, in professional development. And for me, I would say like the vertical of my T is really in that data and analytics, right? That is the place where I, you know, years and years and years of experience and applied to so many different places. The cool thing about that as the t and when you add things on the bar, whether it’s marketing or products or hiring or whatever, is it’s a, it’s a t that is actually very much in support of other areas, right? Like, data is so useful when you’re hiring. It’s so useful when you are, uh, doing marketing. It’s so useful for products, um, growth, customer teams like, it, it, it is, it is the thing that like every function ultimately needs even at a very early stage or even when it’s like very mature. So I generally bring a very data-centric approach to all those areas. Um, and then I think, like the last thing I would say is that like, I just had the, I had the goal of wanting to grow the company and recognizing that in order to grow the company, you really do just have to roll your sleeves up and do the hard thing sometimes, right? If the blocker to growth is something that’s like, really not my skillset, like not something I want to do, but it is what it is, something that needs to be done. And for example, interview like 500 action is, or like going on board hundreds and hundreds of customers in person. Like, if that’s what you have to do, I will do it, uh, and learn how to do it really, really well. Uh, and that’s just kind of like, um, I guess that’s, we, we call that these days at superhuman kind of the ownership mentality or the kind of grit mentality saying, look though this is not necessarily my specialty. I will, I will do it because it is well as necessary.”

[36:20] Onboarding the Right Customers

The right customers are the one who REALLY need the product as opposed to those who can easily fetch another alternative in the event of technical hitches

“Yeah. What was, what was I doing like doing, playing the game on very hard work? We could have just let people use the products. I know. Yeah. Wild <laugh>, we, we had a couple of fundamental realizations, uh, really, really early on. So I think like the biggest realization was that this is a space where the product is critical. If you make the product and there are bugs or it’s featured incomplete or, you know, maybe it works, but it’s just kind of slow and doesn’t feel nice, it’s not going to retain, fundamentally, it’s not gonna create delight. More importantly as retention’s, you know, a very kind of growth way of thinking about things. But like our, our, our true north star is, are we creating delight for our users? And that’s an emotional thing. And for us to set that as the bar that we need to clear, that means that we can’t just let people have access and, you know, give it a shot and, and kind of be our <laugh>, you know, our, our sort of training bodies in, in, in the, in the crash test, like over and over again. Like that’s not, that’s not a delightful thing to put customers through. Uh, I guess we’re fortunate in that we all used the product internally so we could dog food it obsessively. So we were able to really be our own strongest critics early on, and that was like our biggest kind of product growth loop and, and, and kind of iteration loop and still is actually, but we realized that the product really matters. And so we, we can’t just let people access it and, and then churn out because they encountered critical issues or, or, or frustrating moments. And those moments could range from everything from, I wrote an email and sent it and it did not send, or I was in the middle of writing an email and my draft just disappeared and I have no idea what happened to half an hour of work. Like these are, these are really bad things to happen to a customer all the way through to, gosh, I really wish you all had like a remind me feature. Like, I have that over in Mixmax, but I don’t have it. And see, you know, okay. So we need to build that all the way through to, um, I need this on my iPhone, and you don’t yet have it on your, I, you know, on, there’s no app yet. So, okay. Lot, lots of things that we need to build and get right. Um, that was the first thing. Second thing is like, who are we onboarding? Like who is this product built for? Right? And then you probably read and, uh, know about our, our approach to the highest expectation customer, like going after the person for whom email is life, right? Life is email, or indeed it’s their work life. And their work life is email. So we, we have this stat, which is like the average professional spends three hours a day on email. And that is true, but we are going af like initially we were going after the highest expectation customer who spends 10 hours a day on email, right? Like they live and breathe email. So this is all your VCs, they have to be awesome at email. This is founders CEOs, like constantly fundraising or recruiting or doing early sales customer conversations over email. Um, all the people for whom email is critical for, for them to be professionally successful. And, uh, because they have a very high bar and also their, their, their time is incre incredibly, um, precious and important, wanna be really respectful and mindful of the investment that they’ll put into trying out a new product. And so if we’re gonna go after that customer, we, we, we should give them the best experience, which means showing up at their offices and giving them the best experience and onboarding them to this thing, which admittedly like it’s a big ask early on, right? Like, there’s gonna be a lot of resistance and hesitation and skepticism, and we are there to kind of get them through all of that and still leave them with a delightful experience.”

[39:58] Importance of Customer Onboarding Process 

Customer onboarding allows the company to show the customer simple ways of using the new product and influence habit change

“Um, I talked about this on a, and then, you know, talking about like, why did we onboard, we talked about this in a recent podcast, uh, interview, kind of some of the reasons that you may wanna onboard as a company or as a product. There’s a lot that we do in the onboarding that is really hard to put into software or to transcribe, you know, transcribe into, uh, oh, a self-guided walkthrough. There’s like habit migration, um, you know, for email in particular, all the shortcuts. Yeah. Yeah. Using keyboard shortcuts instead of a mouse. That’s something you can physically help someone with, right? Like you can literally reach over and, and sort of gently hack them on the back of their hand if they use the mouse <laugh> or telling them, Hey, look, you just marked that email on red. You shouldn’t do that. You should just archive it instead. Or, um, you know, really encouraging them to, to adopt a new workflow that’s different to the one they’ve been doing for a decade. Uh, not all companies have this, like some companies or products don’t require a habit change, or the habit change is really simple, but if the habit change is really hard, that’s like a good reason to onboard. Uh, second is if we wanna pick up on bugs and feature requests, again, like there are tools to help you do that, but in our case, we really want to see those bugs and hear those feature requests. We wanted to see those firsthand. We didn’t wanna wait for someone to tell us. We wanna just see it. And I would frequently in my onboardings be, uh, watching the person use the product and think, they wouldn’t even notice the bug, but I’d be like, oh God, that that didn’t work.”

[45:26] How to Launch a Company 

Good launches create positive Public Relations and boosts marketing effort of the company 

“But I have a really, uh, I guess this is inculcated from my superhuman time, I really particular perspective on launches, which is that if you’re launching, you should go massive. You should launch as, uh, impressively and as loudly as you possibly can as a company. It is so hard to cut through the noise as a company, as a startup, and you really want your launch to be big and impressive and uh, joyous and momentous for your employees and your investors and your customers. Uh, and so it’s really important to do that really well. So I’m not a non-believer in launches, but I am pretty keen on this idea that your launch motion and actually letting people use the product can be two distinct things, right? So we, in the early days did several launches. We had, we had several big moments that, um, in our case kind of grew the wait list or gathered the email addresses, like people who we knew expressed interest in, in sort of using the product. Uh, and those were things like when we first launched our website and we had a really big, uh, announcement on social media and, uh, I think there was a little bit of press and, and we did I think maybe a product hunt thing. And then about 10 months after that we did a huge product hunt launch, right? Like we, we lo we re-launched Superhuman with Product Hunt upcoming. It was like a new area of product hunt for products that were not yet, uh, fully available but would be available soon. And we actually were the most signed up for Product on Product Hunt last I checked ever through that launch in terms of the number of email addresses that it collected, a number of like people who expressed interest. Uh, you know, this is all thanks to our massive market, I suppose <laugh>. Um, we, we put a lot of effort into those launches and of course it generates all the other stuff that a launch generates, like a ton of social media interests and investor inbound and you know, people banging down your door trying to gain access and, and all that good stuff. And then of course, like subsequent launches, like when the, um, you know, the mobile app was first ready or, um, even just last year when we launched Outlook support, like, you know, making launches big is a really big deal. And, and that, you know, I I I believe in a multi-channel, multi uh, multi-pronged approach from a marketing point of view. Everything from PR and social to ads some community and, and, and your owned and earned channels where you can get the, the message out there.”

[51:23] Changing Landscape of Tech Industry Hype and Marketing

Marketing of Tech companies has greatly evolved and the companies should only focus on their distinguishing factor as the main area of marketing

“I’d also say that I think the tech industry has had its own changes in terms of what, uh, I guess channels or what creates some excitement and hype. You know, mid 2010s email apps would blow up on Twitter. Everyone loved email apps. And so <laugh>, you know, you’d hear about a new email app and it’d be the thing that was trending and people were signing up for it. And, uh, you know, we were riding that wave at the time as well. Of course now on Twitter, it’s all about ai, right? It’s all about the next new tool that’s gonna automate a whole category of, uh, white collar work or, uh, you know, the, the, the massive, the mind boggling advancements in technology that, uh, coming out using compute power. And that’s, that’s the thing that people are really excited about back then. A techron charter call could be make or break for a, a company. Now all PR is pay walled and, you know, news outlets, I’m sorry, are a pay wall. And it’s really hard to generate as much interest in traffic from a single, you know, TechCrunch or Verge article like it used to be. And so things have changed, right? Like it’s really hard to generate the same kind of hype around the exact same tactics. So I think what’s, what’s more important than I guess like trying to copy and, and exactly replicate old strategies is to, is to distill like what actually works about those strategies, um, and see how that applies to the world we live in today. And a lot of companies doing this really well. They, they are companies that are similarly shaped, superhuman in terms of the product, but they are doing things like adding AI into their products and using that as the hook for their, you know, big flashy social media and, uh, news article launch, which makes sense. You know, if that is truly a way to add value for your customer, and if that’s part of the products, then that’s awesome and it does, it does generate kind of that intrigue and excitement.”

[53:57] Doing More with Less in Marketing 

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, less can generate more

“Yeah. Yeah. It’s a really great question. I mean, the macroeconomic conditions do mean that companies want to preserve their runway. They wanna preserve their, uh, hard earned, uh, dollars, and they don’t want to throw that money, you know, into the marketing well, <laugh> to see, you know, to see what happens and, and, and to be dependent on paying for growth, right? And I think, I think there are some companies for whom, uh, that is the way they grow and that works. Like they, they spend a dollar and get $5. So like, why wouldn’t you just put a million dollars in and get fi, you know, that, that’s totally fine. I think I will also mention the caveat of like, well, if everyone’s pulling back their paid spend, of course it’s gonna be way cheaper to purchase ads now than even six months ago. And so there’s probably some low hanging fruit and some gains for some smart marketers out there who recognize that and they’re like, wow, well my like, bids are just like way cheaper these days. I’m you, I’m killing it. Uh, so there’s definitely some, there’s, there’s always these little arbitrage and like, kind of fluctuations to sort of take advantage of. But if we zoom right back out and think about overall kind of like growth strategies, marketing channels, um, in this kind of an environment where you are, let’s say a founder with let’s say 24 months of runway and you really wanna hold onto that runway for the next 24 months, you don’t wanna spend on ads, I would argue that what you should be focused on is generating the highest quality level of, uh, growth, which in my opinion is word of mouth and referral-based growth that can be achieved in a number of ways. But the very, very core of it, and this is what we focused on really obsessively at Superhuman, is an amazing experience. It’s an experience that is so darn good that every single person who encounters the experience tells someone or many people about the experience. They could have loved the product, they could have loved the customer support, they could have loved you, the random person who showed up at their office, onboard them, um, they could have loved the design of your website or really anything about the end-to-end experience, but it was something that got their attention and they’re like, oh, wow, I’m gonna tell people about this. That is pure, you know, love, love first word of mouth.”

[01:02:40] Co-founding with a Sibling 

There’s an advantage in co-founding a company with a sibling as you mostly already know their strengths and weaknesses

“Yeah, I, I have nothing but positive things to say about that. It’s been incredibly fun. It’s been a privilege to have the opportunity to, to work together. Um, as I mentioned, you know, we both did different things before we kind of came together and started working on superhuman. So it’s been really awesome to learn from his experiences and like, I hope that, you know, the same has felt in reverse <laugh>, you know, the things that I’d learned and brought, have brought to the table. One of the things I’ll say is that, uh, we are very complimentary, but also distinct skills and value add. So we, we very much can be in and yang in a good way. Uh, when it comes to dancing a topic, for example, Rahel is incredible at coming up with, and then sharing, uh, a vision, whether it’s to investors or employees or customers. He’s so good at that, like forward thinking, kind of dare, you know, daring approach to product and business. Uh, I am incredibly, uh, methodical and I will come up with the approach or the system or the, you know, the archive or the library or the data from just about anything that you can imagine. Uh, these are, these are things that respectively we do that, you know, the other person doesn’t really enjoy doing or want to do <laugh>. So that’s just an example of where it’s really helpful if you do have those different spikes. But I think where we, where we are the same is we’re both incredibly maybe left brained in terms of like having a Socratic or like rational approach to problem solving. Um, and that’s where we can kind of like meet, meet in the middle. Um, I think the other thing that I would mention, and this is way more like just emotional, is like, you know, you know where the other person’s coming from 90% of the time. Like, you have an intuitive sense that is like deepen your bones as to as to where their head’s really at and why, um, you can, you can kind of anticipate the other person’s, uh, feelings or moves or intent, um, in a way that’s, that’s really good. I would say this though, I’d say that, you know, some of, some of that deep level of connection that I’m describing, like you can develop that with, with a, not someone who’s not sibling, someone who you may have worked with for, you know, five or 10 years. Like, you can get to that same level. I’ve, I’ve felt that same kind of connection with, with folks I’ve worked with for that long. Um, and it’s really, it’s a function of just how much time you’ve spent together, right? How much, how much, uh, interaction you’ve had. So there anyone listening who’s, uh, like, well, I don’t think I’ll ever have a chance to work with a sibling or a family member. It’s like, well, that’s okay. Um, you can get some of these really cool benefits from working with people who you’ve been connected to for a really long time, professionally or otherwise.”

David Khim

David is co-founder of Omniscient Digital and Head of Growth at He previously served as head of growth at Fishtown Analytics and growth product manager at HubSpot where he worked on new user acquisition initiatives with both the marketing and product teams.