Anis Bennaceur's Ambitious Pursuit
How Attention is Building the Next Generation of Sales Intelligence Tools
Hey! Justin here, and welcome to another edition of Just Go Grind, a newsletter sharing the tactics, strategies, and stories of world-class founders. Today’s deep dive is sponsored by Attention as part of my Partner Program, where I interview ambitious founders building amazing companies and write about their stories.
Anis Bennaceur, Co-Founder & CEO, Attention
Anis Bennaceur has a fascinating background.
From living in a number of different countries growing up to working at Tinder in the early days to building a professional network for some of the most sought-after creatives - he’s had an abundance of experiences.
Today, he’s building Attention, his second startup, and a company with an incredible amount of potential.
Attention is a sales platform leveraging the power of AI to help companies generate more revenue.
With Attention, you can update your CRM from a sales call with one click and, with the help of AI, have a follow-up email sent immediately after every call. But that’s just the beginning. Attention can do much, much more, which we’ll get into soon.
Attention has already helped more than 100 sales teams but Anis’ ambition is much grander. He’s set on building a multi-billion dollar company and off to one helluva start.
Let’s get to it.
When Anis was growing up, his dad worked for an oil and gas company which required him to be in a number of different countries.
Anis and his family would live in Venezuela, Dubai, Egypt, Houston, London, and Paris because of this.
After an intense couple of years in preparatory school, he was able to attend ESCP Business School in Paris, one of the top business schools in Europe, studying business and finance.
Not quite knowing what he wanted to do with his career just yet, he chose a path that gave him optionality:
After working in M&A for less than a year and spending another six months in growth & private equity, Anis found a unique opportunity to join a high-growth startup that was less than a year old - Tinder.
Anis heard of Tinder from a friend and was able to meet with the founders when the company was only six to eight months old.
They offered Anis the chance to run their marketing in France and he jumped at the opportunity:
He was able to work firsthand with the founders and gain valuable experience.
Like many of the founders I’ve written about, this experience was another example of Paul Graham’s “Do Things That Don’t Scale” idea:
Armed with the knowledge and experience he needed, Anis would start Mixer, his first company.
In 2015, Anis moved to New York to start Mixer with his co-founder, Cody Simons.
They were able to get a little bit of angel investment to build their idea of a professional network for creatives.
It was a lot harder than Anis thought it would be, but it forced him to be scrappy:
Anis would also draw on his experience at Tinder to initially grow Mixer, but soon realized he would have to evolve his strategy:
From 2015 to 2017, Anis and his co-founder were iterating on the product and getting batches of users.
Only one problem - they started running out of angel funding.
So they quickly shifted their focus to monetization, starting by charging $10 per user per month.
They were also doing lots of outbound email blasts, figuring out who to target by looking through public databases like IMDb in the film space and models.com in the fashion space. Those creatives weren’t on LinkedIn and a platform like Mixer could benefit them.
In the next few years, from 2017 to 2020, the focus was on scaling up revenue growth, but another problem came up which, in hindsight, meant they hadn’t actually found product-market fit.
What was it?
Their 10% monthly churn meant their revenue growth stalled and then started falling around 2019.
At the same time, Anis’ co-founder, Cody, decided to quit and ended up starting another company, Pawp, a digital health clinic and telehealth platform for pet owners and their pets, which today is crushing it.
Anis kept running the company by himself.
When COVID hit the next year, many creatives cut their costs and canceled their subscriptions.
Anis pressed forward, trying to find ways to grow the business, eventually bringing in some salespeople as Mixer was still making enough money to hire additional team members.
Because of the massive talent pool Mixer had built, they started selling subscriptions to businesses like Capital One, Square, and others.
This provided the kernel of an idea that would become Attention:
Later that year, Anis grabbed coffee with his biggest competitor at the time, Matthias Wickenburg, who had built a startup called Swipecast.
Matthias was going through the same challenges as Anis and, little did they know at the time, they would soon partner up.
At that coffee meeting with Matthias, Anis found someone with a similar interest as him:
It was clear the end of Mixer was near for Anis and he was ready to move on. Matthias was in a similar position, telling Anis that he wasn’t going to work on Swipecast forever either.
Thankfully for Anis, the NFT craze was booming in 2021 and he figured out a way to sell Mixer’s user base to a crypto company and move on.
During that time, Anis and Matthias were able to see if they clicked:
Importantly, they found out that they complemented each other well:
Anis even wrote about 10 of his lessons from building Mixer, with one, in particular, he told me about in our interview: try to find product-market fit before you try to grow.
He’d take that to heart in building Attention, which he started working on with Matthias at the end of summer 2021.
They raised around $600,000 at that time from the French VC Frst as well as some of their founder friends who were angel investors.
By December 2021, they had an MVP out, a few interested early users, and they made their first hire, Johan, their VP of Engineering who today is running all of their engineering team.
This product and early user interest helped them raise a proper seed round in March 2022, but it wasn’t easy:
They ended up raising a $3.1 million seed round in March 2022 led by Eniac Ventures but didn’t announce it till later, which you’ll learn about soon.
Iterate, Iterate, Iterate
As Anis would tell me, they prioritized things the wrong way.
Some features, like real-time coaching, ended up being nice to have but not essential and led to them wasting months of time building the wrong thing.
One thing that stood out from talking to customers?
Their willingness to pay for a tool that would automatically fill in their CRM after calls.
This was critical.
It was a clear need, validated by multiple customers, and led to Anis and his team reprioritizing that feature above all else:
Of course, the product wasn’t the only thing they were iterating on.
Pricing is also something they’re continually testing, especially with new features that haven’t been released anywhere before.
It’s one of the reasons why you don’t see pricing on Attention’s website - it gives them more flexibility to test pricing.
Furthermore, this iteration extends to customers, where a focus on SMBs has allowed Anis and his team to iterate quicker, with much shorter feedback loops compared to enterprise customers.
This iteration continues today and puts them in a position to accelerate their growth.
Ramping Up Growth
Attention grew through inbound interest in the first 6-9 months, largely from Anis posting and engaging on LinkedIn.
They didn’t want to do any outbound efforts until they clearly understood the needs of their ideal customer profile and why they were using Attention instead of anyone else.
Fielding inbound requests also allowed them to iterate and figure out edge cases before scaling.
It was a painful, but worthwhile process:
After finally having a product customers loved, Anis brought on Attention’s first two sales reps, Connor and Jacob, who were the first non-engineering hires as well.
Anis had been spending most of his time on demos for customers, as many as 12 per day, and, with strong customer traction, the next step was to take some of those off his plate.
Since August 2023, Anis has been building Attention’s outbound go-to-market engine, continuing to iterate:
Differentiation & the Big Vision
What makes Attention stand out from its competition?
To understand that, it’s helpful to know about two groups - the incumbents and the newer entrants to the space:
Anis and his team at Attention have taken a different approach.
Their focus is on helping sales teams or customer-facing teams, leveraging AI to solve their problems.
While a notetaker will give you a summary of a sales conversation, Attention gives you deep insights as to what your customers are saying, what your sales team is doing, and how your deals are going.
They'll help you answer questions like:
What are the risks of your deal?
What are the challenges and the pain points of your customers?
How can you navigate the decision process and the different stakeholder mapping the right way?
How do you push this into your CRM at the field level rather than just having a summary in your CRM?
Also, they recently launched generalized insights, which gives you the ability to know exactly why you're winning or losing deals.
And what are some of the results Attention has seen with their customers?
They’ve seen sales cycle reductions of 31%, a company adding $250k ARR per rep, and even an 8x ROI from the cost savings.
But there’s another reason why customers love them:
Of course, Anis is still in the early days of building Attention, but it’s clear he’s onto something and his ambitions are much bigger.
He views AI as the opportunity of a lifetime to build something huge and compelling.
His goal is to get to an IPO and beyond, creating a company with billions in revenue, and leaving a real legacy.
For Anis, this is a full-circle experience, going back to his childhood:
“One day” for Anis is now and he’s only just getting started.
Learn more about Attention below:
Interested in having a deep dive written on your company and founder? Check out my Partner Program to learn how you can get your company in front of 22,000+ Just Go Grind subscribers.
Recent Founder Deep Dives
What did you think of today's newsletter?