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.

Early Days

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:

I didn't really know what I wanted to do at the time, so I ended up in investment banking doing mergers and acquisitions. I knew that any experience I was going to have was going to be kind of like a first experience before starting my own business.

And I knew that doing investment banking would not lock me into a specific job function, but give me the possibility to do whatever I wanted afterwards.

What I learned from that was to work extremely hard till two in the morning, on average, every day, and to just be extremely rigorous and pay attention to detail.

Anis Bennaceur

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:

I was like, “Hey, this seems awesome. This app looks great.” And it was going to be a great way for me to just transition from working in banking to actually working in tech.

Anis Bennaceur

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:

Nothing that we were doing was technical. It was a lot of doing things that didn't scale, going into school campuses, going to all the places that basically had the hardest users to get, which were attractive women.

That would then attract everyone else… So that's what we did for a little over a year. Great experience. But experiencing firsthand the success of those founders kind of made me think I was ready to start my own startup.

Anis Bennaceur

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:

It took us a while to figure out what we really wanted to build. It took a lot of iterations. That's also something else that we found out pretty quickly and we ended up having a lot of the hardest users to get on Mixer at the time. So a lot of some of the most sought after creatives, some of the biggest bands in the world, music film producers, and so on.

One of the things I learned is to be a really good growth hacker because in order to be able to get those types of personas on an app, sharing their contacts and their photos and images and so on, you had to be really smart about how to get those types of people to do that.

Anis Bennaceur

Anis would also draw on his experience at Tinder to initially grow Mixer, but soon realized he would have to evolve his strategy:

At Tinder, we would go to every college campus, sponsor the more underground, cool student clubs, give them anywhere between 500 to 1500 euros for them to throw a party, we would sponsor everything. People just had to download the app to show up.

The app itself was very magical. At the end, the CAC was maybe two euros to get a single user, but at the end of the day it was so viral that the actual blended CAC was a lot lower if you took into account the virality. So it was a lot of on the ground getting from zero to one type of things…

In 2015, when I moved to New York and started Mixer, I just repeated what I did over at Tinder, which was a lot of events, a lot of physical tactics rather than doing anything digital and that worked pretty well at first, but it was not repeatable. It costs a lot of money actually.

I had to learn how to start building a repeatable process to get people to refer one another and also start doing more and more outbound to reach out to the right people. So it was kind of a transition from physical and on the ground to digital tactics to get users.

Anis Bennaceur

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 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?

High churn.

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:

That's kind of where I saw some of the limitations of sales that we would tackle when starting Attention.

Our Salesforce was never up to date. I always had to be next to my salespeople to tell them what they should have been saying.

It was pretty hard too and it was a painful process to run through those leads, especially given that it was a small TAM, there weren't that many companies hiring creatives.

So we really had to make sure that every opportunity mattered, and we had to maximize our win rate. I knew that there was a way to leverage call transcripts and especially in June 2020 GPT-3 came out and I started playing with it. I knew that there was a way that we could use those transcripts to optimize a lot of things in the process.

Anis Bennaceur

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.

Starting Attention

At that coffee meeting with Matthias, Anis found someone with a similar interest as him:

I remember very well, end of 2020 we grabbed coffee and we both were geeking over what AI could do and also just wanting to build something within a way bigger TAM and we both had the same level of ambitions.

We didn't want to build a small business. We wanted to build something that could be worth one day tens of billions of dollars and truly change an industry versus just kind of building in our small niche.

Anis Bennaceur

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:

It took about six months for me and Matthias to kind of iterate on ideas and get to know each other and see if we were seeing the world the same way.

And what happened was in June of 2021 a good friend of mine who was running a French VC called Frst, with who we had iterated on ideas quite a bit, got us to pitch him and his partnership and offered us, before we even created the company, $400,000 in a SAFE, and so we just jumped in.

Anis Bennaceur

Importantly, they found out that they complemented each other well:

We started getting closer and closer and some of the things that we both believed in included the obsession around product-market fit, talking to customers, and building.

When I asked him, “Hey, what were the 10 lessons that you got out of Swipecast?” He shared his 10 lessons; I shared mine and like maybe seven out of 10 were overlapping. It was a pretty magical moment. Also, I could read that this was like made to happen.

We're extremely complementary. I'm a lot more aggressive and I'm a lot more of a wartime person. He, I wouldn't say that he's a peacetime CTO, but he's a lot more sound and quiet than I am in a way. I can work very late at night. He wakes up extremely early mornings to kind of meditate and start his workday at 5 AM.

It was like yin and yang and not only within our personalities, but also within our skill sets. We felt like we covered all of the needed skills to be a successful duo of founders.

Anis Bennaceur

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:

It was very painful to be honest because we just had an MVP, no active users, just like a dozen companies remotely interested in using it.

This is a piece of advice I'd give to any founders when VCs tell you, “Hey, you're ready to raise,” just actually think very hard about whether you want to do it.

We thought that we were ready and actually we weren't. A lot of the people who showed early interest actually just passed very quickly.

We ended up speaking to 40 different VCs and we had five that were interested. So four that were interested plus our pre-seed fund that was also interested.

What we did is we started building this interest around a SAFE and we had about $1 million to $1.5 million that was soft committed. All we needed was a lead to close the round.

As soon as we went with that tactic, we started getting a little more interest to close the round with some urgency.

If I were to take the biggest lessons that we got from that, it's for any founder, especially if you think that you have a great product and great traction, create your own process, start it on a specific date, put in a deadline for everyone to submit their term sheets and don't be flexible around that.

Anis Bennaceur

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

After getting SOC 2 compliant with Vanta and launching Attention’s product in stealth in June 2022, the feedback they were getting from users that summer wasn’t great.

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:

During the month of August, we had the idea of reprioritizing the CRM filling. We launched it in September. We iterated with a handful of design partners from September to December of 2022. In the meantime, something happened which we didn't see, which is that ChatGPT came out and the whole world started talking about AI.

So we knew that it was time. Not only did we start getting really good feedback on the CRM filling, but also, we knew that it was time for us to come out of stealth.

We reached out in November to TechCrunch. The first two writers decide to pass on us. The third one says, “Hey, I'm interested” and so we get the article ready and we release it in January.

It comes out in January and as soon as the article comes out, what I had done at the time was I had a bot that was continuously adding every VP of sales within our ICP.

So I had a really large network of sales leaders on LinkedIn and as soon as we came out of stealth, we posted a big LinkedIn announcement with that TechCrunch article and we had all the people who are close to us comment on it, repost it, and so on. That gave us a big uptick in early engagement.

Anis Bennaceur

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:

From the month of March to the month of June, those were three to four very painful months because every single one of our customers had a shared Slack channel with us and they would just ping us immediately if there was anything that was going wrong.

So we had to iterate very quickly. Big shoutout to our engineers who were just extremely reactive and were able to build very quickly and to my co-founder, Matthias, for working with them on that.

Around the month of June or July of 2023, we stopped getting any complaints, everything ran very smoothly, and all our customers were actually starting to make introductions, telling us that they love our product, and posting about us on LinkedIn.

By that point we knew what the drivers were that got us those customers for the first six months, what they really liked about the product, and what were their technographics that would allow us to start building a go-to-market engine when it comes to outbound.

Annis Bennaceur

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:

We still haven't scaled it yet, the way we've been doing it is just taking a lot of different cohorts of 100 to 200 companies and that's a ton of different variations, different copy, different kind of triggers, and then see how people react.

We're now getting 18 to 20 percent response rates so that's really good. Now we can start scaling it over the next month.

Anis Bennaceur

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:

So if you think about the competitive landscape today, you have some of the incumbents who built great products, but they started building them in 2015, 2016, and are not purely AI native in the way that they built them…

Then you have a lot of new products that came out in the last two or three years and all of those are kind of just call recorders with summarizers and those have very much of a PLG motion with the ability to serve just anyone who's everyone who needs a note taker.

Anis Bennaceur

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:

The reality is, I think customers buy not based only on that ROI, but also based on the amount of pain that we reduce for them.

If you go into your Salesforce or your HubSpot today and you see that all of the data is there and you don't have to go out as a CRO and go ping the rep to fill the info or update you on a deal, there's so much more efficiency that's happening there.

Anis Bennaceur

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:

The idea of just building something to get acquired one day by a strategic is not something that appeals very much to us.

As a kid, I always saw all of these huge businesses and thought, “Why do I have to go work for one of them when I can build one of them one day?”

Anis Bennaceur

“One day” for Anis is now and he’s only just getting started.

Thanks for reading this sponsored deep dive on Anis Bennaceur and Attention!

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