Angad Arneja is the co-founder and Head of People at WOMBO, building AI-powered apps that lets people create deepfakes, lip-syncing videos, and artwork. After launching in 2021, they’ve hit #1 on the App store in 50+ countries with 130+ million downloads. They’ve raised $8M in funding from Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, Ryan Tedder (One Republic’s lead singer), Kyle Vogt (co-founder of Twitch and Cruise), Josh Buckley, and Global Founders Capital.
Born and raised in Mumbai, Angad graduated from the University of Toronto this year (2022) with a degree in Business Administration. Growing up, Angad competed in the sport of 10m Air Pistol shooting and has won gold at the national level.
📱What is WOMBO? WOMBO is an entertainment company with two apps: WOMBO.ai, where people can create lip-syncing videos, and Dream, where users can type in combinations of words to generate a unique piece of artwork. Their apps have generated over 1.2 billion lip-syncing videos and 700 million pieces of art.
🌈 Starting WOMBO: I came into college wanting to become an investment banker. Luckily, I became close friends with Akshat (now WOMBO’s Head of Product) during my freshman year, and he introduced me to the startup world. We worked on a few projects together but none of them took off.Then in my third year, I met Ben (WOMBO’s CEO) who said, “I’m working on an app. It'll be the most viral app of 2021.” At that time, there were no engineers or designers on the team. I brought on my friends Akshat, Parshant and Navya to code out the app, and Tarek to design the early features. Ben's prophecy came true – we got 25 million downloads in our first month.
📈 Acquiring 25 million users in 1 month: We spent practically $0 on customer acquisition. After putting WOMBO on the App Store, each team member sent the link to five people, and it grew from there. When you use an AI tool for the first time, it can be magical – you want to share it in a group chat. Every video is watermarked with our logo, so people who see our videos can easily search us up.
💻 The future of AI: I think AI is going to do for content creation what the Internet did for distribution. AI democratizes creativity. It lowers the barrier to create content by so much that anyone can be a creator.
🌐 How to build the right network: After reading this article called “Advice for ambitious Stanford students”, I started thinking more deeply about who I wanted to surround myself with. I established four criteria: people who had skill sets I didn't (I was a business major, so I wanted to spend more time with STEM majors), ambition, high integrity, and people I enjoy spending time with.I had a list of people I thought were cool and would straight up message them like, “Hey, it was really awesome spending time with you. I think you’re a dope person. Would love to hang out again.” Cool people hang out with other cool people, so it was like a flywheel. This is how I recruited the whole founding team for WOMBO.
👪 The co-founder dynamic: We have six co-founders. I live with Prashant and Akshat. Of course, we have issues, and we argue, but my founding team is like my family at this point. When my sister announced her wedding earlier this year, I invited everyone. I didn't expect people to actually come through though because it was a 15-hour direct flight to India. But all my co-founders showed up. That was pretty awesome.
📓 On balancing school with WOMBO: I didn't spend much time on classes. The goal was just to pass, which wasn’t too hard since everything was online. The reason I didn’t drop out was because of immigration reasons since I was an international student from India.
☀️ Day in the life: As Head of People, my job is to recruit employees, so a lot of initial phone screens and onboarding folks onto the team. We scaled the company from 2 to 26 employees in 18 months, so recruiting has been pretty time consuming. Over the last few months I’ve also been pitching investors to help close our most recent funding round. On the product side, I've been involved with our B2B product and our new discord bot, WOMBOT.
🎶 Coolest story: You know the song Tunak Tunak Tun by Daler Mehndi? That’s the #1 song on WOMBO in numbers of plays. Ben was like, “You're from India, you probably know someone who knows Daler.” I was like alright, and with zero expectations, reached out to my high school friend whose dad is in the film industry.The dad responds and adds me to this group chat with Daler, who calls me immediately. His English isn’t great, and my Punjabi isn’t great, so we’re both speaking in broken English and broken Punjabi. For several months, we were BFFs. Daler would send me random voice notes, and I'd send him company updates. When we went to Delhi for my sister's wedding, I hit him up being like, “Yo, are you in Delhi? Let's chill IRL.” We met up with him twice.
🔫 Biggest takeaway from being a national pistol shooter: Up until eighth grade, I didn't know what it was like to be exceptional. But winning medals at the state/national level made me realize that I can be world-class at something if I dedicate myself. My coach led the Indian Olympic pistol team, and I won gold at the National Championships.
📝 Most important habits? I journal, practice gratitude, and enjoy meditating a lot. There’s an article I find myself coming back to many times by Justin Kan (Twitch’s co-founder) called Feeling Good: Justin’s Program.Every Saturday, I try to spend the whole day without my phone. It’s ironic because I co-founded a mobile app, but I think the mobile phone is one of the least mindful products out there. There's just so many things you’re constantly being notified of. Once you get off your phone, you start noticing things around you. You start seeing, hearing, and feeling things that you wouldn’t otherwise.
💫 Best advice? I used to put so many people up on a pedestal, people I’d meet or just see on Twitter. I'd be like, “Wow, they did YC which has a <5% acceptance rate, or they raised X million dollars”. These people are not necessarily special – you're pretty capable too. Most college kids are capable of a lot more than they think they are.
tl;dr 1) Be intentional about who you’re surrounding yourself with. Set your criteria, make a list of cool people, proactively reach out, and meet their friends. 2) Journal, meditate, and practice gratitude. Take a day off from your phone sometimes, and remind yourself how to be mindful. 3) No need to put people up on a pedestal. You’re capable enough, but you need the courage to execute.
Download Dream by WOMBO here: apps.apple.com/us/app/dream-by-wombo-ai-art-tool/id1586366816
Keep up with Angad!