How to bake speed, product thinking, and empathy into your startup – lessons from invideo AI’s culture strategy

Editorial Note: Everything within a company eventually boils down to the culture. Startups, in their tearing hurry to make a dent in the universe, do not often build it thoughtfully enough—invideo AI is one of the exceptions. This piece, written by their people and culture head, details the practices and policies that invideo AI has in place and why they work.

At invideo AI, we’re on a mission to make video creation accessible to a billion people. Founded in 2017 by Sanket Shah and led by Anshul Khandelwal as the co-founder, CTO, and SVP of Product, we’re a team of 75 passionate individuals based in Mumbai, India. Our journey has taught us valuable lessons about building a strong culture grounded in trust, ownership, and innovation.

We prioritize speed and user focus to tackle real-world challenges quickly. Empathy is at the heart of everything we do. We invest in our people and empower them to feel valued. The culture we envision is built on three fundamental principles:

  • Velocity: We emphasize rapid product development and swift decision-making.
  • Trust: We fully trust and support our team’s judgments.
  • Optimism: We foster an optimistic approach to problem-solving, encouraging innovative solutions.

When I joined two years ago, we were in the process of a strategic reorganization. We had to downsize and focus on leveraging our network to help our people find suitable employment as soon as possible. In most cases, it wasn’t beyond 45–60 days. We stayed connected with those we’ve had to part ways with as an organization.

This was our starting point to redefine our culture.

To redefine our culture, we had to rework our strategy to build a lean culture and employ a strategic hiring process. This approach aims to answer a critical question: Why join us?

The answer was Great work, a fantastic team, career growth, and fun.
However, the larger question we needed to address was 

  • how to work this backward in a way that resonates with our internal team and potential new hires. 
  • how do we ensure our culture attracts and retains the best talent by genuinely reflecting our core values and operational principles?

To reshape our culture, we revisited our strategy to cultivate a lean approach and implement strategic hiring practices.

We keep our organization lean, meaning we emphasize quality over quantity. We ensure that each team member is strategically placed, highly skilled, and aligned with the organization’s goals.

At invideo AI, our lean team concept is defined by:

  • Extreme Ownership and Free Decision-Making: We promote a culture where individuals own their domains and make decisions without fear of repercussions for failures. We encourage a culture where vulnerability is promoted and accepted.
  • High Talent Density: Our organization values high talent density, ensuring that the best and brightest individuals drive our initiatives.
  • Agency: Our culture emphasizes agency, empowering individuals to take initiative and contribute meaningfully to their respective domains.

Cornerstones of our culture: Velocity and Product Thinking

At invideo AI, we emphasize the importance of product sense in everything we do.

Understanding how our products work is essential, whether one is an engineer or not. We ensure everyone in-house understands our solutions so they don’t feel like mysterious “black boxes.” 

For example, I lead people and culture, but I know our product inside out, even to the last bit of knowing what features an engineer works on at any given time.

Product Thinking

Our engineers, designers, marketing, and support teams always talk to users on every medium, including Discord, to understand their needs.

This allows them to make intelligent product decisions independently and continuously by understanding user needs and the market.

Everyone on our team, from engineers to designers to the support team (which includes customer support, marketing, HR, and finance), embodies this approach. It drives our teams to develop impactful products quickly and consistently, aligning with user expectations and aspirations.


We’ve baked velocity into our culture, aiming to ship 10x faster than anyone else. We have developed robust engineering practices that help us achieve this.

For instance, code is written in pairs, bringing transparency and agility through teamwork and breaking down organizational silos. This approach has worked well for us and allows engineers to write production-ready code quickly.

We aim to set new industry benchmarks with cutting-edge technologies like Rust and Elixir, which give us an edge. We’re developing foundational frontier models from scratch and constantly pushing the limits.

One-on-one meetings

  • We are very particular about one-on-one meetings, and the entire team needs to schedule quarterly meetings with the People & Culture team and their respective team leaders. The onus is on the individual to schedule this on our calendars. 
  • Building this two-way bridge is essential. It promotes communication and trust in the organization through personalized one-on-one interactions. Also, this ensures continuous personal and professional growth. 
  • Quarterly one-on-one discussions and yearly review cycles are tailored to specific teams and verticals, supported by in-house frameworks and processes designed to meet individual team needs.

Policies that work

  • Flexibility in roles: We don’t confine people to their titles or roles, allowing them to explore new opportunities and grow within the organization.
  • Empathy sabbatical and open leave policy: Our open leave policy has no approval system or tracking, demonstrating our trust in our team’s accountability and responsibility.
  • Relocation support: We assist employees in relocating to Mumbai by contributing toward their rent, making the transition as smooth as possible.
  • Encouraging creativity: We foster a creative and supportive environment, promoting innovation and allowing individuals to be themselves without fear of failure.
  • Leadership coaching: Leadership coaching is offered across the organization to develop and enhance leadership skills.
  • Driving employee experience – Monetary Aspect, Rewards, & Recognition: We thoughtfully design our rewards and recognition programs to include empathy and a sense of belonging, moving beyond purely transactional motivations (this could mean a shout on Slack for someone just completing their work anniversary or a build or release an individual owned and released to sending personalized plants on birthdays).
  • We prioritise D&I. While we don’t exclusively recruit women, we maintain a strong sense of inclusivity and ensure that women employees or prospects are not discriminated against.

Conscious recruitment framework

For every million-dollar increase in ARR, we bring on board one engineer. 

Our hiring process is meticulously designed, and we strongly discourage counteroffers or offer negotiations. We extend an offer with mutual consent, eliminating the need for further negotiation or back-and-forth discussions.

Our approach works well, as evidenced by

  • our near-zero attrition rates. 
  • another positive indicator is our offer-to-acceptance ratio, which is almost 1:1.
  • additionally, people who have left for better opportunities often return, a pattern that repeats itself frequently.

Thoughtful job descriptions

We don’t just cut-copy-paste job descriptions; we visualize the persona of the hire.
Team members collaborate with the hiring team and recruiters to draft descriptions with as much information as possible.

For example, a recent Flutter Developer role saw eight applications, three resumes in the assignment stage, one in-person interview, and one offer extended and accepted. You should know that the candidate also cut short his notice period to join our rocketship as soon as possible. Here’s the JD we drafted: FlutterDeveloperRole

As a People and Culture Leader, I’m a gatekeeper in many ways. (By the way, when I said we operate as a lean team, did I mention I’m the coordinator, the recruiter, the HR, and the people/culture in the org?)

The team ensures we thoroughly vet the resumes entering our pipeline, including factors like cultural fit, strong intent to join, and potential red flags. Beyond assessing technical capabilities, we also evaluate whether invideo AI  is the right fit for the individual.

Interview investment

We diligently monitor the time our team dedicates to interviews, ensuring each session is efficient and respectful of everyone’s time. This includes a periodic feedback loop for the candidates throughout the process. 

Work trials

A crucial part of our hiring process is that 

  • candidates shortlisted undergo work trials that benefit them and the organization, allowing for a mutual evaluation process. 
  • candidates can join us for a few days and experience what it’s like to work at invideo AI, talking to anyone they want, including our leadership team.

Our top priority is the individual’s growth path. We want to hire the right people and make every effort to do so while ensuring prospective employees are confident they’re making the right decision by joining us.

Last but not least, we have done multiple rounds of secondary/buyback for our employees in the last couple of years, and the one is currently scheduled (at the time of publishing).

About the Author:
Ancy Verghese leads People & Culture at invideo AI. Ancy has played a crucial role in building teams for Arkin (now VMware), Astro (now part of Slack), and Tegile Systems (now Western Digital) in India. She also assembled the founding teams at IO Turbine (now Fusion-IO) and Virtuata (now part of Cisco) in the Bay Area. Her expertise extends to working closely with venture-backed portfolios at Nexus Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital.

About the author

Ancy Verghese

People & Culture, invideo AI
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