As Remotely Works turns one, we're taking a look back to see what we've accomplished, what we've learned, and what conclusions we've reached that may be useful to other fellow entrepreneurs.
*You'll notice we write this post in February, in part because we've decided our fiscal and sales calendar will end on January 31st rather than following the calendar year (we could spend an entire post on why, but David Sacks already wrote about why this is a good idea for many B2B companies).
We started Remotely Works to level the playing field, connecting the best job opportunities with top talent outside the main US tech hubs. It is an ambitious mission, and it will take us years to even scratch the surface, but we are very happy with the progress made in our first year, and are grateful to our customers (both developers and software companies) for trusting us!
In the spirit of demystifying entrepreneurship, here's a timeline of the most interesting events and learnings that happened to us during our first 12 months:
Jan: We post that we're launching a new company. At this point, we have a landing page, a domain name, a notion account, and little else. We reach out to our network to get intros to VPs of Eng and CTOs so we can conduct customer research.
Feb: We start to conduct customer research to hone in on our value prop. We described that process here.
Mar: We go into lock-down due to Covid-19, adapt to working from home, and cancel existing office space. We finish our initial customer discovery process, distill insights, and define our value prop.
Apr: We incorporate Remotely Works, Inc. We recruit our first 3 developers (drinking our own champagne) and start building gitsight.com to objectively unearth great technical talent who have contributed to open source.
May: We start "selling" to a few prospective customers, we have a value prop, a leave-behind sales deck and an initial pricing card. We don't have a contract-MSA or Order form. Our notion account is a messy collection of valuable research. We get a term-sheet for a seed round and soft circle the rest of the round in one weekend over WhatsApp. We are 50% oversubscribed (the benefits of being second-time founders, I guess!)
Jun: We close a small seed round. Our salary is still 0.
Jul: We close our first customer. We launch our first quarterly challenge in our product management process.
Aug: We place our first 2 developers. We generate our first $3k of monthly recurrent revenue.
Sep: We sign our second and third customers. We start to experiment with outbound demand generation campaigns. We're not very successful and go back to leveraging our network.
Oct: We launch our 2nd quarterly challenge in our product management process. Our network reach-out is working and most of our pipeline comes from personal connections and referrals (we may have generated more demand than we can chew).
Nov: We have 15 people placed across 4 customers. We sign two more customers. We reach $24k in monthly recurrent revenue. We start paying ourselves a salary.
Dec: We extend 8 offer letters (8 new people placed!) and bring 3 customers toward the finish line (that we are likely to sign in January).
Jan: We launch the Remotely Network (a virtual space where all the talent we have placed can connect and help each other), and start onboarding our Developer Referral Program. We finish our first year at $34k of MRR ($408k annualized). We have signed 3 more customers, but we've lost one (they had to close operations...startups are hard!). In total, we end our first year with 8 customers. We have placed 8 more people, and we end with a total of 35 placements, bringing the GMV we manage to around $1.3M annually.
What have we learned?
It takes time to build a company. 2-3 months customer research, 2-3 get our first customer, 2-3 months to work on a scalable process to generate both supply and demand. We can't believe it's been almost a year since we started.
It takes a village. We've been blessed with the help of very talented collaborators and employees (9 of them) and the trust of our small group of investors and early customers.
Focus is crucial. There is so much to get done. If you don't stay focused it feels you work a lot and move very little. Work without focus doesn't lead to progress.
Yeah, sex is cool, but have you generated revenue from nothing? We had forgotten how amazingly good it feels to close on your first $3k/month customer. After scaling our first company to close $3M per quarter, we lost sight and touch of what it means to bring in new revenue. The thrill you experience from selling value you've created is very hard to find elsewhere.
The opportunity is huge! We're a speckle in a massive market that is shifting to benefit us in a very meaningful way. Never underestimate the major tailwinds you'll enjoy from a massive market, a clear value proposition, and a new favorable trend.
We can sell from anywhere. We're are currently experimenting with asynchronous selling via pre-recorded videos on Slack (we try not to pitch live, we are still figuring out the first intro call). We are using the "flipped classroom" model of edtech into enterprise sales. Face to face time is to go into the weeds and not to pitch. Never thought this would be possible.
Resist building software. There's so many tools available already! Stitch them together, test hypotheses, and iterate quickly to reach the results you want. Software build-outs can be delayed until you have more certainty.
Take the time to do retros. It is very easy for founders to default to action, and action feels good. But you must take the time once in a while to look into what you've done and do a retrospective of how things are going. We will write more about thinking vs doing in upcoming newsletters.
Did we meet our expectations?
When we started in January we had an ambitious revenue and employee placement target (18 employees, $40k in monthly recurrent revenue). We exceeded the number of employees placed, but fell short of the MRR. However:
At $34k MRR we are well on track to reach ramen profitability ($70k of MRR).
The world was thrown up for a spin in March, and has not fully recovered. In April we were very uncertain about what we would be able to accomplish. Fast forward to today: we're happy and proud of the work done.
We have a service our customers love: 4 of our 7 customers have referred us to another potential customer. This is not an NPS answer, they've actually referred us to another prospective customer. What was even more surprising: 2 prospective customers referred us to other prospective customers!
We hope this next year will be our break-out year, were we hope to accomplish four main things:
Reach profitability. We hope to exit our second year at $167k of MRR (5x) and 120 employees (4x) placed.
Identify compounding loops on both demand and supply of the marketplace.
Take meaningful steps towards improving our focus on customer and developer happiness.
Build a repetitive building block for expanding significantly in year 3.
Anything else you want to know about our first year? Requests for these next 12 months? Hit up the comments section below!