How it started. How it is going. Take 2.
Last year, we published a yearly summary of Remotely's first year of life. As we embark on our third year, it feels appropriate to repeat the exercise. And what a year it has been!
First off, a reminder of what we are about. With Remotely Works we are aspiring to be the place where developers go to maximize their full potential. We believe Remotely is leveling the playing field so top developers outside main tech hubs can access the best opportunities.
Second, let's look at the (ambitious) goals we had set for ourselves for our second year:
Go from $36k of MRR to $167k (5x) while reaching profitability.
Almost there! We exit the year with $137k in MRR (~4x growth) AND have reached profitability 🎉🎉🎉
Identify compounding loops on both demand and supply of the marketplace.
We have implemented (and are in the process of improving) referral programs on both the supply and the demand. Almost all our 32 startups have been referred to us.
Take meaningful steps towards improving our focus on startup and developer happiness.
Midway through last year, we decided to ONLY focus on scaling both supply and demand and make better matches to increase the chance of hire. Dropping everything else was key to delivering on our core value prop.
Build a repetitive building block for expanding significantly in year 3.
We are building our digital platform where software developers and startups can have a fantastic end-to-end experience meeting each other.
As we look back into last year, there are clearly phases to our progress:
Q1 (feb-apr) - We start expanding our talent team: we bring Horacio, Lucia, and Loli to support Mery and Sebas. We start doing small Gitsight campaigns to bring candidates to our startups. We start to measure how candidates flow through our inefficient process. We are learning the trade. It takes time for the team to onboard and hires trickle in slower than we thought they would.
Q2 (may-jul) - Despite missing our Q1 goal, we power through and keep betting on our doing more of what we are doing. Hires start to grow (June and July crush it above our monthly goals) and we think we are out of the weeds. We start ramping up the volume of our gitsight campaigns. The team focus is 110% on supply/talent generation, but we bring Nati to help on the demand/startups side.
Q3 (aug-oct) - Matches seem spurious, hard to predict. We are also hit with some developer churn (going to startups outside our network). MRR stalls and stops growing. We bring Arthur to support our talent vetting efforts alongside Lucia. Despite the fact that we are becoming better at what we do (we've automated our talent vetting process and are managing higher volumes of developers), matches don't happen. We are surprised when suddenly almost all our startups stop recruiting. We need more demand. That said, we know enough about our process to start the design of our digital platform.
Q4 (nov-jan) - We grow our demand by 50% in November, do the startup kickoffs, and our open reqs triple. We start introducing our developer base to the new openings and, boom, December closes with 21 offer letters and 18 hired. While January starts slow, we catch up to end the year with 12 hires (our second highest month of the year). We've reached profitability. We now have two data points that suggest a higher volume of hires.
What have we learned?
Annual goal setting doesn't make much sense at our stage. Instead, focus on setting quarterly goals and refreshing them based on what has changed within the quarter.
Marketplaces are tricky to scale. Not only do you need to figure out both sides’ scalability challenges, but they need to be in sync. Focus is super important to be able to pull it off.
When you have a low conversion rate, you need high volume. Low conversion and low volume mean the output will look random, and it will be hard to know if you are doing something right. Sometimes you win, most times you don't. If you want to have some resemblance of predictability, amp up the volume.
Walk the talk. While we knew our process was inefficient and clunky, we needed to make it inefficient to learn the service. As we learned how to deliver the service, we started automating the tasks away. Can't automate before knowing how to deliver the service: we were able to fully automate a candidate vetting process because we first manually vetted thousands of candidates.
Focus. There are so many obvious opportunities ahead of us that we are our own worst enemy. Resisting the urge to chase all those seemingly great ideas (that come with a price to pay of complexity and muddying the clarity of our value prop) has been a herculean effort. We expect it to be even harder next year. Rule of thumb: if you have time to explore other ideas, it probably means you have not reached top product-market-fit (not enough market pull for your product). Focus on it, refine it until the market pull is so strong you are focused on servicing demand as well as possible as opposed to exploring new possibilities.
Did we meet our expectations?
In short, yes. However, it was harder to pull off than we anticipated, and the path was never a straight line. We thought our monthly placement average per quarter would grow consistently (5 in Q1, 6.7 in Q2, 8.3 in Q3, 10 in Q4). It looked beautiful on the spreadsheet. However, the reality was: 2 in Q1, 5 in Q2, 4 in Q3, 10 in Q4). We exit the year at the hiring rate we wanted, but the path there was much more choppy than we thought it would be.
Also, we exit the year with a profitable position and, we hope, owners of our own destiny.
Using Andrew Chen's “The Cold Start” phase framework, it seems we may be exiting phase 1 (The Cold Start) and getting into phase 2 (The tipping point). As a result, in this next phase, we will be figuring out how to continue to improve the user experiences and increase the speed at which bring startups and talent to meet, with a goal set on reaching phase 3 (The Escape Velocity). The way we will know that we've reached that third phase is by realizing we can't fulfill growth-derived needs fast enough.
Our three themes for this year:
Grow a high-performance organization. We are looking to grow the team that makes the magic happen:
Talent Specialists: meeting and vetting the candidates, they are the face of Remotely to the talent.
Talent Managers: They act as the agent of the developers, they understand the startup needs and create the match between the talent and the startup.
Startup Partners: They meet with the startups and select the best ones to join the Remotely Startup network.
For these three roles, we are looking for either hungry young talent with the right attitude or proven over-achievers that bring domain expertise. We count on both to make Remotely Works better.
We are also looking for specific positions (Head of People Operations, Head of Email Marketing, Head of Demand Generation) opportunistically. If you know someone great, please send them our way.
We will obviously be looking for engineering talent, but we already know a platform that may help us find that talent.
Improve the user experience. We will bring our digital platform live and improve the way we match candidates to startups. We will also create new forms of delivering value to our developer network via content and education that can have a meaningful effect on their careers.
Scale Demand and Supply. On the supply side, we hope to amplify our referral program and significantly improve the effectiveness of our email and advertising campaigns. There is a chance that we may go global before the end of the year.
On the demand side, we will continue to grow our referral program, but we will start experimenting with advertising-based customer acquisition.
We look forward to revisiting this post in February 2023 and laughing at all the things we got wrong!