We just received the Official USPTO Notice of Acceptance of Statement of Use for STOIC®. Nice!
We’re currently interviewing a candidate who might join our team. As part of our standard interview process, every single member of our team gets to spend some time with the candidate, and can turn any application down without having to provide any reason for it. Through this process, Jim just came up with some interesting statistics about our team members, assuming that we would hire this candidate:
- 100% are male
- 100% natively speak a language other than English
- 87.5% natively speak French
- 87.5% are under the age of 49
- 87.5% drink coffee
- 75% have children
- 50% are follicly challenged
- 12.5% are left handers
- 12.5% prefer sparkling water to tap water
- 12.5% are based in the northern hemisphere
- 12.5% have Spartan origins
Even though we’re an equal-opportunity employer, our demographics clearly do not represent that fact. I used to think this could be a problem. Today, I really do not care. Culture is what matters, and culture doesn’t give a damn about statistics.
Our second funding round just closed and got fully funded. Back to work now…
We’re doing the first closing of our second funding round today. With this new funding, we’ll have enough money to reach profitability by the end of 2014, with a core engineering team growing from 7 to 12 people. Our first round of funding was structured as a convertible note and will convert into preferred stock today. Many thanks to the great folks at Paradigm Counsel for their help getting this wrapped up so fast.
I just got confirmation that Paul Maritz is joining our Board of Directors. Yeah!
Now that we’re spilling the beans on the investors side, I’m also pleased to let you know that Roger Sippl also invested in STOIC. In fact, Roger was our very first investor, on our very first day of operations. Roger was the founder of Informix, Vantive, Visigenic, and the Connection Cloud, which was recently acquired by Intuit.
Much like Paul Maritz, Roger has been an investor of mine for fourteen years, and gave me his full support in good and bad times. When I was fired from the startup that I had founded and where I had worked for thirteen years, Roger gave me some consulting work, some office space, and $100,000 to launch STOIC, at a time when I did not even have a napkin to sketch my ideas onto. The time was March 30th, 2012, a day after I had left my first startup. Talk about trust…
Roger is a serial entrepreneur, like many others in the Valley. But what sets him apart is that he had three successes at three different layers of the stack. Informix was an infrastructure company (database). Vantive was an application company (CRM). And Visigenic was right in between (middleware). All three were successful in their own ways, and all three contributed to define brand new markets. Very few entrepreneurs manage to create a company and get a successful exit for it. Even less manage to do it two or three times in a row. But the number of people who manage to do that three times or more in three very different segments of the industry are an absolute rarity. Roger is one of them.
And as you would expect, Roger is a pilot as well. I’m actually thinking that having a valid pilot license should be a pre-requisite for making an investment in STOIC. Not only that, but Roger is also an accomplished SCUBA diver, diving with the most sophisticated and complex equipment money can buy today: closed circuit rebreathers. Even James Bond doesn’t have those…
Thank you for your trust Roger. STOIC would not exist without you.
STOIC is a pretty transparent company. Most of our secrets are spilled on this blog in a very liberal fashion. But one thing has remained confidential since we started: our group of investors. Today, we’re not making a secret of that anymore, at least for one of them. As you can see on our (poorly edited) AngelList page, Paul Maritz has invested in STOIC.
Paul is an amazing guy. At Microsoft, he built Windows, Office, and Internet Explorer. So he knows a thing or two about the consumerization of business products. He then started a NoSQL company before it was called NoSQL. More recently, he was CEO of VMware. And now he is CEO of Pivotal (the Cloud Foundry guys). That’s for the professional side. On the personal side, he chaired the Grameen Foundation (the folks who invented micro credit) for the past ten years. But most importantly, Paul is a pilot. And when he does not fly planes, he actually builds them, being the owner of a small bush plane company in South Africa.
I’ve known Paul for fourteen years. During that time, Paul has been both an investor and a mentor for me, but I’ve never had the chance of working with him on a regular basis. Today, this is about to change, and I can’t tell you how privileged and grateful I feel about that. If you know Paul personally, you know what I’m talking about. And if you don’t, just ask around. Paul is a very understated guy, and his impact on the entire industry is grossly underrated, by design.
Welcome on board Paul!
STOIC turned one today! We were born Sutoiku just one year ago.
It’s quite amazing what we managed to build in a year…
I can’t wait to see what STOIC will look like after another year…
Thank you all for letting us have this amazing ride! I’ve not had that much fun in a long time…
For the past two months, we’ve been maniacally focused on one metric: the week-over-week growth of our Kickstarter pre-registrations (Cf. How focus on growth changed our business). Moving forward, we will expand our focus to cover a few more metrics:
Once our software becomes available, we will replace our primary registration metric with a composite adoption metric defined as the sum of the number of paying customer c and total number of users u, divided by two.
α = (c + u) / 2
We constructed this composite metric in order to take into account both the number of customers and the total number of users at a time when each customer will have a small number of users, usually just one (the original app maker who subscribed to STOIC). Eventually, we will track c and u individually.
Most importantly, we will track the weekly growth of this adoption level (Cf. Startup = Growth).
Average Revenue Per Unit
This metric tracks the average revenue per customer, on a monthly basis.
Customer Acquisition Cost
This metric tracks the cost of acquiring new customers from a sales and marketing standpoint. A simple way of measuring it is to divide the total amount of money spent on lead generation and deal closing activities over a long-enough period of time (ideally a year), by the number of new customers signed over the same period (possibly with a small time offset).
Customer Lifetime Value
In order to measure the return on investment from our marketing campaigns, we will track the value of a customer over its lifetime. The absolute value of this metric is not important. What matters is how it evolves over time, and how it contributes to much more critical metrics, such as the Time to Return on Marketing Investment.
Time to Return on Investment
This metric tracks the time it takes to get a positive return on marketing investments. If the customer acquisition costs are $X and the Average Revenue Per Unit is $Y/month, the average Time to Return on Investment equals X divided by Y. Obviously, a business for which the Customer Lifetime (Customer Lifetime Value divided by Average Revenue Per Unit) is lower than the Time to Return on Investment is not profitable and is doomed to fail eventually.
This metric measures the ratio of customers that are not renewing their subscriptions.
Revenue per Employee
While we will do everything we can to maximize our total revenue, the revenue per employee ratio will be even more important to us. And once we become profitable, we will replace this metric by a profits per employee ratio, which is a pretty good measure of the value created by every member of our team. Until we’re profitable, we will closely monitor our funding runway.
In order for our customer development process to work effectively, we need as much participation from users as possible, especially at the validation stage. For this purpose, we will track the number of individual answers we’re getting from surveys. This metric will be directly influenced by the number of surveys and polls we run, but actual participation is what matters.
According to our customer development process, the development of most major product features should be funded through dedicated Kickstarter campaigns. In such a context, we will track both the number of backers and the number of individual pledges we’re getting for our Kickstarter projects. These metrics will be directly influenced by the number of Kickstarter campaigns we organize, but actual participation (backers and pledges) is what matters.
This metric tracks the ratio of crowdfunding for the financing of all R&D activities.
This metric tracks the ratio of new customers who came through referrals.
This metric tracks the ratio of new customers who came through partners.
The velocity of our product development process as defined by Pivotal Tracker will be tracked on a weekly basis. While it can be used for forecasting purposes, we will use it mostly as a way to learn from the past and improve our project management skills.
We will monitor the completion level for our next product release, also using Pivotal Tracker.
The number of lines of code covered by automated tests divided by the total number of lines of code is one of the primary metrics we will use to estimate the theoretical quality of our code. Over time, we might add similar metrics to cover the documentation coverage of our code.
This metric tracks the aggregated utilization rate of individual product features across the entire user base. It is measured by instrumenting the product with as many usage monitoring and metering sensors as possible. Such sensors capture anonymized and obfuscated data points that are both qualitative and quantitative. Its evolution over time indicates whether the product is getting better at addressing real user needs, or is subject to uncontrolled feature creep.
In order to asses the quality of our product, documentation, and community-lead support process, we will measure the average number of support tickets created by users. Obviously, we will want this ratio to be as low as possible, and to decrease over time.
Moving forward, more and more metrics will be added, many as the aggregation of sub-metrics. While we can’t promise that we will share all of them publicly, we will do our best to share the most meaningful of them, including our weekly growth rate. Stay tuned for cool dashboards!
Applicants must be willing to relocate to Flatland. Offices in Palo Alto, Shanghai, Singapore, and Caen. Telecommuting considered for exceptional applicants.
3% 401(k) contribution
100% health coverage
$20 daily lunch allowance
$4,000 BYOD budget (eat some fruits)
STOIC turns Google Spreadsheets into apps, with a cloud database and a mobile user interface.
Since we started STOIC almost six months ago, we’ve been approached by a few venture capital firms who expressed interest in investing in the company. Because we’ve already raised money from a strategic investor, we kept in touch, but did not engage in any serious discussions. More recently though, one potential investor challenged us to think in a non-linear fashion, and to suggest ideas that could help accelerate the growth of the company. We rose to the challenge and came up with something truly unconventional: STOIC Ventures, a new kind of incubator, or what we’d rather call a venture accelerator.
At this stage, it’s nothing more than another crazy idea, and it’s quite likely to remain just that. Nevertheless, putting it on paper helped us refine our thinking in a few areas, especially with respect to the crowdsourcing of software development, which we’re committed to implementing with Poetry.io. So, while we still need to convince ourselves that something like STOIC Ventures is actually doable and is not just a massive distraction, we would love to get your feedback on the idea, especially with respect to the different services that are suggested. Please cast your votes using our cute little rating stars, or send a pre-application for funding if you fit the profile.
Yesterday night, I attended a dinner organized by David Allen. There, a dozen entrepreneurs discussed about what productivity software might look like in 2020. I can’t disclose the full list of participants, but I can say that David managed to put together an amazing brain trust, and the discussions were highly stimulating. After the dinner, Evan Williams suggested that I take a look at Holacracy in order to formalize a bit more the rules that we will need to live in Flatland among T-shaped people. I guess I have my reading list for the week-end. Thanks Evan!