Start of work tools Notion, which recently reached a valuation of $ 800 million, is not on the verge of a big round of SoftBank. In fact, the director of operations, Akshay Kothari, says that the startup "had never felt that if we had more money we could grow faster."
The company, focused on an application that helps non-developers to create collaboration tools, has more than one million users and has rapidly expanded its product despite having a team of only 27.
Last month I wrote about the company's association with some of the leading technology accelerators and venture capital companies. People are very curious about this small business and how it is managed, so here is more of my recent interview with the director of operations Akshay Kothari in which we discuss the philosophy of the small business promoted to stay small and some of the challenges You may face with this brand of thought. since competitors are collecting massive sums.
This interview has been edited for its length and clarity.
Where does your story begin with Notion? Give me a snapshot of where the team is now.
Akshay Kothari: (The co-founders of Notion, Ivan Zhao and Simon Last) started Notion six years ago and that's when I invested. I had sold my previous company and had this newly discovered money with which I did not know what to do. I invested in Notion, so that's my connection.
We were in the research mode for many years trying to discover what the market needs were. We launched it about two years ago; 1.0 was just notes that I could take and a wiki to collaborate with people. And then, last year, we launched databases and that was version 2.0, which seemed like a turning point, where now I could not only have your notes and your wiki, but also manage your tasks, manage your projects, manage candidates and recruit, all in one tool.
Over the past year and a half, the company has grown extremely fast. I joined about a year ago, there were about 10 people earlier this year and now we are close to 30. It is still a really small engineering team. We are 9 engineers, we have no product managers and we are 2 designers. So there are about 10 people who are building the product and 10 people in community and support teams, something we have invested a lot in. We are starting to have a sales and marketing team. We have 2 people in marketing and 2 people in sales. All that is rounded to around 27, which is where we are now.
Since you joined, do you think the idea has changed?
In terms of the original idea, we were thinking about how people who didn't know how to code could build things like tools and software that were really useful. I guess the only finding has been that not everyone wakes up wanting to build software, but everyone wakes up to solve problems. That was the axis to focus on notes, wikis and tasks, because that is really something that every team needs.
Are those universal needs for large and small teams?
For the first 100 people, you can do a lot with Notion. With 30 people, we manage almost the entire company, except the use of Slack for internal communication and the Intercom for external communication, such as talking with customers. Everything else is really in Notion, like our application tracking system to recruit within Notion, our sales CRM is in Notion, our wiki obviously is, our project management, no, we don't use Jira.
For under-100 companies, you don't really need another tool. When you reach hundreds of people, what usually happens is that some person or some team tends to prefer a specific tool. In those situations, Notion plays well with other tools. You can embed things easily. So let's say Excel or Google Spreadsheets is something you want to use, you can simply embed that within Notion. Then, Notion becomes this type of central nervous system for all the work that people are doing.
Based on that, one of the things we have not done is that we do not make synchronous communication, so we have stayed away from that because I feel that people like to use Slack. In Slack, you can't collaborate on a project … Notion has become a place where you can do a lot of your work along with synchronous communication.
So, you are not interested in creating a chat or video chat product?
Not in the short term. I think Slack is one of those business tools that business people really like. For many of these other tools, we just have to use it, not because we love it but because that is what exists.
What are the barriers to satisfy customers with more than 100 employees?