Why Notion is staying small as its valuation gets bigger

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Work instruments startup Notion, which just lately reached a reported $800 million valuation, isn’t on the verge of an enormous SoftBank spherical. In reality, COO Akshay Kothari says the startup has “never felt like if we had more money we could grow faster.”

The firm, centered round an app that helps non-developers construct collaboration instruments, has a couple of million customers and has scaled its product rapidly regardless of having a workforce of simply 27.

I wrote in regards to the firm’s partnership with a few of tech’s prime accelerators and enterprise capital corporations final month. People are very interested by this small firm and the way it is run, so right here’s extra from my latest interview with COO Akshay Kothari by which we mentioned the hyped startup’s philosophy of staying small and among the challenges it could have forward with this model of pondering as rivals are elevating large sums.

This interview has been edited for size and readability.

Notion COO Akshay Kothari

Where does your story start with Notion? Give me a snapshot of the place the workforce is now.

Akshay Kothari: [Notion co-founders Ivan Zhao and Simon Last] began Notion six years in the past and that’s once I invested. I had offered my earlier firm and I had this newfound cash that I didn’t know what to do with. I invested in Notion, in order that’s my connection.

We have been type of in analysis mode for a few years attempting to uncover what the market wants have been. We launched about two years in the past; 1.zero was simply notes that you may take and a wiki in order that you may collaborate with individuals. And then final yr we launched databases and that was the two.zero model, which type of appeared like an inflection level, the place now you may not solely have your notes and your wiki, but in addition handle your duties, handle your initiatives, handle candidates and recruiting, all in a single software.

Over the final yr and a half, the corporate has grown extraordinarily quick. I joined a few yr in the past, there have been about 10 individuals originally of this yr and now we’re near 30. It’s nonetheless a extremely small engineering workforce. We’re 9 engineers, we don’t have any product managers, and we’re 2 designers. So there are about 10 individuals which might be constructing the product, and 10 individuals on neighborhood and assist groups, one thing that we’ve invested very closely in. We’re beginning to have a gross sales and advertising workforce. We have 2 individuals in advertising and a pair of individuals in gross sales. That all rounds as much as about 27 which is the place we at the moment are.

Since you joined do you suppose the thought has shifted in any respect?

In phrases of the unique thought, we have been fascinated about how individuals who didn’t know find out how to code might construct issues like instruments and software program that have been actually helpful. I assume the one realization has been that not everybody wakes up wanting to construct software program, however everybody wakes to resolve issues. That was the pivot to specializing in notes, wikis and duties, as a result of that’s truly one thing that each workforce wants.

Are these wants common for giant and small groups?

For the primary 100 individuals you possibly can truly do loads with Notion. With 30 individuals, we just about run all the firm, apart from utilizing Slack for inner communication and Intercom for exterior communication like speaking to prospects. Everything else is truly on Notion, like our utility monitoring system for recruiting inside Notion, our gross sales CRM is in Notion, our wiki clearly is, our challenge administration as nicely — no, we don’t use Jira.

For sub-100 companies, you truly don’t want one other software. When you get to lots of of individuals what tends to occurs is that some particular person or some workforce tends to have a choice for a selected software. In these conditions, Notion performs nicely with different instruments. You can embed issues simply. So let’s say Excel or Google Sheets is one thing that you simply need to use, you possibly can simply embed that inside Notion. So Notion turns into this sort of central nervous system for the entire work that persons are doing.

Building on that, one of many issues we haven’t carried out is we don’t do synchronous communication so we’ve stayed away from that as a result of I really feel like individuals like utilizing Slack. On Slack, you possibly can’t truly collaborate on a challenge… Notion has develop into a spot the place you possibly can truly do plenty of your work alongside the synchronous communication.

So, no real interest in constructing a chat or video chat product?

Not within the close to time period. I believe Slack is a type of enterprise instruments that folks at firms truly like. For plenty of these different instruments, we simply have to make use of it, not as a result of we find it irresistible however as a result of that that’s what exists.

What are the limitations for satisfying the shoppers with 100+ staff?