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April Monthly Gathering

Rafael Jegundo

Overview

This month we decided to do another change on our Monthly Gathering blog post. As you know, every month we discussed in more detail a topic that is important for the whole company. We usually write a wrap-up of that discussion and add it in this section of each Monthly Gathering report. In order to improve the discussion with the community about that topic, we decided to have a different blog post with that wrap-up.

So, in this monthly gathering, we discussed the need to limit our work in progress to be more focused and productive. Soon we will publish this new blog post about this matter and how we apply it in our daily different tasks and teams.

Quarter in Review

Even if things are not perfect (and they never are) we had signs of improvement on our big goals over the last quarter.

Teams not only have been thinking more in terms of product but are much more prone to have a healthy mix of pragmatic optimism, discussing more frequently and earlier in the process how teams can meet their goals, have shorter feedback loops and improve continuously based on recent results and issues. This was particularly visible in Investment time where we reduced further previous process giving more ownership to the people to adjust as we go, and on both Qold and Unplugg, which have grown more cautious and focused.

Craftsmanship is also improving a bit, as several teams are incorporating new practices and technologies in their work. This incorporation might be a bit slow but it is critical for these changes to have an effect, as it doesn’t matter much if a subset of the team learns those practices and skills but cannot put them to practice and collect the impact of that work. We want to keep growing here, but this quarter was certainly better than previous one.

Changes on meta and hustle teams, even if a bit chaotic at times, are well underway and increased our ability to respond to opportunities and support products better.

It’s harder to define, but it also seems that our processes are leaner, but the ones we do have follow strictly.

Culture and People

The culture was more stable as a whole, but it feels like it’s slightly less strong, which is a sign we should continue to be very cautious in terms of hiring.

Qombibios and not-work-related events also have been unstable, so I would also prefer that we would be in a more balanced state in that matter before bringing more people on. Therefore we should be on the look out for great people with that profile, but be conservative in terms of hiring until everything feels good about it.

In terms of hiring, it looks like we have two profiles that would allow us to move faster:

  • Someone with a product or hustle profile, so it can help us move faster with Qold, Unplugg and/or allow us to be pickier in terms of consulting work;
  • Someone with development chops, maybe for mobile, that can help us increase our revenue, even if should try to grow it mostly through increased rates than increased volume.

Also, Pedro Janeiro will come work with us after his MSc internship, so we have that as a reinforcement in the way. Soon, we will also have our 2017 summersmiths!

Consulting

Last month we achieved 52.7k€ of revenue of the goal of 54k€ we traced. This means that we were 1.3k€ behind, and need to compensate that this month of April. No new deals were closed successfully, and we sent 3 new proposals for Multi-Layer Projects (and 1 non-MLP), of which we don’t have any response yet.

In the first trimester, we successfully achieved our revenue goal of 150k€ with 159k€ and closed successfully 4 MLP projects (and 1 non-MLP) of the goal of 2 MLPs we traced at beginning of January. Unfortunately, we haven’t done any Product Design Sprint of 1 we wanted to do.

Overall, as we can a see, things were good, and we should congratulate ourselves for that. On the other side, we can’t say we have a predictable sales machine yet. i.e., we don’t have yet a clear strategy that tells us that: if we contact X people it will translate into Y new projects. That happens because we don’t have enough numbers (time spent on each strategy) to get the statistics right - sales is a numbers game. This is something the hustle team will work hard this trimester to achieve by tracing substantial goals that will demand more from us, and by improving our way of making experiments (read: by limiting WIP).

This trimester we will aim for a revenue goal of 200k€ and the acquisition of 3 new MLP projects of 20k€ or more. And, in line with our company goals of limiting WIP, we want to end the trimester with 16 projects - less 3 projects than we started. The idea is to substitute every 2 smaller projects for 1 bigger. We decided to remove the acquisition of a Product Design Sprint project from our list of goals because we noticed that selling a PDS is quite different from selling our usual projects, consequently taking our focus on the other goals. It doesn’t mean that we will not try to sell it, but that should happen in the 20% time we will spend on sales experiments, and as a tool for already existent clients, instead of being a major goal for the trimester.

Bringing three new 20k€ projects means we will be able to increase our average rates and have more MLP projects, switching them directly with on-going low-rate and non-MLP projects. This will be a progressive task during the trimester, as you understand we cannot bail on our current clients, but we will have more projects where the teams are bigger but with more control over the product and the project. “With great power comes great responsibility” To achieve the 200k€ objective for the trimester we will need not only an effort from the Hustle team, to find this kind of projects and end the low-rate non-MLP projects, but also an effort from all Whitesmith team to keep up the pace and increase efficiency in these more complex projects. As we see from past results we are on the right track, but we need to step up the game! :muscle:

Said this, for April, our goals consist in achieving:

  1. Revenue of 72k€;
  2. 1 new MLP project of more than 20k€ of value.

Qold

A lot happened since the beginning of the year, and so a lot changed too. Starting by analysing the past quarter, we were hit with an indication that our market (restaurants as a whole) didn't want us that much, so we were going to be validating market segments like crazy, *unless* something would come up. And after one month talking to around 100 pharmacies, it did, and High-End Restaurants became our elected target. So February and March were months of hustle while using an increased availability from the rest of Whitesmith, ready to help us improve our product using their Investment time.

So the balance is:

  • Our quarter goal of having a validated target segment is considered accomplished;
  • Our goal of having a new temperature sensor version wasn't completed, in part because hustling was a priority.

We've grown a lot as a team once again this quarter, mostly through the pain. It made us rethink our process, shorten our retrospective cycles and the way we use our everyday tools (namely docs/paper, trello and slack). There were also changes in the way we set our goals, analyse and pursue progress, as we started tracking different metrics (for example using Monthly Recurring Revenue, now that we have some) and our marketing activities (using social media, and materials like the Qold Sticker that clients can use as proof of their care for their goods and services).

So for the 2nd quarter of 2017, we were highly ambitious setting our goals, but we believe we have the ability to grow even more, even faster, now that we know the market better. Our quarter goal is to get to 5000€ in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR). Aligned with this, our goal for April is getting to the 1500€ MRR.

For this month Qold will be engaging more and more High-End Restaurants. Meanwhile, we'll keep developing our new hardware version and also work with more Whitesmithians to improve our product.

See you next month then.

Unplugg

Our objectives for March and for the Quarter were very clear:

  1. Have 5 users happily using unplugg for two weeks in a row;
  2. Re-evaluate if we should stick with a forecast for energy or pivot (to another application).

At the beginning of March, following-up the campaigns on Product Hunt, Hackernews and Reddit we had on our website around 5200 people testing our API online and around 100 people directly requesting an API key to test our algorithm. These beautiful vanity metrics give us some confidence about our future and we could leverage unplugg during March, and we were pretty confident that we could, in fact, achieve the goals. The truth is, for the first time the team noticed the power of vanity metrics have. We were not able to fulfill the apparently achievable objectives, we only had two users using Unplugg two weeks in a row, and no conclusion about the market segment we could address.

For March we had other small objectives that we put on our roadmap to help us achieve the 5 users testing Unplugg, 3 on the business side and 3 on the tech side:

  • Business
    1. Follow-up with open leads in forecast for energy but it's not our focus anymore;
    2. Follow-up all people who requested API keys or subscribed newsletter to discover the other segment;
    3. Validate through online distribution 2 Segments: Small medium businesses doing arbitrage of goods and other
  • Tech
    1. Make system more reliable and easy to contribute (following up the focus on improving DevOps from previous MG);
    2. Improve website UX to make pricing, subscription, use cases and testing more clear, right now we have lots of content not organized;
    3. Forecasting confidence intervals (too many people asked for this on launched campaigns);

    On the Business side we’ve made follow-ups with the open leads on the energy sector, and in fact, we were able to schedule a few meetings. However as previously stated, B2B on energy field has very long sales cycles, it's a reality we need to live with and adapt to it. We did not have the number of meetings or people using our API as we wanted, but we are advancing. Also, we’ve sent more than a hundred emails following up with all the people who requested our API Keys or subscribed to our newsletter during the HackerNews, Product-Hunt and Reddit campaigns. We had a few answers, in fact, the two people using our API for more than two weeks are the people who answered to this email and saw us on HackerNews.

    We could not validate the goods arbitrage segment and found the other segment because most of the people using our API are either developers working with forecasting on side projects or just curious people that wanted to know more, not significant people that could lead us to any conclusion about the market segment to follow in the future.

    Following up the previous monthly gathering we needed to optimize our development system following DevOps philosophy, making it more reliable and easy contribute to all. We were able to achieve this objective. Both 5. and 6. objectives were not achieved. Objective 5. was not achieved due to our focus on investment Fridays and time constraints, but we will for sure complete it in April. At some point, when we noticed that we probably couldn’t achieve the objectives we needed to change our priorities and re-think our tasks, so 6. was somehow sacrificed.

    Considering this, we needed to stop and rethink our strategy for April and for the new trimester approaching.

    We know we have the know-how and the skills to succeed in the energy sector, we already have several clients where we have pretty interesting data science and forecasting projects, so we need to understand where we went wrong with productizing this through Unplugg.

    During the conversation with most of our prospects, we clearly saw that people see value on Unplugg, but it is very difficult for them to understand how we will create value for them and for their clients, either in the energy sector or any other sectors. This makes us think that Forecast as a tool is not a strong value proposition especially because we are only solving one small part of the whole forecasting problem (for example what to do with the forecasting data? Most companies don't see how they can increment value to their clients with forecasting), making it difficult to perceive in the big picture. So we need to create new use cases with clear benefits, that we can show to our prospect clients and specific examples where forecasting can improve their processes and infrastructures. The million dollar question for Unplugg in the following months will be: “What do we need to change so forecasting can bring high value to companies". Of course, we have a few cool ideas, but we need to validate them, so we will act as if we were on square one again and engage on Search Mode, look for what our prospects really need and how we can clearly increment value to them.

    To avoid uncertainty and mitigate risk we decided also to shorten our search cycles to keep focus and let down Quarter goals to focus on Monthly goals. Right now, our focus will be on exploring how we can create a strong value proposition on the energy sector, we will continue tackling this sector but with a different approach, not trying to directly sell Unplugg as is, but understand how we can help prospects with our know-how on forecasting and data science. The technical part will surely be _easier_ once we understand what people really need.

    So our objective to April is to validate the needs energy companies have, and a potential product involving forecasting or data-science. Our main metric will be: sell a license or product data-related in energy. All hands will be on this, even developers, no further coding until then. This seems a big step to achieve in one month, but have a lean approach, so it seems logical to us to quickly validate our assumptions with actual sales.

    Yep, we are up to this challenge and stepping up the game :)

    We really need to do this to take advantage of the already contacts and knowledge we have of the market. To help us drive towards this month objective, we defined two main tasks that need to be completed during the first two weeks:

    1. By Mid-April have our website refurbished with our new awesome UX to better drive prospects that land on our landing page to understand what value Unplugg brings, use cases, how can they test it, implement a small their own data, perceive real value and finally subscribe to the service;
    2. Talk with 30 people on energy field and sell.

    TL:DR our main focus will be on hustle :muscle:

Marketing

If on the one hand, in March we didn’t have any technical blog post, on the other hand, the number of behind the scenes blog posts have been higher than expected! For this reason, in April, we decided that we will no longer have a division between the type of blog posts that we post. We still are a bit behind on our content strategy and we were not a guest writer in a blog post neither have a guest writer on our blog.

In March, we also started working on our inbound strategy, optimising our twitter account and in the next months, we will improve other channels to have more leads coming from inbound marketing. Right now, we are already showing some results with 3 leads in negotiation :muscle: .

For the second quarter, in our inbound strategy, we will also start working more on our newsletter. This way we can get more brand awareness and a better relationship with our clients. Because of this, we established that one of our goals for the next quarter would be to have more engagement (replies, comments, etc) to our newsletter.

2nd Quarter Goals:

  • Write 12 blog posts
  • 6 contacts through inbound
  • 5 replies to the newsletter (engagement)


See you in May

This concludes our first quarter of 2017, we will continue to improve with what we can so that we can keep up with our awesome pace.
Do you want us to cover/share something? Don't forget you can always contact us on twitter!


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