Being Remote and Notion

At Onward, we are building a fully remote company.  We now have 5 employees that are scattered throughout the country and we’ll be fully remote forever.

Why Remote?

There are lots of benefits to working remote. You can read all about it all over the web and on the Twitter-verse.  I’ve now been doing this over a year and the reasons that resonate with me the most are:

  1. No commute. Knocking out the time it takes to drive to/from an office puts hours back in my day.  I never got stressed by the driving. In fact, I always enjoyed the time for podcasts and catching up with people on the phone. However, that lost time was a drag. Now my day is that much more efficient.
  2. Autonomy. While I like being in an office and catching up with co-workers, it also has a downside of co-workers constantly interrupting me and my thoughts. It was hard to control my own schedule. Being at home gives me much more control over my calendar and my day.
  3. Broader employee pool.  When we’re hiring and looking for a potential colleague, we can now look across the entire planet rather than those who live close by. This has already paid dividends as it’s allowed me to work with my good friend Nader and our awesome early employees who are in Pittsburgh, Texas, and Chicago.

The Challenges

It’s not all fun and roses though.  It took me 4-6 months to get used to working out of my house. It takes discipline to focus on the tasks and not be distracted by an empty messy house. Also, there’s a solitude that took some getting used to. Now that i’m in the groove, I do think it’s a better way to work.

Asynchronous is Key

One of the keys to successfully working with my remote colleagues is to be able to work without communicating in real-time. Because my colleague isn’t right next to me, I have no idea if they are working right now or planning on coming online later. This has lead us to use some new tools that are pretty cool.

Notion

The first, and by far my favorite. This is a combination of Google Docs, Asana and a wiki. Before we had Notion, we had a problem where we didn’t know where to post a home page of operations for our company or a division, or where to post decisions and goals for everyone to see and access easily. We tried Google Docs and also tied making an intranet on Google Sites. Both sucked.  This is exactly what Notion solves.

We now have home pages for the company which has a general company handbook, lists all the tools we use, policies and other generic info. We also have a home page for each group which houses the processes, goals, OKR’s, meeting notes, and more. There’s a good overview of how another business is using Notion here which will give you the idea.

Notion Home Screen

Notion in generally is pretty sweet. As a product, it’s incredibly slick. There is so much complexity that’s displayed so elegantly and simply – it’s really beautiful.  It’s clearly seems to be working. In fact, talk about a fundraise that showcases your awesomeness. They raised $10 million on an $800 million valuation. That’s 1% dilution.  A good interview with the founder is here too.

Onward Update: Starting to Lay the Foundation

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Onward Logo

Hello!

It’s been a few months since my last update. Here’s what we’re up to over here at Onward…

A reminder of what we’re doing

We started Onward earlier this year. We’re a new company focused on transportation for older adults or those who need extra assistance. Ever since our families started aging and needing more help, we realized there’s a huge need to have great services available to serve them.

About half of our riders are older adults over the age of 75. The other half are those who have a medical condition and need help getting to and from their appointments.

How are we different from Uber/Lyft?

They provide “curb-to-curb” rides whereas our service conducts “door-to-door” or “door-through-door” service. On pickup, our drivers come to the door and help the rider to the car, take them to their appointments, wait for them and then bring them home.

We also charge by the hour – $35/hour – which allows for us to make multiple stops and get out of the car and help.

What’s our plan?

2019 is a foundational year for us where we want to build out the marketplace of drivers and riders in the Bay Area. We also want to build out the technology platform needed to automate and maintain our service. We are measuring our progress by rides per week and have a goal of 120 rides per week by the end of the year.

How’s it going?

We’ve been busy. We’ve expanded our team to 4 people by hiring two others who focus on our operations and our supply. They are Sarah Pontier and Ben Estevez and both kick serious ass.

We’ve also started doing rides. Our first ride happened in April. Now that we’re in Q3, we’ve done over 900 rides!

Our main channels for finding rides is to partner with assisted living facilities and hospitals, and also many find us via Google and Yelp when looking for transportation.

To make these rides happen, we’ve signed on lots of drivers. Our typical driver persona is a retiree who is very compassionate, looking to help others in their neighborhood and looking for part-time work. They all have CPR certifications and drive their own car.

We’ve built and released our initial version of both the Driver App and the Rider App. These apps help automate our entire ordering and matching process. Rides come in via our Rider app (or website or phone) and then get exposed to our drivers via the Driver App. Drivers can accept or decline any ride they see. In theory, rides will then occur without our team touching them.

How can you help?

We’d also love your help getting the word out to people in the SF Bay Area who have parents or friends who are unable to drive or need a little extra help getting to their appointments.

We also are digging more deeply into the healthcare industry and how we can help out there. If you are knowledgeable about insurance carriers or healthcare providers or know anyone who is, please reach out to me.

Thanks for your support –

Mike

Non-Obvious Fundraising Learnings

I’ve been a co-founder in three VC-backed startups:

  1. Qloud. We raised $3.5 million from Steve Case’s Revolution fund (sold for $8.5 to BuzzMedia)
  2. Kapost. We’ve raised $20m from Salesforce, Floodgate (SF), Cueball (Boston), LeadEdge Capital (NYC), Tango (CO local), Highway 12 (Idaho fund), Fraser/McCombs (CO), and Access (CO).
  3. Onward. We have just recently raised a $1.5m seed round from Matchstick Ventures, Royal Street Ventures and JPK Capital

From these experiences I have pitched (with Toby on the first two) to hundreds of VC firms and learned some non-obvious lessons. Here we go: Continue reading “Non-Obvious Fundraising Learnings”