At the publishing of this post, the Alyne solution is turning two years old. On the 7th of March 2016 we officially launched our Software as a Service to customers.
We were fortunate enough to win our first customers only days after launch and have been consistently building momentum ever since. On our second birthday I thought it might be worthwhile to reflect on some of the exciting steps along our journey of the last 24 months.
When we started out we obviously didn’t have any customers and hence no real deadline (those were the days!!) - except of course the deadlines we set for ourselves. Every startup book tells you to ship fast and ship early. Build your minimum viable product (MVP) fast and test it in the market. If you’re not embarrassed by your MVP, you shipped too late. That all sounds logical in theory, but is significantly more difficult when everyone is enjoying the creativity of designing an exciting new product on an empty canvas. We like the concept of MAP - a minimum awesome product better. Maybe we could have launched earlier - with just our controls library in place and not the assessments and the reports. All I can say is, I was incredibly proud of the product we built in just over 9 months and I am even more proud of the product the Alyne Team has transformed that MAP into today.
Growing a business is hard work. There is no way around that fact. Increasing the customer base of a B2B business is not easy. My biggest learning: Stay agile in your thinking, listen to your customers and adapt. For example, we had many great ideas on how to hack the sales cycle through an innovative pricing model. We quickly learned that the ideas absolutely did not work in reality and needed to adapt quickly. The need to reflect on evidence, rethink and react quickly is something that I try to remind myself on a regular basis. I’m convinced that becoming set in your ways and complacent in adapting to new thinking is when we lose our competitive edge. Most excitingly, however - we have grown to a team size of more than 20 people.
Unfortunately my apartment doesn’t have a garage - so we can’t claim that we are a garage startup as part of our founding story, however we did start in a spare room in my apartment. It was an amazing phase in our development - one of us had the task of cooking lunch every day. Needless to say - it got competitive. With a growing team, that phase came to an end and we moved into our first rented offices at Danner Forum, and then on to a larger space on the Nymphenburgerstrasse. We have now moved into a great office in the Ganghoferstrasse with space for 12 to 14 people - and most importantly - a fancy coffee machine. Additionally we have offices at the Rise in London’s uber-hip suburb of Shoreditch.
One of our principles for running Alyne has been full location independence of the company by not being reliant on any physical assets. That’s the easy part. With part of our team in Munich, part in London, some development partners in Poland, distributed sales staff and us as founders on the move regularly, we needed to make a conscious decision to be a distributed and virtual organisation. Our technology obviously easily supports this, but we needed to change our approach as managers to match this new reality. Making decisions transparently, over-communicating, maintaining Alyne’s culture even when not everyone is in one room and enabling the element of face to face communication where needed is something that we are focussing on.
In May 2017 we closed our seed investment round. We raised 1.2m Euros from a group of investors led by the Venture Company Fund Alstin. Learning how to raise money was certainly challenging. Venture Capital is a separate world that we as first time founders knew very little about when we started having our first meetings. Luckily we found a great group of investors that have been excellent partners over the last few months. It’s a huge thrill to see that investment hit your account - but for me this certainly comes with a sense of responsibility towards the investors, the people we hire and of course my co-founders.
Since our first days developing Alyne, we have had a pipeline full of ideas, designs, wireframes ready for implementation. We have some exciting plans for our solution in 2018 that we are executing full steam ahead. Over the past few months we have built a sales team in the UK and Germany with a network of partners in additional markets. This sales engine is consistently closing new customers with increasing frequency. We have set ourselves ambitious sales targets for the coming year and started strong into the first weeks. One big objective for 2018 is our move into the U.S. market planned for the second half of the year. This move will certainly mean a new phase in our company’s development.
Last but not least, I want to have tons of fun with our amazing team. The past two years have been the most exciting of my career and the most eventful of my life. One personal reason for starting Alyne was to create a team, a company, an office that I look forward to every day. Of course there are some days where I have to catch an early train or flight where I would rather stay home, but for the vast majority of days I’m excited to celebrate success with the Alyne team and fight through setbacks. To the whole Alyne team - thanks for the last two years. Happy Birthday Alyne.