March – April
Over the last few months, the whole ‘winter is coming’ clamor in the VC space globally has only grown louder. We’re not worried about ‘winter’ – we’re growing a tough, hardy evergreen, not a hot-house orchid.
The frenzy of last year, especially the insanity by the end of the year, made it clear to anyone who understands the flow of money globally + the VC space that this bubble had to burst soon. As founders raising a pre-seed round, we knew we had to design a company and a fundraising strategy that took that into consideration. Hence our ‘surprisingly low’ valuation at a time when others were raised at seriously high vals. This is also why we resisted the push to increase our round size (and saying no, thank you, to money was tough) and to simply keep on increasing our val cap.
This has resulted in us being extremely well placed to now raise a follow-on round when we feel it’s the right time, and to still be able to offer a fantastic deal to investors that come in at seed. We are not worried about the liquidity crunch – cash looks for yield, and we will remain a fantastic company offering excellent returns because of how we’re positioned. The fact that we have decent in-bound interest from funds even now, speaks to this. Our waiting list of businesses has increased by 159% since we last spoke (still without any marketing $ spent).
We have put into place internal milestones for the next 6 months which are more aggressive than the projections we shared at pre-seed. This is because now that the app is in better shape, and we have started shipping + getting great feedback from users, we believe we can aim higher. All our focus right now is on finding product-market fit, and drilling deeper into our customer personas. We are also introducing a version of our product in between the paid and the 15K (PKR) version, which we will talk about in more detail next month, but have high hopes from. The framework for the tax features, which aim to increase stickiness, have also been completed.
The VC market is going to get tough, but we are not going into it blind. And as anyone who knows Omar and I well would know – we f*ing love competition.
I guess ‘winter’ has started, but that’s not what I want to talk about. As Meenah mentioned in the last update, it is more of a distraction for us, as we believe our product and business model should be able to weather the storm. ⛄
What I want to talk about is company building.
As we geared up for our open launch in May⚙️, we were still in the process of hiring for some key roles. This meant that whoever joined had little time to trot or warm up, and was thrown directly onto a galloping horse. We knew that things would break, and they did. From the product and dev teams scrambling to put out a stable release, to the growth team struggling to get all the ad managers, campaigns and collaterals up and running to the design team being pulled in every direction by every other team! I would be lying if I said things were not chaotic. 🥵
On top of this internal overheating, the external climate did not help either. Islamabad went into lockdown for a week with tens of thousands of protestors marching into the capital on one side and barricades and police forces trying to stop them from advancing on the other. Considering all these things, we had to delay our launch by a week as well.
It was indeed a bummer, but there is always a silver lining. ⛅ This extra time gave all of us a chance to take a deep breath and work on building the foundation on which the structure of Metric will rest. We had our first weekly townhall where we discussed how this chaos is not sustainable. Experienced people in each team proceeded to create systems, workflows, processes and SOPs to streamline their work. Everyone wanted to produce their best work, and they realized that they could only do that if they were in control of how work was being done.
While trying to build a high growth company, you are so focused on ‘business building’ that you might forget ‘company building’. The latter is what helps you succeed in the long run. I am glad we got a chance to pause for a second and figure this out due to the protests.
We saw immediate results. Within a couple of days, you could almost feel how everything started running much more smoothly. There was a calm in the office. We all knew exactly what we needed to do and how we needed to allocate resources to get it done in the most efficient manner. Everyone was still galloping 🏇 – but had taken control of the reins.
We were ready to launch.
30 countries in 30 days. I can’t even.
July was a month of many ‘firsts’ for our team. We celebrated the first work anniversary of our very first full-time employee. We also went through our first firing, and we received our first resignation. 😓 It’s been a looong July.
Not the least because of the crazy growth numbers we continue to see (more on this later). But if I remember this month years into the future, it would be a month where we leveled up as people managers.
It was Eid month 🐑, and there were many ups and downs in terms of managing resources while our app launch was in full swing. For most of our team, their first few months at Metric were complete, and we got a better sense of people who are aligned perfectly with our values and cause, while some who might not be a good fit. In a sense I think we were lucky that it was Eid month, as it highlighted more clearly the people who work well when given autonomy, and those that try to exploit the system.
As such, throughout this month we re-emphasized our ‘Values First’ principle. We had sessions with teams and managers about what it means to ensure we live these values in our work every day and create an environment in which any new team member would quickly get galvanized by the culture. I also sat down with individual team members to explain each of our values in more detail and how they can incorporate them in the way they operate at Metric.
This also included highlighting that ‘with great autonomy comes great accountability’. And if people aren’t excited to take bigger responsibility and ownership, we might not be the right fit for them.
Because of all this, July 2022 seemed much longer than just a month, even though it included Eid holidays! There was a lot of brainstorming, a lot of system building, a lot of discussion, huddles and exercises. The result is that we were able to give structure to the ‘Autonomy with Accountability’ principle.
One can almost feel how everyone, especially the managers, have leveled up and are able to get the best work out of their teams. Still lots to learn and a lot of experiments to run, fail and iterate. But I am glad we were pushed into discomfort so we could accelerate our growth as a company. 🎚️
In our first month post public beta launch, we were used in 30 countries. In our second, we reached 60 countries. Month 3 saw us reach 70. When we spoke to all of you while raising our pre-seed, we said we were building a global product, but the ‘global’ bit came later – maybe year 2. We thought we’d do a ton of research to decide what new markets we’d like to launch in, then create campaigns and build partnerships, perhaps offer basic localizations, to formally ‘enter’ these markets. We thought we’d focus primarily on Pakistan for the next 18 months, and grow locally. We were wrong.
I’ve worked within Pakistan’s startup ecosystem for nearly a decade now. I do not know of many products built locally that started getting used in this many countries, this fast, with no effort at all from the startup (no marketing, no partnerships). I don’t say this to hype us up – I share this because we are still reeling from the shock, and coming to terms with what has happened.
People sometimes find it hard to believe when we tell them these numbers. Yes, we have monthly active users in these 70 countries, not just one time installs/uninstalls. Will these users continue to use us? Will they convert to paying customers? It’s too soon to say. There are also countries which have just one or two businesses using us. But the fact that they even found us without deliberate action from our end, a small pre-seed startup building 100% in Pakistan, is astounding and something we do not take lightly.
It is something that motivates us to do more. In August we realized the market was sending us a signal, and we started to take concrete steps to build on it. We are working to understand which markets find us most useful (and why). What sectors from these markets, what is the volume of transactions, what is the willingness to pay? So many fun questions to answer.
During our pre-seed investor conversations I remember someone asked us what we think could be something that kills Metric. My response at the time was ‘an inability to read market signals, and pivot hard if required’. A global strategy was always on the cards. We just didn’t know how fast, because frankly, we have never seen this happen before.
The world is our stage, and we will do our best to live up to this responsibility, and this privilege.
A couple of months ago, Meenah and I hired a personal trainer. We realized that the physical activity in our daily routine had been just about zero for a while, and decided to make this change. It has been quite grueling, and sometimes when we’re in the middle of a workout we do wonder why we’re doing this to ourselves, but 2 months in and we have seen drastic changes in our energy levels, and more importantly, our core strength.
As the end of Q3 was nearing, we decided to test the core strength of our product as well. As you all are already aware, we were off to the races as soon as we launched – gaining traction in terms of downloads, users, transactions and countries at a somewhat alarming pace. While we are ecstatic and grateful for the initial response we have received, we are aware that it is very easy to get carried away seeing all these numbers keep going up and forgetting what we want our product to be. What this product needs to be.
We had been tempted to keep adding feature upon feature and our product roadmap initially reflected that. However, as we kept digging deeper into the data we realized we might be foregoing core strength for accelerated gains, an unsustainable path to be on. September was the month of ‘data > vibes’ for us!
Thus, our theme for Q4 2022 is “Strengthening our core” – focusing on whether the product is doing what it’s supposed to be doing flawlessly in its current state, instead of jumping on to new, shiny ideas. We stripped down our Q4 product roadmap, launched an ‘Are we Simple’ project, dived deep into Mixpanel and BigQuery, began user interviews and kicked off usability testing. More on these in the next section.
We had a great call with Giacomo a week or so ago, and he reminded us of a Y-Combinator mantra for early stage products – ‘Find a few users that love you versus many users that sort of like you.’ Discussions with other mentors, including the awesome people at Outliers, gave further validation to what we were already thinking.
As our spaceship keeps racing at supersonic speed, we need to make sure the nuts and bolts are tight at all times and fixes are made at the same pace.
October – November 2022
Around the world, 2022 has been painful. The world of startups and venture capital has been no different. We started hearing startups lay off people as early as the beginning of Q2, followed by a series of startups shutting down or significantly reducing their operations. The rest of the year has continued the trend. Having worked with so many founders and investors over the years, we do empathize with all the stakeholders. For Metric, however, 2022 has been a great year and we continue to accelerate despite the macro environment.
Since our last fundraise (9 months ago), our GTV Run-rate has increased by 104% and our ARR has grown by 204% (uncaptured due to our well advertised failure around payments), and by 70% actually received. Within 1.5 quarters of public launch, this is extremely promising. Regular accounting for small businesses is a mental and behavioral shift for founders, who find it difficult, boring, scary and anxiety inducing. This behavior shift is happening faster than we expected it to.
We have found partnerships and demos to be a great avenue of customer acquisition. We have been able to partner with 30 organizations, including 5 outside of pakistan. We have conducted 20 demos, and directly taught 800 plus businesses in Pakistan, Dubai, Sharjah and Palestine, over the last three months, how to manage their finances better. This number continues to grow as we experiment with various partnership models. In the works are deeper partnerships with UBank (240 branches across 210 cities in Pakistan), and payment gateway PayMob (Egypt, Pakistan and UAE penetration).
We have now touched 91 countries in 6 months, and the alternative data on small businesses has been blowing us away. The possibilities of what can be layered on top of Metric are endless and exciting. We have had conversations with organizations such as S&P Global around the kind of data and insights that would be invaluable in the future. Emerging markets are generally very opaque, and there is very little real data that allows for business decisions or even policy decisions based on what the reality on ground is. We plan to release a small report around this soon.
The shift in focus towards revenue works in our favor. We were already post-revenue when we raised our pre-seed, and have multiple established revenue streams. Subscriptions are actually the latest stream, even though it’s the stream we want to focus on the most.
We went to +92 Disrupt in Karachi in October, where Meenah was also a speaker on a panel. We shared all our latest numbers, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
With a successful launch, high growth and a runway of 14 months on our side, we have built a lot of momentum going into our Seed round which we’ll open in January. We will be raising USD 2.5m. As we gear up for fundraising and get all our fundraising assets prepared, we’ll be reaching out to all of you for intros and references etc.
We are super excited with what we have achieved in a risk-off environment, and can’t wait to kill it in 2023!
– OpK & Meenah