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Friday Ship 200: Four Years of Startup Transparency

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Parabol Friday Ship 200 Banner

This marks our 200th Friday Ship – 200 posts spanning 4 years of our company. This felt like a good time to reflect on why we do this and how far we’ve come.

 

Why we publish Friday Ship: the value of transparency

Transparency is an important value for our team – we list ‘open book’ as one of our three core values. In remote organizations like ours, we’re not unique – remote teams tend to value transparency – and we think that’s because transparency makes a couple of important things easier:

  • More people can make more decisions without taking up each other’s time: Particularly for globally distributed organizations, real-time connections are precious, so we prefer not to spend them on things like minor questions about how something performed. Everyone is empowered to look for themselves and see the answer and act on first-hand knowledge.
  • We can more easily stay connected to each other: In a remote team, there’s no open office to make you visible to one another. Sharing your work openly with one another means you get to ‘see’ each other.

We’ve written about what we mean by transparency before, and it comes down to this:

By sharing more of ourselves, we build more closeness with one another.

We share Friday Ships because we’re trying to build closeness with you, our supporters, investors, prospective employees and watchful skeptics.

So much has changed in four years!

Here’s a snapshot of the very first Check-In Meeting (then called an Action Meeting) held on the earliest version of Parabol in September, 2016 from Friday Ship #33:

Parabol First Check-In Meeting GIF

Compare this to the streamlined Retrospective meeting experience of March, 2020:

Parabol Current Check-In Meeting GIF

We’ve evolved in other ways too:

  • How we define ourselves: From “real-time prioritization software for teams” to “software for remote teams” to “a retrospective meeting app and culture monitoring software” to “a retrospective meeting app free to use with up to 2 teams”
  • How many people are curious about us: from 1,400 ‘hits’ to 17k+ sessions (More on hits vs sessions, if you’re curious)
  • How many teams we’re helping: From 4 active users in the first week of the first version of our first product in Friday Ship #35, to 13,379 active users this month.

Speaking of metrics, we’ve always loved sharing our high-level numbers. They’ve helped us build credibility with prospective employees, investors, and even customers. We’ve also heard from other entrepreneurs that they’ve helped benchmark their businesses. Here’s a snapshot of how our numbers have changed over the years.

Our earliest metrics (top of funnel only, because there was no product!), from April, 2016 in Friday Ship #5:

Early Parabol Metrics

Compare to the metrics from just today (also repeated in our Metrics section, below):

2020-Mar-27 Parabol Metrics

Friday Ship Highlights

We mentioned in Friday Ship 100 that these posts don’t draw a huge audience, and that’s stayed true – our most-read posts aren’t Friday Ships. But as we’ve heard from investors and prospective team members, they help tell a story about our company. When we looked at some of our top Friday Ships, we were delighted to see that story take shape:

  1. Announcing Our Pre-Seed Investors – We closed an initial round from friends and family who we admire and are strongly aligned with, and this pre-seed round included investors entirely outside of our trusted circles, showing that big players like Slack believed in us.
  2. Our Time at Alchemist Accelerator – Our first accelerator! This was critical for us in both securing our pre-seed round and gaining a broader network of entrepreneurs and experts who have helped us along the way.
  3. S.P.A. VIII (San Diego) – This was our first S.P.A. (our quarterly all-team retreat) outside of Brooklyn. This was also our first after launching our (then) fledgling Retrospective meeting feature, which is what we’re now known for today.
  4. Reflections on Techstars – This was our second accelerator, and only Techstar’s second remote cohort. As a fully-distributed team from the start, it felt meaningful to participate in this key step for Techstars, and we gained valuable mentorship.
  5. S.P.A. 13 — Oaxaca – Finally, this post was about our first SPA since closing our seed round – a true turning point for our company. At this SPA, our core team (Jordan, Matt and Terry) got together as just three for the last time. Afterward, we immediately got to work on hiring and growing the team (we’re still hiring).

Metrics

2020-Mar-27 Parabol Metrics

New records were set across the board this week. Website traffic was up 30% and signups were up nearly 20% week-over-week. While our top-of-funnel traffic is still growing faster than earlier in the year, it’s possible we won’t again experience as steep an increase in traffic as we did last week, where we had seen week-over-week new user signups increase 183%!

Nearly 1,300 meetings were run on Parabol in the past 7 days. While still increasing, we noted the rate of increase in the number of meetings ran slowed. Looking more deeply into the data, the average number of meeting attendees per meeting increased nearly 12% over the prior week.

This week we…

Began receiving and processing requests for our new program to help businesses that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

shipped v5.2.0. We’re fortunate to have such a vocal user base. When we shipped the new discussion threads in the Retro meeting, there was no clear way to get back to those conversations after the meeting was completed. Numerous folks wrote in prompting us to add direct links to the topics both from the meeting summary and timeline event cards. Apart from this user enhancement we shipped a number of tests and fixes.

Next week we’ll…

conclude Sprint 53. We plan on shipping the ability to customize the number of votes cast during a retrospective meeting, among some other cool updates

publish some great new content, related to remote teaming.


Have feedback? See something that you like or something you think could be better? Leave a public response here, or write to us.

Jordan Husney

Jordan Husney

Jordan leads Parabol’s business development strategy and engineering practice. He was previously a Director at Undercurrent, where he advised C-Suite teams of Fortune 100 organizations on the future of work. Jordan has an engineering background, holding several patents in distributed systems and wireless technology. Jordan lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

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