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Captain’s Log #50

Our founder & CEO, Mike Yaroshefsky, publishes a private newsletter to investors, advisors, and friends of the company.  We’ve republished below the 50th edition of the newsletter.

After five years, this is the 50th Captain’s Log. And with this milestone update, I get to share the big news.

Visor raised $5.0 million in seed funding.

For more information on the raise, check out our announcement page.

visor announcing $5 million seed

We’re going to be using this funding to expand the team and build the business.  We’ve already just brought on three incredible new hires (Shivan, Jon, and Corey).  We have a half-dozen more to go — we’re hiring!  And we’ve achieved some major milestones, including launching a knowledge base, public roadmap, and partner resource center.

Reflecting on our evolution

For those of you who have been on the journey with us for some time, I’d like to reflect back on our evolution.

A founding company overview from May, 2016 described the problem we wanted to solve:

Most employees hate the disparate software they are required to use at work, because it slows them down. The root cause is that publishers keep their products generic, the integrators ignore usability, and IT departments are too overwhelmed to help. Traditional customization is expensive, requires corporate buy-in, and cannot address the problems across software silos.

Since then, our product has evolve substantially from a Chrome extension that souped up Salesforce.  But Visor today is still connected with that original vision: to help employees overcome the frictions and frustrations of the disparate software silos.

The mistaken assumption

In 2016, our user research led us to a conclusion: users think of business software as jails for data.  Serious crimes seemed involved in getting data in and out of apps like Salesforce.  These tools were very rigid and didn’t adapt well to the ever-changing needs of agile teams.

Further, we saw how frequently users relied on spreadsheets to circumvent these systems.

  • Need a quick and dirty personal CRM?  Spreadsheet.
  • Need a dashboard of metrics?  Spreadsheet.
  • Need a place to keep track of customer feedback? Spreadsheet.
  • Need a place to build a product roadmap?  Spreadsheet.
  • Need a system for managing your rocket engine manufacturing schedule?  Yes, again: Spreadsheet.

While the consensus always seemed to be: “try a spreadsheet,” nobody was proud of it.   Work done in spreadsheets didn’t sync to whatever “Source of Truth” the teams had, which caused a double whammy of pain.  The spreadsheets grew stale.  And so did the sources of truth.   This resulted in a lot of double work and miscommunications.

As technical entrepreneurs, we were coming from a world where there seemed to be a software solution possible for every need. So it seemed that surely a better solution than a spreadsheet could be built for each (or all) of these use cases.

So we built a solution: bring the data from these apps to the users wherever they worked in the browser. After some valiant attempts to pry sales professionals from their beloved spreadsheets, we realized we took a wrong turn somewhere in the research.

The unique advantage

We began rechecking our notes — and conducting net new research.  After hundreds more hours, we discovered more of the same: spreadsheets were everywhere, running critical business processes.

The people who made them all had something in common: a “get shit done” attitude that led them to use bubble gum and duct tape to get the job done one way or the other.  They didn’t wait around for others to build things for them.  They were comfortable “building” things themselves, and they used any and all the tools at their disposal.  For their pioneering creativity, we affectionately dubbed them “solutioneers.”

For all the differences between these solutioneers, there was one place they all agreed: integrations really stink.  We heard horror stories of infinite automation loops locking up Jira servers and failed syncs driving multimillion dollar mistakes.  The syncing problem was a real thorn.

We also took stock of what we had built along the way:

  1. CloudStore: an incredible technology for building realtime web applications with in a fraction of the time
  2. Our UX integration technology: a system not just for exchanging data but also for understanding how to display rich data and interactive fields

At some point, the crazy idea came to us:

What would happen if started with our integrations and built a spreadsheet around them?  What could these solutioneers accomplish if they had the flexibility of a spreadsheet and the power to sync this data BOTH ways.

By contrast, most companies build their product first and add integrations later.  That’s why their integrations are all so poorly done; they were add-ons, quite literally.

This unique positioning — starting with the integrations — became a core advantage for us.  It’s made our work incredibly challenging.  (How do you handle copy-paste when you need to call an API first to see what value is legal to accept in a field?)  But it’s also provided us with a deeply differentiated perspective in an otherwise densely crowded market.  The world has plenty of integration quantity.  What it needs now, as inevitably follows from most “commoditizations,” is a return to quality.

It was the journey that mattered

Five years is a long time to invest in something without obvious signs of market success.  There were numerous times when our future became clouded.  We’ve moved offices multiple times.  Expanded and shrunk the team.  Gambled everything and nearly lost it all.

But as long as there was a shred of hope and a tiny bit of cash in the bank, we refused to give up.  I believe with every fiber of my being that this product we’re building needs to exist.  There are millions of people out there whose lives we can impact.  And I truly believe there are industries we’re going to upend while we do that.

We’re not just building a product.  We’re empowering a whole new class of solutioneers who will be able to build amazing solutions to their business problems.  In doing so, we’re going to bring the market one giant leap forward.  This is going to be an incredible transformation, and I am thrilled with our part in that.

I’m really glad we stuck the course.  And I’m deeply appreciative for all of you who have been on the journey and stuck by us through it.

Special thanks

I wish I could explicitly thank all of those who have helped us.  But I’ll just share these highlights for now:

Thanks to the entire General Catalyst team for their role in helping me found and fund the business.  It is thanks to your inspiration, trust, and guidance that we’ve reached this tremendous milestone.

Thanks to Patrick Shanley for over five years of service to the company and the mission.  Your dedication, friendship, and incredible talent has been the bedrock of the company’s technology and so much more.

Thanks to Victoria (Rose) Affrunti.  Your eagerness to step in and support me and the company provided that little extra push we needed.

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