The year of 2019
What a year. We went from $49M to $93M in ARR. We hired 421 employees ending the year with 860. We started two new business lines, CartaX and Financial products, and hit scale on our core business of cap tables and fund administration. We added our Waterloo office with 60 new employees. We raised $300M and became a unicorn.This was also a hard year. We had 115 employees leave. We didn’t grow as fast as we thought we would. Our product and engineering teams were mired in a quicksand of technical debt. And our delivery teams, including onboarding, support, valuations, and especially fund administration, were constantly scrambling and overworked keeping our customers happy and our business afloat. As I reflect over the last year and look ahead to the next, I want to share a few thoughts with you. I hope these offer insight into how I think about us and hopefully inspire you to think about us in your own unique ways.
The company I wish I could have worked for
Many people ask me how I started Carta. That story has been told many times. But few people have asked my why I started Carta. I’d like to tell you.I started Carta because I wanted to build the company I wish I could have worked for. Captables, fund administration, private stock exchanges, and all the things we do were just the means of doing it. But it could have been anything. I could have started with procurement, healthcare, or environmental software (all ideas I had in the past). But it was ownership and liquidity that seemed the most exciting and the highest probability opportunity to build that company. The one I wished I could have worked for. So what does the company I wish I could have worked for look like? I can list a few features (out of a list of many). This company would probably do things like have offices around the world so employees could move to different places and experience new cultures that most people never get to. It would try to give employees huge amounts of responsibility and autonomy because everyone wants to feel agency in what they do. It would inspire humble pride in every employee who works, and used to work, for this company. And it would certainly be full of people I respected, admired, and loved working with.This list grows as I learn more about what I value in work and life. But I can summarize the ethos of this company in one sentence. This company would be a place where people can be the best version of themselves.
The best version of ourselves
There are not many places in the world where a person can be the best version of themselves. In school we are told to be the best version of a student as defined by teachers, report cards, and tests. At work we are told to be the best version of an employee as defined by managers, performance evaluations, and promotions. Strangely, no one ask students or employees what they think a great student or employee looks like.An institution that nurtures and nourishes people being the best version of themselves is a complex and sometimes contradictory one. It must encourage individuality while at the same time create a common identity that ties those individuals together. It must embrace both the strengths and weaknesses of its people while demanding the best of them. It must support their personal journeys while knowing the institution, and its leadership, survive solely on their results.Building an institution that can survive, and hopefully thrive, in a competitive and hostile world while also being a place where people can be the best versions is hard. That’s why so few of those institutions exist.
Over the holiday break I’ll ask you to think about how we can be one of the few institutions that do. I think there are two questions to answer. The first is what is the company you wished you could have worked for? The second is what does the best version of yourself, and ourselves, look like? 2020 will be about answering those questions and building that institution. If you’d like to share your thoughts please shoot me a note. I’d love to read them.
I’m sure many of you are weary, tired, and beaten. Sprinting up a mountain, especially a mountain as steep and high as ours, will do that. Now is the time to rest and recover, spend time with friends and family, practice self-reflection and self-care. Please do the things you need to do and come back strong, healthy, happy, and ready for a new year. 2019 was a hard year. 2020 will be harder. The problems will be bigger, the stakes higher, and the spotlight brighter. The mountain we are climbing only gets steeper and higher. Looking up at the next stage of the mountain intimidates, and sometimes scares me. I feel this way every year. But I also look back down the mountain at how far we have come. And I feel lucky and grateful to have made it this far. So few have.Thank you for everything you do. I’m so lucky to have you all. See you in January.