Doubt and Hope
The story of any new endeavor is, at its core, a story about the twin forces of doubt and hope.
As a mentor for various startup accelerators, I get to meet a lot of new founders and see a lot of patterns. One pattern that stands out is that, when you start a company and begin to talk about your vision with new people, you’re probably going to meet a typhoon of doubt.
You might say the entire job of a new founder is to convert that doubt into hope, one person at a time, at an ever-increasing rate, until the consensus is one of hope instead of one of doubt. This is difficult and courageous work.
We’ve been doing this work for 2 ½ years ourselves, and we have certainly encountered our fair share of doubts. More than 60 investors turned us down in our first two years, and we were within 1 payroll cycle of running out of cash on multiple occasions. Doubt can swallow your company up like a plague, but we were either brave enough or stupid enough to keep trying.
I’m glad we did.
Nowadays we find ourselves surrounded by an incomparably positive, thoughtful, patient, and creative group of people — customers, partners, investors, and colleagues — all of whom share a sense of hopefulness about this company.
Today, we’re excited to announce we have joined forces with a new group of people who are hopeful for our success and share our vision for the future: Sequoia Capital.
About the Deal
We’ve raised a round of Series A financing worth $11.3 million, led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from our returning investors, Pelion, Amplify, and Rincon. Cloud Power Capital and one of our earliest angel investors, Morris Wheeler, also participated in the round.
It’s no secret that Sequoia is one of the most storied venture capital firms in the world. After all, they discovered Apple and Google and too many other great companies to name. But what drew us to this firm was the people. I have never met a group of people quite like the Sequoia team. They are at once intellectually challenging and collaborative, at once futuristic and pragmatic, at once eminently competent and humble. We are proud to call them partners — especially our newest board member, Aaref Hilaly, an extremely insightful human being with over a decade of firsthand entrepreneurial experience.
We will lean heavily on Aaref’s and Sequoia’s experience and advice as we continue on our quest to build a sustainable, long-lasting business.
Progress to Date
Developers from all around the world are showing up in ever-increasing numbers to invent new things on the Keen IO platform. Our customers are using our API to build a sense of history into a wide and fast-growing array of internet-connected products — from online games to SaaS email services, from smart watches to wifi lightbulbs, from automatic realtime bidding for ad placements to in-app dashboards for their customers.
While we predicted some of these use cases, most of them have totally surprised us. We continue to be surprised by the ingenuity of our developer community every single day, and our growth rate is accelerating remarkably quickly.
Usage of the Keen IO platform (measured by data volume) is up over 300% in 2014 so far, and it grew 50% month/month in April alone. Our platform has net negative churn, meaning that each month, our customers are far more likely to upgrade their accounts by X amount than to downgrade by X. To boot, we’ve accomplished all of this without a marketing budget: our customers come to us inbound via word-of-mouth.
Use of Funds
As of today, the plan is to establish a marketing budget, move into our own office, and staff up our increasingly diverse team.
On the hiring front, we’re currently looking for distributed systems engineers, web developers, open source developers, copywriters, partnership builders, and salespeople who are mission-driven (not commission-driven). More important than background is personal outlook: we like to hire broad, learning-oriented people who are introspective and collaborative in nature. Sound like someone you know? Have them email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To our customers, developer community, the partners who’ve been with us for years, and the partners who just joined us this month:
Thank you for believing in us. The journey is just getting started.
Let’s make great things together!
Co-founder & CEO
on behalf of the entire team @ Keen IO
P.S. Thanks to Techstars for taking the very first bet on us 🙂