On Being a Tiny Team and the One Thing We Can't Scale

Philippe Lehoux
by Philippe Lehoux

Missive will soon reach $2M in ARR, roughly one year after the $1M mark.

In the article celebrating this significant milestone, I wrote that we could grow another 100% with the same team size.

We believe we can grow by another ~100% with only the four of us.

I was right. We grew to this point without sacrificing quality to our customers. It is baffling to most people, especially ones from the startup world, to see us thrive with such a low headcount.

Our users love the app and love the customer support experience we offer. They are shocked when we tell them we are just three. Also shocked when they see my basement Office in Zoom calls. 😆

It's not just that we did not raise any money, but we willingly kept the team small. Some critical aspects of our business are just more manageable because of our size, like:

Product Development ❤️ Customer Support

The three of us do all of the support. There is a direct line between the problems and the solutions. Our customers, when they complain, when they voice frustration about the product, we hear them and act swiftly.

We act swiftly to please them, of course, but also to keep our sanity; responding to the same complaints again and again is soul-crushing.

Technology Stack ❤️ Consistency

In seven years, our tech stack has stayed pretty much the same. We don't reinvent the wheel; we don't migrate to new frameworks or languages to please a new generation of developers. We don't have to since we are not recruiting X new developers every month.

Yes, but...

Yes, our revenues have grown at a healthy ~5% month-over-month rate. But this growth came in significant part from the expansion of our existing customers. We have been able to stay small because the rate at which we onboard new customers has remained approximately the same for the last 2-3 years.

In the last year’s post about our $1M ARR milestone, I wrote:

We never spent a dime on marketing; the cost of customer acquisition in our space is crazy high. We can't compete with subsidized VC-backed companies.

This is not true anymore; the business generates a lot of cash flow, and many customer acquisition channels are starting to make more and more sense.

Customer Onboarding ❤️‍🩹 A Tiny Team

So this brings me to the one thing we can not scale indefinitely: good customer onboarding. Each business is unique; each has its requirements, workflows, etc. When people first set up in Missive, that is when there are the most questions, this is when we can tell them where the value is. The more new users we onboard simultaneously, the bigger the team will need to be if we want to keep offering a stellar experience.

Can I predict what our headcount will be in a year? No, but I'm confident it won't be just the three of us.

Philippe Lehoux

CEO at Missive
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