Ada Chen Rekhi is the founder and COO of Notejoy, a collaborative notes app that helps teams tackle projects outside the noise of email and Slack. Rekhi is leveraging years of experience in the collaboration space to build a business that is concentrated on giving its core customer base the ability to get their most important work done in a fast and focused workspace.
Why did you start your company?
I’m a serial entrepreneur and marketing executive. For the past decade plus, I’ve worked in the space of productivity. Notejoy is a product of all the thinking that I’ve spent on the space. Prior to Notejoy, I was senior vice president of marketing at SurveyMonkey. There, I led the global marketing team on everything from acquisitions to product launches to marketing our businesses. Before that, I started a business called Connected, which was focused on contact management without the work. We were helping professionals think about how they build, maintain, and leverage their professional and personal relationships. Ultimately, the company was acquired by LinkedIn, which is where I spent time before SurveyMonkey. There, I held marketing roles on several teams. Prior to that, I held a whole bunch of roles primarily in technology marketing, from smaller startups to Microsoft.
How did you fund the company at the start?
We were fortunate enough to be able to self-fund from our savings. Having worked at larger companies and having sold our prior startup that was funded through venture capital, we were in a pretty good position to dig into our savings. In the future, we’ll be looking at alternative sources of funding as the business grows.
What’s the biggest mistake you made when you were starting out?
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When we first launched, there was a lot of excitement and buzz when people first picked up the product and started playing with it and giving feedback. It’s really a challenge trying to find the signal through the noise of where you should be investing and where you should be doubling down in terms of your customer acquisition and your product efforts. There have been a couple cases where larger companies have come to us and said, “We’d really like to use your product, but we need XYZ customization, additional features, and add-ons.” The temptation of doing a lot of that custom work results in the potential outcome of wandering off-track and building for large players and not our core customer base. The mistake, which we haven’t fully made but have had to control ourselves from, is getting involved with large deals that might not work and will distract us from our core roadmap.
What’s the smartest thing you did when you were starting out?
One of the smartest things we did is that we had the product out nine months to a year prior to launch. During that time, we had a large beta with hundreds of users. We had them spend real time and energy using Notejoy. That customer-centricity gave us the ability to talk to current and prospective customers, which really helped us get in great shape for launch.
Running the Business
How do you manage cash flow?
The company is small; it’s only two people right now. Our cash flow system follows the philosophy of our entrepreneurship, which is keep it as simple as possible while getting the answers that we need. We built a spreadsheet model and we regularly track cash flow. Using this model, we have a pretty good sense of revenue as well as what our recurring cost structure looks like and where we have room to continue to invest.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the business?
I think the most challenging part of any business, whether you’re starting off or you’re running an existing business, always comes down to customer acquisition and focus in terms of energy and resources. What I mean by that is there are always so many potential marketing avenues. But, by trying to get to everyone, it really diffuses your message and it really diffuses your effort.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the business?
I just absolutely love the connection I feel between my efforts and my time and the success of the company. When you’re working for a larger company and you go on vacation for a week, you can come back and the team’s got it. But, sometimes, you can feel redundant in that case. When you’re working at a business that you’re running on your own, if you take a break for a week, literally nothing gets done. That direct connection between the effort and time that I spend and the uptick in customers is something I find really satisfying and rewarding.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Done is better than perfect. Often, what I find holds people back from entrepreneurship is a perceived lack of skills and expertise. I meet a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs that are still “in training” or “getting ready.” Entrepreneurship has taught me that you learn so much just by doing things and solving problems day-to-day. That type of training is virtually impossible to find in a corporate environment.
What’s next for Notejoy?
We recently launched a feature request page so our customers can give us comments on features they would like to see. We rely on that to inform what we build next. The consistent feedback has been that teams need an Android app to fully adopt. That’s the next big initiative on our roadmap.
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