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I have been working at Axial full-time
I've been at Axial for over a year. From day one, I've loved coming to work, and that hasn't changed. This isn't to say the company hasn't had, or doesn't continue to have, issues. More on that below. But there are some serious upsides.
- Great people work at Axial. I'm generally impressed with how sharp, how driven, and how invested in each others' success Axialites are.
- No one enjoyed the restructuring in February, or the subsequent gutting of the marketing department (it's being rebuilt), but these choices did ultimately mean that Axial was stripped down to a group of passionate high performers.
- The VP of Product during this time ended up taking a lot more responsibility than he had initially signed up for, as department after department came under his purview (engineering, supply, marketing). No one thought this was ideal, but it was borne out of necessity and has been largely resolved (he still oversees engineering, but the engineers seem as content as I've ever seen them).
- Unlimited vacation (people do use it)
- Free lunch on Wednesdays
- Nicely stocked kitchen, always lots of snacks, and cold brew
- Beautiful office in a great location
- Beer cart comes out at 4:00 on Fridays (non-alc beverages too)
- New VP of Sales is energized and experienced beyond what Axial is used to
Product and Engineering:
- We've emerged from a 7 month refactoring project which simplified our tech stack and sped up the pace of development significantly. When I arrived, we were releasing after hours, once every two weeks, at best. We now do 2-4 daytime release per week.
- That project gave product and design room to get ahead. We are being smarter about how we learn and build than the organization was in years past. We aim to challenge & validate our assumptions through experiments and research.
- The app is more beautiful, elegant, and intuitive than ever before.
- The space / problem we're in / trying to solve is complex, but we care that engineers understand what they're working on, outside of the code. Engineers sit in on customer research calls, and are regularly invited to design and feedback sessions.
- Engineering morale had gotten way, way down during the re-factoring project. I won't go into the reasons why, but suffice it to say that it's no longer an issue.
- As far as resource allocation: when I arrived, this company was VERY sales and customer support heavy. This was a mistake. We needed to be prod-eng driven so we could deliver that product-market fit we need to survive. This has changed. Product and Engineering play a much more central role now.
- I think the biggest problem we currently face is the rate of employee attrition. Many people who've been with us for years are taking off, whether they've lost faith in the organization, they're ready for the next thing, it isn't offering the structure, support, opportunities they're after, etc. These are all legitimate issues which are converge in the real problem of low retention. We are getting by, but it's an expensive issue.
- In order to get a major release out in June, the product team made some ruthless decisions about scope. There are a lot of basic things that our users expect to be able to do, but are still unable to do. We've been fixing this all summer, but it means we've been in a reactionary mode, fixing bugs and building no-brainer features rather than focusing on solving newer, more interesting problems.
- The brand has perpetually struggled to establish itself with the authority it needs to disrupt the world we're trying to disrupt. There are some good headwinds, but all too often we have heard that we do not have a good enough reputation for our target market to want to use us. Much of this was our own fault and involves lessons we've learned from and corrected for, some is structural and may change with time.
- We're moving offices. Arguably a pro for the company because of how much we'll be saving in rent, but this will be a place with fewer conference rooms, no library, a slightly less convenient location, and certainly not the same breathtaking views. We'll adjust but no one is excited for the move beyond the fiscal standpoint.
- The People Ops (HR) team is scaling down. We're going from a team of three to a team of one. Again, it will work, but it is a noticeable loss.
- We've had some people in leadership positions who did not deserve them. This was damaging on a big scale. Thankfully, those people are no longer in place.
Basically, some legitimate issues, but nothing lethal at the moment. It is still possible that Axial can straighten out the balance sheets and find a way to survive. In the meantime, we are running lean. Those who have weathered the transition have come out a little burnt and jaded, but those who start fresh hit the ground running.
Advice to Management
- Keep making good hiring choices (you know this already). If we make a bad hire, let's part ways sooner rather than later.
- Don't be afraid to break bad news to the company. We'd rather hear it upfront than through the grapevine.
I applied online. I interviewed at Axial (New York, NY) in August 2017.
First round phone interview that went well. They did not proceed with my application and took forever to get back to me, providing zero feedback whatsoever. Classless company that is going nowhere.
Our CEO at the Crowdfunding Conference here in New York City.
New York Business Journal covers our Series C.