Why I’m hitting pause on ARR-focused coverage

One last time, let's discuss some big startups that are scaling quickly: Appspace, Synack, and Druva. We'll proceed in alphabetical order.

As 2021 kicked off, I reformulated a series of posts we published last year focused on startups that had reached the $100 million ARR (annual recurring revenue) mark. In our refreshed effort, we cut the target in half and dug up companies around the $50 million ARR threshold. The goal was to figure out what those firms were going through as they reached material scale, not after they had achieved effective pre-IPO status.

And the results were a bit medium.

While it was fun to chat with OwnBackup, Assembly, SimpleNexus and PicsArt, ultimately we were getting similar notes from each company: hiring is incredibly important as a company scales, founders have to cede decision-making, and as startups grow from $30 million ARR to $50 million or more, they must harden internal systems and build business infrastructure.


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All that made sense, but it wasn’t entirely scintillating. I meant to keep the project going; I had publicly made noise about the effort and had a few interviews in the bag that were collecting dust (and emails from various PR folks).

But they wound up in the Google Docs graveyard as the news cycle somehow managed to keep accelerating, meaning that the time required to execute the somewhat effort-intensive series dried up as I held on for dear life as the early, middle, late and IPO-stage startup market stormed.

And so after some reflection, it’s time to admit defeat.

For now, I’m hitting pause on the $50 million ARR series and whatever might have come from the $100 million ARR legacy effort. I may bring it back at some point, but for now, there are just more pressing and interesting things to work on.

What follows is what I believe to be the remainder of my notes from interviews that never saw the light of day. So, one last time, let’s discuss some big startups that are scaling quickly: Appspace, Synack and Druva. We’ll proceed in alphabetical order.

Appspace

The Exchange caught up with Appspace a bit ago, chatting with a few of its executives, including CMO Scott Chao and CEO Brandon Miles. It’s an interesting company that sells a software platform that powers in-office displays and kiosks. You’ve seen office sign-in screens at a welcome desk, screens outside conference rooms showing how booked they are, or company messaging and the like on various large screens? That’s what Appspace’s software does.

And the company has an interesting vibe. Unlike nearly every other startup I’ve met, Appspace doesn’t think it is saving the world. In our chat, the company joked that its culture is to move quickly, but with the cognizance that they aren’t curing cancer.

Such modesty might feel odd, but it was actually refreshing. Appspace’s job is to white-label itself, let its customers speak to their workers through its various apps (including mobile) and services, and simply feature rock-solid uptime.

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