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Take time to listen to the ideas and insights from your own team - Carrot HQ

Startup Name
Carrot

Location
United States

No Of Founders
2

No Of Employees
6

Hello ! Who are you and what are you working on?

Carrot was started by two serial entrepreneurs who have seen firsthand how challenging it is to keep everyone aligned as teams grow fast and spread out.

It’s especially tough for leaders to be heard in the age of Slack. When key updates and information get lost in random noise, teams struggle to stay on the same page or know what matters most. So we built Carrot so teams could be empowered with the information they need to make better decisions and stay aligned.

What motivated you to get started with? How did you come up with the idea?

After our last company was acquired, we suddenly became remote employees ourselves. After years of hearing our own remote employees complain about a lack of communication, we finally saw for ourselves how difficult it is to be remote and to feel connected and aligned.

Most companies think chat apps will solve distributed communication, but that only works well for fast conversations for working together in the moment. If leaders share key information everyone needs alongside random chats it just increases the likelihood it will scroll by without even being noticed. It’s difficult for the team to know what matters, and leaders have no idea if anyone even heard what they said.

Heavy Slack users ourselves, we wanted to design a Slack-friendly approach to handle leadership communication. We wanted this “non-chat” communication to be as fun, delightful and interactive as chat; but we also wanted it to be asynchronous so people could get caught up on their own time.

The result is Carrot - a platform for leadership communication that keeps everyone focused on what matters to build transparency, trust, and stronger teams.

Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?

Our MVP product goal was to help leaders be more transparent with their stakeholders, so the product was more prescriptive and tailored to communicating specific kinds of data and information. Working with early customers, though, we continued to hear leaders say their first and biggest challenge was communicating with their own growing and distributed teams. 

Key information was being ignored or missed entirely in chat and email, so we began to help leaders communicate more effectively with their own teams. Because of our early focus on stakeholders, Carrot can also help them communicate with external stakeholders, too; but it all starts with more effective team communication first.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We only launched a week ago, so it's too early to say what's worked; but it's already easy to see that fast growing and distributed teams are most interested in what we're doing. They've felt the pain of ineffective leadership communication the most, and are a great fit for Carrot.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We launched on Product Hunt. There are lots of blog posts out there about how to take advantage of their platform, but all of them say the goal is to be recognized by the Product Hunt community as a top 5 new product because Product Hunt continues to promote you in other ways after that first day.

We were thrilled to receive the third most votes on launch day! It created a great deal of energy and new opportunities we wouldn't have found on our own.

What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Carrot is a SaaS app with a free plan for small teams, and a monthly per user charge for larger teams. We also have an enterprise plan for larger teams. Pricing details and an FAQ can be found at

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? What are your goals for the future?

Our biggest challenge was the launch itself. Most people feel it’s important to launch a "minimally viable product" (MVP) so you can collect customer feedback early and often. We solicited customer feedback from the very start, but we stayed in private beta longer. We wanted to wait to launch a "minimally valuable product" that gave us time to be more thoughtful about the product, design, and brand.

We were willing to be patient, and we wanted the product to be great from day one; but waiting longer did create more anxiety about the eventual "launch event" that we'd want to avoid in the future.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The future looks bright. There’s a growing recognition that chat platforms are great for keeping people engaged "right now", but counter-productive for keeping teams focused and "aligned over time". 

There needs to be a place for non-chat communication where everyone has a chance - on their own time - to get engaged with important information. Certainly we work well with Slack from top to bottom, but still there's a recognition that medium-form and long-form communication is better for leader updates. 

It would’ve been harder to launch Carrot a couple years ago when Slack was gaining so much momentum as a solution for everything; but now large and distributed teams are feeling the pain of so much noise, and Carrot solves that problem for leaders.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

This is my third startup, and each have been funded a little differently.

Venetica raised a small "friends and family" round initially, and then grew on it's own for 9 years before we took on venture capital to grow more quickly. 18 months later the company was acquired by IBM, but most of the value accrued to the team because we had built a strong business before we ever raised outside funds. We learned the value of building a sustainable, profitable business, and only taking capital when it could fuel fast growth.

Because of that success, it was easier to raise capital for our second startup, TalkTo, and so we did so right out of the gate. But having millions in the bank from day one changes how you build your startup, as you chase growth at all costs. We were acquired by Path a few years later, and enjoyed the challenge of growing the combined business; but in hindsight it would've been interesting to grow the TalkTo business a little more carefully from the start, exploring new ideas without consideration for the return to external investors.

Based on these experiences, we've chosen to fund Carrot internally for now. Our goal is to build a profitable, sustainable and growing business on our own for now. We are open to raising external capital - be it debt or venture capital - but only once we clearly understand the opportunity in front of us, and know what it is we're funding.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My co-founder, Sean, wrote a great post about the tools we use as a distributed team

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources? 

I spend so much of my day focused on startups and business that it's nice to balance it with non-business stuff. The books that fascinate me right now are those from Yuval Noah Harari, such as "Sapiens".

What’s your advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneur who are just starting out?

I often hear people talk about the importance of finding mentors who have been there and can provide invaluable advice to you as you're starting out. It's no doubt true; but I'd add that personally I've learned the most from people that work for me.

Take time to listen to the ideas and insights from your own team. Open up to them about your challenges, and the real challenges of the business, and learn from them. You'll find mentors are all around you.

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