On October 7th 2021, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Ally. Below is a look at the journey over the last 24 months, from Accel’s Series A investment.
In June 2019, right after committing to Vetri (that Accel will lead the Series A) I had told my wife. Her initial response was “Really? An OKR tool company?”
This kind of response is not new. Early-stage investing is a tough business. There are all sorts of unknown and risks: market risk, product risk, execution risk, team risk and so on. All loose ends. As the business becomes larger, most risks fall away and the question that remains is the opportunity size: how big can it get? But early stage is different, where it’s more of an art.
Sudheer (CEO at Zenoti, Accel portfolio) had introduced Vetri to Accel. After our first call with Vetri, we knew we needed to partner with him. But, it was an idea in the OKR (Objective and Key Results) space that I thought was niche. Maybe, Bay Area companies would adopt and maybe the tech world would, too. Still, that’s a small company. After trying to build a case for myself and failing, I decided to pass and not invest at the seed stage.
At that moment (and I remember this distinctly) I felt terrible about not partnering with Vetri. After all the smart analysis, I had made a decision that didn’t feel right and I carried this regret around for the next few weeks. We should have invested in Vetri!
As luck would have it, six months down the road, we got another opportunity to work together. Ally had about ~$300K ARR (in the large scheme of things this is a small number) and a handful of customers. But there were a few customers that were not tech companies and not based out of the Bay Area. A glimmer of hope—maybe there’s a larger, emerging market? In a competitive process, we committed to Vetri and led the A (this is the time I’d told my wife).
I was finally at peace with myself—I remember thinking that I did the right thing.
Real work (and fun) begins after investment. You get on a small boat with the founder and row and row, hoping to get to the next island, small or large. In Ally’s case, we realized there was a big pull for the product and we scaled up faster than what we anticipated. That meant scaling up the team and hiring for every function that can take us from $1-10M ARR.
I also got to know Vetri a little bit closer. He grew up in a middle class family in India and ran a bootstrap company before starting Ally. In short, every dollar mattered so we were left wondering how we would build out our leadership team (exec recruiting firms charge for every hire). After trying to source from our network for a few months and getting nowhere, Vetri and I had a deal: let’s experiment with exec search and if it works (i.e. the hire is great and pays back for what we spent) we will open the recs for other functions. In a quarter's time we had 5 searches on. Vetri had changed gears and the only thing that mattered was speed.
Many other thoughts come to mind but the central one is this: Vetri craved excellence. Early in the days we shared a board deck template with Vetri. My expectations were that Vetri and the team will fill out the template and use that to run the board meeting. To my surprise, Vetri took that template and improved it to the next level. It had better structure and better design—it was crisp, sharp, detailed and best in class. That’s Vetri for you!
In the last 12 months the business started to hum. We started landing 6 figure deals consistently, constantly hit or did better than planned, customers loved the product and there was more than enough cash in the bank. Vetri’s vision expanded from ‘measuring work’ to where the ‘work actually happens’. For this, and faster acceleration (Vetri’s mission to achieve 10M active users), a partner like Microsoft made sense.
I will end where we started. Early stage is a tough business: you get on a small boat and you row and row. Most cases you end up circling around nowhere.
But in some cases, and if you’re lucky, you may discover Mundus Novus!
Thank you, Vetri!