Co-Founder and CEO
2023 was one of the toughest years in the history of Ntropy. I was challenged internally by the team, by the market , as a leader, as a person, as a CEO reporting to a board of directors, as a mother, as a co-founder and as a friend.
There were times I thought I was not going to be able to get through it personally, but I had the conviction that the company should. And it did. During times like this, looking at the end goal, seeing it very-very clearly builds up this insane resilience you did not know you had in the first place.
Perhaps now would be a good time to post about our wonderful metrics, and quirky stats, Spotify wrapped style, but I want to talk about our journey and our people and the hardest of times.
We tripled revenue and nearly tripled customer count in 2023. This is not how the year started and how it was going.
January was a very hard month. I had made the decision to let go of nearly all of our go -to-market team and some engineers. We had raised money months prior, but I could clearly see that we needed more time and the setup we had was not working. Going through this transition as a small company I would argue is harder than being a big one.
Everyone knows everyone, everyone is friends. Making sure your remaining employees are tight together sailing towards the same mission, while you are ripping others out, is not easy. I did not expect what a toll it would take on me personally.
Q1 ended on a good note regardless, in terms of financials, but by the end of it we started to see real headwinds. The volumes that our signed customers were predicting were not even close to being realized, existing customer volumes were falling and we were seeing a lot of involuntary churn: neobanks and early stage customers closing down and bigger ones going through significant hardship.
Our transaction volumes affect our unit economics. The smaller the throughput, the higher our unit cost. This model only becomes efficient at scale.
Our product organization was struggling too. As a very ML and engineering focused firm, we always had a lot to build, however constantly iterating on accuracy of models started to feel like a never-ending sprint. The verticalized products we had launched aka Income Check and Recurring Spend were not taking off like we thought they would.
Finally, GPT4 had landed and our eyes were on foundation models like never before.
As a company we needed to re-evaluate and re-define our value in the new world. Not the world that is here immediately , but the one that was going to happen in the months and years ahead . Everything was going to be different.
Every single company was announcing an AI product or marketing themselves as being AI companies. As an AI native business with a core team of ML engineers and researchers, we had to ask ourselves where we can create the most leverage moving forward.
With the speed at which foundation models are improving, competing with them head on stopped making sense.
We decided not to lie to ourselves and to prepare for the long run.The company went into a true ‘revamp’ mode trying to find the new longer term leverage while shipping products and signing customers in the short run. All of this practically without a sales team, with one SDR and myself.
Thinking long term is not conventional. It upsets a lot of people. Including your own. It is very hard and I would say impossible to keep the internal setup stable, when you are searching for meaning externally.
In May, we had to part ways with key team mates, people who have been fundamental to our success and to everything we were, to our culture.
Summer was hard too, slow, an up the hill struggle and an exercise in very raw and open communication with our teammates to realign and re-connect. As a leader, I was panicking. Could not sleep most nights all summer. Stopped working out, stopped going to therapy.
The only thing I knew was that I needed to keep going.
I was in the office till morning hours, but we had stumbled upon an opportunity bigger than we could ever imagine, bigger than whatever we would have done before. More on this later.
Finding our path
The go-to-market side of the core business was showing signs of recovery too. We announced big partnerships, got to work with amazing brand names such as Airbase, Yapily and others, but I still could not sleep. Mainly thinking about the magnitude of our new path and the possibilities. Also about the ways to pursue it.
Living in the age of a completely new technology that is going to change everything is weird. It is the best, as you can design and take part in making the next version of the world. It is the worst as you can be taken by the flow and you do not exactly know where it is going. I enjoy it regardless.
Revenue and pricing struggles
August and September were hard months again. We launched Insights, our first UI first solution enabled by our infrastructure stack. Insights is a first version of a super analyst that can parse any data about a business and analyze it, allowing risk teams to make better decisions without adding people.
At some point, we were adding lots of customers, but revenue was declining . We had internal issues to resolve too. We had pricing to fix.
Ilia and I went through the toughest time for our friendship and as co-founders.
We were trying to figure out together how to make Ntropy win , how not to lose our minds and most of all how to keep our people. We used to tell each other during this time: “Remember, Ntropy above all. I do not care what happens. We need to stay in the game and win”.
Ntropy Above All
Later on I realized what Ntropy above all means.
It means trust above all. It means dedication. It means belief. In our people. In the group. In the culture we have created. At times problematic, maybe too raw for some, perhaps too childish when looking in, but one full of real human connection and care. When you do that, doing very hard things becomes possible. In fact it becomes easy.
End of September, we hired new people. Amazing additions to the team. We started signing more deals and growing revenue. Our new direction in technology was showing amazing results. We have not announced anything yet, but January is going to be fun, I promise.
Recovery and growth
October and November were great to us. We gathered in Suffolk at the end of November to celebrate. Being us, redefining ourselves, challenging ourselves and winning. We could see the winning. In the numbers. Clear as day. Staring in our faces.
One morning, we went to swim in a lake. It was two degrees C (36F). A true cold plunge. Doing very difficult things with a crew you care about is the best.
Ntropy above all means our people above all, our culture above all and doing very hard shit together above all.
I want to thank every single one of our crew for sticking by us and by me, no matter what. For trusting me. Even on the darkest of the days. I cannot tell you how excited I am about 2024. Not FOMO-ing, but there is so much to announce.
Also thank you to our customers. When you grow, we grow. You kept going and are crushing it and so are we.
Our investors too. They stuck by me at our worst.
Nicole Newlin. I do not think you know how much you have done for the company, but mostly for me personally, as a leader, a CEO, a woman. I will never stop looking up to you and coming to you for that little bit of extra encouragement, advice and support.
Jorge Pessoa, you were a rock.
Ilia, you know it all. We are making this happen.
This is a very long journey and we are just getting started. Wishing you a wonderful end to the year and 2024 LFG!!!!!