With another year under our belt - and 3.5 years into the journey at Bots - it’s time for some reflections on 2023.
To apply a few broad categorisations: Our first year and a half was all about building our MVP, hiring a team and getting the first banks signed up for Pilot projects.
We then spent the following year on our first production rollouts and adding all the must-have features that really should have been there all along.
2023 then was marked by two focus areas: i) refining the product to drive client success and adoption, and ii) building the sales and onboarding muscle memory to start scaling up our client base.
On the product side, I think we may have finally learned the lesson that no part of our app will ever be “finished”. For the first few years we were simply adding new feature after new feature. In 2023, our product strategy was a lot more nuanced.
We still delivered plenty of new functionality and data integrations, having shipped well over a thousand releases to production in the last 12 months. But we spent at least as much time again on re-working existing parts of our app to reflect user feedback and improve the overall experience.
As a founder, it’s always more exciting to announce another shiny, new feature, but it’s often the incremental enhancements of existing features that really drive our user engagement and loyalty. After all, an Analytics application is only ever as good as the data within it.
And speaking of data: there’s a lot of it. As we add more and more data providers, datasets and users, the numbers do start to add up. Our users spent over 60,000 hrs in the app last year, generating over 8bn cross-currency swap calculations. On the secondary market side alone, we calculate over 1bn metrics every single day. And our north star metric, the number of bond new issue price indications processed through our app, is now above 50,000/month.
As for the 2nd focus area of building out our client engagement and onboarding muscle, having an established foothold in the industry, and enthusiastic users recommending us to their peers across the street, has made all the difference.
The extremely long sales and onboarding cycles in capital markets (especially when dealing with banks’ proprietary data) are a big risk factor for startups. The good news is that, just like with any kind of pain, you get used to it over time and can learn to thrive despite it.
Whereas the wait to get the first invoices paid was all-consuming and, quite literally, an existential question for the company, the stakes of each one conversation become a bit more manageable over time.
Onboarding and procurement processes start to average out and turn into something resembling a predictable growth pattern.
With many irons in the fire, things tend to turn out ok. Even if there’s another Legal review or Cyber Security deep dive that drags things out by an extra month (or two).
Growth with our clients has of course also resulted in growth within the team. Our headcount is up by around half since this time last year and we’re currently hiring for another senior frontend engineer. More will follow soon and the focus will remain on the engineering and product team, with some select additions on the customer success and relationship side.
Working remotely continues to serve us well and has become one of the defining aspects of our company culture. Most people on the team have childcare or other commitments outside of work and our remote setup has enabled the kind of work-life balance that would be hard to imagine in a more traditional office environment.
Staff engagement and team spirit feels exceptionally strong even 3.5 years in, so I believe we’ve struck the right balance with our regular (but not too frequent) on-site meetups, combined with various fun activities and dinners.
Other notable events this year include our rebranding (let’s be honest, the logo we designed in PowerPoint back in 2020 was only going to take as so far), an overall more grown-up approach to UX and product design and the first parental leave within the company.
The immediate priority is on getting some rest over the next two weeks or so, but 2024 is already shaping up to be an exciting year on multiple fronts.
We’re on the cusp of releasing two of our biggest updates yet and I can’t wait to see the impact this will have with our users. On top of that, there are more product ideas on our to-do list than we’ll ever have time to address. We’ll still give it our best shot!
In our client conversations, digitalisation has shot to (near) the top of the agenda for most DCM and Syndicate desks. A few years ago, we’d spend half the time in any pitch explaining the conceptual need for a DCM pre-trade solution like ours. Now it feels like the need is well understood, everyone’s aligned on wanting to move their workflows away from email and Excel and it’s just a question of picking the right solution and navigating the procurement admin.
As a result, our sales pipeline is looking healthier than ever and we expect to report significant growth again in 2024.
A big thank you to all of our clients, partners, team members and collaborators in 2023. Hope you enjoy a restful break and looking forward to a continued partnership in 2024!
Wishing you happy holidays on behalf of the team at Bots,
CEO & Co-founder