This month Taskeater passed 200 employees. Since we work extensively with startups, I thought we would dedicate this blog post to walking through our journey so far.
To run through the basics: Taskeater was a fully bootstrapped startup with 1 March 2014 as its official establishment date, although the company was in idea-mode for 3-4 months before that. Today we are, for better or worse, letting go of the ‘startup’ label as we service over 70 clients monthly and focus on sustainable growth.
Here is our story so far year-by-year around some high-level themes.
2014: Spray and Pray
In the beginning the company consisted of myself and Zafrul Islam (today our Director of Marketing Solutions), who had worked with me in the past. I went off to Europe to look for clients and Zafrul stayed back in Dhaka to work on the few small assignments that came in. I also spent countless evenings doing client work. Our first website had over 20 services listed, the majority of which we no longer offer. The first year often consisted of our prospects teaching me what services they thought we could offer them, and then me begging for them to give us a shot at it.
By the end of 2014, we had reached 16 employees, which at the time seemed like a big accomplishment. Our weekly coffee and muffin outings had to be ended as the group was getting too big for our local café in Dhaka. The main learning from the year was that simply putting in more hours of work was the only way to guarantee results, even though it wasn’t always obvious which activities would actually generate business.
In 2015, we grew to 92 employees as a directly result of finding a service-market fit and making our main market London, which provided us with a large enough startup ecosystem for ongoing, shorter sales cycles. We understood Internet startups specifically, as they needed more flexible and fast-paced outsourcing not often offered by other companies. We also took tough decisions such as to terminate teams that were engaged in activities other than our two focus areas: data processing and lead generation. This included cutting out one of our largest teams which was doing creative content writing. Today we continue to be laser-focused on what we offer and often turn down assignments we don’t think we can execute.
2016: Structure and Repetition
In 2016, we grew to 185 employees. At a certain point in a startup’s growth, you realize that the founder-centric organization that allowed you to prosper initially starts to become a bottleneck and unsustainable. Our COO, Bimal Dey, who had joined us late 2015, revamped our operations organisation through actions such as further formalizing quality assurance functions, implementing HR policies such as a formal employee performance review, and strengthening reporting channels. We also brought on board Ulric Arnander, our first VP of Sales, who focused on completely redesigning the our inside sales team and how it worked with our London-based sales team. With adding structure to both operations and sales, the organisation could repeat best practices and grow without my involvement.
Each year’s theme was never clear from the outset, however we have two main focuses for 2017: higher headcount growth and pushing ourselves to the next level in terms of the business-critical assignments we handle for our clients. We have already taken steps towards both goals, for example by moving into new commercial office spaces in Dhaka that will allow us to apply for international certifications, implement better IT infrastructure and grow to higher headcount numbers.
In a few weeks we will be celebrating our three year anniversary. Looking back, I can reflect on so many things but as final thoughts I would say that the challenges in building a company never end but they change over time; you cannot do it alone and you must hire the best possible team around you; and the greatest pleasure I have found is seeing the organization go from being completely dependent on its founder to becoming a fully self-sustaining organisation.