[YAN] Notion's $50 million raise and PS5 controller trolls

Yet Another Newsletter | Issue 8

This Week's Jazz:

  1. A newly minted Unicorn - Notion

  2. PS5 controller, tank-top inspired?

  3. Interesting finds: Gary Tan’s interview & an excerpt from No Filter

Last few weeks have been nothing short of a nightmare. Feels like a simulation that's crumbling down with only one question dangling heavily in the far distance, when does all of this end?

From a personal standpoint, I have been trying to read and read and read ... to the point where it is now information overload. Newsletters and blog-posts incessantly sharing the same old stats of the pandemic's wrath while twitter overflowing with self-taught statisticians and economists on what could cause the curve to flatten.

Let me also point out that even though the world is together battling with COVID-19, there is a geographic disproportion of hurdles that we each face currently. India, for example, is in a nation-wide lockdown. The stark reality of how Indians are coping with mandatory lockdowns and hot-spot specific quarantines is very very different from the far West. Let's just say that while I see twitter blowing up with people flexing their newly setup standing work desks at homes with dual monitors, or stacks of freshly procured board games, puzzles, and books, services such as Amazon and grocery-deliveries are struggling to operate in India. Made your Dalgona coffee yet?

A newly minted Unicorn - Notion.

It certainly can't hurt to have 10-years worth of runway as a startup. Notion raised $50 million from Index Ventures and other investors, taking the company's valuation to a mind-boggling $2 billion! Finer details around the fundraise and the journey so far has been covered very well in this NY Times piece, so I'll spare everyone the repetition.

It's safe to say that for some, an extreme minority of great companies, Venture Capital will always be open for business. For the rest, VC-winter is an understatement, a 'brewing tempest' is much more of an appropriate personification of the current market. I recently had a conversation with a first-time founder who has just begun fundraising and I couldn't help but draw parallels to a gamer toggling difficulty level directly to the 'boss mode'. All kept aside, it took Index two years of pursuit which in all honesty, as agreed upon by the founders, distilled down to a 36-hour investment process amidst the current pandemic.

“When the world changed, they changed their mind,” - Sarah Cannon (Index Ventures)

A snapshot of Notion’s current journey:

  • Founders: Ivan Zhao, Simon Last, and Akshay Kothari (an angel investor in Notion earlier, joined the team as COO later)

  • Investors: Naval Ravikant, Elad Gil, Shana Fisher, Partners from Sequoia, First Round, Felicis, and Sherpalo, Daniel Gross, and Index Ventures (led by Sarah Cannon)

  • Total Fundraise: $67 million

  • Valuation: $2 billion
    The last raise of $10 million valued the company at $800 million, that's a ~2.5x jump right there in the current round.

  • Users: ~4 million
    The above figure was released in early 2019; the company has not disclosed current growth metrics.

  • Team Size: 45

I have personally been using Notion myself and a paying customer that too, currently writing this post on it, and I must say that this product is no short of a wonder. It's a beautifully designed concoction of note-taking, CRM, databases, company-wide 'wikis', and even pseudo webpages. The fact that its customers are designating the product as an "operating system of their lives" just has to be the epitome of accolades for any productivity app out there. Another fascinating aspect of Notion has also been its community; people passionately talk about the product's prowess or zen-like design. Here are a few interesting community-driven initiatives that are worth checking out:

Needless to say, Notion is on an insane trajectory. With every product improvement, it becomes even more evident that the company is out to capture every possible element of personal and team productivity. The success wasn't overnight, those aware of their journey know that the company was on the brink of running out of cash. The team has notoriously (within the VC space) been known to steer away from outside investments and focusses on staying lean and profitable. I guess it makes sense to raise for the next 10 years worth of runway in one go; lesser fundraise bouts this way :)

PS5 controller, tank-top inspired.

For all the gaming-console fans out there, PlayStation recently dropped designs of its new PS5 controllers on their official blog and the internet decided to share candid feedback.

  • The good: two-toned color scheme, DualSense and not DualShock, for haptic feedback and adaptive trigger for better gaming immersion

  • The bad or rather the ugly: the extreme curve of the side handles? Apparently it's better ergonomically? I guess we’ll find out 🤷‍♂️

Design inspiration?

Interesting Finds:

  • Joma's interview with Gary Tan (Part 1 and Part 2).
    Garry is the Founder and Managing Partner at Initialized Capital, ex- Y Combinator Partner and early employee at Palantir. His list of achievements can go on and on. Big fan of Initialized's portfolio - Coinbase, Flexport, Instacart, Reddit, UpCall, Streak, etc.

  • Zuckerberg’s Jealousy Held Back Instagram and Drove Off Founders - an excerpt from Sarah Frier's book No Filter. Truly riveting.