Today, the Stonly team and I are proud to announce a seed round led by Accel, as well as the opening of our US office in New York and the launch of our new Knowledge Base product. I’m proud of our team for achieving these milestones and it is a great time to reflect on the journey from my time as Dashlane co-founder to where we are now with Stonly.
When I think about it, there are 4 key questions that others may also face in their careers: 1) when do you know it is time to leave your current company? 2) how to choose what you build (next)? 3) how to choose company location (or multiple or remote)? and 4) why raise VC money for your new venture and when? I’m going to cover the first two today and the third and fourth ones in a post next week, so check back in or pay attention to our Twitter for that post.
Why I left the company I co-founded to start a new company
I’ve never written anything about my choice to leave Dashlane, where I was co-founder and CPO, to start a new venture. Being a founder and leader of a very successful company with an inspiring and global mission seems, indeed, like the perfect job. When people ask me why I left, for me, it always comes down to one thing: "to build a new company". At the time, I didn’t know, for sure, what that company would be (though I had a lot of ideas). But I consider myself a builder – of companies, of teams and of products. If you are a builder and, like me, start a company in school or early in your career, with no money and no experience, you learn as you go as fast as possible and through a lot of mistakes. After a few years of mistakes, there was a moment when I started wondering "wouldn’t it be great if I could start over with everything I have learned so far? Could I go faster? Build a better product? A more scalable culture?". After these thoughts started for me, the desire to start a business again grew over the years at Dashlane.
As my curiosity grew, I kept seeing challenges everywhere as opportunities for products and companies that would benefit from the lessons I had learned. A huge factor in my decision to leave was when one of those turned into a project I was truly excited about. That I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was the rare case where you experience a pain and realize that it is something experienced by everyone, yet no one has solved it. This was even more exciting as I could see clearly defined use-cases to start tackling and still enough work beyond those to keep busy for decades. That started happening while I was at Dashlane and there came a point where I was more excited to work on that new opportunity, no matter how exciting the current ones were.
Last but not least, it would have been impossible for me to leave a company I (still) love if it was in a difficult situation. When I made my decision, Dashlane was on the right track and my fellow co-founders, execs and teammates had my full confidence for the future of the company. So after almost 10 years, I jumped ship and started building a new raft.
Why this business? Why Stonly?
One of the greatest benefits of the Internet in my life has been the ability to get relevant content on anything I was interested in (and believe me, there are many). I was able to find good content to learn how to code, how to repair my washing machine (well, maybe not SO good - I never succeeded), how to change a mic on a bass guitar or how to use my camera like a pro. But even though this it was available, finding good and reliable information was tedious and while accurate, the content wasn’t presented in a way that was intended to make me successful. I remember struggling while finding Photoshop and Final cut pro instructions. Most of the time, I would start watching a video and then after 4 minutes of "Subscribe to my channel" introductions and bad music, I would realize the video was not really answering my need. Then, two weeks later, here I was again not remembering what I did the first time and having to repeat it.
Funny enough, at the same time, I was on the other side at Dashlane; unable to clearly explain how to install browser extensions to less-familiar new users. Think about all of the possible situations. As a password manager, Dashlane is available on macOS (dmg and Mac App Store), Windows, Linux, iOS, Android and then on every browser imaginable on all of these operating systems. That's an impossible number of possibilities for a user to digest. And most people that did not find their particular answer ended up churning.
As I was looking for a solution to improve our content, I was struck by the fact that there was no better way than static, linear articles and videos to explain how things work. I remember thinking that someone should build a bridge between people who make things and people who use them, between people who have knowledge and people who don't. Imagine if every time you were trying a new service (physical or digital), you could instantly and personally know how you could use it and start getting value from it. Imagine if when you were looking for information, you could find it, no matter how specific your particular situation. That imagination is what led me to a new mission: to create the ultimate experience for sharing knowledge.
So, I started Stonly and we are starting by helping companies better support their customers and better explain to them what they need to benefit from their service. Then, we’ll tackle use-case after use-case and keep making it a better and better experience to teach and learn.
It’s about the passion
In retrospect leaving and starting was about passion. It was important to leave Dashlane while I still had a passion for it. Any later and my memories wouldn’t be so perfect and I would have felt like I was leaving to get away, rather than to go toward a new growing passion. And it was important to start something that I was passionate about now, but also not so urgently that I was only attracted to the newness and not a real belief in it. And now, with our new round of funding and a fresh version of our product, we’ll (the whole team will – more on that next week) have something we are all passionate about, together, for a long time.