From side project to $15M+/ARR. AMA.

Hi Indie Hackers!

I'm Amir, Founder/CEO of Doist. I am an async-first CEO of Doist, the company behind Todoist and Twist, which collectively support millions of people globally.

Doist has been operational for more than 10 years now, employing ~100 people in 39+ different countries. I've started it as a side project in 2007, and we have $0 in VC funding. We are building the future we want to work in.

I'm here to answer any questions, and hopefully, help you a bit on your journey!

You might also want to check out the interview I did with Courtland a few years back:

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    I'm curious what effect COVID-19 has had on your growth and scale @amix3k?

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    10 years is a long time! Congratulations.

    What does an average day look like for you personally, in terms of how you spend your time and attention? (Or if "day" is too small a timeframe, what does your average week look like?)

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      Deep down, I'm still a creator, and given that Doist is async-first, I can still spend a lot of my time creating 😊

      This interview sums up very well how my days/weeks look like:

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    Hey Amir!
    What advice would you give to your younger self to grow from 1 to 15 employees (principles, precautions)?

    Which traits have you been looking for in employees apart from hard skills? How dou you test for them when hiring?

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    hey great product ,
    can you share what is your tech stack?
    also, where do you host your application and why ?
    and if you can how much of the MMR is paid for the hosting ?

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    Thank you Amir for being generous with your time. I know Todoist has a freemium model. What's your advice for other indie hackers who want to build a freemium product. How should they set the price correctly?

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    I understand from your interview in Chief Executive back from 2018 that you don't believe in frequent meetings and they are mostly limited only to onboarding - do you think this is going to become the norm now that most companies are adopting a "remote first" approach? I personally would love a meeting-free world, but sometimes I think there's some good conversation non-work related happens before/after the meeting and I'm not sure how to replicate that in a remote work environment.

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      At Doist, we believe that the future is async-first (for knowledge workers).

      We have written about this, for example, in Asynchronous Communication: The Real Reason Remote Workers Are More Productive.

      Async-first does not mean that it's async-only; just that you do meetings and synchronous communication when it's a great idea. For example, all of my 1-1s are still meetings.

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        I love how async work involves less meetings and instant emails/chat which frees up your cognition for deep work, I think this is a very useful advantage when it comes to programming.

        Having said that, I've recently been involved in a lot of pair programming and noticed a lot of advantages, such as knowledge sharing, code quality, social cohesion and increased morale. Especially for more junior members it is like a live code review, along with the increased confidence of being able to deliver more tasks. Obviously, the downside means you have to be on the same schedule, which perhaps is somewhat unfeasible with different time zones.

        Have you tried pair programming at Doist? Do you think there is a place for pair programming in some organisations, or do you think that async-first simply better?

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    I understand that before you build Doist you were working on a project called Plurk - did the concept for Plurk get folded into Doist and do you ever plan on revisiting it?

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      Plurk is still active! You can visit it on https://plurk.com/ — There's a small team in Taiwan working on it, and it still has a lot of active users 😊

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    What are your thoughts on your changing role as the company grows? At 100 people it must be a very different experience to the early days.
    Do you have any novel ideas for structuring the company as it grows? I remember reading Sid Sijbrandij at gitlab saying he took advice to structure the company 'traditionally' even though remote first and I thought that a bit of a missed opportunity to experiment with not having 'VP of sales', 'VP of marketing', 'CFO', 'CTO' etc...

    1. 2

      It's exciting to see the company grow. As a founder/CEO, this kind of growth forces me to grow as well. I would probably have burned out after 14 years in the job if it didn't have this kind of dynamic nature.

      In regards to the structure, we are fairly traditional as well. We did start with some experimentations (e.g., a mostly flat structure), but we moved away from this because the results were not great.

      We innovate on that we are async-first: Most of our communication happens in text, and we have very few meetings. This means that people can have a ton of freedom to do deep work and live their best lives.

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    1. What would you say were they key factors that kept you motivated to continue working on your product? Non-typical answers would be great!

    2. If you had to build a new product, would you take the same approach? Otherwise, what different things would you do?

    3. What do you think is the number factor that makes or breaks remote culture?

    4. Did you like Aarhus?

    Feel free to answer whatever you'd like - huge fan of Todoist!

    1. 2
      1. The first many years, I mostly built Todoist for myself. Even right now, I am excited about our products because I use them daily. I would probably not be very passionate if I didn't use the products.
      2. I don't think I would succeed with the same approach, because there's so much competition. I would probably do something very different, for example, become a blockchain developer and part of that ecosystem.
      3. I don't think any number breaks remote culture. You already have companies that have more than 1000 employees and that are fully distributed around the world.
      4. Aarhus is a beautiful city 😊 I have very fond memories of my time there, especially hanging around the university campus.
      1. 1

        Ha, sorry. My third question was missing a key word.

        So to re-ask: What do you think is the number one factor that makes or breaks remote culture?

        Interesting that you'd take a stab at blockchain if you were to do things differently! Definitely didn't expect that answer from you haha.

  10. 1

    Hey Amir, how did you start? Did you have the idea and gathered some people to "set it up" or did you do everything by yourself, including coding?

    1. 1

      Hey Jacob! I've created Todoist for myself, and I did everything myself (including coding, design, marketing, bizdev) 😅. I've learned so much doing things myself, and this probably also made it much easier to hire for these positions later on.

      I am unsure if you could do this today because people expect much higher quality than they did in 2007. This said some are doing this, like yongfook.

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      Some things pop to my mind:

      • I had a personal blog that I've used to get some initial users
      • I did some guerilla marketing and got Todoist inside Life Hacker, Digg, Reddit, etc.
      • Initially, I've moved very fast and I did a ton of updates that excited users

      The start is covered in depth in Courtland's interview of the journey:

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