Maturity Map: Growth Stage | 50–75 employees

The most common questions I hear from startup founders and team members is, “What are the best practices? What lessons have others learned? What’s coming next?”

The purpose of the Maturity Framework Series is to help startup founders and employees anticipate what is coming next. This post will specifically look at the Growth Stage, when a company grows from 50 employees to 75.

Company Stages by Number of Employees

Links to full posts detailing the Early Stage, Momentum Stage, and Expansion Stage.

Growth Stage: 50 – 75 employees

You found your market, now it’s time to grow, grow, grow! You have found early momentum, now it’s time to double down. The mistake companies often make at this stage is they see growth as a signal to start a wider land grab. Focus is more important than ever. With more employees, progress and (possibly) money, you’ll be tempted to expand the market you’re serving. This is not the time, build solid ground in what you know. Grow up, not out.

Get your metrics in order. Work off of better data. Build out your leadership team. Worry about getting the right people in the right seats. Stay focused.

Current state of the organization:

  • You’ve hired your first executives or experienced managers
  • Meetings: weekly one-on-ones, townhalls, monthly hackathons
  • Founders are focused on strategic planning and building the right team
  • You’re raising your Series B or C
  • You have a few years of metrics and you’re starting to run A/B tests
  • You’re finally getting your data in order
  • More management brings up questions around career progression
  • Setting up the HR process- adding an HR coordinator, bringing the team to 2
  • Your office space is filling up but likely not time to move in this stage
  • You know the board and are better at utilizing them as a resource
  • You start to bring team leaders into board meetings
  • Revisit your mission, vision and values – make sure you stay focused

Things you’re doing for the first time:

  • Hiring Executives, possibly a VP of Product or Head of Sales
  • Increasing communication, including better onboarding
  • Raising your Series B or C, using more metric-driven forecasts
  • Deciding how to recognize great ICs without management promotion
  • Structuring your teams around KPIs to align with the company vision
  • Increasing your data infrastructure to setup and run tests
  • You’re big enough now that a data breach will matter, make sure you have a plan
  • Your infrastructure team has finally caught up to keep the platform stable, more forward thinking work can be done
  • Thinking about equity for those who are close to vesting and equity incentives
  • If you offer lunch, figuring out how to feed 50+ people at scale
  • Building your security team, if a marketplace – in community and engineering
  • Building out a formalized user testing process
  • You’ve recently hired a data lead or will in this stage
  • Changing your sprint cycles from 2 week sprints to 6 week epics (with 3 2-week sprints)

What you’ve already solved:

  • What the company is solving: stake in the ground
  • Key KPIs, or now you’ve changed to calling them OKRs
  • Milestones you’re going to accomplish in the next 6–124 months
  • *See the Expansion Stage Maturity Map for the complete list for teams less than 50.*

Software you use:

  • Payroll — Paychex, ADP or TriNet
  • Benefits – TriNet or Zenefits
  • Accounting — Intaact, or Netsuite
  • Google Apps for email and documents
  • Dropbox or Box
  • Google & Flurry Analytics plus MixPanel or Localytics for data
  • Using Hadoop, Redshift and Tableau for data
  • AWS or your own servers
  • Mac books
  • Zendesk or Desk for customer support
  • Sprout Social or Hootsuite for Social Media
  • Trello, Asana or Jira for Product Management
  • Github for permissions & software sharing
  • Highrise, Bases or Sugar CRM for sales pipelines
  • Careers 2.0 and Indeed to hire outside of your network
  • Stripe or Braintree and Dwolla for payments
  • Skype, BlueJeans, Zoom.us or Google Hangouts for remote meetings
  • Hiring Platform: Lever.co, Greenhouse.io or BambooHR.com

Who you need to know:

  • Catering: ZeroCater, FoodtoEat or an in-house Kitchensurfing chef
  • Recruiting firm for hard hires: engineers & VP+ level tech, product talent
  • Lawyers to review equity documents & update the cap table
  • Journalists you’ve built relationships with to write-up new features
  • Skilled friends who may refer top talent to your company
  • Mobile platform gatekeepers to promote you in their stores
  • Full time accountant to manage books
  • 409a consulting firm to evaluate equity
  • Specialists in SEO, SEM, Marketing and Branding

Additional decisions that may start in this stage:

  • Having multiple offices or remote employees
  • Offering your product in more than one language
  • Securing visas for international candidates
  • Hiring outside or in-house council, for more regulated industries
  • Negotiating a lease on a new office
  • Hiring a white hat security firm to run an audit
  • Opening an office in a different country
  • Accepting foreign currency or cryptocurrency

If you have something to add to this list, please share in the comments or send me a line on Twitter.

Next up, the Scale Stage, growing from 75 to 150 employees. To subscribe to weekly updates via email, sign up here.

Footnotes:

*Please note, this outline is based off of trends I’ve seen in venture-backed startups. It very easily could apply to bootstrapped or non-venture funded companies, but not necessarily. In this outline I assume the company has taken funding, whether Seed or Series A

**We’ve invested in a number of companies mentioned in this note. For a full list, visit our Portfolio Page or find opportunities with them through the USV jobs page.