A while back, I read that 90% of all startups fail within the first five years. That’s a scary prospect as a business owner, knowing your own company has a 10% chance or less of surviving.
But this week, against all odds, Semplice hit the five-year mark. I’m incredibly proud of our team and beyond thankful to the community for their support for the past five years. We wouldn’t be here today without you.
It started in 2011, the dream to build a portfolio system we would personally want to use. A tool made for designers, by designers. Finally, after a couple years of development in solitude with my co-founder, we launched Semplice in 2014. Here are some fun facts:
Semplice is bootstrapped and independent
Semplice has been self-financed since the very beginning and has been profitable since the beginning. We are proud of that. We have never taken on investments and have remained independent over the years, despite plenty of temptation to do otherwise.
Being independent means we get to build a product we love using ourselves, a product we can stand behind. Semplice is guided by our vision and the feedback of our community, rather than the roadmap of stakeholders. We’re not too concerned with scale just for the sake of scale. We’re driven by building the best possible product, by having fun and by making sure our numbers look healthy relative to the size of our company.
Our team is entirely remote
From the start, we wanted the Semplice team to be remote. My founding partner and I started the company with an ocean between us, in Munich and New York. Today our team hails from Munich, Berlin, New York, Italy, Ukraine and Nashville.
Working remotely is a significant advantage yet also our biggest challenge. Coordinating an online team across time zones, especially on a bootstrapped budget, is challenging and can be frustrating at times. Would we do it again? Absolutely. The freedom each member of our team enjoys is worth it. While we depend on each other for certain tasks, it doesn’t matter where or when you work as long as you get the work done. If you prefer to work at night, you can do that. If you prefer to work during the day while chilling at a pool, that’s cool too. Pun intended.
We’ve been fortunate to hire strong, self-motivated people at Semplice, people who manage their own time and make their own work.
We’re almost all designers
We’re building a product that is for designers, so we figured it only makes sense if it’s by designers as well. Almost everyone on our team comes from a traditional design background, even if design isn’t the main contribution they make at Semplice. Design is part of our DNA and we make every decision through the lens. Design is our passion, and if you’ve seen our products you can tell.
We’re in it deeper than just our product
While Semplice is our core product, we’re in this whole thing for so much more.
Everything we do is about enabling designers and contributing to our community.
But let’s get real for a moment
Working on Semplice has been a challenge, not just because of the technicalities of building our product and finding our market, but also running a small business for the past 5+ years.
Semplice is in the same market as many large competitors who often have millions of dollars in funding, dozens if not hundreds more employees, as well as aggressive (and I'd argue, sometimes questionable) marketing strategies. Keeping our ground can be stressful and I admit we’ve had our low points quite a few times.
Every customer complaint and every refund is something you take personally as a small business, and you have to learn to deal with them in a manner that doesn’t completely ruin you or your team. And as a founder, you’re not just responsible for building and growing the product, but also managing and motivating the team.
My biggest learning in the past five years has been to take care of myself, as it affects everything further down the line. As a CEO or founder, you need to “put your mask on first before helping others.” It’s only then you can take care of your team, your product and your customers. It seems so simple yet it took me so long to learn, and I’m still working on it.
Where are we going?
All I know is that we’re going, and I hope we will for many more years. Our goal is to continue to build a healthy business and create products we and other people love to use. Semplice is about building with pride, and that applies to us and the people who use our tool.
We love our community and we’re the biggest fans of those who use Semplice and do something beautiful with it. We find great satisfaction in building tools that enable others to build something they’re proud of themselves.
Every day I look at our Showcase and I’m in awe; I still can’t believe we somehow convinced all these talented people to use our product. It motivates me to keep making Semplice better and better. For another five years, and hopefully more.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the author of this blog, nice to meet you!