After a strategic review at MaidSafe, we are closing our 2 offices and having to carry out some redundancies and contract terminations. This is surely bad news?
Obviously for those involved in losing their job, it is terrible news. We need to make sure those folks are rewarded for their part in this movement and we will. I will come back to this. For the project though it is probably essential and should in fact help us at this stage.
How did we get here?
The largest contributor to our current situation was that the value of the Cryptocurrency rose dramatically and we decided to invest in offices, marketing and support functions. On reflection, we simply grew too quickly and that actually slowed down our engineering progress.
With the decline in crypto asset value, we then saw the departure of the most senior office-based staff (and directors). That was a troubling time as their teams were still in place, the loyalties of those teams rocked to the core. Something had to happen and it did!
What did we do?
We switched to a product focussed launch plan, not partial products, but actual products. This was a critical change. Then we focussed on delivery, exactly what will we deliver and what code we needed to deliver that. This was coupled with the removal of old code and old ways of handling network connections, messages and consensus, based on the last 2 years of R&D that we spent so much on. Basically, we looked and said this is what we now have, let’s use this and understand that this changes some of our code, hopefully for the better but definitely in line with the current design.
That allowed 2 things to happen:
- We started launching products and re-focussed weekly updates, most weeks being announcements of a new product or release.
- We re-focussed the teams on the product they were working on as opposed to a bit of a product (library). This meant more cross-team collaboration, eventually leading to product-based teams.
These changes were critical to progress. The community and shareholders have commented on the positive difference there.
Right now the next part of the plan is being executed. This actually started a couple of months back with the conversion of the employee benefit trust into standard share options. This allowed all the team at that stage to be awarded share options. Those options, on launch, would make everyone close to being financially independent and that was an amazing thing to be able to do.
As some staff will no longer be eligible for the options (due to the redundancies and contract terminations) we have put in place the ability for the options to be paid at the discretion of the remuneration committee. This work allows us to reward all those loyal and dedicated staff we lose. That is a proper and decent thing to do in my opinion. It is not their fault we grew as we did or did not launch while they were with us, and they should not suffer the loss to their rewards for “sticking in”.
Then we have the tough part, we had 2 offices and a run rate of £250K per month (when all the staff were in place). With recent departures and not replacing folk that came down to £160/170K per month. Still staggering and not fundable in my opinion. So the goal is to get the whole team decentralised and remote and get the monthly run rate to £60K per month or less, but at the same time accelerate the launch! Wow that’s quite an ask, you may say and I agree, but this is what we are doing and I will explain why.
During the redundancy and contract termination process, I was humbled and honoured by the vast majority of the people I had to speak with. The staff were appreciative of what we had done for them and understood the position we were in. So we have some amazing folk there, committed and understanding, even to the point some will keep working on, either without pay or with part-time pay (and hours at times). What a great start. Some of our professional advisors also forfeited their fee. We were getting into war mode and one we will win.
Why is this faster to launch?
The team now is a product-only team, no other departments are involved. There are no managers, just a single CEO. There is one team and that single team is purely product focussed. So we have Engineers who will implement the network and its features. They already are! We will have QA validate and sign releases and improve testing They already are! We will also have the last, but critical, part in the puzzle, UX and we all know Jim is really crucial (and totally committed) here to provide a user-focused solution and less of a solution for Engineers only :-).
That is why we go faster, no distractions, no layers of bureaucracy and no working in silos. In fact the progress should be very noticeable.
So what won’t we do?
Quite a lot actually!
- We won’t have a dedicated in-house marketing team. We will use word of mouth and the community.
- We will eventually not spend time reporting much more than GitHub project boards. (We will still have weekly dev updates/announcements)
- We won’t have any focus on negotiating with exchanges/partners or similar (We won’t ignore them though)
- We won’t spend further time on VCs at this point.
When we write that down it does not seem much, but those points have cost us 10s of thousands of pounds per month. Much time is wasted by people randomly saying MaidSafe should speak to XXX and so on. We’ve stopped doing that at all.
What will we do?
We will focus 100% of our energy on releasing products until we are at beta. Then we will speak to others, look at potentially subcontracting PR and so on, but first we will release the network and this is our only goal right now.
Apart from the cash to do it, the only issue for the SAFE Network community and MaidSafe is the company has no core product. So that is our only goal and that will be the only reason for meetings. All staff will be looking at products and executing the plan we currently have to launch. Those plans are as reported in recent months.
What about funding?
Before these changes MaidSafe only had a few months of run rate, these plans take the runway to over a year (crypto prices depending). That provides a lot of comfort, but we can do more. Currently, we may still have some monthly costs for services that can be cut.
We also have a great opportunity for funding, one that will protect shareholders, token holders and the project as a whole. This can be done at no cost to those groups and buy us considerably more runway/launch funds etc.
That funding model is detailed in a separate post. I hope you like it.
– David Irvine (@dirvine)