Insight's Growth Gurus series showcases inspiring leaders from our portfolio of growth-stage software and internet companies. In this interview, we interviewed Roy Mann, Founder and CEO of monday.com, a team management tool designed to improve work processes and create an environment of transparency in business.
How did you get your start as an entrepreneur in business?
I can't remember myself not as an entrepreneur. My history is computer development, and that's what I loved to do my whole life – I was always building stuff. I had a couple companies before this one, and always tried to build and sell things but I was unsuccessful most of the time. While working at companies, I always had a side project. I spent a lot of years building computer games, which I loved and led me to software development.
What led you to build Monday?
Every team that I’ve managed or worked with, the tools that we were using never really helped us manage anything. Sometimes it felt like we were working for the tools instead of the tools working for us. We felt strongly that things could be different, and that people could not only find these tools useful but enjoy using them.
What key challenges did the company face as you scaled?
When we started the business, we were fortunate to have a number of clients like Wix.com, but these companies prevented us from understanding that we didn’t have product-market fit. Our customers were at a more mature scale and it’s difficult to adopt a new tool at a company with 250 employees. It took us a year and a half to make a lot of iterations in the product and change it to make it very simple. Today, Monday can be used by any team size, but it took us time to learn how to get there.
As the business evolved, the name of the company did, too. What was the reason behind this brand evolution?
Throughout the company’s life, we have gone through a number of phases of growth. Today, we have over 70,000 paying companies and we're doubling every year. But in the beginning, we bought a free domain.
We wanted the word 'pulse' because it’s like the pulse of your team, but the domain was not available. We ended up with DaPulse, which is bad for so many reasons.
Monday is really our vision in a word. When we did the research, we found that 50% of the people don't like Monday and, surprisingly, 50% really do because it's like a new beginning, a fresh start. Generally, I think it's our vision in a word because the problem is obviously not the day. It's what happens in that day, and this is what we're here to solve, so it's a good name to represent the challenge we have.
What was the fundraising process like for Monday.com?
It was hard at first and then it became easier as we had numbers. In the beginning, we were thought of as being in the project management space. Every investor had a scar of past project management investment, but we were not that. We're transforming that industry and now people use us to build airplanes, run manufacturing plants, do clinical trials, manage teams, and more. But initially, this wasn’t clear and we received a no from almost every investor we approached.
We got one piece of advice that really echoed and stayed with me from Avishai, the CEO of wix.com. He said, "Good companies raise money, so build a company." And we did and then began to raise money slowly.
Just to give a general overview, we've raised $84M so far. Last year it was $50M. Before that it was $25M. Before that it was $5M and before that it was $1.5M. So every round was significantly bigger than the previous one.
What aspect do you believe is most important when evaluating an investor?
The best thing that we ever did was being picky with our investors, in terms of ensuring that there is an alignment of interest. We got a lot of rejections for a reason, so when we got a yes, it was because the investor really understood why we're a good product. If you don’t have alignment, then you're aiming for different things and you're not working in the same direction. The most important aspect is that they get it.
As a leader of a growing company, how have you evolved? Has your leadership style changed over time?
We have 230 people now, so I can't have my hand in every single thing that is going on. So I had to learn to let go, and not be a bottleneck. Eran and I shouldn't be stopping things from happening, but we can provide our input. However, if we're not there or if someone wants to move on, they can decide without us. Maybe someone else will reach a better decision that I can make in a certain area.
In the beginning, we did everything, so you hope that you can hire people that are better than you. Letting go is hard, but that's what we need to keep doing.
Given the mission of Monday, have you enabled teams to collaborate within the company?
Managers shouldn't block people from doing stuff. Other teams shouldn't either. We see it as organized chaos, "loosely coupled and highly aligned" – meaning everyone needs to really know where we're going as a company. The company is super transparent. The way we pay for that alignment is a lot of operation and synchronization between everyone. Everyone is synced towards what we're trying to reach and knows every piece of information in that process. That way everyone can move in the same direction quickly because they're aligned, not because they're organized by one person at the top.
I think many other tools that I've used create siloes inherently – I see my tasks, you see yours, but we can't see each other's. We built transparency as a default, and that allows people to start off with the right habits. If you'd really like to, you can segment and customize to make things private, but the default is what we believe in as a good management practice.
Fire Round Questions:
How would you define teamwork?
I think what's most important in teamwork is that everyone's voice is heard and that the atmosphere in that team is that this is happening.
How would you describe the tech ecosystem in Israel?
It's maturing a lot. We now have a lot of more seasoned entrepreneurs in Israel, more seasoned venture capital and everything is maturing. So, we're going to see larger and larger companies coming out of Israel where in the past, it was smaller exits than bigger exits. Now we're going to build a lot of big companies.