This enterprise software startup has VCs literally knocking on its doors to invest, but for now, it's not interested

Notion

  • Notion is an “all-in-one workplace” that acts as a replacement for docs, wikis, task management tools, and databases.
  • And according to a recent tweet by First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman, Notion is one of the most sought after investments in Silicon Valley.
  • Ivan Zhao confirmed with Business Insider that he receives multiple calls each day from hopeful venture capitalists, and at Notion’s old office, some VCs would literally come knocking on the door.
  • Zhao says he’s not “anti-VC,” but when software revenues are paying the bills, he’s left to question, “how does extra capital help us grow?

When the work management software startup Notion moved offices recently, it didn’t update its address on Google Maps.

The reason: VCs were literally knocking on its doors to discuss potential investments.

“We still haven’t updated our office address from the old one,” Notion CEO Ivan Zhao told Business Insider in a recent interview. “We’re thinking of switching to a PO Box.”

Zhao says that even though drop-ins aren’t as frequent at the new office, he still receives multiple calls a day from venture capitalists vying for a chance to invest.

“We’re more flattered,” Zhao said. “It’s like, they’re really believing in this.”

But for now, Zhao and his 11-person team are trying to keep more of a “low profile” in their undisclosed, San Francisco headquarters and “focusing on product,” he says.

One of its seed stage investors Josh Kopelman confirmed the VC demand for Notion on Twitter last week, saying that requests for an intro to Zhao have become a part of his daily routine.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Notion has high hopes.

A self-described “all-in-one workplace,” Notion acts as replacements for docs, wikis, task management tools, and databases like a customer relationship management system (CRM). Zhao says Notable users don’t even need to use Slack.

“Slack is gluing together all different tools through notifications, but you still have to use separate tools,” Zhao says. “With [Notion], you literally just eliminate that [need].”

Notion’s tiered subscription model starts as free for individuals with a limited amount of storage and moves up to $US16 per user per month for its enterprise offering.

NotionNotion

At its best, Notion is a “sandbox” where even non-technical users can configure pages to their specific liking and specific needs.

“The business side of Notion is – Can we build a tool as ubiquitous as Microsoft Office?” Zhao said. “The more romantic side is – While we’re building a tool as ubiquitous as Microsoft Office, can we bring non-programmers the computing power so everyone can customise their own tools and modify their own software they use every day?”

Even with such ambitious goals, Zhao isn’t sold on the idea that taking more venture funding to build out a massive team is the way to get there.

“We want the business to be as big as possible, but we want the team as small as possible,” he said.

And with the evolution of enterprise software – where cloud services can now be purchased online with a credit card without the need to work with a salesperson or as Zhao puts it, have “Oracle push a database down to your basement” -scaling an enterprise software company with a lean operation is more likely than ever.

“In the last 5 or 10 years, companies like Instagram and WhatsApp built a 100 million people business with less than 50 [employees]. It’s possible to do on the consumer side,” Zhao said. “One theory we have is that it’s becoming possible on the enterprise side.”

Nothing against VCs

Zhao made it clear that he wasn’t “anti-VC” and that his company’s early success couldn’t have happened without the seed round it raised. Notion’s seed round was for an undisclosed amount with participation from industry elite like Sequoia Capital and First Round Capital.

“I didn’t bootstrap,” he said. “We had a lot of help from the investor ecosystem.”

But while the company is gaining enough revenue from its users to fuel its growth, he doesn’t see the need to raise another round for the foreseeable future.

“At this moment, how does extra capital help us grow?” Zhao said. “Right now, it’s about the quality of the team, it’s our distribution model and pipeline. More capital isn’t necessarily going to make those things better, faster. Again, we’re not anti-VC. It’s more about helping us focus on product and less on meetings.”

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