How we work at Anytype: Seasons, Big Bets & Key Results

Discover how we work and our iterative approach using Seasons, Big Bets and Key Results.

How we work at Anytype: Seasons, Big Bets & Key Results

When it comes to startups, it's not just about what you build; it's about how you build it. 

Anytype operates in a realm where ‘demanding’, ‘chaotic’, and ‘building the plane as we fly it’ are not just startup clichés—they describe our everyday reality. We’re a remote-first team that’s quadrupled in size over the past year and a half, all while juggling the development of a scalable, decentralized infrastructure and a beloved product. 

In spite (or because) of this chaos, we’ve needed to adopt customs and rituals that govern our work and help us meet our goals. Today, we’re pulling back the curtains on how we manage the process of innovation and iteration at Anytype.

Yearly & Seasonal Planning

At the beginning of each year, our board—comprised of our founders and key investors—lays out the business targets we’d like to achieve in the following twelve months.

These company-wide objectives are shared, during an in-person workshop, to the leaders of each core team: Product, Engineering, Infrastructure, Operations, and Marketing. Along with the objectives themselves, our founders also share the reasoning behind them. Normally this list consists of 8-12 core goals. 

Then, the debate floor is opened as the group discusses the feasibility and questions the reasoning behind each objective. Our collective goal is to narrow down the objectives to a scope that feels both ambitious and reasonable.

In 2023, the theme of the year was to de-risk our business by reaching an undeniable product-market fit. These are the high-level business objectives we agreed upon as a team:

  • Launch the beta app built on the Anysync infrastructure and open the waitlist
  • Attract 150,000 new users
  • Retain 50,000 monthly active users by year-end
  • Open the codebase
  • Launch multiplayer mode

Once we’ve aligned on the yearly objectives, we then break down the goals by seasons. One season in the Anyverse (contrary to what our school books taught us) is four months long. That means we have three seasons in a year: Jan - Apr, May - Aug, and Sep - Dec.

Each season, we reconvene in-person to evaluate whether the agreed-upon business objectives were accomplished in the previous season, what got in the way in case they weren’t, and recalibrate our strategy for the following season.

While the difference may seem insignificant, in contrast to a quarterly planning schedule, the four-month planning cycle gives us 33% more time to execute on goals, allowing us to think slightly bigger-picture, meanwhile reducing the overhead of intensive, in-person strategy sessions.

Big Bets

Once we’ve placed our objectives into a seasonal timeline, each business unit then proposes several ‘big bets’ to contribute to these objectives for the respective season. 

A ‘big bet’ is simply a playful way to describe a project or campaign. The nomenclature encourages us to think big and take risks, while acknowledging that failure is one possible outcome of any campaign.

A proper big bet should be based on qualitative or quantitative indicators that if done successfully, it will move the needle towards achieving business results. A big bet should require significant time and human resources to complete (meaning that it rules out other big bets), and it should be achievable within one season. 

Some examples of big bets from last season include:

  • New onboarding flow
  • Collections
  • Desktop localization project
  • Product Hunt launch

Every big bet should be directly related to one of the agreed business objectives. Oftentimes, big bets are informed by feedback left in the community. 

As an outcome of each seasonal planning workshop, each team should have a preliminary list of big bets it intends to undertake in the next four months. The process of finalizing which ones to execute typically requires more inputs and therefore, the respective teams often hold individual 1-day workshops to refine the list of big bets that will anchor their strategy for the season. Typically, each team will end up with 8-10 big bets per season.

Key Results

At the same time each big bet is tied to a business objective, it is also tied to a key result (normally an aspirational metric such as x% increase in activation from the onboarding flow, or x thousand new users from the Product Hunt campaign). The key results are each team’s way of evaluating whether our hypothesis for the big bet was correct, and whether we did a sufficient job in executing it.

Once the big bets and key results for the season are agreed upon, they’re placed into a shared project in our company-wide project management system. Each team lead is responsible for tracking the progress of each big bet and the respective metrics. Every two weeks, the team leads have a quick sync meeting to update on the status of the projects, share any blockers, and ask questions of other teams. 

Oftentimes, there is a lag between the implementation of a project (big bet) and the moment when we can attribute changing metrics to it, so it’s not always been easy or possible for us to properly track the efficacy of a project until the following season. We’re working on structuring our processes for a quicker feedback cycle, so this is a constant work-in-progress.

So, there you have it: a glimpse into how we set and meet our org-level objectives at Anytype. If you’re a fellow (or former) startupper, feel free to let us know your best tips for improving the goal-setting and strategy-planning sessions over in our community.