Editor’s note: This profile is part of Something Ventured, an ongoing series by Crunchbase News examining diversity and access to capital in the venture-backed startup ecosystem. As part of this project, we followed seven seed-stage entrepreneurs over the course of a year as they built their businesses. Read our previous profile of Josh Fabian and his unconventional path to founding Metafy here, here, here, here and here, and access the full project here.
Every startup faces the realities of having to balance both spending and growth.
When companies spend to jumpstart growth, some call it being on the “Juice”—and you can’t stay on it forever.
After Metafy—an online coaching platform for gamers—closed its best ever month in November with $198,000 in gross merchandise volume (GMV), numbers started to fall, ending at about $148,000 in February.
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“It was a bit of seasonality, and we were paying down some of our juice debt where people paid months ahead,” said founder and CEO Josh Fabian.
Fabian was referring to deals the company ran to attract customers—trying to juice growth, in essence. The company pretty much stopped that this year, and finally is seeing its numbers rebound, with March ending at $185,000 GMV. It was the company’s second best month for GMV, and its best “clean month,” since there were no promotions.
“Our growth remains largely organic,” Fabian said.
Avoiding a downturn
Those numbers come despite the current rockiness of the overall economy. Even with inflation rates and global tensions rising, Fabian is optimistic about Metafy’s projected growth.
“Gaming is inherently escapism, so I think there actually is an inverse relationship with what is going on in the world,” he said.
Metafy avoided one macrotrend that could have affected the company—the downturn the fundraising market has seemingly taken.
While Fabian is often the last person to give himself credit—he can refer to himself as an “idiot” a half dozen times in an hour-long conversation—he takes credit for closing up the company’s $25 million Series A at the end of 2021, before the market turned.
“I feel really clever,” he laughed. “I had serious fears of a nuclear winter for fundraising. Everyone was raising money and I just had this feeling.”
That said, Fabian concedes the current market may affect his plans to raise a Series B late this year.
“Now, I think we are more in a wait-and-see situation,” he said.
Regardless, Fabian has other priorities unrelated to the economy or fundraising—like hiring. The company just hired its first data lead to analyze everything from user behavior to the business itself. The company is now looking for a new vice president of marketing after the previous one left earlier this year.
Fabian said he understands and expects the loss of some employees.
“Working for a startup is tough,” he said. “You have to give away so much of your life; years you’ll never get back. It’s hard.
“We keep pretending startups are these companies that are easy,” Fabian continued. “In truth, it’s the hardest job you’ll ever have. These are not huge companies with thousands of other employees. You have to do your job or it all fails.”
Fabian also loves that about startups—relaying a story about one of his least favorite jobs to illustrate the point.
“I was working at Walmart in the deli,” he remembers. “My job was slicing meat. I can still remember how cold the meat was—and I hate being cold. I hated that job and I hated my life.
“One day I just didn’t go in,” he said. “The next day, I decided to show up and almost no one said anything about me not coming in the day before. … I didn’t come in and no one cared. I realized it sucks when you have a job where no one cares if you don’t show up … I mean, what are you really doing then?”
With every job being important at a startup, that means every hire also is important. Metafy, which now employs 40, has grown to the point in which Fabian can’t interview everyone himself.
“The CEO at a company has the least amount of time,” he said. “If I interviewed everyone I would just become a bottleneck. … It’s funny, at a startup you have money but you don’t have time.”
The company also has built a team that is so good that finding the next employee has gotten harder, Fabian said.
“We’ve built an exceptional team but that means the bar is so high,” Fabian said. “To be honest, anyone who applies I feel isn’t qualified. We are looking for people not looking.”
Photo illustration: Dom Guzman
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