🎧🍌 Growing Deel to $300M+ ARR in Four Years with Alex Bouaziz, Co-founder and CEO of Deel
Pivoting one week before YC demo day, growing 20% per month for a year, how to move fast, the benefits of taking on lots of angel investors, how to pick board members, and being a default optimist
Alex Bouaziz is the Co-founder and CEO of Deel, a full stack global HR and payroll platform. But the company didn’t start that way, and we’ll talk through Alex and his co-founder Shuo’s journey from zero to one, starting with a product that helped startups hire international employees.
Alex and Shuo launched the company one week before YC Demo day in 2019, and have since scaled to 20,000+ customers and raised over $685 million. They’re supported by investors like YC, a16z, Spark Capital, Weekend Fund, Coatue, SV Angel, Soma Capital, Quiet Capital, and angels like Lachy Groom, Nat Friedman, Ryan Petersen, Alexis Ohanian, John Zimmer, Dara Khosrowshahi, Rex Salisbury, Justin Mateen, and more.
In this episode, we discuss:
The initial insight around remote work that started Deel in 2019
How they initially built the wrong solution
Pivoting one week before YC demo day
Listening to customers to build a better product
Growing 20% every month for a year
Being a default optimist
Dealing with emotional ups and downs of building a startup
Moving at “Deel Speed”, and how the team operates so fast
Deel’s remote-first approach and its “WeWork Squads”
His advice to other leaders building remote teams
Why founders shouldn’t share too much information with early investors
How Alex’s approach to fundraising changed through his Seed to Series D rounds
Why founders should always be selling their product
How picking board members is a form of marriage, and what founders should prioritize when choosing them
Why Deel raised a Series A and B in a three month span despite only burning
$300k since closing its Seed round
How deep pocketed investors unlock optionality as a company scales
The benefits to taking on lots of angel investors
How Deel prioritized international expansion as it grew
Deel’s new Visa / immigration and HR AI products
Two things Alex would do differently if he could start over
The founders he most looks up to
🙏 Thanks to Zac and Xavier at Supermix for help with production and distribution.
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Find transcripts of all prior episodes here.
Turner Novak: Alex, how's it going? Thanks for joining me today.
Alex Bouaziz: Good. Thanks for having me. I'm excited.
Turner Novak: So I want to start things off. I told people what Deel is. Can you give us a quick one liner on how it works and what the product is.
Alex Bouaziz: We provide a full-stack HR and payroll product for global teams.
Turner Novak: But you didn't specifically start out that way, right? When it started, it was a little bit more niche?
Alex Bouaziz: Yeah. We started coming in 2019 and the quick background is, we're both international people. We wanted to help companies hire the best people in the world. And at the time, we were a bit more niche because we figured like, “Hey, what do we see people do when they want to hire around the world?”
And then the first thing we saw was engaging them as freelancers for small missions and things like that. And we wanted to fix that. And then we did the good old talk to your customer thing and we built a lot of things for our customers over time. I'm sure we'll dive into this, but yeah, it's been quite the journey.
Turner Novak: When you first started Deel, you said 2019, or maybe it was 2018 when you were working through ideas, what was the thinking like around global teams, remote work? What did people think? Were there many businesses that specifically focused on that? Or did people think you're crazy trying to build this company for remote work in 2019?
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