15 Minute Read
December is upon us and we’re approaching the first anniversary of what began as a private beta with Notably. For that reason, and in the holiday spirit of gratitude and reflection, this blog post will be a bit different than our regular content. If you’re interested in peeking behind the scenes on the types of research happening on Notably, a front row seat to the last 12 months researching, designing, building, and growing a research platform, and our hot takes on where we’re going next year… then this is for you.
We’re spotlighting some of the work of our customers. Taking a trip down memory lane with the product. And peering into the future. So buckle in!
We wouldn’t be where we are today without our customers, especially our earliest customers. While we still have a ways to go, in the very earliest days we prioritized getting the core Notably experience into hands as soon as possible. Things were rough around the edge cases… and even the not edge cases.
Then all the chats and research sessions, to the bug reports and tweets…the feedback started rolling in! We appreciated it all and did our best to keep up. We were over the moon to start getting our first customers in January.
One of the most inspiring aspects of this past year was learning about the different kinds of research our customers are doing on Notably. For example, people have used Notably to research:
Even with all this different research happening on Notably, there was a common theme we kept hearing from researchers: “Notably works the way my brain works.”
This actually became our favorite compliment to hear! It was words like those that were the fuel we needed to keep pushing the product forward even in our most challenging moments. And push the product forward … we did!
To talk about how far we’ve come requires starting from the beginning. And really Notably started the same way most great research starts: from the spark of a question. Informed by our own experiences as researchers and inspired by the research of others, we asked, “How can we create a world where researchers don’t have to sacrifice quality for speed?”
To help us frame the problems researchers faced we relied on this framework to understand the research workflow and brainstorm how we might help researchers cross each chasm toward the holy grail of research: wisdom.
The interesting thing about this framework is that the earliest version of Notably, what is now just the Analysis section of a Notably project, only focused on the two middle phases: information and knowledge, or combined into what we often think of as analysis and synthesis. This was the part of the research workflow that packed the biggest punch in terms of impact and where we saw most research tools on the market fell short. We didn’t want to be another place for collecting and storing data or a project management tool… we wanted to help researchers understand what their data means and why it matters, to give them a perspective they couldn’t find anywhere else.
Once we validated some pretty wild concepts like analyzing data as both sticky notes on a canvas and rows in a spreadsheet at the same time, we were ready to start branching out in both directions from the middle. To the left making it easier to add research data like video, audio, and survey results. And to the right making it easier to share research with others and learn across projects. Toward the right in the Wisdom category we started taking a critical look at the impact of research.
Words like “repository” and “democratization” started popping up in our vocabulary to describe our push toward wisdom, only to eventually realize that a lot of those borrowed words from the industry still didn’t quite measure up to the problems we aim to solve. (more on that coming from us soon!)
All in all we shipped new code and features almost every single week of 2022. Some of our biggest releases we things like:
… and more!
There were only two weeks where we didn’t push new code to our GitHub repo. As of writing this there are two weeks left in the year and we still have an exciting update in the works. We’re going out with a bang!
Typically we don’t share a whole lot about the behind scenes at Notably. However we do believe in transparency and hope to take moments like this one to be authentic. This year was challenging for many in our community. Between the tech layoffs and those struggling to break into the industry, to the economy and tense political environment. We’ve felt it too.
As researchers we always knew that research was personal, that to do our best work we needed to bring our full selves to the process. And starting Notably as founders has been no different. It’s been a deeply personal journey for all of us on the team and certainly for me as a leader. Though we’re still a small team we faced a lot of challenges together in 2022. I had a baby. One of our teammates lost their mom. Some of our teammates were displaced by war. And of course the always-on emotional rollercoaster of yes’s and no’s that come with growing a venture-backed business.
Speaking of being venture-backed, when we started Notably we knew the odds were pretty stacked against us. At the time we were the only female founders (that we could find) building software for researchers. On top of that, as two female founders and moms, only a fraction (as in less than 2%) of venture capital would be raised per year by people like us. Despite those odds the message to help researchers do better analysis and more deeply understand their insights resonated with a group of incredible investors. Now Notably is backed by Zelkova Sentiero, HoneyBadger, and more. We’re also partnered with some incredible angel investors from design and research backgrounds like Jehad Affoneh, Helen Tran, Randy Hunt, Alec Levin, Kevin Twohy and David Hoang. It’s been the honor of my entire career to work with our investors and to bring such a special group of backers together.
Of course along the way we did hear a lot of no’s. But with the growing proof points from customers we raised the capital to continue growing Notably and fund the business’ future. We even raised a portion of capital in a community round led by one of our advisors, Matt Bilotti, where we got dozens of smaller investments from research community members at places like Zillow, Figma, and HubSpot. So when we say Notably is a community effort… we really mean it!
If you thought we moved fast last year, just wait until next year. We already have some exciting projects in the works. Here are some of the themes top of mind for us going into 2023.
If there is one takeaway for us from 2022 it’s that community matters. From all the late-night Twitter Spaces to the mid-day workshops, to the comments and LinkedIn posts, to IRL happy hours… it’s been incredibly rewarding to connect with researchers from all backgrounds as we've built Notably. Next year you can expect from us more workshops, more meetups, more collaborations with industry experts and educational institutions, and more, what we hope will be, amazing content around research, design thinking, and research enablement. You heard it here first …we are even publishing a book next year! The first copies are shipping out in Q1. We believe that research is the catalyst needed for a better, more sustainable, and equitable future. We’re honored to be part of a community of people that cares about the future, learning, and solving important problems.
We are big believers in secure by design and having control over your data. While the Notably platform has always used best in class security and modern data practices, for the past 3 months behind the scenes we’ve been readying the application and our processes to prepare for our SOC-2, ISO, and HIPPA certifications. We’re right on track to begin our audits in Q1 of 2023 and should have certificates and trust reports to begin sharing early Q2.
In the spirit of helping researchers do better, faster research we’ll be introducing more automation around things like tagging, clustering, reporting, and editing. We’re acutely aware of the risks of automation in research and we’re excited to introduce these new concepts in a way that is transparent, ethical, and intentional. We’ll be pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with AI even further, while listening closely to our customers about their experiences and concerns. Our goal is never to automate research or the wrong parts of it, but to give researchers the superpowers they always wished for.
While we love that you can use Notably to replace a whole slew of tools you might be stringing together to do research, we know that work happens in lots of different places. The more integrated research is, the more visibility and impact it has. We’ll be extending the Notably platform in new ways so you can work across systems like the CRM, survey tools, and dipping our toes into more of the quantitative world by integrating product analytics data and custom data sources. Coming first will be a whole new series of ways that you can use Notably alongside Google Drive … and then with Google Chrome.
Research is a team sport. And let’s face it, it’s more fun to do research with a partner. In today’s world where remote research is becoming the norm, realtime collaboration feels standard. Next year we’ll be introducing realtime collaboration so that you can work with your colleagues to do remote synthesis, shared note-taking, and more. Collaborative editing will be hitting all of the text editing experiences (Info page, Documents, Insights, etc) first, with what we hope will be a quick follow-on in Analysis.
We're doubling down on creating exceptional customer experiences. We plan to continue customer experiences like our lighting fast chat support and onboarding customers. And adding new motions like bolstering our experiences for enterprise customers with dedicated Slack channels, exclusive content, and more.
We went above and beyond for many of our customers in 2022 and we're excited to do even more great research alongside them in 2023. With our first year at Notably behind us and many ahead, we're thankful to each and every one of our supporters along the way. We can't wait to see what we learn together next year!