Josh Clemente (00:00:00):
Welcome to Friday Forum, January 20th, 2023. All right, a quick reminder, Friday Forum is weekly sync time. We’re here to talk about recent achievements, hear from members, partners, friends, share about the culture, get on the same level about the big picture. This is not where we talk about deep business metrics. This is not where we do our async updates on the nitty-gritty of individual functions inside the organization. We do those on a separate async feed, ad hoc meetings, et cetera, so, again, just to set the context for the meeting and into the recent achievements.
Right now, the big focus continues to be getting the 2023 product strategy update over the line, big progress, really an amazing effort that’s come together across several functions. We had a preview of this that went out to Sam’s directs this past week and a lot more to come in the next few days as this rolls out.
On the signup flow and website updates and demand capture efforts, we’ve had some really awesome improvements. One small change that drove a big improvement to, I think, self-service is adding the login button on the website. We now see that about 2.3% of all the traffic landing on the home page is going to that login button. People were seeking a way to sign up. We used to have that down in the footer. We’re seeing a really big improvement in people being able to find their way to that solution, which is great. Conversion rates are improving with Signup 3.1 across a number of different metrics. We’ve got a 2X improvement in study opt-in for our large IRB study with the improvements in messaging, how we’re communicating with the new signup. That’s improved by 2X, which is really awesome.
We’re now at a point where 70-plus percent of new members are selecting a subscription versus 50% previously, so just some really good signs that the messaging and how we’re helping people understand the funnel as they move through it is really landing, so big shout-out to the team for continuing to focus there.
The next big improvements that are coming are Crystal Clear Pricing. As we know, our checkout process has not always been crystal clear. You wouldn’t use that terminology when describing how we message our pricing, and so we’re continuing to improve there. That’s going to be a big push, signup internationalization to make sure that people end up in the correct funnel for where they are geographically and faster payments, so Apple Pay, Google Pay, making sure that people can have that one touch experience, and then we’ve got a new nurture series that launched. It’s 18 days long, seven emails. That went out to about 2200 members. We are tracking conversion rates relative to our old series. This is updated information, updated visuals, updated content and, yeah, another really great way to loop people back in, continue to close the feedback loop for people that land on our web properties, maybe jump away or distracted, and then they can continue as long as they gave us their email address, continue to learn about the product over time.
This week, we had the best support SLAs in three months. This is a huge win. The always gracious member support team pointed to other teams for why this is the case. I think it’s due to just really awesome work on the support team side, but, for sure, the improvements in the member portal have clearly alleviated a tremendous amount of this burden. It seems like the new member portal where people can do more in a self-serve way is alleviating something like a hundred tickets a day. This is also obviously further improved with the website changes so people can log in on their own. They don’t have to ask support, “Hey, where’s the login? How do I get to my account?” A lot of stuff happening together, but this is all boosting the support team’s ability to stay on top and give people a wonderful member experience, so love all of that.
Engineering is working on the new labs back end. We’ve got some new partners coming together. We’re integrating new providers to make the Bloodwork 2.0 launch go smoothly, so a lot of work going on in the back end. Continuing to work on Trends 1.0 across all the data we pull in, and we’re starting to think a lot about notifications, so how are we going to surface without breaking the trust barrier, surface notifications in a way that will pull people in at important moments?
The first big product marketing content on our blog property is what Levels does and why. This is the editorial team’s really the first piece that is describing the Levels product if you went to our blog. We’ve actually heard recent anecdotes, people who are regulars on the Levels blog and don’t actually know that we have a product at all, and that’s a testament to, I think, the ethics of what we were writing. Our goal is not to be mixing the educational process with the product process, but it is important with this new vertical for us to describe what our product could do. This is huge. Appreciate the team pulling this together.
We’re also starting to work on the next phase of editorial priorities for 2023. Looking forward to seeing how that comes together. UK waitlist is live. We’re approaching a thousand. I think we’re over a thousand UK waitlist signups in January alone. I had an on the modern monitor recorded with the Modern Mind yesterday, which is a UK podcast. Influencers like Tim Gray are posting about us and continuing to boost, so lots of cool stuff happening as we build the effort over there for our first international rollout.
Casey’s episode on The Good Life podcast released, KTLA did a really cool visual or a segment on Levels this week, and Austin McGuffey’s new podcast, The Culture of Health, went live, so lot’s of fun stuff. You see the member support portal here. Ben Greenfield’s newsletter went live with us this week. I think that’s the big stuff. A couple of whole new Level episodes, including one with Jeff Krasno and Mo Jeans. Yeah, awesome work this week.
With that, I want to step in and welcome April Izer. April is a Levels member research biologist formerly at the NIH. She’s a founder of a health and wellness coaching company herself, a realtor, as well as a stage three cancer survivor, really deep into the world of health and wellness, and a supporter of Levels.
April, I’m really appreciative of you taking some time this morning to come and hang out with us and talk to us a little bit about your experience, about what you’re excited about in the world of health and wellness. I really would love to just hear some words from you and really, once again, appreciate you coming on board.
April Izer (00:06:04):
Sure. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate the invite. I think, for me, it’s interesting because, as a member, I’m an end user, but having clients that are in the health and wellness space, I love that it just doesn’t stop with me so that I’m able to learn and move that forward. That’s really exciting, and then just the way that life comes full circle, when I was at the NIH for years, I worked on nutrition and aging, and actually I have some published work on glucose metabolism and metabolic syndrome. The fact that that was so long ago and feels like a different world and now I’m back exploring that again right in my face is really interesting. To be able to transition through the breast cancer treatment and what that did, I mean, throwing me into menopause basically in the snap of a finger and being able to relate to others in a different demographic now really and people that really need it and don’t understand how to transition through it.
Everyone tells you right up, “What’s your ideal client is? Who do you want to work with?” and sometimes it comes to you, and that’s been really great because I’ve wanted to dig into this for my own health. It’s actually just been this great gift that I’ve been able to help others with along the way, too, so I really appreciate that twofold of Levels. In addition to just the tool itself, which obviously that’s fantastic, but the education, the blog, the podcast, all of that support material, I’m a big education geek myself, I mean, everything there is to support it that you offer is fantastic. The longer we move along here in time, the more people are hearing about Levels and starting to ask about and asking more about glucose metabolism and metabolic syndrome and metabolic health in general.
It’s just really great to have such a strong, not just product, but an entire system, it feels like, to be able to rely on for information, and so I really appreciate it. I’ve been very happy with this whole journey.
Josh Clemente (00:08:18):
Well, it’s really amazing to hear that from both perspectives, both as a biologist obviously with history, digging into the concepts of aging and longevity and how the human body functions and how those trends sort of build as well as you mentioned your own health journey, I think you have a unique obviously perspective on what’s important and how to sort of trim away a lot of the difficult and confusing and oftentimes conflicting information that’s out there and find sources that based on your scientific background, you can sort of trust the concepts there. I’m curious how you think about the future trends and whether tools like this, this can be built I think with a lens towards the individual experience and what you want to see in order to make that more nuanced and more actionable. I think what I’m trying to get to is how do you take those generalized concepts and deliver them to a person in their real world experience that will be useful and whether or not there’s something that you would like us to work on specifically as we move forward?
April Izer (00:09:20):
Yeah. Honestly, a lot of it for me is actually listening. And I like that most, a lot of people do different programs, whether it’s to lose weight or to lower their cholesterol or whatever it is. And a lot of times it’s one size fits all, and I really think the trend toward treating the individual and not just the general masses is really, really important. I have found that often we’ll start with a group and everybody’s kind of there for the same reason. We want to lose weight or it’s whatever the deal is to start. And then as we go on and I end up working one-on-one with people, it’s because of their individual needs and we are just all so very different. And I love that even a lot of the blog articles and the education that you provide, I think gives you enough that you’re able to look at them and say, this applies to me, or this doesn’t apply to me.
Instead of just a blanket. Everything that you put out is everything that I need to hear. And I think that’s where people get caught up today. The million of books and podcasts and websites. There is so much out there and a lot of it can be very conflicting. And I think it comes down to, I like the experimentation of it because people sometimes don’t even know what applies to them because they don’t know themselves yet. And so I like the fact that there are opportunities to really experiment being a research background, I love that I’m a Guinea pig for myself, but I like to encourage people to do that. Don’t just follow a list of your neighbor had success with X, Y, and Z., so it’ll probably work for you too. Instead, there’s some general concepts, but I like leaning more toward an individual, I guess steps forward in an individual’s health journey and not just along the same path with everybody else. I hope that answered your question. I think
Josh Clemente (00:11:12):
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that ultimately finding our way from the stage, that level started out on, which is really just a metabolic awareness tool, something that you can use to understand how actions you’re taking are creating reactions in your body and then driving towards the next phase, which is going to be based on an individual’s goals and really the problems that they’re experiencing in their life, their phase or stage, how we can help get there. And so this tool can then become kind of an action plan, but only once a person understands where they’re starting from and really understands their objectives in a more nuanced way. So I know you have that awareness, and obviously as a health and wellness coach, you’re working with people all the time to get there. So your perspective is awesome and uniquely ideal for the problems that we’re facing right now. I just wanted to ask for one piece of feedback. If there was one thing you want Levels to focus on and build next or in the near future, do you have any suggestions there?
April Izer (00:12:11):
Wow. Gosh, I would think the things that are asked of me a lot, and I often find I look for, and I don’t want to say just blanket like recipes or those kinds of things, but more of a database of real food choices. I feel like today there are so many people, at least clients I have that my first step is basically weaning them off of all the boxes and bags of things that they have because people are so focused on what are my numbers? I’m getting so much protein or so many calories or so many, whatever the number might be that they’re trying to track and getting away from real food. And I believe in food first, and I just think a continual source of not new and improved recipes, I mean just the basics really is what I think people really need. And it would help because you get so caught up in, I have this whole book of 300 recipes and I don’t know where to start and I’m stressed, and so let me just open my fridge and see what’s available and I can put something in my mouth right now.
But if we could take some things back to basics, and I mean we could all probably survive on 15 recipes, period. I mean that’s really what we do. It’s just choosing those correct ones for us. So I think that would be something just food, just simplified food options for people that make it a little easier.
Josh Clemente (00:13:34):
I love that because it’s so tractable. We can do that and it’s very exciting because we’re working towards it. So that’s great to hear a lot of alignment with what we’re working towards. And excited to hear your feedback as we do proceed towards giving people those simple basics that give them the confidence and feel empowered to take control of the kitchen in a way. April, thanks again so much for coming and joining us, the whole team. Honestly, this is gold. We couldn’t appreciate it more. If you’d like to stick around for the rest of the meeting, we dive into some of the function Levels, fun and exciting stuff. Otherwise, I’m sure you’re super busy if you have to jump from the whole team, thanks for joining.
April Izer (00:14:12):
Okay, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Josh Clemente (00:14:14):
Thank you, April. All right, I want to jump ahead and welcome Subhiksha, who I think has joined the meeting. Yep, she’s on here. Subhiksha has come to join us on the R&D team down here in Austin, originally from Tamil Nadu, I’m sorry if I’d mispronounced that, in India, and then, via Johns Hopkins as a researcher and biomedical engineer in Maryland, she’s going to be helping us out with executing on some of our R&D efforts as we work toward expanding the feedback loops and, eventually, working towards our biological observability thesis.
Subhiksha, I would love to just hand it over to you for a minute just to say hi to the team. Yeah, over to you.
Subhiksha Somanathan (00:14:53):
Hi. I think the whole team has been really welcoming, and I’m very excited to get started. I think we have a great product here, and I’m happy to contribute in any which way I can.
Josh Clemente (00:15:07):
Awesome. Today is Subhiksha’s first day. She is over at the Levels R&D spot right now. Yeah. Really hope everyone reaches out and make Subhiksha’s welcome a warm one. I know we’ve got a lot of fun stuff up ahead and it’s going to be super exciting. I’m very, very excited to have Subhi on our team and, yeah, as she kind of works through onboarding, if anyone has any tips and tricks, please let her know.
All right, culture and kudos, so Shawn, who’s currently on an airplane, hit us one year this week. That feels like at least three years, I’m not going to lie, but happy one year, Shawn. This is Shawn Grening. Shawn Jones is also on the call right now.
Shawn Grening (00:15:50):
We do that stuff all the time.
Josh Clemente (00:15:54):
It doesn’t surprise me. I wanted to give a quick shoutout to Juan who has really crushed the member portal improvements. It sounds like he came into a project that had a lot of threads that were loose and a lot of recommendations and concepts and pulled together an improvement that, as we just touched on the first slide, has really dramatically changed the support volume and I think the frustration experience of being a member and trying to take care of problems that you’re experiencing with your subscription and with your understanding of your account, so really a huge shoutout, amazing work on a scrappy development process that solved pain points for our users and also in a way that is I think quite beautiful, so thank you, Juan.
Okay, one more item here, this week we got Sam’s Directs together in Austin for a meetup. This is the first time that this group has really been together as a group, and also the first time several of us met. You can see Casey and Ben meeting in-person for the first time right there, which is shocking, a lot of people who have worked together for years getting a chance to get some deep sync time together. The focus was on building group effectiveness and making those interpersonal relationships in-person.
We talked a lot about product strategy and the roadmap for ’23, a lot of company culture and values conversations. We dove into the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which if you haven’t yet, I highly recommend checking out the book club recap, which is a notion. Yeah, it was a really good time and it was a nice reminder that, yeah, the person on the other side of the screen is a full person, and so I just want to boost the meetups policy, I don’t want to call it a policy, but the meetup’s encouragement, which is that the team should get together as frequently as possible. I definitely recommend doing this with your team. That is totally in line with the Levels’ culture. If you have any questions about how to do that, definitely reach out. We’ll be happy to give some pointers based on what we’ve learned so far.
All right, over to Ben.
Ben Grynol (00:18:03):
Okay. This is the culture notes that Miz typically does. I’m going to do a couple this week. The first is on feedback and trust batteries. There are instances that come up, and I think this relates to what Josh was saying of us all being these rectangles that we see for blocks of time and then they go away because we’re asynchronous. Sometimes, it’s hard to know if somebody gives feedback what the level of trust battery is. The takeaway is that there are different levels of feedback, but when somebody gives feedback, we don’t necessarily have to think they’re trust battery issues.
If we get into the mindset that things might be off course, then we might prevent ourselves from either giving or receiving feedback. It’s a reminder that feedback helps us all if there are things that we have that can help each other, little tweaks in either the way we’re operating or even sometimes the things that we said in a meeting or the way we communicated in written form asynchronously in a way that it came across. I know in the past Tom has been very helpful to say, “Hey, I don’t think this was super clear in something that you said,” so a reminder that giving feedback is not indicative of trust batteries being low. We have to assume that trust batteries are high and that feedback is a mechanism for helping us to all improve in perpetuity.
The second point is on memos, and this has come up time and time again, where memos or retros become a nonstarter as far as getting them done. The way to start with some of these is to take out a Google Doc or an Apple notepad and prevent yourself from falling down the trap of writing a notion and assuming it needs to be perfectly formatted, whatever works for somebody. The idea to get it into notion, of course, is the end state, but 500 words or 1,500 words, some short, concise, qualitative and quantitative when appropriate, retro is a great way of starting, or a memo. Again, great way of starting, so we have to remind ourselves not to compare what needs to be done with the current work that exists because it can be really overwhelming.
Short retros can be very effective, and the key with memos is to communicate learnings to the team, give solid takeaways and then to take recourse from those to either continue on a project, deprecate a project or maybe next iteration, so reminders to ourselves and to myself, too, that. I’m very guilty of long documents and so sometimes doing one-pagers is the most effective path. Ill leave it there, but, yeah, that’s it.
Josh Clemente (00:20:46):
Awesome. Thanks, Ben. Another good way to dust off the writer’s block is to watch a clip of Sam and how he writes memos, which is basically just continuously tapping the keyboard, it seems like, and eventually words come out that start to make increasing sense, and then he organizes them in the second round. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I have given it a shot, and actually it’s surprisingly an interesting way to keep the brain moving. Lots of other tips and tricks available, but thanks, Ben.
All right, this is going to Scott.
Scott Klein (00:21:18):
All right. Hey, everyone. It’s been a minute since I’ve talked on one of these. Let’s talk about The Phoenix Project. We did this as part of the Leadership Book Club, and it was quite a long time ago. To just orient you, I went through the recording and, at one point, Sam said, “I’m trying this new service called Athena, and I think Josh might try it, too, and we’re hoping it’s going to work out for us.” This was a while ago. This book in general begs to answer or dares to answer the question like what if the office space was a 400-page really triggering really realistic novel, so a fictional setting, but it goes through a couple of things. The setup for this is that the name of the company is Parts Unlimited. I think they sell car parts, and it’s like a manufacturing-ish type of thing, but there’s a lot of parallels to what we do.
Now, I will open just by saying I think we’re actually pretty good at most of this. A lot of this is just going to be a reminder of let’s keep our eyes on the main thing and keep doing the stuff that we’re doing because it helps us out. Next slide. All right, the book talks a lot about different types of work and specifically just making sure that you have a good handle on how much you’re spending in each piece of the work sites that you’re doing, if you want to call it that. The book does spend a lot of time talking about unplanned work as something that we really need to track and viciously cut out as much as possible.
In a couple of slides, there’s some really cool pull quotes about how we’re going to think about doing this, but just to keep in mind that unplanned work can feel like a treadmill and it may feel good. That’s the scary part about it, because is it feels heroic, but the heroism is not sustainable. We got to make sure that we keep an eye on how much unplanned work we’re doing and make sure that we try to minimize it as much as possible. Being an async company, there’s less opportunity for distraction for unplanned work, so I think just the way that we’re set up minimizes this to begin with, but good to keep an eye on.
Next slide. All right, document, document, document. There’s a character in the book that is this repository library of knowledge, and they very aggressively protect his time, but they also do nothing to get that info silo out from under him, and so this person is wielded about as a political tool or weapon, if you will. I think a lot of times it’s tough for us to feel like documentation is actually getting work done, but it’s actually very, very, very important for us to maintain forward velocity without having to rely on people swooping in to pull double work time weeks to do these diving saves to get stuff done. When you’re thinking about not feeling like you’re getting work done because you’re doing documentation, please do know that heroes do not scale and it’s good to document your stuff so that other people can help out.
Next slide, thinking like a manufacturing plant, so there was a number of things here, and I think manufacturing is quite a science at this point, not one that I’ve studied quite a bit, but there’s a couple of things that I think are specifically limited to software as well or applicable to software as well, and then also I think, in any group that we do or we have here, think content, think support, there’s just a number of principles that I think really help out, and then a quote at the end to tie it all together. The first one is to limit the batch size. We just want to make sure that we’re making consistent, small changes. This is oxygen to us. It feels like we’re moving forward and, mostly, when we do make mistakes, it’s easy to figure out why and the blowback is quite small, and so limiting batch size is very important to keep in mind.
Reducing work in progress just helps free your mind up from context switching. On a manufacturing floor in particular, you literally have physical objects gumming up the work and the movement between stations, and so limiting work in progress, making sure that you’re able to ship something and call it done before you move on to the next thing, assuming that’s a thing that’s on the top of the priority list. This is good, and number three is always optimizing around the bottlenecks. One of the quotes that I remember from the thing was any optimization not around the bottleneck is an illusion. I think that we are able to keep this in mind, but when we think about the company level we have bottlenecks, when we think about even within our department that we have bottlenecks, and so making sure that we’re constantly identifying and understanding what is our bottleneck and working to remediate that.
I love this quote. Improving daily work is just as important as doing daily work. This is not to say that you should be prematurely optimizing any new experiments that we’re running, but if something is part of your day-in-and-day-out job, improving that flow is going to be just as important as doing the daily flow.
Next slide, so last thing, celebrating and learning from failure, I feel like we do this so well, but the book painted a very dystopic future of what it is like when you just have feuding factions and warring groups inside of a company that don’t take responsibility, that hide when things go wrong, there’s a fear of retribution. We don’t have that here, and I really do appreciate that. Keep in mind that we’re building a culture of learning and not a culture of fear. Josh likes to say, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” As long as we can keep this up, it’s best for us to learn within our groups. When we think about things like a technical incident or something that went wrong maybe with a customer and also between groups, so doing project retros really helps us suss out, okay, what do handoffs look like, how can we make this better for next time, what does the interface look like between the teams so that we can collectively ship a good project?
I recommend the book. Please be prepared to be upset at what you’re reading, and it’s okay, and you’ll also I think end up being pretty thankful that we do not have the vast majority of the things that were in that book. Yeah, that’s The Phoenix Project.
Josh Clemente (00:26:46):
Awesome. That was a really great summary. Thank you. Thank you, Scott. Plus one, I highly recommend the book. I actually enjoyed the read. I think I enjoyed the lessons. All right, thank you.
Company objective, the main thing, still Levels shows you how food affects your health. Everyone’s working towards this. Again, we have a new product strategy coming. This is still the main focus towards metabolic fitness is helping people understand how those little food choices are affecting their health in the longterm. Products are a top priority in Q1. Again, more information coming over the next few days, and I’m going to hand this over to Maz for a quick one-pager.
Maziar Brumand (00:27:24):
Perfect. Good morning, everyone. I wanted to repeat the messages over and over again so to make sure that everybody is on the same page. I think, last, we covered the high level principles that we’re tackling in the 2023 product vision and we released the first version of the memo to the leads and some of the people that have been working on the product on the 10th of January, which was last week. This week, during the meetup, we gave the leads a week to digest the memo, and they provided a lot of feedback which we’ll be incorporating, and we will release it to the team on the 24th, which is basically next Tuesday, so, basically, released on the 10th to the leads, feedback on the 17th from the leads, and then incorporate the feedback into the final on the 24th, and then we’ll have an AA&A on the 31st, so basically one week between each of these things to make sure that everybody is included, everybody has a chance to read and provide feedback.
We want this to be a group effort, that everybody understands it, everybody has a chance to provide their perspective. Keep your eyes open for the 24th. We will release the memo and some supporting assets that hopefully would be helpful for everybody, and then followed by AA&A on the 31st.
Just to repeat this, the product vision has a number of concepts that we are doubling down on. First of all, one of the biggest things that we’ve heard from our members is affordability. We are working on an experience that is backed by CGM data, but doesn’t require members to have a CGM on at all times. That’s a big pillar. We are focusing on improving metabolic health, which means that we are taking in behavior change principles and creating guidance that’s trusted, personalized and engaging, action that is simple and rewarding and is sustainable, and accountability that feels supportive and it’s objective. Those are the key concepts within the product that we’re pushing forward and looking forward to everybody’s feedback next week. Thanks.
Josh Clemente (00:29:34):
Awesome. Thank you, Maz. All right, stepping into a demand capture segment. I think this is Maxine.
Maxine Whitely (00:29:41):
Yeah, so thanks. I’m going to be presenting for demand capture on growth engineering today. If we go to the next slide, there’s a little intro video that we can play. (Singing) Okay, so I don’t know how to make slides, but I do know how to use iMovie. That is our team promo, but if you go to the next slide, for real, I can tell you what growth engineering has. Since mid-November, we’ve been putting together a squad to rapidly run growth experiments. The goal here is to run as many experiments as possible to help us reach product market fit and improve our product. What that means in practice is writing and deleting a lot of codes.
This top screenshot, the green pluses are lines of code added on GitHub and the red minuses are lines of code deleted on GitHub. We’re not being wholly in the first iteration of the things that we’re working on. It also means iterating as quickly as we possibly can. We try and keep our growth experiments to one week, and Karin has been awesome about keeping scope really small so we’re shipping all those projects really quickly, and then the biggest thing is tracking and improving metrics across Levels. This is an example of how our baseline conversion changed between Checkout 2.1 and Signup 3.0. The dopamine hit is real on this.
If you go to the next slide, the whole idea of growth engineering is to do metrics-driven experiments to help acquire and retain members. We’re augmenting product intuition with data and we’re using data to help build a product that we know users want. In the beginning, we’re building for experimentation. Alexa, who is our growth engineering advisor, calls this The Wizard of Oz model, which is we’re faking it until we’re confident that the experiment has been successful and then, at that point, we build it out more permanently.
With that said, there are limitations to growth engineering especially at our current stage of the company. It’s a data-informed development approach, but this isn’t meant to replace product sense or be the only thing that defines our roadmap. There’s still a lot of table stakes things that we know we need to be doing to get closer to the product that we want to be offering our users.
The other thing is not all improvements seem to be experiments. Right now, we have a sense of what the right thing to add is, and we don’t always need to be measuring those as we’re doing it. The final limitation is about experiment sizing. If we’re doing an official experiment, we want statistical significance, and we have to be okay not having statistical significance if our audience is really small that we are testing on.
If you go to the next slide, we have a bunch of people involved in growth eng. On the Levels’ side, it’s been Karin leading the roadmap, Tom, on all things demand, capture and growth, Paul on analytics, and me on engineering. We’ve also had an involvement from Ben on the growth side, Juan and Farhan from engineering, Alan and Victor in design, and Maz, Sissy, and Cosima in product, and then we work with Geniusee, which is a contract development agency. We currently work with Christina. She manages Geniusee developers workloads, and Tomash, and he’s the developer, and then we also were working with Alexander, another developer, and Marina who is a designer. We have a lot of flexibility in a number of hands helping us out there.
On the design front, we have Adam Barley and Zander Brade as our two designers. Adam has been working on our signup flow, and Zander will be working on designs for our user referral program. Finally, Alexey has been our advisor, and he comes to us from the growth engineering team at Masterclass.
If you go to the next slide, I’ll just go over our top priorities quickly. This is phrasing from Tom, that our top priority is to prepare to effectively sell the new product and our second priority is to sell the current product. There’s a decent amount of overlap between these two priorities. If you go to the next slide, I’ll go over each of them. What we’ve been focusing on the most is experimentation, infrastructure, and analytics infrastructure. Experimentation allows us to run these quick, scrappy experiments, and analytics allows us to know if we were successful and what users might be looking for and lacking so far.
Then, on the growth levers front, we have things like user referrals, performance marketing, which was that pixel tracking project, site optimization and partnerships, which we already have a really strong foundation for. On the user demand and research front, that’s about running experiments to get insights on value proposition especially for our upcoming projects. An experiment for this might be how might users click through to a page about a CGM optional experiment and then we can put them on the wait list when the new product is available? Then, finally, marketing surfaces are about improving the information that users see or have access to about the product. This might be on our signup flow or on our website, and these just allow users to better understand what they are paying for.
That’s a little bit about growth engineering. We’re really excited to keep making improvements, and we have a lot of things in the pipeline. Thanks all.
Josh Clemente (00:35:11):
I suspect this is the start of something big and recurring, so thanks, Maxine, for adding some production quality here. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that you are good at that as well. Awesome. Looking forward to where this leads, and over the Ryley.
Ryley Walker (00:35:26):
All right, jumping in with the finance update today, everyone, there’s no intro video to this, so apologies in advance. Next slide. This is more a contextual update for everyone just to understand a little bit more about finance and how that impacts some of our goals and objectives, and maybe what to expect in the year to come.
Our mission is to solve the metabolic health crisis and, to do that, we need a great team on board to solve the problems, develop the technology, market our product, do all the things we need to do. In order to do that, we need money. This is an update about where money comes from and how that impacts our strategy.
Next slide. Money comes from a few different places, yeah, trees, I see that, equity, debt and operations. Operations is like the revenue we generate less the cost we incur. Right now, we spend more than we make, and so we need to make up for that by bringing in equity or debt. I’m going to focus a little bit on venture capital today because most of the funding we’ve raised comes from equity in the form of venture capital, and that’s where we expect it to come from in the future.
Next slide, so a little bit about venture capital, if this is new to people, so, like Levels is a corporation comprised of shareholders, venture funds are actually comprised of multiple investors. We see Andreessen Horowitz, who’s a fund manager, but the money they deploy and give to companies or investing companies is comprised of investments from limited partners or LPs. These are, typically, institutional investors, so pension funds, family offices, endowments, things like that.
Why do they invest in startups and venture funds in the first place? Well, there is some risk with it and, because of that risk, they tend to expect a stronger return. They can typically target around 25% annual return on this. We know most startups scale or fail, but some startups go on to address a huge problem and make a massive impact and generate massive returns.
Next slide, how do the funds get paid though? We’re not generating cash right now. In fact, we’re burning it, so how do they generate their return? Typically, this happens when a company exits, so when they go public or is acquired by another business or, potentially, a secondary transaction. We’ll focus on the public space because that’s the growth route today. When they’re deciding whether they want to invest in a company, these funds look at what a potential exit looks like, so, in Levels’ terms, what do we look like in the future, what does future us look like as a public company, and what would we be worth, and then they work back from there to discount for the time from now until that outcome and the execution risk that’s associated with it. There’s a bunch of factors that they’ll look at when they’re assessing this, so market size, growth rate, retention, et cetera.
We’ll move on to the next slide. I picked out a few of these things to talk about on this slide. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s some of the important things. I guess the key point or takeaway from this is that these are things that a fund will invest in if they’re deciding whether to give us money and how much money to give us. They’re things that we want to be mindful of in order to make ourselves attractive for investment, so market size, how much, what is the total market or what is the total number of people out there that we can address with our product?
Whether or not we’re growing demonstrates our ability to have commercial momentum and de-risk that trajectory to get to a public company. If we’re growing fast right now, investors will be more confident that we can achieve that larger scaled-up business outcome, things like retention or whether customers actually like our product and are using it or whether we’re smoke and mirrors to bring people in for example. Likewise, customer lifetime value and acquisition costs give an example of whether people are valuing our service and paying for it and whether we’re investing sustainably to bring people into our business.
Burn rate is whether we’re being responsible with our cash and whether we’re giving ourselves enough timeline to generate the next phase of milestones that we need to address to get to the next stage. Unit economics as well, our ability to operate profitably at scale. We’re loss-making right now, but if we can prove that there’s underlying profitability on a unit scale, investors will have confidence that we can reach that public outcome. When they’re looking at these factors, it’s a mix of mechanics. There’s things like that 25% return that’s expected. If we’re doing compounding growth math, $1 invested at 25% return over five years is $3. If an investor says something like, “I want to see a customer lifetime value, LTV, to acquisition cost to CAC ratio of three to one, what they’re really saying is, “I’m going to give you a dollar, and I expect $3 in return in the future,” so it ties in mathematically to some of these things.
The other factor is that we’re competing with other startups to look appealing from an investment perspective, so we want to be growing well, addressing a big market, having positive economics relative to other startups in the tech and health and wellness space, so a a mix of competition and mechanics there.
Next slide, so we talked a little bit about macroeconomic factor, so what’s happening in the market right now and how is this impacting this whole equation about how investors look at us? Higher interest rates impact the flow of investment. Money tends to move to lower risk investments as interest rate rises, and this really impacts growth stocks disproportionately. I’m picking on one of our partners here, Snowflake, a public company. Their stock is down 50%, probably one of the more impacted tech companies. Their stock is down 50% in the last year. This impacts venture markets. There’s a trickle-down effect. When venture funds are looking at investment and whether they want to invest, their assumption about how much money they can get on an IPO is now lower, in some cases, by 50% and, in addition to that, money is moving away from these riskier investments or riskier startup investments into more secure ones, and so the supply of money has decreased and it’s more competitive to get at.
I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here. There’s so many positives. This just means that these factors and how we position ourselves and how we perform is important right now because the market is more competitive. There’s tons of room for optimism here as well on the flip side. Great companies get funded. We have a world-class team. We’re building a great product. We’re in such a good position, so can’t emphasize that enough. This is also market conditions or changes like this that are disruptive and volatile tend to be temporary, and so there’s reason to think that, over a given timeline, the market will stabilize a little bit. We just don’t know what that timeline looks like exactly.
Next slide, so the takeaways are having access to this capital or understanding where it comes from and being able to capture investment is really important because it’s rocket fuel for the pursuit of our mission, and so we just want to position ourselves in the best possible light. We’re talking about these type of things all the time, and they’re embedded into our business perspective. What we’re focusing on right now, building a product that people want and selling it, is addressing some of the market challenges. It’s going to be something that allows us to grow, captures the market segment, things like that.
Now, from a finance and operational perspective this year, you’ll see more focus on some of these metrics and managing things that are in our control like spend, burn, things like that. That’s super, super important and something you’ll see more focus on, and a final takeaway is that this whole thing is not a point-in-time result. It’s a journey. It’s a constant iteration of identifying areas for improvement and making improvement. That’s the finance update for today, everyone.
Josh Clemente (00:45:12):
Very nice. Thank you, Ryley. I think I can speak for everyone. That was super helpful, impressively succinct. There’s a lot involved there. Main takeaway, as he said, we’re building, and that’s the best way to work through this strange point in time in the macro environment.
All right, we are getting close here, so hiring updates. Subhiksha joined, so we don’t currently have any members who are waiting to ramp up and get onboarded. We have one open role, research and development engineering. Otherwise, if you’re interested or know someone who might be, send them to levels.link/careers. Send us some information, and we’d be happy to get in touch at some point.
From here, we’ve got some time for individual contributions. This is great. We’ve got a dense meeting, but also plenty of time to hang out a little bit. I’m going to stop the share here, and we’ll do the hand-raise. If you hit reactions on your Zoom app, you can raise your hand. I highly recommend everyone to share something personal, share something professional. We got a couple of minutes here. I will start off.
I had a really great week. I think it was awesome to get a chance to catch up with everybody here in Austin and, in particular, to meet Lauren for the first time in-person, which was really cool. It was awesome to see the new product strategy coming together and to just really get excited for 2023. There’s been lots of stuff going on and so much more to look forward to, so I’m pretty fired up.
On the personal side, let’s see, I’m thinking a lot about trying to buy a place down here in Austin. Obviously, that is on the note of finances and market timing, could be a better time, could be a worse time. I’m not exactly sure, but we’re going to try and go for it at some point soon. That’s the update on my end.
Ian Schumann (00:47:09):
Yeah. Yeah, depending on your current disposition, you could have picked a worse time to buy than now. Anyway, speaking of being an Austin local, seeing everyone this week in Austin was awesome, and playing pickleball was even better. Yeah, I continue to just enjoy the experience of getting to sit back and, yeah, thanks, Tom, getting to sit back in Austin and just enjoy the company coming to me. It’s not fair, but I’ve enjoyed it.
On the personal front, I just have started letting the news out in various places that my wife and I are expecting our first kid, a girl, in June. I posted it on comms a few days ago and just getting that out there. We’re excited right now planning a babymoon in March. Probably, we’ll be in southern Spain, so I’m just really excited about that.
Josh Clemente (00:48:07):
Incredible. Congratulations, and, yeah, to boost Tom’s signal, Tom and Ian crushed everybody in pickleball. All right. Casey?
Casey Means (00:48:19):
Oh God, I have to lead with pickleball. I mean, I played for the first time. I guess it was yesterday. Wow, it feels like a while ago, but it was so fun. I’m in Phoenix. En route back from Austin, I’m in Phoenix for the weekend to see my cute, little 11-month-old nephew, and my first Google was Phoenix pickleball because I really want to play with my brother and sister-in-Law. Yeah, overall just incredible seeing the team this week, the leads and then everyone who was in Austin who was able to come out on Wednesday night. Meeting Ben and his four incredible kids for the first time was so special. The discussions around product strategy were just unbelievably invigorating. I’m so excited for the memo to get released to the broader team and to get everyone’s input, but just really left with this feeling of like I am so damn excited for this product, to use it, to evangelize it. It’s very exciting times, and so excited for that release next week.
The last thing I’m super excited about personally and professionally is that my brother, who’s also just incredibly passionate about the metabolic health crisis and is a Levels investor and just really is so attached to this mission, he’s starting a company as well in the health space and did a tweet a couple of weeks ago that went viral. He’s in LA this week recording Shawn Stevenson, Max Lugavere, Drew Pruitt. He’s doing Mark Hyman’s podcast. He is just evangelizing this message as well. It’s just really fun to see that message spread and really just very exciting for me personally to hear him out talking about all these themes about sugar and processed food and chronic disease. I’m a very proud sister this week, so yeah.
Josh Clemente (00:50:16):
I absolutely love it. Rob?
Robert Lustig (00:50:22):
First of all, I want to plus one Cali because that was friggin awesome, and everyone has to listen to the Drew podcast this week. I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s the best and most cogent expository of the problem, but what I’m sending you via Casey and Ben is what happened in Davos this week. The World Economic Forum has released its new future of nutrition plan and what the future holds for trying to fix the problem, fix the food supply, fix personal and global nutrition. If you read it, you’ll see some similarities. It’s not short. It’s long. It’s 43 pages, but I think you’ll appreciate it.
Josh Clemente (00:51:23):
Thank you for the tips, Rob. A big plus one on Cali.
Rebecca Breske (00:51:29):
Okay, so on the Levels front, just having the queue down this week has been really nice, really grateful to everyone who worked on the member portal. It has made a huge difference, and just being able to teach our members how to use it, directing them when they have a problem and saying, “Hey, just so you know, you can now do this on your own,” they’ve been really happy about that. That is a huge win for us. It’s also helped to not feel so much pressure of like, “I got to stay in the queue and get it done,” and back up and focus on some other things, and just taking a little bit more time with each member as well has been really nice. On the personal front, I am getting married in a month, and so we’re tying up all the loose ends. It’s super exciting, and I can’t wait.
Josh Clemente (00:52:11):
Coming soon. It’s exciting. This is the home stretch. I’m sure most of the planning is behind you at this point. Enjoy.
Hui Lu (00:52:21):
Yeah, on Levels’ side, I think we are really looking forward to the new product vision and strategy. I guess, engineering, we appreciate this time to really pay down the tech debt, inflow our velocity and everything, but we’re also really looking forward to seeing that and being able to contribute and actually build the product that customer wants and make the impact. Yeah, and, personal side, this weekend, actually, tomorrow is Chinese New Year, so, yeah, really excited about that. This afternoon, we’ll go to Nolan’s school and decorate the classroom and then present all the culture stuff. Yeah. Yeah.
Josh Clemente (00:53:04):
Awesome. Happy New Year.
David Flinner (00:53:09):
Hey, jumping on the heels of Casey’s excitement on the product vision, I have been working on the product vision with the team and also taking some of the theory and applying it to experiments with Casey and Stacie running some guides experiments, as you heard last week. And I just wanted to share how excited I am seeing some of that stuff come to life, how the whole team is pulling together to pull some of those off and then some of the early validations we’re getting. You’ll see more of this next week when it comes out, but I’m just super excited to be proving out some of the things that we’ll be focusing on this year and seeing it resonate and getting real clear signal on what we should be focusing on and where we shouldn’t be. It’s a cool time. There are some forums you could ghost, if you want to see this in the Levels guides forum, but much more to come on this when Maz releases the memo.
Josh Clemente (00:53:56):
Stoked. Thanks, David.
Ben Grynol (00:54:01):
I have to echo David’s sentiment about product. All the work that everybody’s put into it has been incredible, and very excited to see it all come together, so lots ahead on the professional front there. The other professional thing, what Casey was saying, it’s incredible meeting people that you work with, but more so in the case of Casey and I. We’ve worked together for two years and never met.
It’s surprising, or maybe not surprising, how well you actually know people because I think remote makes everything more intentional. You have to be so intentional about getting to know people and, in-person, you think you know people, but the water cooler conversations are sometimes transactional. We probably know each other, everybody a lot deeper than we think, and it was one of those reinforcing moments where you’re meeting all these people and you’re like, “You’re the same person that’s in that box,” but it makes it so much more special. I think when you do see people in-person, you appreciate and are grateful for that time because you don’t take it for granted, that you know it’s going to end and there’s going to be some other period of time, so very cool.
On the personal front, two things, I have to plus one the pickleball thing. That was my first time in a long time, or what is it long time listener, first time caller, and super fun to play and get a little bit intense. Maybe that’s the word for it, but that was super fun, and then the last thing is, after last weekend, we’re finally settled and moved in, and there’s no more moving stuff to do, and so we’re like, “Wait, this is normal life now. This is just what you do,” so super stoked to start to get into the family routines that you do and just have life. That’s it. That’s it.
Josh Clemente (00:55:47):
Well said. Excited to have you guys here.
Sam Corcos (00:55:53):
Echoing the comments from a lot of other folks, the offsite was really productive. The alignment around product strategy I think is really coming together, and I feel really good about it, I think. Broadly speaking, I want to give a huge shout-out to Maz and Alan who have just been sprinting for the last several minimum weeks, probably months, to get this over the finish line. It’s a really big lift, and I know David, Cosima, and lots of other people were involved in this, but definitely a lot of sprinting from Maz and Alan. I know it’s been very stressful, so appreciate you putting in the work.
Josh Clemente (00:56:33):
Lots of sprinting all over.
Maziar Brumand (00:56:36):
Thanks for that. I didn’t know that was coming before I put my head, but I just want to say we’re really grateful for the team. It’s just been a huge, huge, huge cross-functional effort from almost everybody could touch it at this stage. A big thank you to Casey. A big thank you to the product and design teams. A big thank you to Chris for pulling a lot of data that we’re using. A big thank you to Stacie. I mean, it’s just been almost half the company really pulling together for this moment to come together. I’m really excited to share a lot more next week.
On the personal front, it was nice to get crushed in pickleball by the real pros like Ian and Tom. They really schooled us. I think the score was like three to 15 or four to 15, I can’t remember exactly, so we got crushed, but it just reinforced to me that skill and hard work actually pays off. Playing for the first time, it was a lot of fun, but it reminded me of what experience and skill, really, how much of a difference it makes. Thanks to Ian for reminding us of that.
It was also really nice to spend time with the leadership team. I think we are going to tackle really, really hard things this coming year and beyond. We’re tackling a really hard mission that, effectively, nobody’s really solved or near solving, and we’re tackling that full on, and really building the trust and the close relationships at all levels is going to really make a difference between our success and failure. Really, the meetup in Austin blew me away. It exceeded my expectation in every way. Obviously, I’ve talked to a lot of leads in the past. I’ve seen most of the leads, but just seeing everybody come together in one place and be so optimistic and so willing to help to push things forward is just amazing. I’ve never seen that before at any of the companies that I worked with or for, so really encouraged, really excited coming out of this. A big, big thank you to everybody and grateful for everyone’s help across the board.
Josh Clemente (00:58:33):
Nothing to add. Tom and Ian, watch out. There will be a rematch. Everyone, have a great weekend.
Sam Corcos (00:58:39):
I think you’re missing Stacie’s hand that’s just blending into the background.
Josh Clemente (00:58:44):
Oh, it was going into the lampshade. Sorry, Stacie. Over to you.
Stacie Flinner (00:58:48):
Thanks so much. I just wanted to share how fun collaborating with the product team has been, from just working with Maz, with Sissy, with everyone to experimenting as a guide myself and sharing more about Levels with my Instagram following, especially the women. If you want to follow along and be a close friend on Instagram, you can see everything I’m publishing, and it’s actually been hugely helpful to get Cosima’s feedback, Casey’s, Sissy’s, Sonia’s just because, since we’re addressing more reins, I love seeing how you guys react to what I share. That’s not a plug for more followers, but would absolutely love the Levels insider view on what I’m sharing if that’s of interest to you. Yeah, it’s super fun. I just started up my second cohort where it’s the paid experience and will be sharing more as things go along. Yeah, it’s been fun and a super big highlight for me.
Josh Clemente (00:59:50):
So awesome. Yeah, I just recommend following Stacie anyway. Even second to the guides experiment, it’s a good follow, I guarantee it. Stacie, thank you, and sorry I didn’t see the hand raised there. Yeah. Great meeting. Thanks, everybody. We filled the full time. Have an awesome weekend and will see you soon.