Bonded by Love for Product
“How do you empower everybody to build the Internet?”
Well, first, you focus on phones, the computer that everyone has. Next, you design an interface that makes the process of building the internet—building a website—easy, fun, and open-ended.
There’s a reason why this hasn’t been done yet: it’s hard. How do you fit a full-featured web editor into an iPhone app? You need to start from first principles and invent a new kind of user interface. Our grid editor is exceptionally simple—just move blocks around, like Lego—but also extremely open-ended. We accomplish this by revealing complexity only as its needed.
While nearly everyone is on the internet, very few of us can actually build it. We are changing that. We believe that the internet is more powerful, and more fun, when everyone creates it. This mission has brought us all together, and watching what people build with our tool inspires us every day.
[Applicants should make a site before reaching out 🙂]
Committed to Personal Growth
We want you to become the best version of yourself both professionally and personally. How can we support that?
We are intensely passionate about personal growth. We crave and thrive on feedback, and we all self-identify as avid learners. This insatiable curiosity and desire to improve every day is at our core.
Continually giving and receiving feedback is a commitment we have to each other. It’s a relationship, and each person needs to uphold it. Where we can’t get inspiration from one another, we venture beyond Universe to find it. (One reason why we cover a museum membership of your choice.)
Each of us is personally committed to the growth of the company at large as well. What this means is that we hire people who are better than we are, and look for individuals who want to be active co-creators of this company. As an employee, not only do you get the opportunity to shape our culture, our processes, and our product, but we also expect you to.
Our intention is for anyone who works at Universe to be better positioned to start their own companies, build their own teams, and create their own products. We want to equip each person with all of the skills and experience they need to truly be the best versions of themselves. Kaizen, the Japanese term for continuous improvement, is almost an obsession of ours, and one that we extend to our users. Even the first welcome email our users receive from us talks about kaizen.
Flexible Work Arrangements
You can work from anywhere.
Right now, Joe (founder) and Steve (designer) work out of our studio in Brooklyn, NY. We’re about to open a second studio in SF for Haris (community) and Lorenzo (support). Everyone else is distributed (South Carolina, San Francisco, Dallas, Berlin, London). We are committed to building a distributed team, but still find value in synchronous work. The expectation is that everyone is online and working synchronously between our core hours of 12pm and 5pm EST. Outside of that, everyone has the flexibility to choose their schedule.
We expect each team member to behave like an owner: you should be motivated internally and not need (or want) a manager looking over your shoulder. Everyone should find their optimal environment, and reach out if they need support to create that. (Do you want a standing desk for your home office? Great, we’ll send you one.)
Spending time in-person is important too, so we all gather once per quarter in an awesome remote location to strategize, brainstorm, and lay out our goals for the coming months. And any team member is welcome to come spend a week in our Brooklyn studio whenever they’d like.
As a distributed team, Slack is our office.
We are very explicit with one another, and because we aren’t physically in the same office every day, we can’t take anything for granted when it comes to communication. We’ve all built a habit of writing everything down, and sharing progress openly in Slack. We are extremely diligent about updating our product roadmap (which we do daily), as well as monitoring our task manager. (We have a shared Notion board for all of company functions: engineering, design, and growth and community.)
We have a daily standup every morning at 12pm EST that we do over video, which lasts between 15-30 minutes. It’s the opportunity for each person to sync with the rest of the team and get a sense for our high level progress.
Our vision is that at any moment, anyone at the company can see the flow of work at a glance, and how their work is contributing to company goals. Any employee at Universe should be able to quickly and easily understand why they’re doing the work they’re doing and how it's going to impact our team’s goals.
Everything we that we produce needs to be extremely useful, beautiful and fun, but to us, that’s just table stakes.
Beyond the aesthetics and quality of interactions, we are at our core a design-driven company.
That means that we’re intentional about everything we do. From a product perspective, we make every decision asking, “How is the user going to experience this? How will it look, feel, and sound to a user?”
Everything is designed, and when things are “designed poorly,” it is really only because they weren’t consciously designed, they were mindlessly designed. We were a design-driven company before we even hired our first designer, and we will continue to be an intentional, design-driven company even when we hire our 100th. Everyone here—from support to engineering—contributes ideas and feedback to our product design.
In a way, being a design-driven company means being a questions-driven company. Most companies are started with a specific product in mind—an answer (I want to make this tee shirt). We actually started this company with a question: “How can we empower everyone to build the internet?” We tried many answers until we got to the right one.
Engages with Community
Our relationship with our users can be best captured by how we came to hire Haris.
Haris was a PM at Curbside (a company in San Francisco), and also a Universe user. He loved the product so much and wanted to help grow the community of users who loved it as much as he did. When I, Joe, first met Haris, we weren’t hiring for a full-time community role, but after many conversations, we decided to create that role for Haris. Our 5th hire is devoted to building, supporting, and growing our community of users.
We are all users of our own product and we all interface with Universe’s other users every day. We all do customer support. We also have a tab in our app called Explore where we highlight some of the best creations from our users, and we have a lot more coming soon on this front.
What we’ve heard from our community is that they love their sites but they want more people to see them. They want to engage with other creators in our community. We’re now building out the ‘network’ side of Universe, so that creators can engage with each other and build their audiences inside of Universe.
We know that the only way to approach perfection is to ship early and often.
Before building anything, we figure out—as a team—if it’s the highest priority work we can do. If it is, we come up with the “minimum remarkable product,” a concentrated, testable version of the idea that can be built in a week. Unlike most other iOS companies, we ship a major new app version every week. (In fact we shipped 39 big releases in 2018). If we what we’ve built works, we iterate on it. Each MRP is a building block towards the next evolution of our product.
Our grid interface is a good example of this. When we first launched, sites didn’t scroll. They were fixed 3x5 grids with text, photos, and links. Now you can make a site with as many pages as you’d like, 13 different blocks, and infinite grid sizes.
We have a really big vision: to democratize the web. While it’s important to keep that in mind, we know that the only way to get there is day by day, week by week. We don’t have 6 month roadmaps. Instead, we learn quickly and use that knowledge to figure out the best way to accomplish our goals.
This kind of work environment isn’t for everyone, but for people who want to move fast, learn quickly, and increment towards perfection, it’s addictive.
Impressive Team Members
Our head of engineering has been writing iOS apps for 10 years. Our head of growth previously ran growth at Headspace and Spotify. Our founder started two companies and raised $9mm by age 23.
We’re currently a small, distributed team of 9 and have raised a $4M Series A, focused on empowering everyone to build the Internet. If this excites you in any way, you should reach out. Here’s who we are:
Kaizen is a Japanese term for continuous improvement. We fully embody kaizen and at every level, work to achieve small incremental changes in processes (as a team, as individuals, in our product) in order to improve efficiency and quality.
This commitment to improvement and bettering ourselves is what differentiates us from others. The reality is that most things decay and get worse over time. Organizations, products, and even people trend towards mediocrity over time due to inertia. We at Universe believe that with effort, process, and care, we can actually become better overtime. We as individuals want to get better every week, so that our product gets better every week. We want our individual contributors to get better every week so that our team gets better every week.