Bonded by Love for Product
“How do you empower everybody to build the Internet?”
While nearly everyone is on the internet, very few of us have the high level of education and skills to build it. We are changing that. We believe that the internet is more fun – and more powerful – when everyone creates it. This mission has brought us all together, and watching what people build with our tool inspires us every day.
But how do we make that possible? Step one is to primarily focus on phones – the computer that everyone has in their pocket. Next, you design an interface that makes the process of building the internet – building a site – easy, fun, and open-ended.
But how do you fit a full-featured web editor into an iPhone app? You need to start from scratch. From first principles you invent a totally new kind of user interface – a language everyone can understand. Our grid editor is exceptionally simple. You just decide what kind of block you want and move blocks around. It feels like building with Legos. This simplicity holds infinite possibility. A straightforward way to make anything possible, with a phone in hand. (Try it out, build even the most basic site, and be sure to turn the sound on – it’s a bit addicting!)
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 a team of lifelong learners. Across the board, we seek to learn, both to better ourselves and also sometimes just for the sake of learning. We are curious people who ask a lot of questions! Because of this, we’ve built personal and professional growth into the fabric of the company.
We help each other grow by giving and receiving the gift of feedback across the board – and we like working with people who share our love of thoughtful feedback. This is especially important in code reviews. We have a team that’s focused on getting to the right solution – not on being right – and we enjoy collaborating with others who share that focus. We don’t do egos. We’re all here because we want to make the product (and ourselves) as good as it can be.
We hold company-wide retrospectives every quarter to reflect on how we did as a team, what our big wins were, what could’ve been stronger, and where we can collectively support each other to improve in the future. We also host monthly retrospectives as an engineering team. We use these inputs to try to improve our environment and allow our teammates to do their best work.
We are all also constantly scouring the interwebs to bring the best food for thought to one another in Slack – sharing articles, visuals, music, art, food, memes, and anything/everything else that might be interesting or inspiring. In addition, we cover the membership cost to any museum on the planet, to help you engage in the world beyond.
We deeply understand that everyone has a different idea of what growth looks like – maybe it’s going from an individual contributor to a manager, or maybe it’s taking on increasingly complex and challenging projects. Or, maybe it’s something else entirely. Universe is ever evolving and we are committed to making sure our team members are also ever evolving in life and in work. We are tackling a gigantic undertaking, which means opportunities to expand in every direction – there’s always more to do together, and that’s really exciting.
Flexible Work Arrangements
You can work from anywhere.
Even before the pandemic, we were a remote first company from day one. While we have a small studio in Brooklyn, our team is fully distributed. Team members span more than 10 states and three countries. While we are committed to building a location agnostic team, we still recognize the value in synchronous work. Everyone is online together between our shared core hours of 12PM ET and 5:30PM ET. Outside of that, everyone has the flexibility to own their schedule. For example, we have an engineer based in California who prefers to start his days around 6AM PT so that he can spend his afternoons with his young daughter. On the other side of the world, we have an engineer based in Europe who’s embraced his inner night owl and keeps core hours from 6PM to 11:30PM local time!
One of our company values is Empowerment. We empower our creators to build the Internet, and we also want to empower our team to do what they do best. We don’t want (or need for that matter!) someone looking over our shoulder all the time. We look for ways to divvy up ownership of the different areas of our codebase to give our teammates the freedom to lean into their strengths. We value leadership over management – we want our leaders to find ways to facilitate people doing their best work, instead of dictating how to do things from the top down. This enables us to be better as a team than any one person could possibly be individually.
We also encourage each person to optimize their work environment. Need a standing desk or noise cancelling headphones? We’ve got you covered. We extend home office credits to each person – which are yours and yours to spend. And you can use them exactly as you see fit. Molly, our senior brand designer, wanted a beautiful lamp for her desk. Marya, our people operations manager, really wanted a filing cabinet.
Universe is also a welcoming place for parents – as well as people who are looking to grow their families. We recognize that everyone’s path to parenthood is different, which is why we offer a flexible parental leave for all new parents – this means parents of both biological children and adopted children as well as both birth- and non-birth parents. Whether you want to take more time off in the beginning or prefer to spread it out over the course of several weeks or months, we’ll coordinate closely with you to make a plan that meets your individual needs. Want to pick up your child from school or attend a dance recital? Great! Let’s make it happen. We want you to succeed both as a team member at Universe AND as a parent.
Spending time together is important too. As it’s becoming safe to travel in the US again, we are starting to plan our first post-pandemic in-person offsite! (Wait, as a fully remote team, maybe it should actually be called an onsite?! :) We’re super excited to bring the full Universe team together, especially as this time around there are many new team members who have never met IR before. We currently do online offsites about once a quarter, and prior to the pandemic, we did annual in-person offsites for brainstorming, strategizing, and goal-setting, as well as getting to know each other beyond the screen. We can’t wait to do that again.
As a distributed team, Slack is our office.
As a fully remote team, communication is critical. Not just for getting things done, but also for team building. We lean into this by over-communicating, on Slack and on video calls as well. We use video calls for planning work, pair programming to tackle particularly hard challenges, and helping give context of a certain code area to team members who are missing that context. We also use video calls for fun things, from hanging out to celebrating wins to just sharing stupid videos.
We have two all-hands meetings a week to connect as a team and make sure everyone is on the same page. On Mondays, we spend half an hour reviewing high-level updates from last week as well as what’s to come this week. At the beginning of each kickoff call, Joe, our founder and CEO, always gets us started by talking openly about what’s on his mind. On Fridays, we spend about an hour wrapping up the week, which includes a show and tell section, where different team members share what they’ve been working on. We also have a section dedicated to an open floor Q&A – affectionately known as “Q&Chaos” – where you can ask anything that’s on your mind. In this time, people ask big picture questions about the business or dive into the details of a new feature we’ve shipped. People also take this as an opportunity to be silly and irreverent, like debating the merits of guac versus queso.
Our vision is that anyone here can see at any time how their work is contributing to the goals of our company. We want everybody to be able to quickly and easily understand why they’re doing the work they’re doing and how it's going to make an impact.
Everything we produce is useful, beautiful, and fun. But to us, that’s just table stakes.
Universe opens up the possibilities of the internet to everyone. This is possible not because of some hard-tech breakthrough but because of great design.
At our core, we are a design-driven company. To create new interfaces that unlock creativity, we have to build a new design language that everyone can understand, regardless of skill level. Usability is key for distilling large, complex problems into simple, toy-like solutions. Daniel, our product designer, works intensely on optimizing both form and function.
We take a first principles approach, meaning we start the process of design with a question to be answered, not an expected outcome in mind. And to some extent, that question is always in alignment with our mission – “how can we empower everyone to build the internet?”
Engages with Community
We’re always looking for feedback from our creators about how we can make their lives better.
Our mission is to empower everyone to build the internet, so it’s imperative that we listen closely to our creators. Our support lead Braley tracks things she’s hearing from the frontlines and compiles them to share every Monday during our all-hands kickoff call. These insights directly impact our product roadmap and the features we focus on. We also love seeing the passion people have for our product. A great example of this is when we brought on Braden – one of our most avid supporters who also happens to be a high school student – to join us part-time on our dedicated support team, after he reached out repeatedly to share his ideas. (And after spending some time with us, he’s expanded his role into our first engineering intern!)
When COVID-19 hit, we saw a huge influx of new creators, many of whom were now relying on Universe as a path to starting a business and generating income after losing a job in the pandemic. In addition to massively expanding our commerce tools (including the download block and shopping cart), we’ve now launched a lightweight, browser-based interface to build links in bios. We have many more exciting things coming up to continue serving our community of creators.
We know that the only way to approach perfection is to ship early and often.
One of our core values is kaizen, which is a Japanese term meaning ‘continuous improvement.’ We believe in iterative progress over sweeping action and/or big central plans. To that end, in 2020, we shipped 48 iOS releases. And if/when it works, we improve on it. Each release is a building block toward the next evolution of our product.
At the beginning, we sat down every week and decided what to work on. We’re a bit more sophisticated now – we loosely plan a few weeks out, and then we take on important foundational projects that require more than a week to complete. But ultimately we still aim for weekly cycles, aiming to ship a release every week that may be staggered with larger projects, and still focusing on minimum implementations to test ideas before we invest heavily.
Our commerce tools are a perfect example of this – to begin, we broke it down into the smallest pieces possible. Bite size, easily digestible pieces. The first piece was so small, you couldn’t yet withdraw the money you made to your bank account. But, more importantly, making money on your site became incredibly easy. Then, we added bank integrations, inventory management, product variants, mailing addresses, shipping labels, order management, automatic digital product delivery, and most recently, dispute management. We shipped each of these one at a time, many with at least one follow up iteration to incorporate immediate learnings from creators.
Beyond our product roadmap, we give our engineers open-ended time and space – every fourth week here is a polish week, where engineers get to work on things they choose. After working on a feature for several weeks, engineers know best which corners got cut or where they would have liked to have spent more time on that might not have been critical at the time. A polish week is a chance to focus more engineering time where engineers know it’s needed. We fix bugs and pay down technical debt, but we also use this time to get more involved with other parts of the company, like product, design, and marketing.
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 week-by-week, day-by-day. We don’t have six-month product roadmaps. Instead, we learn quickly and leverage those learnings to figure out the best way to accomplish our goals.
This kind of work environment isn’t for everyone, but it is for people who love to move fast, learn a lot, and make incremental progress towards perfection.
Impressive Team Members
Impressive in more ways than one.
We are backed by some of the most influential investors and highly respected VCs in the world. We have a smart, sharp set of advisors who are deeply engaged in seeing us succeed. Insofar as our team, some of us have worked at the great tech giants and influential disruptors, while many others have joined us from taking an off-the-beaten path or after running their own things.
Take Justin, our lead web engineer – before becoming an engineer he was a 2nd grade teacher. Or Chris, another one of our iOS engineers – he plays a seemingly infinite number of instruments! Molly, our senior brand designer, formerly worked at a boutique book binder and still practices the art of bookbinding by hand. Daniel, our product designer, is creating a series of sculptural art and just dropped his newest single on Spotify. Campbell, Joe’s executive assistant, designs wildly oversized pillows in the shape of hands.
More than any number of external factors though, all of us are here to build something special and enduring. The bottom line is that you’ll be joining an incredible group of people with an incredibly broad range of backgrounds and interests. Every single person has something to share with one another.
Here’s the full team:
- Joe (founder/CEO)
- Ryan (CTO)
- Peter (iOS engineer)
- Steve (designer)
- Chris (iOS engineer)
- Coy (backend engineer)
- Hiten (operations)
- Braley (support lead)
- Marcus (engineering lead)
- Justin (web engineer lead)
- Paul (strategy and operations lead)
- Ellen (backend/API engineer)
- Victor (iOS lead)
- Isis (iOS engineer)
- Courtney (iOS engineer)
- Ian (backend engineer)
- Jeff (backend engineer)
- Daniel (product designer)
- Molly (senior brand designer)
- Allison (growth marketing)
- Melissa (people lead)
- Marya (people ops manager)
- Nicki (social media manager)
- Corrine (web engineer)
- Campbell (executive assistant)
- Gina (senior support specialist)
- Braden (support specialist / engineering intern)
- Joey (support specialist)
- Nicole (support specialist)
- Shian (support specialist)
- Dan (creative marketer)
- Dani (senior iOS engineer)
- Dan (product producer)
- Colin (design lead)
We are proud of our collective experience and, most importantly, how committed we all are to our company’s four core values (SEEK):
- Superlative – We believe in doing our work to the highest degree of quality. The products that we create should elicit an emotional response that is unmatched.
- Exploration – We believe that the best work is indistinguishable from play. What we don’t know inspires us; curiosity fuels us. We are a tiny spaceship explorating an infinite future. To navigate to success, we ask good questions. We learn by doing.
- Empowerment – We believe that humans can change the world for the better. Our job is to equip people with the technical, creative, and economic tools to do it. Trust great people. Give them ownership. Assume good intent. Dream big.
- Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) – We believe in iterative, continuous improvement over sweeping action and big central plans. Compounded growth over long periods of time yields outsized results. Everything is a draft, a work-in-progress.
You can read more about how our core values are expressed in the contents of any of our job descriptions as they tend to be featured front and center!