From 15 employees to 750: Lessons from a rapidly growing company

From 15 employees to 750: Lessons from a rapidly growing company

Author: Jenna Lee
Read time:  3 minutes
Published date:  10 January 2020
Like most companies, Affirm used to manage their cap table in a spreadsheet and issue paper stock certificates. Learn how Carta was able to help.

It’s a cliche, but founding (or working at) a rapidly growing company is like riding a rollercoaster. There are twists and turns, unimaginable highs, and terrifying lows. Affirm, a fintech company that allows shoppers to pay for their purchases over time, can attest to this—they’ve gone from 15 employees to 750 in just seven years, and it doesn’t look like they’re slowing down any time soon.

We chatted with Sarah Kamp, a Senior Manager of Technical Accounting who’s been with Affirm since the beginning, and Affirm Controller Siphelele (Sip) Jiyane to get their advice for navigating all the challenges that come from working at a fast-growing startup.

Help employees find their passion

If you’re like most CEOs, retaining top talent is probably one of your biggest concerns. One of the best ways to ensure your employees stick around is to keep them engaged and allow them to work on projects that interest them.

When Sarah joined Affirm, her position was a catch-all. “I had the title operations manager, which was a junior person who does everything that needs to be done. That meant working on our operations model… and stocking coconut water.”

One of Sarah’s many duties was accounting, which she was surprised to find she liked. While Affirm could’ve kept her busy working on whatever was most urgent to the company, they let her follow her passion. “I started to focus more and more on accounting. I got my CPA, and now I do technical accounting at Affirm.”By simply allowing Sarah to focus on accounting, Affirm has kept a good employee for six years and counting—proving that while millennials are known as the “ job-hopping generation,” they’re just trying to find a company that’ll give them a reason to stay. 

From 15 employees to 750: Lessons from a rapidly growing company

Teach your employees about equity

One of the responsibilities Sarah has had the longest is equity administration. She’s seen a lot of changes over the past six years—e.g. she used to scan each person’s option agreement by hand and “now they get an email with confetti”—but one thing that has remained constant is the fact that employees need more equity education.

“Most employees don’t know about equity. I think the assumption is that because someone signed an offer letter, they understand what they are signing up for. But 90% of the time, they don’t,” says Sip, who recently led employee education when Affirm switched its equity program from stock options to RSUs. “If I were to advise a company, I’d make equity 101 something that every employee has to go through as part of onboarding.”

To learn more about how Carta has helped Affirm, download the case study below.

From 15 employees to 750: Lessons from a rapidly growing company

Stamp out inefficiencies quickly

When you’re scaling rapidly, it’s vital to recognize and fix inefficient processes as soon as you can. Otherwise, they could compound. 

In Affirm’s early days, Sarah was having to explain things over and over again. Her solution: document everything. “When you explain things verbally, people misunderstand, take bad notes, or have to ask 20 times. The earlier you can invest in really thorough, permanent documentation, the better.”

The more employees you add to your company, the more inefficient things that used to be simple and straightforward usually get. Empower your employees to fix issues before they become ingrained in your culture.

From 15 employees to 750: Lessons from a rapidly growing company

Find tools that scale with you as you grow

Many companies use tools to help them automate time-consuming processes like payroll, hiring, and prospecting. However, these tools aren’t as useful if you have to keep replacing them as you outgrow their capabilities.

That’s why Affirm chooses to partner with companies that are able to scale with them as they grow, like Carta. “Carta keeps building stuff we care about because they care about the things we care about. That doesn’t always happen with other software,” Sarah explains. “It always feels like the people who work at Carta know what we need. They anticipate needs that we don’t even know we’re going to have when we’re a larger company.”

Author: Jenna Lee
Jenna is a former member of the content team at Carta. Despite working in Fintech her entire career, she has never had a La Croix.
DISCLOSURE: This communication is on behalf of eShares Inc., d/b/a Carta, Inc. (“Carta”). This communication is not to be construed as legal, financial or tax advice and is for informational purposes only. This communication is not intended as a recommendation, offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Carta does not assume any liability for reliance on the information provided herein.