When I was 16, I left home in search of a team.
Unlike other boys my age growing up in the Champagne region of France, I didn’t dream of teaming up with Zidane on the football pitch. No, I was a nerd. When I was 10, I stumbled upon some programming books and taught myself to code on my dad’s old 486. I loved it. Coding made the world make sense; I could put the world in boxes, and think of it in systems.
By 13, I was using synagogue for business development. “Your boy Raphael is a computer kid, right?” neighbors would ask. I’d politely pitch my array of services, although the gig was almost always launching a small business website. I was left with a creeping feeling of dissatisfaction, wanting more.
I knew I was in the wrong place. No one around me shared my passion—in the early 2000s, coding fell somewhere between sweater vests and Steve Erkel on the coolness scale. And there wasn’t much you could build on your own.
I needed a team.
To find a team, I needed to move. I first looked at the US—no dice, visas for the French didn’t come easy in the Freedom Fries era. So I settled on a boarding school in Jerusalem, where tech was booming.
Once in Jerusalem, I found my team—but it wasn’t in Israel, it was on the Internet. I got a remote job working for a startup in Boston called eDial. Remote work wasn’t exactly easy in those days, but I finally belonged to a team. I was hooked.
From then on, that simple insight—that teams are the key to building great things and loving what you do—stayed with me everywhere I went: when I was in the IDF leading cyberwarfare; when I built my first startup, BillGuard; when I became an entrepreneur-in-residence at Thrive Capital. The true magic of work happens when you’re part of a team.
But it wasn’t until years later that I realized how important that insight was.
The birth of the Builder Economy
In 2019, it hit me. Billions were pouring into the gig economy, but it was built around the individual and relatively simple tasks. No one had productized teams, even though we know they’re the key to bringing world-changing ideas to life. If you were a company, there was no easy way to bring on a great team. If you were a highly-skilled product builder, there was no easy way to join one.
The true magic of work happens when you’re part of a team.
So, in early 2020, we began to work on A.Team—a members-only network of the world’s best engineers, product managers, designers, data scientists, and marketers. We started building a team formation platform that would enable product builders across disciplines to assemble as cloud-based teams, teaming up with companies that had meaningful product missions, and needed a better, faster way to build.
Teaming up with my co-founder Kobi Mastri, as well as our first A.Team of top independent builders, we got started. In all honesty, we thought it would take years before companies were ready for this model, but then COVID hit. It was chaos. Companies hadn’t built what they or the world needed to survive, but were laying off top product talent in panic. We put up a one-page website with a simple message: We were forming “A.Teams” to build things that mattered. We had no idea if anyone would respond.
But they did. Thousands of top engineers, product managers, and designers signed up. Our first A.Teams scaled mask distribution and contact tracing for non-profits. Then companies came along, too.
Our first customer, Blank Street, started two years ago this week, using an A.Team to build the next era of brick-and-mortar. Apprentice formed A.Teams to scale vaccine manufacturing software that helped deliver 400 million doses in record time. Mission-driven companies across fintech, healthtech, ecommerce, and more were getting in touch and looking to build.
We saw a new type of economy—the Builder Economy—start to form.
Then came the movement that truly ushered in the Builder Economy: The Great Reconsideration.
The pandemic eroded many tightly held assumptions. That we need to work in an office every day. That building great companies and products means accepting the tediousness of a traditional 9-5. That you can make good money or make a real positive impact on the world—but not both.
Throughout 2021, we saw highly-skilled builders take back economic power by quitting their corporate jobs to work on what they want, when they want, with who they want. And their friends were inviting them to join our community on A.Team so that they could work together.
At A.Team, we began to realize that we were a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Powering the Builder Economy
As 2021 came to a close, builders and customers alike were requesting to join A.Team at a rapid pace. We could barely keep up, but we did by bringing on A.Teams of our own. We were a small group of builders who had set out to create a home for other builders to do great work. We ended up as part of a movement that was upending the world of work at its core.
Throughout 2021, we saw highly-skilled builders take back economic power by quitting their corporate jobs to work on what they want, when they want, with who they want.
We’d never publicly launched A.Team as a company, but grew to a members-only network of over 200 clients and 4,000 builders while still in stealth—all through word-of-mouth, as companies loved the ability to build better, faster, and more flexibly than ever before with expert, on-demand teams. But as 2022 and a new wave of disruption, uncertainty, and layoffs arrived, we couldn’t ignore the opportunity in front of us: To create the infrastructure for the new Builder Economy.
Earlier this week, we publicly announced A.Team for the first time to bring that new builder economy to the world with a feature stories in The New York Times and Forbes. I’m happy to announce that we’ve brought together an incredible team of people to help us do that—raising a $55 million Series A, on top of a $5M seed round, with investors like Insight Partners, Tiger, and Spruce House; future-of-work pioneers like Adam Grant, Dan Ariely and Joseph Fuller; and cultural leaders like Jay-Z’s RocNation, and founders and execs from CAA, Apollo, Upwork, Fiverr, and SpaceX.
We couldn’t ignore the opportunity in front of us: To power the new Builder Economy.
I often tell our BuildTeam—the incredible group of full-time employees and A.Teamers who are building A.Team—that we want to create the place where product builders can do the best work of their careers. Where work is organized not around a job, but a mission. With that, we are keeping several commitments that are core to that mission:
- We are remaining members-only—accepting only companies with truly meaningful product missions and the world’s best product builders, even as we launch publicly and invite more company builders and product builders to request to join A.Team.
- We will continue to provide our community of builders with the freedom, flexibility, and stability to do work that matters, with On-Time Guaranteed Payments™ every two weeks.
- We will continue to be builder-first—with a steadfast devotion to empowering independent product builders and company builders to do the best work of their careers.
We are only at the beginning of our journey to bring our vision to life, and in times of uncertainty like the one we find ourselves in right now, it has never been more important to build with a laser focus and purpose.
We’re making big investments in our team formation platform to transform the way that companies build, manage, scale, and optimize their teams in the cloud, as well as our TeamGraph technology, which applies behavioral science to assemble and optimize teams with the optimal skill set for a company's product mission. We’re also working to create an ecosystem that will empower our network of independent product builders, company builders, investors, and partners to share in the success of A.Team as it grows—because we’ll only achieve our true potential if we do so as a team.
More on that in the coming months, but now, it’s time to move fast and build things. If you agree, we hope you join us.