In 2017, I co-founded Moonlight as a professional community for software developers with Emma Lawler. We were both leaving San Francisco, and wanted to make it easier for all developers to find specialized, remote work options. We envisioned a Silicon Valley diaspora that would permanently transform knowledge work into a distributed, work-from-home career.
Starting with a no-code prototype, we slowly built a web application and iterated on different parts of the business model. In 2019 we raised a pre-seed round of funding. Fathom Capital and Goldcrest Capital co-led the round, and other participants included Haystack, Jeremy Yap, Quinn Slack, Luke Kanies, Hampus Jakobsson, and Aghi Marietti.
Here, I'm publishing the pitch deck that we used to raise investment money for Moonlight in 2019. I want to share the vision we had pitched for the future of knowledge work, and I want to demystify the process of fundraising for other founders.
Below each slide, I've included prose typical of how I would present the slide.
As a reminder, this presentation is being shared for informational purposes only. Moonlight is not raising money, and no offer of investment is being made or solicited.
Today I'd like to talk to you about Moonlight, which is a professional community of software developers.
Our mission is to help the world work together to build the future.
Emma and I co-founded Moonlight, and bring extensive experience in building both digital products and startups. Emma worked as a product designer at Fitstar, which was acquired by Fitbit shortly before its IPO. She went to school at CU Boulder.
I was the founder of the workforce management startup Staffjoy, a Fellow at Y Combinator for that company, and an engineer at OpenDNS, during which it was acquired by Cisco. I am a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis' School of Engineering.
Emma and I both have technical backgrounds in product design and engineering. Emma designs the product and I build it.
We started Moonlight to solve our own problem. Two years ago, we both left San Francisco to travel full-time, but we wanted to keep working with great companies that valued our specialized skills. We were fortunate to have great networks from living in San Francisco, which gives us access to high-quality contract work.
But, most people in the world do not have direct access to growing tech companies. So, we built Moonlight to address this problem.
We left the Bay Area, and built Moonlight from Airbnbs on five different continents over two years. Around the world, we met software engineers and companies to understand how the technology industry is changing, and became deeply involved with a variety of international communities ranging from Startup School by Y Combinator 1 to flying to India with the US State Department.
As we traveled, we realized that remote workers have an unmet hierarchy of needs.
The first thing you need to become a remote worker is a remote job. But, we have found that workers' needs extend far beyond that. Most remote workers enter as contract workers, but desire stability in terms of salary, insurance, and vacation - meaning, they want employment.
Once these workers have stability, they seek to address loneliness through a sense of community.
Next, workers often report that it's hard to go from junior to senior in their careers outside of an office. We think this is because remote teams have fewer spontaneous and unstructured interactions, which makes it harder to learn on-the-job from teammates. We think there's an opportunity to help here with things like training and certifications.
Ultimately, people want to work on something that they really care about, which the top of the pyramid.
We built Moonlight to solve the needs of remote knowledge workers.
We started with jobs - by helping people find project-based work. We thought that project-based work might be the future, but found that most freelancers return to a full-time role within two years. In fact, about one in seven contract jobs on Moonlight ends up converting to full-time employment. In the future, we plan on moving up the pyramid with community, advancement, and recognition. Ultimately, we want to help people find the right job for their interests.
The problem we're addressing is that companies have trouble hiring software engineers. Stripe's Developer Coefficient report last year found that "access to developers is a bigger constraint than access to capital." These potential customers have money that they're trying to spend, without success.
As software "eats the world"2 and work becomes distributed, we foresee 10x to 100x as many applicants for every open role, making the hiring process even harder.
Our view is that software work is becoming globalized. Remote collaboration is becoming easier with tools such as Slack and Zoom. The demand for developers is rising as every company from Boeing to JP Morgan to John Deere becomes a software company. And, programs such as Lambda School and General Assembly are creating a new wave of developers entering the market.
We believe that distributed work is the future, and that it solves the problem of companies being unable to hire developers. Stripe addressed their own perceived lack of developers by officially opening a remote office. And, there's a trend of more and more companies going distributed, ranging from GitHub to Product Hunt to Stripe to WordPress.
Our view is that today's traditional, localized hiring networks don't scale to a new global labor market.
Hired had an early start, and launches city-by-city in limited markets. They are actively trying to move away from contingency-based pricing to subscription pricing, and they have high overhead due to their sales model.
LinkedIn uses an antiquated approach to matching people to jobs. It focuses on a network model based on who you know, so that you can find jobs through your second and third-degree connections. But, in a global hiring market, hiring managers may have no connections with the best possible worker for their team.
TripleByte rejects most candidates and has a low acceptance rate of offers. Their success is predicated on a supply-constrained market. We believe that the rise of coding schools and remote work threatens this supply-first model.
Our name, Moonlight, comes a latent behavior in the software community. Developers already work on side projects and side gigs in their free time, and they're often doing it from home - not an office.
We focus on three different personas of developers who moonlight.
One is the "Explorer." These tend to be people that are specialized and senior, and are looking to adopt technologies early. They moonlight for passion. Think of developers working on Bitcoin - before it became an employable skill, it was a passion project.
Second, there are the "Independents." These are people that are experienced and looking for advancement. They moonlight to trial new teams. They rarely enter the open job market because they're highly employable and have a network. They use trial projects to evaluate potential teams for long-term work. Think of them as people who will help their friends with startups on nights and weekends, and then transition to full-time once the company matures.
Third, there are the "Beginners." These tend to be more generalist people who are just finishing a coding school. They seek stability, and moonlight prove their ability. We observe many coding schools advocating for contract-to-hire so that candidates can get into companies and stand out from the crowd.
Remote work is changing the market. This broader talent pool means that people need to be matched by specialities and experience, instead of just location. Every developer is going to be a candidate for every job in the world.
Without in-person "whiteboard interviews", we strongly believe that trial-based hiring will become the norm, which we call "moonlighting." Candidates will contract with a company for anywhere from a few days to a few months, and companies will evaluate them based on their actual performance.
With no office, the provider of career advancement resources and mentorship opportunities will transition from the company to a third-party. This is where Moonlight plans to expand in the future.
Today, Moonlight is a SaaS3 business. We provide job matching, managed contract-to-hire (including payments), candidate alerts for companies, and a weekly newsletter. In the future, we plan to work more on education for distributed team best practices 4, career support for remote workers, and community such as online and local groups for developers.
Under the hood, Moonlight is a data-driven software company.
We track over 500 different engineering skills ranging from Kubernetes to Python. We've tracked over four million data points of how people are using the product, and we've identified over 50,000 potential users on job boards.
Based on these skills and data points, we are pursuing a long-tail SEO strategy with over 10,000 auto-generated landing pages. So, if you search for React developers or developers in Cleveland, we have pages for that.
Finally, given a company's website, these tools all work together to be able to identify the right candidates for a particular hiring manager. The result is that we have about one-in-four cold email response rate, relevant job matches and, ultimately, we're closing hires.
Today 1,700 developers who want flexible work have joined and been approved for Moonlight's network. They apply to Moonlight by setting up a free profile, configure payments through Stripe, and we manually screen each applicant.
Most remote work websites focus on outsourcing. We don't. About two-thirds of Moonlight's developers are located in North America. Developers on Moonlight have an average of nine years of professional experience, and on average earn over \$100 an hour. Almost everybody is seeking contract work at any given time, while a third of candidates are open to full-time work opportunities.
Our strategy is to engage passive candidates with contract work. Then, when they begin looking for a full-time role, we can immediately identify that intent and match them with the ideal roles.
Developers find Moonlight in three different ways. First, we have identified over 40,000 people looking for work, and when we email them 15% sign up.
We plan to expand partnerships in the future. Moonlight is currently a Stripe Verified Partner. We are actively in pilots with some coding schools. And, we are building out a certifications module so that we can co-market expert communities with companies who need "sales engineering"-style support.
About a fifth of our new customers come from referrals. We hold events in most major markets and we really do a great job of attracting passive candidates.
Our revenue is growing growing 16% week-over-week. This graph shows our path to $7k MRR, and the live revenue just passed $10k MRR this morning.
The total attainable market7 is huge. With half a million software engineering managers in the United States each spending $300 per seat, we estimate a $2 billion per year market opportunity.
Finally, long-term we are building a remote-first community. Our strategy is to first scale the SaaS business to fund growth. Second, we will grow community and network to retain developers throughout their career. And third, we will develop tooling to facilitate remote work. We already have built active chat channels integrated with Slack that have thousands of participants, and we have organized meetups around the world.
We can see the future of Moonlight as a verticalized professional community - something like a mix of LinkedIn, GitHub, and Quora.
Today we're raising our first round of funding to double-down on growth. Our goal is to hire a front-end engineer and operations coordinator, aggressively go to market with per-seat membership, drive network effects to fuel growth, and create new features to increase engagement.
Our mission is to help the world work together. We see Moonlight as having co-working benefits without the office, helping companies find and retain remote workers throughout their careers, offer career advancement opportunities for workers, and ultimately to build tools that empower distributed teams.
That is Moonlight - the product is live at MoonlightWork.com.
We structured our appendix with a Q&A card and metrics graphs. For later rounds of funding, it is typical to have an entire metrics deck. But, for earlier rounds of funding, you basically want to be prepared to answer common questions that investors may have.
Send me your deck!
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy my 2017 article Staffjoy's Pitch Decks That Raised \$1.7m.
- Learn more about Moonlight's early days in this office hours video with Sam Altman we recorded for Startup School just after starting!↩
- SaaS = Software as a Service↩
- We published the Remote Work Encyclopedia to help teams transition to remote later in 2019!↩
- "Bottoms-up distribution" means that individuals in a company can easily buy the software without much oversight, often via their company credit card. The opposite is "top-down distribution", where the company evaluates the purchase through a procurement or buying process, often talks to a salesperson, buys the software on behalf of many people internally, and likely pays (a lot) via invoicing.↩
- "Land and expand" means the customer starts with a small purchase, and increases their spend over time. Here, the vision is that one hiring manager buys Moonlight, then another adds onto their subscription, until every hiring manager in the company has their own license.↩
- Total attainable market measures how much money you can make in a best-case scenario. "Top-down" analysis shows how much money is spent today in the market - such as how much money Americans spend on cars every year. Most startups measure total attainable market in a "bottoms-up" method instead, which measures how much money they could make if every potential customer buys their product. Bottoms-up sizing is preferred because new markets - such as flying cars - may have \$0 spent on them today, but a lot in the future as the market grows↩