bld.ai | planetary-scale infrastructure for knowledge workers | Mar 2022
In February 2022, several of bld.ai's leaders met in Guatape, Colombia, to discuss the future of the company. We now share our vision for the business as well as its product, and we hope that this inspires people inside and outside of bld.ai to help us achieve our goal.
Our business is a Delaware C Corp with the purpose of training and creating jobs for millions of knowledge workers. Our goal is to become the last to market planetary-scale human resources infrastructure for knowledge workers. As we continue to grow at 300% per year, we plan to reach one million workers by 2029. We are and will continue to be able to serve both VC-backed startups and major global enterprises across all industries. As a cash flow positive, self-funded company, we exclusively sell services (no fixed-price fixed scope work, no equity payment), and we do not sell product licenses. Our clients use us to build their own products and we do not compete with them. In order to deliver better, cheaper, and faster knowledge work services, we have created "Flow", an API, a web, and a mobile native application.
For a new worker, Flow means both better expectations management (e.g., they get to see the potential compensation before the interview) and faster response time to get interviewed, receive an offer, and start working. Our objective is to enable great candidates to apply and be hired in less than 48 hours, all within the Flow application. Upon accepting the offer, the candidate will have already joined a house, which could contain anywhere from one to hundreds of people. Houses receive the majority of the budget at bld.ai. More on this later.
For a client, Flow means faster response time to deploy a team, more nimbleness in terms of team composition, and more control in terms of costs. It can take as little as 48 hours to receive a proposal with user journeys, mocks, milestones, timelines, and estimates. And since everything is hourly, clients can easily ramp up or down the team in an agile fashion. Clients experience that scaling with teams of knowledge workers on bld.ai’s Flow leads to higher performance and lower costs than scaling with a pure traditional employment model, which is slow to ramp up/down, expensive to maintain, and sub-optimal for the best workers who will be hard to retain.
For existing workers, Flow means faster career progression than traditional employment, autonomy to choose what to work on, and the opportunity to master skills as part of a tribe(s) within a guild(s). Individuals are free to join, stay, change or start their own house as long as their cumulative contribution is greater than their cumulative cost to the house. People must belong to only one house, but can belong to more than one guild, and therefore may have multiple levels. In addition, Flow automatically rewards workers with equity compensation, which empowers workers to have access to operational and financial information of bld.ai and be part of its governance process.
The houses are departments within a division of bld.ai. Altogether, they receive 70% of bld.ai’s global revenue, which is allocated based on the contributions of its members in terms of recruiting, working, and selling. Houses can retain the budget month-to-month and no limit is currently set. Houses handle the training and mentoring of their members, set their expense limits (e.g., laptops, cell plans, office), and their total compensation and benefits. Houses can decide whether to accept or remove someone and can set up a membership agreement. The house manages vacation and sick leaves. The houses leverage Flow to compute the balance and legal minimum by country. The houses ensure that their members do not work excessively (e.g., 40 hours/week). A house can say no to working on a given client engagement. Houses have tremendous discretion on what happens inside the house, but they have to play by the fiscal and operational rules laid out by the board and the guilds.
The houses are not required to, but are encouraged to set aside a significant percentage (e.g., 10%) of their budget for training each other. Houses are free to offer training services to other houses and have the discretion to pay for external courses as well. For instance, house A provides house B with a Kubernetes cluster management course, and house A charges house B like any other client of house A. We expect each house to be unique in its own ways with potential concentrations in terms of geography (e.g., Philippines), skill sets (e.g., DevOps), industry (e.g., web3 fintech), personal circumstances (e.g., single parents), or even hobbies (e.g., mountain biking). Each house will be able to create a culture (and an associated budget) that reflects the preferences of its members - something that a centrally planned enterprise could not achieve as efficiently.
The guilds are responsible both for defining the standards for levels from 1 to 10 as well as organizing their members into a tree, with sub-trees forming tribes of 7-15 people. The tribe is led by a chief who is responsible for organizing the tribe. The tribes are responsible for setting the levels of their members by frequent feedback mechanisms that include input from colleagues and clients, and a small amount of Flow machine learning signal. Guilds and tribes do not have a budget and are not directly compensated for their guild work. Tribes within a guild should be diverse by design (location, seniority, gender, etc.) in proportion to the guild’s diversity. For practical reasons, the lower-level sub-trees/tribes will more likely have members of the same house.
To uphold the bld.ai brand and govern knowledge work standards, each guild defines quality assurance (QA) requirements. In service of bld.ai teams and clients, workers with QA skills will proactively engage with teams selectively, with care and diligence, to identify risks and opportunities for improvement. This includes cybersecurity, data governance, coding standards, documentation, testing, user experience, client satisfaction, team physical and mental health, agility, work log integrity, and compliance. The 5% added to each bld.ai project pays for this non-optional service, and the workers auditing each other come from different houses.
The board is elected by the shareholders, and in turn, the board elects the executive committee (XCo). The houses division, the guilds division, and the admin division all report to the XCo. The XCo is the mechanism for resolving conflicts that cannot be resolved within the houses, guilds, or admin. XCo is responsible to make recommendations to the board for updates to Flow and this document. The board is responsible to set the global harmonized rates per level, per country, and per guild. The rates have mid, low, and high bounds. The mid-point is the default value loaded in Flow upon adding a worker to a project. Sellers cannot go below the low rate, but they can go higher than the high rate in exceptional circumstances (e.g., drastic shortage of certain skills).
The board sets the overall budget parameters as a function of revenue, which as of Mar 2022 is as follows:
In 2022, bld.ai will seek to go public or create liquidity for workers and will launch a "5% of revenue" share buyback program.
Over time, the barrier between a client or a worker of bld.ai blurs, as workers leave (or go part-time) to start their own companies and want to leverage the speed, cost, and quality of the bld.ai Flow infrastructure. Likewise, clients may want to refer other clients or workers to bld.ai, and can receive compensation or credit towards bld.ai work.
The admin is where the global corporate functions of bld.ai sits, including: