From 0 to 40K Users: How We Grew A Subtitling Startup in A Year

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In 2020, we were new on the block. We had just launched Subly, as you know it in the free version, and we were trying to get our subtitling and transcribing start-up off the ground in March just as things were starting to look a little bit...well, strange!

We’re incredibly grateful for the year we have had and we certainly would not have done it without you, our users by our side. 

Our community has been key on our journey so far. We took the complicated process of subtitling and turned it into 3 simple steps in your video editing process. 

So, to say goodbye to 2020 and welcome 2021, we thought we’d recap some of the key comments  from this past year that even in a world when people were further apart, the things that brought us closer to you, and helped us build the subtitling tool you love today. 


Lesson 1: Building A Team 

Know what you value in your 13 team members

At the most difficult time possible the growth wouldn't have been possible  without the incredible team at Subly. 

Over the past year, Subly has grown into a diverse and international team of 13 people. 

“The right team was incredibly important to us,” said Holly Stephens, Subly CEO. “It wasn’t necessarily about their education or skillset.”

“We really look at who wants to be on the journey? Who can grow with us? Who is autonomous? Especially, when we’re all remote. For us, it's all about the best culture fit and adaptability.

Subly Christmas team call


Lesson 2: The Product: 

Your customer is your greatest source of learning!

Your feedback mattered a lot to us this year. When starting it’s easy to be passionate about a solution you want to provide, but it’s even more important to build a solution that people really need and want. That’s why this year was focused on you, and what you wanted to see from us. 

Feedback can be really daunting, but for us at Subly, we love it! We listen to what our users say about the product, how we can improve the service, make it easier to use, and what features they need.

We discovered a lot about the pain points our users had in the process and were able to deliver on many versions of Subly for you to get the most out of it last year, from everybody in creative industries to education to online business.

We stand by the belief that your most unhappy customer is your greatest source of learning. Always be open to changing your mind and approach everything with a child like curiosity to learn!


Subly Vlog series


Lesson 3: Building a Community

Listen closely to your users

Our community means everything, and we know every company says that, but we have evidence to prove it. Every step of the way we’ve listened and looked up to our community of creators, educators, business owners to guide our roadmap. 

Without you sharing your content with us, giving your feedback on the latest features, and sharing Subly with those you know, we wouldn’t be where we are today. 

Every effort within our marketing has been aimed at growing and building a stronger community. What does that mean? It means working on valuable content, being a thought leader in the subtitling and transcription space, being active on our channels, and starting invaluable conversations about accessibility and inclusivity to help our users reach more audiences. 

A part of that has been our ambassador program. We realised that us talking about our brand would only get us so far, but if the creators using Subly shared what they loved about their new editing process then we could reach even more users who could simplify their workflows and save time and money with Subly. 


Subly Stars comments on LinkedIn


Lesson 4: Launching  a Business during COVID-19 

Lay the foundations first.

There were many people starting businesses during COVID-19, including us!

We started with nothing but a landing page and a question: “Would you use this product?” 

That was 18 months before our launch. For us that was very important, especially during COVID-19, to see how many users needed Subly. So we were lucky enough to already have a group of enthusiastic users who were keen to help us grow despite a difficult time.

This was the building block to helping us get off the ground, without worrying too much about funding. 

We offered the product for free during the pandemic to help everybody who was impacted, like students, teachers and everybody else who began working from home. 

Offering Subly for free during COVID-19


Things We Never Expected We’d Do:

Over the summer we launched a Founding Members campaign, and had hundreds sign-up!

We never expected to receive so much support from our community on this, and were ecstatic to know so many of you wanted Subly to grow! 

This required a lot of planning, a lot of team alignment, and a lot of support from everybody including, our team to our investors and advisors and you, the user.


Subly Founding Member campaign!


We hope this has helped you and given you some insight into everything that happens behind the scenes at a start-up. Creating even the simplest changes like globally accessible content is a challenge but the reward is big! 


Ready to join the movement and make content global? Get Subly to add subtitles today.

add subtitled and become a subtitling pro with subly pro animation getsubly


Natalie Williams
Head of Marketing & Partnerships

Natalie leads marketing and partnerships, growing Subly around the world.

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