Mehdi Boudoukhane
January 17, 2024
 — 
5
 min read

Cycle's story

Cycle's story

Seven years ago, as a result of asking the “why” question a little bit too often, I ended up becoming a product manager – you know, that dream job at the intersection of business, technology, and design.

Ever since, I’ve been obsessed about using technology to create experiences that matter to people. Like most product folks, I try to fall in love with problems (not solutions) and commit myself to solve them with delightful software. However, I quickly realized that the product job was far from an easy one. You don’t just get to build cool stuff with designers and engineers, you also have to manage stakeholders, build trust with customers, and make sure that your product is not seen as a black box. It’s hard.

As a product manager, I always felt frustrated not because I was lacking tools but rather because I was overwhelmed with so many of them. I was thinking to myself: designers have Figma ; engineers have GitHub ; why is it that I’m still getting lost in tabs to get my most basic work done? As I was lacking a single source of truth for all things product, I decided to build one.

This is how I felt as a product manager...

In 2019 I joined forces with eFounders – the startup studio that has launched several successful SaaS companies, including Front, Aircall, and Spendesk – with a mission to reinvent product management from the ground up.

After a couple of brainstorming sessions with Thibaud Elzière, Cycle (or rather ProductX at the time) was born. What's the first thing I did? Fly to the place with the highest density of forward-thinking product folks – San Francisco, of course. During my first trip, I interviewed 50+ product leaders in solid companies like Dropbox, Superhuman, Figma, and others. I learned so much from these conversations, which helped me refine the vision for Cycle. Also, it made me realize that product management in Silicon Valley was nothing like what I had seen in Europe. It became clear that the only way for Cycle to become a tier 1 product would be to work with tier 1 customers (ie Silicon Valley product teams). Here are a few pics from my first trip in SF:

With my friend Thoralf (then data engineer at Tesla) in Twin Peaks
With my friend Thoralf (then data engineer at Tesla) in Twin Peaks
Those streets...🥵

This is a video from my second trip to San Francisco, announcing the beta launch of Cycle, just a few months after getting started. Wow, time flies 🤯

Four principles building Cycle

From the start, there were four key principles behind our vision:

1. Collaborative. A natively collaborative doc as atomic unit as opposed to a task, issue or ticket.

2. Flexible yet opinionated. A No-Code framework opinionated on product management.

3. A hub, not a terminal. Highly integrated with an API-first approach.

4. Design-first. A delightful user experience all around.

In its current version, Cycle is a feedback management platform that lets you unify product feedback and user research into one neat, collaborative space, tightly integrated with Linear. We found traction on this use case and raised $6M earlier this year.

But the vision is broader / more ambitious! We want to become the reference for all things product management, the same way Figma became the reference for all things design.

I used to explain Cycle using the below two slides, highlighting that we won't just replace Jira – instead we'll create a new paradigm that will ultimately replace Jira, Productboard and Confluence the same way Figma replaced Sketch, InVision and Zeplin:

It's been a long but exciting journey so far. I still have our very first wireframes (🥲)

Cycle's early wireframes

I also remember onboarding our first user, Cyril from Folk – massive respect to him for coping with our (waaay too many) bugs 😃:

Cycle's first user

Finally, here's a visual of Cycle's first prototype, shipped by Benoit & Julien in a month (yeah, I know, it lacks a bit of love on the design side but done is better than perfect, right? We needed to move fast 🤣):

It feels good to look back and see our vision gradually coming to life. It hasn't changed since day one, and I can't wait to show you what we'll be building this year! 🔥

Small teaser: We're building the first self-organizing feedback hub, all powered by AI (of course 😅). Cycle automatically extracts insights from your feedback and suggests which feature or problem the insight best relates to:

Stay tuned! The best is yet to come 🤗