It wasn’t until they went through Y Combinator in 2019 that the Lumos team took the time to formalize their roles as founders. They’ve always prided themselves on being uniquely scrappy, or ‘uniquely Lumos’-- keeping things flexible and staying light on their feet, embracing both traditional and non-traditional practices. Their team is “a really wonderful mixed bag”, as co-founder Archa describes it, of remote full time and flex time talent.
Rather than focusing on a potential hire’s location or work schedule, Archa maintains that “a level of being serious about your work and being devoted is the biggest delta.” And finding devoted, serious collaborators is absolutely essential when you’re a startup taking on a goliath like Google.
Lumos is building a new kind of search engine for trusted expert knowledge. Archa and her co-founders Abhinov and Shivi were shocked to learn that the concept of a ‘Google for Doctors’, or rather, any professional field, didn’t exist: “Doctors today are power users of Google Search. They use Google as a brain extension.” Archa herself spent years working for the Google Search team, observing how deep technical and expert knowledge was often difficult to find when ranked among results from brands and blogs with good SEO.
Initially the team began prototyping a search engine dedicated to medical journals and resources for medical students, when they realized the problem was much broader. “It’s not a medical community problem, it’s a fundamental problem of the internet.”
Lumos began adding to their team with developers on Turtle for just 10 hours per week. They started to scale their platform beyond just the medical community, creating dedicated search engines for a wide range of specialized fields. As an early stage startup, everyone has been very specialized. Their Turtle developer Filipe was the first and only iOS engineer on the team. “And he fully owned that piece,” added Archa.
The whole team came together recently to focus on scaling the current product in a two week sprint “with an absolutely impossible number of tasks.” Filipe, who typically works about 10 hours per week with the Lumos team, was there for each step of the sprint as well.
The results were impressive: “I haven’t seen a team pull off nearly as many tasks ever,” said Archa, “We needed the whole team to be all hands on deck, constantly trying to break it and find bugs. We saw that from every single member of the team– and the first set of users we rolled it out to didn’t see any bugs at all.”
Beyond working with Turtle developers with flexible weekly hours, the Lumos team has extended that hiring construct to other remote freelance needs as well, from design to web scraping.
“This kind of piecemeal approach is extremely efficient as a young team. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what the next step is. Sometimes there are waiting cycles. And there are certain highly skilled roles that no company will ever need 40 hours of each week,” said Archa.
It’s a dramatic departure from both the hiring and product development process typical of Silicon Valley.
“You can tell when a product team is making up work, really manufacturing work so people aren’t sitting idle while we wait in cycles. In an hourly cycle like with Turtle, what gets done is what gets billed,” shared Archa.
Part of the success of this approach is their focus on integrating Turtle developers and any other flex workers fully: Treating them like their own internal team and getting to know them as people.
Archa added, “Since our whole team is remote by design, they don’t feel separate in any way, and Lumos can stay highly efficient.”