In episode 41 of EnterpriseReady, Grant speaks with Wade Foster of Zapier. They unpack Wade’s career journey, how Zapier was founded and self-funded, and lessons learned on maintaining camaraderie among distributed teams.
About the Guests
Grant Miller: All right, Wade, thank you so much for joining.
Wade Foster: Yeah, thanks for having me, Grant.
Grant: Cool. Let's dive right in.
Tell us a bit about your background and how did you get to founding Zapier?
Wade: Yeah, I think the thing that set me on the path to founding Zapier was probably the financial crisis in 2008.
So, I was a junior in college at that time and summer-- It happened, I think, springtime, something like that, and certainly go out look for like summer jobs, internships, things like that.
Ain't nobody hiring, and didn't matter how good of a student you are, it just was difficult to sort of get a job.
And that was like a little bit of a wake up call for me to just go like--
I've been kind of cruising up to that point in time, I'm just kind of doing my thing and started to ask, like, well, what do I actually really want from a career, from life?
And where do I want to spend my time?
And that was when I really started to fall in love with this internet thing.
I started to found like AdSense and AdWords and like all these people are making money on the internet, things like that.
And I was like, that's interesting.
Grant: And you read the four hour workweek, and you're like, I can sell t-shirts and--
Wade: Yeah, stuff like that, right?
And I happen to find a little software company in Columbia, Missouri.
It was like five or six people, and they wanted to intern that summer to help with marketing.
And I was in school for industrial engineering and stuff.
But I was like, hey, marketing has some like math and stuff associated with it, maybe that'd be fun. And sort of talk my way into that gig.
And it ended up being just a real eye opener in terms of what the industry looked like.
We started using tools like Campaign Monitor and Wufoo and Basecamp and QuickBooks.
To see that these companies were able to build software, host it on the internet, and like anyone in the world could just sign up, pay them, never have to see the person, talk to the person or anything.
And it's just like, oh, great.
I can send an email now or I can manage a project now or I can do all this stuff. It just sort of was like, wow, this is really cool that you're able to do this sort of stuff.
And I really fell in love with software, but particularly just software as a service.
I was like, this is really, really neat to sort of empower these businesses, particularly small businesses who don't necessarily have access to this type of tool.
And from there, I started learning product development and trying to teach myself how to code and just sort of develop a lot of the basic skill sets that might help you start a business like that.
Grant: What were you doing to teach yourself how to code? What were you using?
Wade: I was just googling around, learned Python the hard way, it was coming out around that time.
There was some Rails tutorial type stuff.
So, just sort of finding stuff on the internet and going through the tutorials, trying to get used to the syntax and language and understand some of the core concepts.
And I wouldn't say that it was something I took to super quickly. It was a stretch for me.
And in doing so, I reached out to a sort of colleague or I guess like an acquaintance at the time in town, who I knew was like one of the best engineers around.
But know him through the music school at Mizzou.
I said, "Hey, man, I know you build a lot of sites and stuff, can we hang out? Can you teach me some stuff? What do you think?"
He was like, "Sure, yeah, I'd love to you. By the way, we need a saxophone player for a band, would you be down for doing that?"
And so that kind of ended up being like the sort of friendly handshake deal is like you teach me this stuff, and I'll play in your band.
Grant: That's amazing.
Wade: Yeah. It's sort of led to a really good friendship.
And over the next sort of 12 months or so, we were just sort of constantly pitching each other ideas of businesses to start, things that we could get into, while going and playing these gigs and practicing around and all these sort of things.
And one day, we were both working at this company together for a day job.
So, one day he messaged me and said, "Hey, what do you think about this idea? We could make it a lot easier for folks to integrate the tools that they use at work, think like Wufoo and Mailchimp and Zendesk and QuickBooks, like some of the stuff that was starting to get significant traction."
This would have been 2011.
Stripe had just launched, Twilio had just launched, API First is starting to become a thing.
He's like, "We could make this accessible to your everyday knowledge worker."
And for somebody who was not a very good engineer at work, like struggling to use things like Marketo API, I was like, "Yes, this needs to exist. Because if this existed, I wouldn't have to be going through all this headache of learning this stuff and it's hard. It's taking longer than I wish it would."
Wade: And so, it just really, really resonated with me.
And so, he and I plus Mike, who became our third co-founder, went and built the original prototype for it at Startup Weekend and just really had fun working on it.
We weren't really thinking of it as like a business at that point in time, it was more just, this would be fun to work on.
And let's just see what happens. And so--
Grant: Was this like an official Startup Weekend, like one of the events that they would co-host around the--
Wade: Yeah, it was one of the official ones.
Yes. We would do it there.
And then, after the weekend was up, we sort of got together on Monday, and we're like, "Well, do you want to keep working on this?"
And all of us were, "Yes, fine. Let's keep working on it."
Brian and I kept our day jobs. Mike was still in school so he kept at school.
So nights and weekends, we would just keep building, make whatever the sort of next obvious most progress looked like.
And just in the course of working on this, we really liked it, we got more and more serious, and we just kept doing it.
And so, 10 years later, we just never stopped.
Grant: When did you go full time on it?
Wade: I went full time about three months in, because I was like the least skilled engineer of the three of us, I spent more time with customers, because that was one of the better ways that I can add value was really trying to find them, figure out who the right people to be using the software might be.
I remember, we had Olark on the site which is like live chat at the time.
Grant: Yeah, sure.
Wade: About three months in, we'd started to get more traffic.
People would show up, they'd start chatting with me.
And during the day job, I find myself paying attention to the Olark chat a little bit more than the day job and--
Grant: We call that daylighting.
When you work with a company then you're doing another job at the same time. So, it's daylighting.
Wade: Yeah. And my boss was super, super gracious about it.
But I do remember at one point in time he called me, he's like, "Wade, you're going to have to make a choice. It seems like you're having a lot of fun with the Zapier thing. But also, we need you to get this job done too, right?"
So I say, "You're right. I think I should just go full time."
It was really actually super helpful because I was 24 at the time.
It was scary to go full time on a startup. I didn't know a lot of entrepreneurs.
I'm in the Midwest. This is not a common career path for folks.
And so, having someone like him who started a company, had a lot of success go, "Give it a go, your heart set on it. I think you got something, see what you can."
It was just enough of a like confidence boost to say like, "All right, I'm going to do it."
Grant: Did you have revenue at that time or like--
Wade: Not really. So, we were doing an odd beta.
So, the way we'd arrange our beta, I have never seen anyone do it the same way that we did.
So maybe that means it was bad, but it worked for us.
We did a closed beta that was paid.
And so, you would pay 100 bucks that got you access to the beta.
It was a one-time fee.
What we said was, you get access for as long as the beta exists. The beta might end tomorrow, it might end six months from now, it might end 12 months from now, we don't really know. We are just going to keep working on this until we feel like it's good enough and that's when it'll launch. And at that point in time, it'll turn into a subscription. So, if you're cool with that, jump aboard.
And it started at 100 bucks.
Over time, we shifted it, I think, down to like five bucks, and then maybe even $1 at some point in time too.
The point wasn't the money, the point was just, are you serious? Do you care?
Because we didn't want to waste time with folks that were just kind of kicking the tires on this thing.
We wanted to know that it was an important enough problem that you would at least get the credit card out.
And so, that was the kind of revenue we were making.
So, it was, I don't know, maybe a few hundred bucks a month or something like that.
But we're in Central Missouri, cost of living is nothing. And I was married at the time.
So, my wife's a teacher. And we had sort of worked it out where it was like, okay, if we eat rice and beans every day, we should be okay.
Grant: That's amazing. Yeah, your teacher wife is supporting you.
People are talking about a teacher's salary being tough to live on if you're a teacher.
Imagine now supporting a startup founder plus yourself, that's--
Wade: Yeah. And we were in a good position. We had some advantages going for us.
We'd sort of paid off the student loans and we didn't have much to begin with, and we're fresh out of college.
So, we hadn't had a lot of lifestyle inflation creep sort of sift in yet.
The rice and beans thing was sort of like, yeah, we can keep doing this for a little bit.
Because that was kind of the lifestyle we're accustomed to, it didn't mean that we had to sort of make this really hard choice to limit our spending it was just--
Grant: It didn't feel like a big sacrifice.
Wade: Yeah, it was more like, okay, we should dial it back just a little.
But dial it back 5 degrees or 10 degrees, and like, we'll probably be okay.
Grant: Yeah. I mean, at that time, you're going to Startup Weekend.
And so, you had been paying attention to the startup ecosystem.
But were you following kind of how some of these other businesses were being built?
Were you always kind of an interested entrepreneur?
You mentioned that you'd been pretty excited about the "internet" since 2008 in terms of businesses and SaaS, but were you a student of it?
How were you learning?
Wade: Yeah, I really had started to become it. That exposure, that internship I had was where I really started getting into it.
I remember Steve Blank's book, Four Steps to Epiphany, I read that.
His startup was released around then. So, I really got into that.
And read like Basecamp's book, the Getting Real books.
So, I was just starting to soak up a lot of the early stage startup type advice things on how do you get a product off the ground?
How do you get the product market fit? How do you validate an idea, all that kind of stuff.
So I was certainly digesting a lot of that information, which was useful up to a point.
Then, at a certain point, you kind of just got to try and do and feel and experience and you start to realize how much of that stuff is actually helpful versus how much of it is sort of like, I mean, great if it works for you, but--
Grant: It worked for them. Yeah. Exactly, yeah.
Wade: But maybe not for you.
So, I do think that combo of sort of ferocious reader mixed with ferocious dealer is really powerful.
But if you sort of have one or the other, you're probably missing part of the equation.
Grant: Yeah, sort of survey the landscape of knowledge and then try to apply as much as you can.
And then, I mean, I still remember the moment when I founded my first company, someone described it as like, staring into the abyss like chewing glass.
I had that pit in my stomach. Did you feel a similar sense of like impending doom?
Like, oh, I don't really know what's the other side of this.
I quit my job and I don't have a salary. Or did you feel pretty comfortable?
Wade: I think it was not like staring at the abyss.
I think it was more just like, well, now what do I do?
Especially as someone who mostly started Zapir pretty close to right out of school, I've been out of school for like a year.
School is you show up, you listen, you get a syllabus, you get some tasks, you do the task, rinse, wash and repeat that.
And so I've been conditioned to do that for 16, 17 years.
And so then, when you start your own thing, there are no task lists.
There's no like, oh, this is how you get an A on this assignment. That doesn't really exist.
And so I think that, to me, was more the like it was a bit scary, but also freeing at the same time.
It was like, okay, I just do something and maybe that works, or maybe it doesn't.
And that's definitely a lot of fun and exhilarating, but also pretty terrifying because you have no clue, especially early on, it's really hard to get signal.
So, you don't really know if you're actually spending time in the best way possible.
Grant: And so, you started this side project, Startup Weekend.
Then you start to go full time. Are you the only one full time on it or are any of your other co-founders full time yet?
Wade: Yeah, I was the first to full time and they followed suit a few months later. Yeah.
Grant: And this is all bootstrap, there's no investment, there's no like this is just we'll figure it out and try to make a little money along the way and charge folks.
Wade: A hundred percent. We did put a little bit of thinking to it.
So, I think each of us put a few thousand dollars in a bank account.
And we said, okay, this is what we get. I think, it added up to $10,000 total.
So, that was like our seed funding that each of us put in like a little portion of that.
And that's what we operated out of. So we paid our servers out of that.
We paid for some software out of that. And then mostly tried not spend the money.
Grant: And you're, I'm guessing, at this time, probably built on AWS and some of the other kind of primitives that were existing?
Wade: No, not at the time.
I think the first service we use is actually the Node back in the day, yeah, and then moved to AWS pretty soon after, I want to say, that happened maybe within a year.
Grant: Great. You find some cloud hosted servers, you start using and talk about real quick, the three different co-founders, each of your roles, and kind of how you saw those particularly early on?
Wade: Yeah. We were fortunate that we had, I think, two advantages.
One is that all three of us were just generally smart at a lot of different things.
So, each of us could do each other's role in a pinch.
But we also had complementary pieces.
So in that case, Brian, definitely sort of your classic engineer, architect type role.
And so, he was really thinking about what is the database and the architecture and sort of the underlying thing that runs apps look like and spending a lot of time on that.
Mike, very much a front end product design sort of thinker, and so very much able to understand, like what's the user experience got to look like?
And how do we make the browser do that thing?
And then I was very much focused on the go to market.
How do we find customers? How do we get them in?
How do we figure out if they like what we're building or not?
But each of us would oftentimes do things that were in the other person's domain.
And so, that made it just a really useful partnerships because we could go to each other for advice and be like, "Hey, I'm struggling with X, how do you think I should be thinking about this? What might you do in this situation?"
And it made it just a lot more fun and less lonely experience to know that you're kind of just doing it with a group of people together.
I don't know that Zapier would have been what it is today if any one of us was sort of not at the table.
Grant: Yeah. And when you were first building that, were you getting together in person, were you just all working from home? How was it?
Wade: Yeah, it was a mix. It's a side project so there is no like office or anything like that.
Grant: But then, when you all went full time and you put that 10K in, did you start to go to a co-working space? Or what was the?
Wade: No, I mean, even still we were working from home.
We would occasionally go to the day job. The boss we had there. Again, very supportive.
He would let us stay late at night and sort of use the office from time to time.
So we would do that on occasion
Grant: Sure. Use the whiteboards and stuff.
Wade: Yeah. And so that was great.
The only time that we sort of all worked at same place was when we got accepted into YC in summer of 2012.
We all moved to California and rented an apartment there.
And we lived and worked out of that apartment together that summer.
So that was the only time in the entire company's history where the company sort of had a single location where everyone's working.
Grant: Got it. And so, that was about a year after you started the company that you went to Y Combinator?
Wade: Yeah, like eight months. We started in September 2011 and that would have been in May of 2012.
Grant: And that's still pretty early Y Combinator.
So, it was like probably batches of 30 or something at that point?
Wade: Our batch was like 80.
Grant: Okay, so maybe one of the first bigger batches.
Wade: Yeah, it was starting to scale up at that time.
We had Coinbase was in our batch and Instacart was in our batch.
So, it was starting to get to where there was quite a number of companies being funded.
Grant: And what did Zapier looked like at that point? What was the product? Had you exited beta?
Wade: So, one of the very first things we did when we got into YC, we're like, "Hey, we got this beta, it's feeling pretty good. I'm not sure if it's ready for launch or not."
And they were like, "Launch."
And so basically, the first thing we did as part of YC was actually take the beta tag off of it, implement a real pricing model, and then just start accepting anyone that wanted to use the product and start growing and monetizing in that way.
That was literally like the day one-ish task of YC.
Grant: And at the beginning, the product, the pricing models was initially focused on teams and individuals or is it first initially for just individuals?
Or how did you think about the user?
Who did you imagine was going to use it?
And how did you structure the pricing?
Wade: I don't know that we were very rigorous in this area, to be honest.
I think, we had the sense that a lot of these small companies, these people that were using things like Mailchimp and Basecamp and Wufoo and Zendesk and all these other tools needed something like this.
The lowest common denominator in terms of who the user was, well, the people that use that stuff need Zapier because they need to integrate that stuff with the other stuff that they use.
And so, we just sort of didn't do any broader understanding of like, oh what job types do they have?
What use cases do they need? Are they in big companies or small companies?
We didn't really have much of a hypothesis or even an understanding of what that looked like.
And then, in terms of pricing, we were even more naive.
Pricing was, I mean, because none of us run a company before, we were basically operating off of like these internet blog posts.
So, each of us had gone and read some separate posts.
And I remember one night we actually, before we launched, kind of got into a bit of an argument out of it, where I don't even remember who was arguing what stance, but the types of arguments were I think there should be four plans, and the other person is like, no, three is better than four, we should do three.
And it's like, well, no, I read this post, four is definitely better.
It's like, okay, well, let's set that aside.
It should actually end in a nine because then a nine is better than that.
No, no, no, it signals more value if it ends in a zero.
So we got to end in a zero. So, these are the types of debates that we're getting into.
We're not making any headway. We're just sort of debating like, I read this thing. And I think this thing is better than the thing that you've read on the internet. At some point in time, and I don't even remember who, one of us goes, this is stupid. None of us know anything. And it sort of just ended up being like, well, if none of us know anything, let's just have fun with this.
And so, the first pricing model we launched was based on the Fibonacci sequence.
So, we launched a plan that was $11, a $23 plan and a $58 plan, because we had this whole zap thing going on, we named them amps, ohms, and volts.
So as you can tell, we're just like a bunch of giant nerds is what this company is founded by.
And the price is 11, 23, 58, obviously, super weird.
You would never see that on any SaaS plan these days.
But they're in the ballpark of what a lot of these companies were charging at the time.
When you went to go buy a plan from Wufoo or from Mailchimp or from these things, it's sort of like, yeah, it's kind of what people pay for that kind of software.
And so, we sort of just like, well, this sort of fits the model of what people pay for this stuff.
And it turned out, it worked.
People paid us $11, 23,58 and for a very long time, I don't think we actually have anyone on those plans anymore.
But for a very long time, even well after we changed that pricing plan, we had folks from the very early days that were still on those plan types.
Grant: And were those designed around a single user or multiple users, what was the sort of--
Wade: There was no concept of a multi user at the time.
It was a single user thing. You sign up and use Zapier for yourself.
Grant: And then, people probably shared a password if they needed somebody else--
Wade: Shared passwords if they needed to. Yeah.
Grant: And you're thinking about this as like, to your point, the people that use these other products will need to use this.
You're obviously thinking about individuals, you're not really thinking about companies.
They might work at a company, they're going to expense this.
But you're not really thinking about it, like, oh, this is how they operate their team and this is what they do.
So, what else did you learn at Y Combinator?
That was probably a pretty formative experience.
And then sort of what's the next progression in the company?
Wade: Yeah, I mean, YC is great.
In fact, you can learn pretty much everything we learned by going and watching the startup school videos on YouTube.
They literally give it all away for free.
And so, there's nothing like secret that they hold back or it's like, if you get in the batch, we have the extra, final bit of information that unlocks it all for you. It's just not like that.
It's all out there. Being part of a batch, though, I think there is some social benefits in terms of like, hey, everyone else around you is ambitious and pushing hard.
And there's like a friendly competition around just like, hey, who can really get to that next level quickest. And so, that's good.
And then I think the focus was really important for us.
We moved from Missouri, and so it's the three of us in California, we didn't have any friends or other activities to do.
And so, for three months, we did Zapier pretty much nights, weekends, whatever.
You just make a lot of progress when you put that kind of effort into it.
And that's certainly not sustainable over the long haul. I would not recommend people do that forever.
But for a three-month time period at the beginning of a company, it definitely acts as a bit of like jet fuel to really understand is this going to work or not?
And so, I think that was one of the big benefits that we got out of being in YC. And then, you had a second question.
Grant: Yeah. And then, what was the next stage of the company?
When did you sort of realize, there's a real business here?
I know you raised a little bit of money at the end of YC, what kind of kept it propelling and moving?
Because, thus far, it doesn't seem like you're on it that much. It doesn't seem like you're making that much money.
It doesn't seem like this grand vision for the future of work and no code applications and everything else.
It feels a little bit like, we wanted to build this thing and so we did, and then it's like we're cheap so we didn't need a lot of money.
When did it start to kind of get a little bit more real?
Wade: Yeah. It's funny, that stuff that became more real, I guess, the sort of more public acknowledgement of it being real didn't come from much, much, much later.
I think for us, the next stage was, well, let's figure out how do we grow this thing.
We've launched now. We have some pricing.
So, we have a product, we have some users that seem to like it, and some that really seem to love it.
It's not that many, but it's some. So, what does it take to really get it to the next level?
And we had a few user growth strategies that were working.
And the real bottleneck for us was, you couldn't really integrate that many apps.
We'd sort of bootstrap like brute force been building these ourselves.
So, this was like, I think, the most common task that the three of us would work on, because it was something that all three of us could do.
And so we'd be like, what's the next app that we're going to integrate?
And so we'd have lists of apps. And we try and get some feedback around like, which ones seem more popular than the other ones?
And then eventually, we'd sort of just make a call and integrate the next one.
And so, we're adding these one by one ourselves.
And that's a bit of a slow process.
We are physically the bottleneck on this thing.
And so, we started to ask ourselves like, well, what would it mean to go faster in terms of integrations and getting more apps on the platform?
And I think it was Brian who sort of made the suggestion like, well, what if we have a platform where other people can build integrations into Zapier?
And I think that's like a common sort of idea or suggestion for any early stage SaaS.
It's like, let's launch an API and try to get others to build apps on it.
And sometimes that works. More times, it doesn't work.
So, we didn't really know, well, should we actually do this?
We wanted to make as much progress as possible before demo day.
And it wasn't clear that building this developer ecosystem would actually lead to more progress.
Short term, it might have been better to sort of brute force keep doing these things, because at least we know the apps would get added.
We might build a dev platform and nobody cares actually do the work.
But ultimately, we had sort of two things that said, let's actually try and do this dev platform.
One was we had Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box and emailed us and was like, "Hey, why is Box not on Zapier?"
And the answer was pretty simple.
It was like, well, we're three people trying to get to as many as we can and we just haven't got to it yet.
Of course Box should be on Zapier. It doesn't make any sense that it wouldn't be other than that--
Grant: Was Dropbox on Zapier?
Wade: Dropbox is on Zapier. Yeah.
Grant: That's why.
Wade: That might have played a part. Yeah.
The fact that he was emailing, we thought, well, maybe if he cares enough to email, he might assign an engineer to do a little work. Maybe.
That was sort of just the guess.
And then, the second thing was, we were willing to place the bet, because we felt like long term, if this worked out, the upside was so big, compared to continuing to do a brute force way.
So, we should at least try and see if we could make it work.
And so, Brian built a prototype of that in, I think it's two weeks or something ridiculous. And it worked surprisingly.
And we launched with the developer platform with I think 12 or 13 different partners that had built on Zapier just right out the gate and including some pretty successful companies to this day, like HubSpot was one of the first people to build on our developer platform.
Active Campaign had built on our developer platform.
Gravity Forms, which is like an enormously popular WordPress plugin had built on that.
So, in the first 13, there were some folks that grew into being very sizable and successful companies.
And then, over the years, that developer platform just became a continuous source of growth for us because every new app on Zapier meant a whole new user base that could come and connect to all these other things.
And that created just this virtuous cycle of more apps meant more users and more users meant more apps and so on and so forth.
And that's what started to get the growth engine moving.
And start to put us a little bit more on the map.
Grant: Because, I mean, the other thing I see with Zapier is sort of like organic search results seem to be probably a pretty strong driver of traffic and probably new customer acquisition based on just like from the outside in, are a lot of those sort of these like zaps created and integrations created in the developer platform.
Is that sort of what enables that to happen?
Wade: Yeah. I mean, it all stems from that, right.
A new app comes on the platform and that's more landing pages and more templates and more links that can come in from the partners often saying like, hey, check out our Zapier integration.
And so, each app basically lights up a whole new series of pages that rank and search that get linked to that, get emails that go to them, so on and so forth.
And, yeah, it just becomes like a new funnel for us.
Grant: And then you did raise a little bit of money at the end of the YC experience as well, right?
Wade: Yeah, we did a million and change.
Grant: And that's the only funding you've raised to date, right?
Grant: And so, still slowly spending that?
Wade: Slowly spending that. Yep.
Wade: We treated that very much like the last money that we would ever get.
We definitely did burn money in basically the year after that, but never much.
I paid pretty close attention to the cash flow statement every single month, and wanted to understand where money was going, where it was coming in.
And this is going to sound so quaint compared to how most companies operate.
But I think the most we've earned in a single month was something like $20,000, at some point in time.
But within a year, we had sort of gotten to a profitable level.
I don't know, we just liked growing that way better, I think.
Grant: Yeah. I mean, that's realistically in this kind of business, a function of headcount, right?
So, it seems like you probably waited a while to hire, have you hired kind of-- Was it always US based?
How did you think about growing the team and growing capacity?
Wade: Yeah, it definitely started us based.
And then, I think around '10 or '12, we hired someone in the UK, and then hired someone in Thailand and interview some more GOs outside the United States.
Headcount, the early days, one of the ways we sort of made sure to keep spending in check was we had this philosophy of don't hire until it hurts.
And that was beneficial for a few reasons. One, it was beneficial because it made sure that spending didn't get out of control.
It was also beneficial, because, two, it makes sure that we really understand the jobs before we're actually hiring folks into it.
And so for an early stage company, when we bring that person on board, we know they have a job to do.
They're not going to just be sitting there like twiddling their thumbs trying to figure things out and figure out how to be productive and helpful.
We very much have a well scoped and defined job for them.
And three, it meant that in the founding team, we really understood how the business works, because we did every little piece of it.
And so, even to this day, that has immense advantages because there's just so many pieces of Zapier that we understand it, because we built it, period.
And that is very, very helpful for us.
So I mean, that philosophy, I mean, eventually it stopped working, because we started growing so fast that if we waited that long, the pain was just always there, and it was torture.
But for the first, I mean, shoot, we probably had that philosophy around for five years.
So, for five years, we kind of operate in that capacity.
Grant: And at this point, you've raised a little bit of money, you're spending, you're hiring slowly, user base is still growing, like more integrations are growing.
I mean, are you seeing hockey stick growth?
Are you seeing sort of like consistent and steady growth?
What's it look like inside the company?
Wade: Yeah. I mean, we've got very consistent growth rates that were pretty attractive the first three years like tripling revenues.
And then, as the base started to build up, it started to be more like doubling.
And so, the revenue is growing sizably. We're probably doubling headcount year over year, give or take, up to maybe about 150 people or so.
So, we're kind of just slowly methodically growing this thing.
And definitely, for quite a long time, very under the radar because we weren't raising money, because we weren't super flashy, press wasn't a big part of our story.
We're just sort of going about this very kind of unsexy problem of integrating and automating these workflows between all this different stuff that I think we just kind of flew under the radar for a lot of folks.
Grant: I mean, now, it's a pretty well respected company.
You've been running it for a while.
I mean, obviously, some of the things you've done around remote have been somewhat well-timed or at least press it in terms of being remote first and sort of seeing now that'd be such a trend.
When do you feel like the world started to really pay attention?
Wade: Yeah. I think somewhere around like 2017, 2018 it started to seem like there was an emergent space around this.
It was becoming a little more trendy. I think the no code term got coined around then.
Certainly started to see more remote first companies get lab and started to do their thing, Envision was doing their thing, Automatic was doing their thing.
And so, the remote story, the no code story started to emerge.
And, I think, folks were just picking up on the fact that we're hiring a lot more folks on LinkedIn.
It's just like the folks on the know could see that Zapier was being successful.
And you went and would talk to any of the partners that we had and Zapier was like a very critical partner for them, because we're integrating all this stuff.
And they could see in their own user base that a ton of their users are using this product and benefiting from it.
And so, I think around then it just sort of, a few factors just meant that we weren't as under the radar as we used to be.
Grant: And during that time, I mean, you just continue to build a strong business that I think people always somewhat respected the fact that you were like, yeah, we're not raising money, we're kind of continuing to grow this.
Was there ever some concern that somebody would come out and raise huge amounts of money and try to blow you out of the water?
Or was it just kind of like, yeah, we've got the flywheel going, we feel good about this.
Wade: Yeah. We were pretty convinced that we had the flywheel going strong enough, particularly on that developer platform that network ecosystem, where it just was going to be really difficult for anyone who was trying to copy us to replicate our playbook straightaway.
And money wasn't likely going to be the thing that allowed them to be successful.
They needed to have something other than money on their side.
Because we'd seen like a lot of people who have some money try and just not be able to replicate it.
And then we'd seen bigger tech companies build like Zapier-esque things, and not really have the same success that we had.
And so, it just sort of seemed like money wasn't the limiting factor in this equation for us.
There was other things that we really needed to focus on and make sure that we continue to do a really good job or just get better at and that was what was the more key thing.
And raising money takes time, managing investors takes time.
And all of that would have been time that I would have been spending or Brian or Mike had to spend.
We just sort of felt like that time would have been better invested in our customers and making their lives better.
And so, that was kind of the calculus that we were making.
Grant: Yeah, I love that.
Let's zoom in a little bit on the partner program and how that developed and what that did.
Because it feels like within the enterprise ready sort of concept, right, integration is such a core feature for most SaaS companies, most enterprise software companies, because I think when people initially think about building their product, they don't think about the fact that they are not the source of truth.
They are part of a whole workflow, and they need to sort of integrate with different tools in order to really become part of an enterprise process, or just any company's processes.
And so, this partner program that you launched, when did that start? How's it worked?
It seems like it's sort of coupled on top of the developer program.
Can you kind of describe it and what it does?
Wade: Yeah, I mean, the first incarnation of it was when we launched the developer platform in 2012.
And it was basically taking these folks who are building on Zapier and then just figuring out how can we go to market together better?
And the things that we were just asking ourselves is, hey, you all have a set of users that would benefit from Zapier and we might have a set of users that would benefit from working with you.
So, is there sort of like just some mutually beneficial co-marketing we can do around this stuff.
And we sort of tried to keep it super lightweight and really easy to participate in, versus trying to do these really complicated BD deals and getting legal contracts and stuff involved. Because that kind of stuff just never really worked, it just slowed things down. And the impact didn't really change.
In fact, it's almost like an anti-pattern.
As soon as we see that, we're just like, I just bet the impact is not going to be that big, because you're not sort of playing for upside.
And so, through that, we started to build a little bit of a mental model about what worked really well for both parties for us and for the partner.
And so, we started to know, oh, here's what an email does. Here's what onboarding emails do.
Here's what blog posts do. Here's what landing pages do.
Here's what tweets do. Here's what webinars do.
Here's what these types of things. So, we tried just a whole bunch of different things.
And we did it with different partners.
And so over time, we watched and paid attention to the users that were coming through all these different channels.
And we knew what would really drive successful usage at the end of the day.
And so, we really tried to orient the partner program around creating successful customers and successful users for everybody involved.
And that, I think, is really what made our partner program successful.
And it took a while to get there because a lot of times the interest is more about having splash than creating some buzz around it.
And sometimes splash and buzz correlates with long term success, but oftentimes it doesn't.
And so, we had to figure out what are the things that really drive that.
And then, we had to build the trust with folks and actually do it enough times that we could convince people, hey, there's a better way to run these programs and be successful.
And today, what that looks like is when you launch with us, we have a whole playbook around it.
And we're like, hey, if you really want to have a kick butt launch with Zapier, here's the list of stuff that you should do.
And here's the list of stuff we should do. And this is what's going to make sure that this is a really fruitful thing.
So, what it boils down to is sort of starting with some hypotheses and then just kind of like over time, iterating our way through it to get to something that is based on real data and real evidence that makes an awesome partnership over time.
Grant: Yeah. I mean, those partners are basically like other SaaS companies, right?
I mean, that's sort of the bread and butter there.
And oftentimes, targeted at both individuals and businesses sort of in that same mix.
I guess the other thing to describe, just to make sure I kind of have it correctly, these partners integrate their APIs, their platform, their tooling, and then zaps are created by the end users, which kind of link several of those together.
And then those people publish the zaps and the zaps can be reused by other folks as well.
Wade: Yeah, more or less.
Grant: Yeah, great.
And so the partner program, I guess, Box became a partner when you launch the developer platform, and these other companies would sort of do the work themselves to actually maintain the quality of the integrations and manage the API as it moved along?
Wade: Yup. And we would certainly work with them to support that.
That was the other thing that we could do is not just improve the marketing around these partnerships, but actually improve the quality of the partnership as well too.
The quality of the product experience, because we can see, oh, these types of actions and triggers are getting traction amongst the user.
So, maybe try this. Or, hey, the way you have your API implemented means your authentication schemes aren't working as good as they could. So, maybe try this.
And the nice thing about that is because we see across so many different services, we can be a really useful feedback mechanism to our partners and around just more general things.
It's like, hey, yeah, some of this is self-serving, because if you do this, the Zapier integration is better.
But also, you have integrations with other vendors as well.
And so, we can tell you that if you do this, it's not just going to be Zapier who's going to benefit, it's going to be all these folks that are going to benefit.
We've actually show up with the data that supports that.
Grant: Yeah, that's cool.
And one of the things you mentioned to me before we started is the enterprise sort of adoption, right?
So oftentimes, we talked about how companies actually start to really feel enterprises adopting you.
So one, I mean, you mentioned the number of the Fortune 100 or 500 is pretty high.
And then talk about kind of those first big companies that started to come to you and show you interacted with them and how they were using the product and the feedback that they were giving you.
Wade: Yeah. Zapier very much started in the sort of like bottoms up marketing driven sales motion and yeah it's still very much as our bread and butter today.
And so it would be these individuals inside of these organizations, big and small, mostly small, but to your point, 70% of the Fortune 500 is using Zapier today in some capacity.
And they would sign up, go through the trial and start setting up zaps.
And if they had questions, they would email support, and our support team would be there to answer them.
And so that was the experience that was created.
It's fairly simple, fairly straightforward.
The first place we started seeing friction then is around a lot of the classic areas that enterprise want more of, it's purchasing, we want to purchase in a different way.
This credit card thing, we don't really have a mode for that.
Or, hey, can you answer questions around these sort of common security needs or privacy needs, data privacy needs?
And so those were probably like the two most common things that started to emerge.
And then later on, you started to hear more feature driven things saying, hey, can I have better control over which apps people are using or not using?
And this stuff started to show up after the launch of our team's product, which didn't happen until, I think, 2017 I want to say.
So, when that was launched, we're starting to see, okay, this product is good, but I want to have these types of features that gives me better controlled provisioning or better insights into how others are using the product, things like that.
So, that's where it started. We still maintained a fairly frictionless sales process.
And we've been fairly, I guess, open with these organizations about like, hey, this is what Zapier can provide you and this is what we can't provide you.
And if you're looking for something more than that, you can go find it elsewhere.
But you have to realize that comes at a cost.
Zapier's price points blow anyone else's out of the water.
And so, if that's what's important to you, you can go get it, but you're going to pay 10 or 100x times more for that, and maybe also not get as good of product.
And as a result, 9 times out of 10, folks are like, "Yeah, I'll just use Zapier, it's better. And so I'm just going to keep doing it."
And so that's kind of what those early signals have been like.
And then, just slowly over time, as those folks make up more and more of our user base, we're figuring out, okay, how can we actually meet them where they're at and do a better job of providing a frictionless buying experience, or frictionless onboarding experiences that don't require some of the more traditional top down enterprise sales motions, but still enable these enterprises to get their questions answered?
And to get their needs met in the way that is more familiar to them.
Grant: Yeah, it's really interesting.
So, it sounds like, I mean, number one, I think, there's a very big opportunity in that in terms of taking this deeper and deeper into enterprise accounts, and helping them realize they're doing this in all sorts of different ways today.
And sometimes, systems just aren't integrated and things are just very manual.
So, the idea that you can really automate a lot of those processes, and you have so much experience in doing this for years, I think is clear.
And then, the team's product was that the first time where it was like, you didn't have to share a username and password, but you could actually have a couple different people sort of managing zaps together and sort of managing the different API tokens or integrations?
Wade: Yeah, that was the first sort of multiplayer experience that we had.
Grant: Did that just come from customers being like, hey, we need this.
This is a core part of the features that we need to have.
Wade: Yeah, it very much was a sort of customer driven product expansion where it was like, yep, we can deliver on this promise to folks.
Grant: And now, it looks like even your base plan that's free sort of has up to two users.
So, it's every plan has a tiny team, at least, a team of two.
Wade: Yeah. And we started to see that be more common.
But when you look at the lower plans, it's not uncommon for it to be like an entrepreneur who has an assistant that is helping them with some of this stuff.
And so, a lot of that when you look at how the user plans are designed today, it's just figuring out what are the right pricing and packaging modes and the right mix of features that sort of meet them where they're at, at price points that are good value for them?
It's funny, the value concept is like, you've acknowledged you're going to pay 100 times more for this, if you're looking for, you know, X, Y, and Z different responses or handholding.
And so, you're like, we really focus on providing as much value even though we acknowledge that we might not be able to give you every single thing that you're looking for.
And so, that ability to say no sometimes is probably a really important part of the business strategy, as well as like just one of the constraints you put on yourself where you're like, look, this is the kind of business we want to run.
Wade: Yeah. And I think this is one of those things we learned from that lesson is, in doing so, I think you build trust with your customers.
Because what happens is, you say, this is what the product offering looks like.
We're going to give you our best value product.
And you can trust that this is the best deal, nobody else in our product base has sort of negotiated some secret handshake deal behind the scenes.
If you would have engaged us in a different way, you wouldn't have gotten a better deal.
We poured all of our effort into making sure that the list price is the best deal for you.
And also, this is reflected in sort of the end to end experience.
So, when you go look at things like our terms of service, we're not taking approach of, hey, let's start with the most company friendly terms of service.
And, as a customer, if you want to have different terms of service, well, great, you can come in and negotiate with us and negotiate it down to something that's a little more friendly to you, but you're going to pay an arm and a leg for it.
And then plus, we're going to have to deal with this lengthy sales process and this meeting back and forth.
And then finally, we're going to get to get started with the software.
Instead, what we say is, you know what, we're going to set our terms of service in a way that is sort of fair to both of us.
We're going to have a lot of mutual statements.
And we're going to make sure you're protected and we're protected.
And, we'll take on a little bit more risk in certain areas, if it means that you can just look at those things and go, you know what, that's fair.
I appreciate that. And so, that approach to selling just drives speed through the entire process, and gets rid of all this stuff that really prevents folks from doing the thing that they've already decided they wanted to do.
When you think about how most software is bought these days, even in modern enterprises, before the customer knocks on your door, they're already 90% of the way there.
They already know. They've already checked with colleagues to know oh, this is the product we can use.
They've already signed up for their free plan. They've already tried it.
They've already sort of built out these little proof of concepts.
So, they know they want to use you. All this other stuff just gets in the way.
And so if you can just be there to be more consultative, to be more assistive to really make sure that that experience is great.
You drive speed through the process and you can have your customers on the other side.
At least, that's been our experience.
Grant: No, that makes sense.
It's definitely clearly a counter to the top down enterprise sales motion that a lot of folks are very familiar with.
Grant: I still see clear opportunity to sort of work even more closely with those large enterprises, just because the opportunity for them to really leverage something like Zapier across their organization is probably so mammoth that it's worth millions or tens of millions of dollars.
I mean, the way that Salesforce is able to charge these huge licenses to companies, it's because the value, to your point, is orders of magnitude more and they know this is the best route for them to go.
And there's probably a similar path there and you kind of mentioned that last time.
If you look Atlassian's journey, it was one of continuously increasing price as they increase value to larger and larger companies, right, and still providing very similar value to the rest of the customers.
But finding that enterprise motion, I think, really allowed them to open up a massive business as a publicly traded company.
Wade: Yeah, 100%. And I think one of the things they did well, is they earned that over time.
They didn't come in and say, okay, well, we're just raising prices on you, but we don't have anything else to show for it.
They earned that.
They put the effort in to make sure to expand their product offerings to deepen the services they provide, in such a way that as a user you could go, okay, that's a good exchange of value. I'm still with you.
I guess, kind of going back to company building really quickly, when did you start to bring in other executives and other people to kind of help you run the business, right, because there's these three co-founders who don't have a ton of experience building software companies.
You've kind of worked with a couple.
But when did you start to bring in some of these execs who had been there before and kind of help you take some of those next steps?
Wade: Yeah. I think we were actually probably a little late on this.
I think this is one of those areas where it would have probably been useful for us to bring in folks a little earlier.
We brought our first sort of, I guess, true exec in 2016, our CFO joined at that point in time.
She took over finance and the people org and really just a lot of administrative stuff that takes to run a company.
And that was a huge, huge lever point for me, because I was doing a lot of that work with some contractors and part time folks, which was going okay, but I was quickly finding myself spending way, way, way more time on doing that.
So, 2016 was the first one.
And then, I think the first real wave of executives came even later in 2018, when we sort of brought in someone to run support, someone to run marketing and someone to run engineering.
And that was one of those things that, I think, in hindsight, because we sort of had the success that we'd have running it on our own, and we'd figured it out on our own, we were sort of like, hey, you know, what, these folks are going to be expensive to hire, are they really going to roll their sleeves up and work?
Are they just going to want to sort of lean back and boss people around?
And I think we're just wrong.
I think we're sort of just naive in that viewpoint because if you find someone that truly is great, they're able to bring a ton of experience, great strategic thinking, but they're also able to get in there and roll their sleeves up and coach others around them and really just grow the business.
And so, yeah, it can be hard to find those folks.
But they're definitely out there. And there's a lot of them.
There's even more of them these days as building these types of software companies gotten even more common.
Yeah. So, having that sort of experience in hindsight is like we shouldn't have dismissed that so easily.
Grant: Yeah. I feel the same way about we basically ran our company without any exact for five years. And when we finally brought in a couple of great execs, the other thing that did for me is it took the pressure off having to think about and manage every part of the business and sort of create work for every part of the business.
Whereas, when you have great execs, it just allowed me to breathe deeper and kind of step back and be like, I can trust this person will solve that problem.
And I don't have to lay in bed thinking about it every night. And I think that was the biggest value to that.
I mean, obviously it's great to have partners and folks in but that personal relief was so valuable for me and I was like, "Oh, well we should have done this earlier."
Wade: Yeah, 100%.
Grant: And the other thing is that sort of, again, I mentioned earlier in terms of being somewhat pressured about this is being remote, right, and kind of work from home.
And so, talk about how that's working? What have you learned?
I think one of the most important things that we've done is we've actually hired a couple of really great folks from GitLab and we've adopted several of their best practices.
And it's been super helpful. It's like, what are some of the best practices that you've implemented?
What's really helped your culture? What's helped your team be effective?
What are you doing that you think, as more and more companies really focus on being remote first or remote only that they should be doing as well.
Wade: A few things, I think, have helped us out a lot.
And I'll be frank with some things that we're still learning how to do, there's not a huge body of knowledge around how to build companies these ways.
And so, a decent amount, you do just kind of figure out through trial and error.
And sometimes, that's more error than you wish you had. But I think of a few sort of core principles.
First is in a remote organization, you don't get access to this sort of like hack that you do when you're in an office. And the hack in an office is you just go over and talk to the person and just be like, hey, I'm confused, what do I need to do about XYZ? And you tap them on the shoulder and you just clear it up right away. So because you don't get that, what that means is you need to be clear about your operating models from the get go.
And so, that means you're writing these things down, you're putting these systems and processes in place, and you're building some of these core principles that enable folks to sort of plug in and operate in these ways without a lot of guidance.
These are things that companies in offices have to do too but they usually can get away with doing them until much later.
And so, remote companies, I think, the pressure is just to do them earlier, which there is a cost associated with that.
But it's a cost you have to pay anyway. So, do you want to pay it early?
Do you want to pay it later? How do you want to go about it?
The good news is it creates a lot of discipline and structure in the organization that has, I think, more positives than negatives.
And so, that would be one thing is like, just get really good at defining those and working through those over time.
That's one massive benefit. The con of working in a distributed model is, camaraderie is a lot harder, and you have to work at it a lot more.
In office, sometimes you can get that kind of for free.
I mean, you should still be thinking about it, because you don't want your culture and camaraderie and all that stuff to be kind of an accident.
But you get more opportunities and it's a little more forgiving, I think, of an environment, whereas in a distributed org, you really have to go think about it.
You're going to have folks that only interact with the company through Slack or Zoom.
And even still, you have to be really thoughtful about inviting people in and making sure you're creating space for those voices to be heard and making sure that people really do feel like they're a part of the mission and part of the journey and a welcome part of the experience.
Because without that, remote work can feel very transactional, they can feel like, well, you hired me to do the job, I showed up, I did the job.
And then I shut the laptop lid, at the end of the day.
Or maybe my Slack just keeps pinging me all hours of the day and I have to be on Zoom meetings all hours a day and I just sort of feel like now I'm a bit of a robot in this machinery.
And a big part of that is because you don't get what you get in office, which is those little moments to breathe where you sit in the cafeteria and you just get to shoot the breeze with your colleagues.
Or you go on a walk to get some coffee at 3:00 in the afternoon and have a bit of a pick me up.
Those little moments are just not designed in remote by default.
And so, remote companies also have to be really thoughtful about how they instrument their culture and entrant camaraderie into the organization such that the folks you're bringing in feel like they're a part of that journey.
And so, the key places to pay attention to are your onboarding experiences, just making sure that that's baked in from the get go.
And then, what are the rituals that you have as part of the company?
Like how do you do this? What do you do daily? What do you do weekly?
What do you do monthly that includes folks? And it has to go above and beyond the operations of the company.
It can't just be like, did you hit your numbers this week? Did you do XYZ?
It has to be more about the human stuff like how's your family?
What do you do this weekend? What are your interests?
And really connecting with a person outside the confines of work.
And that I think is something that is harder in a remote organization.
You just have to design it better and you have to think about it a lot.
Grant: And I mean, right now how many employees is Zapier?
Wade: We're at about 500.
Grant: Wow. Okay. What are your rituals that scale?
What's driving camaraderie at that kind of scale?
Wade: Yeah, we're missing one big one right now, which is actually an in person event.
So, we've had these in person events usually twice a year and then some smaller ones throughout the year.
And those are definitely historically big sort of like keystone moments for us to build camaraderie and build those connections.
And they're kind of just like a jet fuel for getting people to sort of feel what it means to be inside of Zapier.
And I wish I could give a more concrete word to it, feel is really the sort of best way I can describe it.
Wade: But beyond that, I think there's a few things. One is that onboarding process.
So that happens every two weeks, we have a cohort of folks that start and they start together.
And what that does is it actually creates a group that goes through the same experience right away.
And so, they have that small community on day one.
And those bonds remain through their journey inside of Zapier.
You see folks who still continue to connect with those folks they onboarded with, even if they're on totally different teams inside the organization many, many years after the fact.
And that's just because that first entry point is such a shared moment for them that they're able to start there.
And so, I think that's one key ritual that we've had that's really important.
Grant: I love that. That's great.
Grant: Is that like a multi day onboarding? A single day? Just a morning?
Wade: The first week is mostly the company.
The L&D team owns the onboarding experience.
And so, if you're a leader and you're sort of like, hey, when does that engineer start on my team?
Or when does the marketer start on my team?
It's not on the first week, generally, it's like, hey, look, you can have an intro call.
You have some time for a few things.
But by and large, they're not actually starting their sort of core job, really until the second week.
And even in the second week, it's more like half and half.
That third week is really where it's sort of all into the core thing you're hired for.
Grant: Interesting. And are you onboarding people into their role at all during that first week?
Or is it like more total general onboarding?
Wade: Yeah, mostly company specific onboarding.
And this is something that we sort of shifted over time.
And I think in the very early days of Zapier, it was very much like, hey, we want you to ship code on first day.
We want you to deliver value to customers on the first day, which honestly, I think, it's great.
There's a really sort of action oriented mindset that sort of sets the standard that like, this is a place that gets work done.
And so, I think it's really powerful.
We've come to find that the opposite is better for us, though, which is that really having the broader context of what's the mission?
What's the strategy? How do you interact with people?
What's the etiquette in Slack? What's the etiquette and Zoom?
Being able to just sort of clarify and set expectations around all those things means that when they actually get into their job, they're usually way more effective versus if we didn't do that, the experience had just a lot more variance.
There would be obviously people who would kill it without that kind of stuff.
But there would be a lot more folks who just sort of got left behind.
And as a result, we've had more success in onboarding folks, as per cohorts.
Grant: And do you talk much about this publicly in terms of like some blog posts or other interviews, where some of your insight around how to onboard is available?
Wade: I think it's in a remote book. I think there's a chapter on it.
So, if you go to zapier.com/learn/remote-work, I think you can check it out.
And I'm pretty sure one or two of our people have done some podcasts on how they went about designing it.
And some of the lessons learned in the evolution of our onboarding process.
Grant: Yeah. I mean, it's super relevant for us personally.
Right where we are right now, in the last year, we probably added 40 or 50 people.
And so, we're looking to double the company, again, to get to 180, 160 in the next nine months to a year.
So, it's super relevant, we've been thinking about it.
So it's a really interesting insight in terms of batching folks together to create camaraderie to focus on the company onboarding before we really get into--
Because today, we're kind of make a fix in production or do something interesting, right?
It's about action. And so it'd be really interesting to see what an agenda would look like for that.
So that you can onboard employees successfully and give them the context they need to then know what they're doing and who they're dealing with. So, that's cool.
Wade: So, yeah, that was kind of like ritual number one.
The other rituals that I think have worked well for us this one, I think, is scaled okay.
Really good in the early days and I'm not sure how consistent we've been as of late but it certainly was pretty valuable and I think it could continue scaling if we put a little more work into it.
We have this concept of Friday updates, which is, every week, at the end of the week, you just publish in the company like, hey, here's kind of the top thing I was working on this week.
And here's what I got done. And here's what's up next for next week.
But the piece that was really important from a culture building perspective is the third part, which was unplugged.
And it's, hey, here's what I'm doing outside of work.
And yeah, oftentimes, people would post pictures of their family or their friends or out doing something fun.
And the comment section would always have people engaging and talking about those types of things and became just good ways to sort of get to know your staff.
So that was one. Second thing we do, Slack has this bot called Donut and paired up with random folks.
I think a lot of people are doing this these days.
I recommend it, it's good to do a call with somebody in your company that's no agenda, just chat and get to know somebody, really useful for forming bonds across.
And in fact, I even think Donut does this cool algorithmic thing where they try and figure out the distance between people, and they try and map you up with folks who are technically more distant in the org chart somehow.
Grant: Oh, interesting.
Wade: And I think they're doing some Slack data analysis to sort of figure that out.
So I think it gets better and better over time as the more your org does it. So, that's a good one.
And then there's like informal things, a bunch of off topic channels inside of Slack.
I think a lot of orgs try and put a stop to sort of non-work chatter.
And we don't really do that, we have all these channels are prefixed with fun, so you can surf spot them very quickly.
And you can decide if you want to join so there's fun sports or fun movies or fun music or fun games or fun gardening or fun DIY, or just sort of whatever the collective hive mind of the company is interested in.
There's channels around all these sorts of things and it allows people to sort of self-organize based on interests.
And most of these channels are pretty quiet.
People don't go just hang out in these channels all day long and not work.
But they end up being just nice little spots to discuss things.
For me, I am kind of like a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan and like all the movies and TV shows.
And so there's a channel that's around that.
And so, when Loki is airing and like the latest episode is out, I jump in there and say like, oh, I love this thing.
That was great. It's fun. And it's just a good way to get to know people who share interests with you inside of the company.
And then you find yourself working with them on a project.
And like, I kind of know this person already and this is another human.
And I think these little rituals and habits that just humanize each other are really, really important in the cohort.
Grant: Yeah, no, that's a great point. We have these off topic channels as well.
And it's like, I think, the idea of just prefixing them with fun is such a good idea.
Because that way you can find them, it's going to make some discoverable.
It's a really great idea. I love that.
Wade: Yeah. I mean, naming conventions for Slack channels is one of my top Slack tips.
Especially as you get there is just come up with some prefixes that help people do some wayfinding inside of slack, because you're going to have so many channels, and new folks are going to go, where do I go for what?
And so having some of these just simple things.
Grant: What are your other naming conventions? What else do you have?
Wade: So, we've got city is another one, so that's like location.
So if you're in the same city as somebody, which is nice, because if you want to do a little lunch or coffee or something like that, those are great.
Obviously, they've been underused in the last year or so.
But they're starting to get used more and more with the vaccines roll out going well.
There's a bunch of feeds, F-E-E-D, and these are mostly bots posting information and alerts.
So, you might have feed signup tracker, which is like, hey, what's the daily signups look like or feed customer issues, which is like, hey, a feed of something coming in from our ticketing system.
Or feed like uptime alerts, which is like funneling those stuff in.
So, these are a lot of just like mostly humans are not talking in those channels but they're just paying attention to them.
So, you can just see information coming in. So, these are really useful.
We've got teams like team prefixes, pretty useful.
And so those tend to be like the home base of a particular team where they'll chat about stuff.
We have WG which stands for working group, and these are usually sort of moment in times where a sort of ragtag group of folks will come together and solve a particular problem and then disband at the end of it.
So that's not too uncommon. Yeah, I mean, those are the sort of main ones that that come to mind.
Grant: Yeah, that's super helpful.
That's probably a thing we should have our people team look into is like, how to actually best organize and structure Slack because we all do spend so much time in there.
So, that's a great idea.
Grant: And then the other thing that I was listening to your podcasts and heard you guys talk about was Async.
Wade: Oh, yeah.
Grant: So is that something you use a lot, or what?
Wade: Yeah. So, Async is where all the Friday updates get logged in.
But it acts as like, probably the best way to describe it is public email, but it's on a website, instead of actually an email.
So, if I'm making an announcement to the company, I write it up in Async and post it there.
And then people can comment on it, there's a transcript log.
And it has some like Reddit-like type features where there's a master homepage, where this is sort of like across the whole company, these are the sort of top most interacted with things that are getting published in a given week.
But then there's also a personal homepage, which is more relevant to your specific interest.
So, I have a link I can go to and it tends to be my direct reports.
So it'll be like the exact team that I see all their publications and then maybe some other things that I tend to interact with more.
And so it does some smart things to try and surface information that's in my sphere.
There's also an inbox, which when you write these posts, you can like an email, you can put a to and say, like, hey, I wrote this with you in mind.
And so, the inbox will surface things so that people are like, hey, I specifically would like you to read this, because I think it's for you in mind.
So you have these different views on it that allow you to just kind of get a better perspective of what's going on across the company.
It tends to be a little more longer form, just more information dense.
Whereas Slack is a lot more like reaction type stuff, Async is a little sort of more thoughtful, like pieces of work that go into it.
And so, that's kind of how that works for us.
So, yeah, big company announcements like launches, we have like a logs channel, which is like change logs, results logs, bet logs, research logs, and just sort of people logging summaries of work that have happened.
Metrics reviews go on there, so like big like, hey, this is what happened in our team or in this part of the business over the last month.
This ends up being like a pretty high signal, low noise environment, compared to Slack, which can have a ton of noise, and you have to sift through the good stuff.
Grant: Yeah, I love that idea of sort of being able to even see the most interacted sort of with posts kind of things that way, you can know, when you join a company and kind of look over the brief history of like, well, what's been really important here in the last few years?
And then you can look chronologically.
That idea of sort of being able to surface.
Because I think about for us would be across email and Google Docs and Slack.
And there's not like a consistent place to find all of that.
So that's really kind of an elegant solution to that problem.
The things that you would stand up and tell everybody, like in the office, we did this or you give some talk during all hands.
A way to kind of materialize that. That's cool.
Wade: Yeah, it's working well for us.
Grant: And I know we don't have a ton of time left. But I'd love to hear your thoughts on--
You mentioned in the last probably four, three or four years, this category has emerged around low code, no code, how do you see yourselves in that category?
How do you see this category evolving?
What is the future of sort of how software is developed? And how does this play into it?
Wade: Yeah. I think, we're still defining it, a lot of us.
But I think it kind of is sort of a natural evolution of making things.
Yeah, I think, if you sort of rewind the clock a decade, and you look at the emergence of things like WordPress.
WordPress is a phenomenal vision that allows just a normal person to make a website.
It's like, hey, you got a website now. And that's great. You can put something on the internet.
Now, no code, you can go even further than just a website.
You can be saying, hey, I'm building full on applications. I'm filling mobile experiences, internal tools, or really, core workflows or things that feel like they have logic associated with them are now capable of being built by normal people too.
It's not this power that only an engineer has. Zapier, I think, has definitely played an important role in this particularly in that logic layer, where we're allowing folks to move data between front end and back end type experiences and manipulate it and make sure to get it to the right place at the moment that it needs to be. And it ends up being the glue in the stack that folks are trying to assemble for a lot of these types of tools.
And so, when folks are sort of learning how to build things in this sort of style of no code building, Zapier is often a sort of critical infrastructure piece that becomes a part of their stack.
It's been fun to watch this ecosystem sort of blossom and emerge.
I think it's just such an important thing because you see so many stories of folks who've had an idea or have a problem that they want to solve and they've always just not had quite the skill set to really unlock it.
And so, when they are able to adopt these tools and build these things, you can just see their eyes light up.
And you can see how important it is to them.
And then you can also see the impact that they're having in the types of businesses that they're building, the types of experiences that they're building.
And you just realize being able to unlock the potential of these folks is important for them as a person.
But it's also important for us as a society, because we're able to tap into the collective knowledge of just more people.
And so, I suspect this space will continue to be a really important space for things to get built, because it just means that we're able to get more out of more people.
Grant: Yeah, more participation particularly as more folks come online and more folks have insight.
There's a lot of really smart people who can start to contribute.
We all sort of stand on the shoulders of the folks who came before us.
So, the more impact those folks can continue to have, the higher we can continue to strive across the board. So, I love that.
Wade: Yeah, 100%.
Grant: Cool. Wade, thank you so much for joining. This was amazing.
I really appreciate you allowing me to pepper you with questions about random topics and other things that I'm interested in.
So I really appreciate your time.
Wade: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Grant. This was fun.