Episode 327 | Supporting 700+ services w/ Wade Foster

Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike interviews Wade Foster of Zapier, about supporting over 700 services.  Wade gives a brief history of Zapier as well as how they went from zero to 1.5 million users in 5 years. He also shares some early marketing techniques he used.

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Mike [00:00]: In this episode of ‘Startups for the Rest of Us,’ I’m going to be talking to Wade Foster about how they support over 700 services with Zapier. This is ‘Startups for the Rest of Us’ episode 327.

Welcome to ‘Startups for the Rest of Us,’ the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching and growing software products whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it.

I’m Mike.

Wade [00:27]: And I’m Wade.

Mike [00:28]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. How you doing this week, Wade?

Wade [00:32]: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me, Mike.

Mike [00:34]: Awesome. It’s great to have you on. I wanted to give a very brief intro to you and to tell people a little bit about who you are. You’re one of the cofounders of Zapier. Zapier is, essentially, the glue that holds together a lot of different applications and passes data back and forth between them. But I guess with that said, I’ll turn it over to you because you’re probably going to rephrase that much better than I possibly could.

Wade [00:54]: Oh, yeah. The old, “What does Zapier do question?” Glue is a good word. Connector, integrations is a good word. Honestly, it’s just this work for automation platform that lets you hook up basically any app you might be using in your business. A simple use case might be I get an email and it has an attachment. You can set up a little rule in Zapier that automatically saves those attachments to Dropbox. Something more sophisticated might be someone fills out a lead form on my site that’s being powered by a tool like say Unbounce and it pushes it through a tool like Clearbit that grabs a bunch of social data for it. Then based on some conditions it maybe decides, “I’m going to send this into my CRM and have a salesperson follow up with it.” Or maybe I’ll send it into a tool like Rob’s Drip and say, “Let’s nurture this user.” Something like that. So it can do a lot more sophisticated things as well.

Mike [01:47]: But it’s all about automating workflows in a business process and you really don’t necessarily see the product itself. You see all the results of it though. It’s always working in the background for you.

Wade [01:58]; Yeah. Exactly. Zapier is an invisible product in the sense of when it’s running. You set up the rules in Zapier. So there’s a UI for setting up the rules and how data should flow from app to app. But once you have that set up, Zapier just cranks away. So if you’re technical, it’s kind of like a Cron job more or less but on steroids.

Mike [02:13]: Cool. So why don’t you give us a bit of a brief history of Zapier. When did you start on it? How long did it take before you went from this whole idea of having it to going through a little bit about the validation process and then actually launching it as a product.

Wade [02:28]: We started Zapier in late 2011. So I guess a little before that, Brian and I, who’s one of my cofounders had been doing a decent amount of freelancing messing around with various projects. And one of the things that came up a handful of times was these little integration projects. So push these PayPal sales into QuickBooks for me. Or push this set of leads into Salesforce for me. Stuff like that. It was kind of annoying work to do because no one particularly likes doing API work it seems. But it was really valuable for these customers. So Brian messaged me on chat and said, “I think we can build a tool that lets these business owners or nontechnical use case users set up these sorts of integrations without having to employ a developer, an engineer.” And I found myself nodding my head saying like, “That makes a lot of sense.”

We actually teamed up with Mike, who’s our third cofounder and built off the original version of Zapier at a hackathon, a startup weekend if you’ve ever heard of those. And things went really well and we’re like, “Let’s really give this a go because this seems like something that folks could use.” We were back in Columbia, Missouri at that time and we decided, “We can’t go at this full-time because we need to have money and things like that.” You don’t just raise a bunch of money in the Midwest typically.

So we kept our day jobs. Mike was still in school. Kept finishing up school. And we worked on this nights and weekends. We tried to find ways that we could figure out if people wanted this. The best ways for that were looking into user forums. I distinctly remember Highrise, the CRM, having a thread that was several years old asking for Google contacts integration and had hundreds of comments on it where people wanted this thing. We’d go find for little bitty signs like that that showed, “If we could build something like this, people would be interested.” So that’s really kind of how Zapier got its start.

Mike [04:24]: Cool. One of the things that I’ll just point out is it’s pronounced z-a-p-i-e-r not z-A-p-i-e-r, right?

Wade [04:28]: Yep. Zapier makes you happier is the trick we always share with folks.

Mike [04:32]: Oh, nice. That’s a good way to remember it and let people know that’s how to pronounce it. Because I’ve honestly mispronounced it for years.

Wade [04:39]: Yep. We’ve heard z-A-p-i-e-r; z-A-p-i-A; z-a-p-i-A. Yeah. We’ve heard every pronunciation under the sun.

Mike [04:46]: Cool. That was back in 2011. Fast forward six years and how many apps are you managing right now in terms of the integrations?

Wade [04:55]: Sure. There’s 750 plus. I think 788 is the exact number. It changes daily. There’s a lot.

Mike [05:03]: How are you actually managing those? Are you responsible for every single one of those or is it really the developers behind the applications that are responsible for them?

Wade [05:13]: The vast majority are built and maintained by the vendors behind these companies. So you look at companies like Slack or HubSpot or Gravity Forms or Pipedrive or Drip. Those vendors have built and maintain their integrations on Zapier. Now we do a lot of work to help and assist with that because ultimately Zapier is our service so we feel responsible for the quality of those integrations but these days that’s how it happens. Originally we did build out the original 50 or 60 or so apps. But once we launched our developer platform, we started to expand the universe of people who could add apps to Zapier.

Mike [05:52]: I think that’s an interesting point to bring up just because when I was looking at Zapier and trying to think about how I could integrate Bluetick in it, my initial thought was that I had approach you guys and convince you that you should build an integration for Bluetick into this so that then it would be available through your platform. And you’re saying you’ve got this developer platform that allows the developers themselves to just build something, right?

Wade [06:15]: Exactly. Yeah. Early on we realized we were getting so many requests to add services to Zapier. And we just realized that there was just no way we’ll be able to keep up with the demand for this because we would have so many developers saying, “Build my app. Build my app. Build my app.” As much as we would want to do that, that was just not going to be possible for us. So we’re like we need to build a way that lets them do it themselves because the interest is so strong. So, in 2012 we launched v1 of our developer platform to kind of kick start that process.

Mike [06:48]: Yeah. So, this developer platform. Can you tell me a little bit more about what the process is for a developer who has an app and maybe they want to get it integrated into Zapier so that people who are using Zapier can send data back and forth between Zapier and that app and the other applications that you guys support? What’s the process for somebody getting started with that?

Wade [07:07]: It’s relatively straight forward. It’s self-serve. So you go to Zapier.com/developer and you can basically just start building against it. We have an API that we kind of call a standard, I guess for a lack of a better word. So if it fits those types of standards, it’s going to be super easy to set up because we automatically configure a lot of this stuff for you. If you kind of do authentication by OOF2 by the book, more or less, we auto set that up for you. If you’re end points are rest based JSON endpoints that can sort by descending order chronologically, you’re going to basically be able to just plug stuff into Zapier and it’s just going to work.

However, lots of services don’t have those things set up in what we would call the standard way, I guess more or less. I say standard because there’s lots of ways to do this stuff.

Mike [07:57]: It’s called a guideline.

Wade [07:58]: Guidelines.

Mike [07:59]: Recommended guidelines.

Wade [08:00]: Yeah. Right.

Mike [08:02]: And it’s not even –

Wade [08:03]: That’s not a problem, right. So we have this whole scripting environment where you can manipulate the requests to match our recommended guidelines, if you will.

Mike [08:13]: – yeah. And the two things that I came across when I was doing the integration with Bluetick and Zapier was that one: I didn’t realize how easy it was to get started. If you have a Zapier account, you just go into the developer platform and you can just create a Zap and there’s – I didn’t realize this – but there were three different ways that you can build it. You can build it as private so it’s just you that can see it. Essentially what that means is if somebody doesn’t have a Zapier integration you could almost create it for them. And then just not share it. You can keep it to yourself.

And then there’s the invite only which is where you would probably use it to invite some of your beta customers. And then there’s the global. And it’s interesting there’s that progression there. But you could build your own Zapier integration for somebody else’s product technically.

Wade [08:55]: Yeah. You totally can. People use that private state for like hobby projects and small little things all the time. That invite only stage gets used by slightly bigger companies to hook in apps that are their own internal tools, more or less, and invite their own employees or teammates in to use them with no intentions of ever having a public app on Zapier. You can have apps in any of these stages or intend to have an app in any of these stages at Zapier.

Mike [09:24]: And you essentially make sure that when people are pushing out new versions of it, they’re not breaking existing functionality, right?

Wade [09:31]: Yeah. We have this whole process. One for when you want a public app it goes [?] and things like that. I think that was one of the lessons we learned early on is that we would push out apps just because we wanted to move that number of apps supported count up. And we would probably skimp on a QA quality check sort of thing. But we realized over time that’s not helping anybody. It’s helping our ego, maybe, but the end user might suffer for that.

So we pushed folks through a quality check. And then when migrations or changes are made to apps that are live, there’s a whole migration process to mitigate some of those breaking changes for folks who are relying on it.

Mike [10:10]: Now how long does it take for somebody to go through that process? Let’s say that they’ve got an initial version out there integrated into Zapier’s developer platform and they want to push it live. Is there additional manual buttons that need to be pushed? Or is it all more or less automated?

Wade [10:25]: It really depends. If you have an API that already fits those guidelines that match us, you can physically do this really quickly. We actually have a video of our CTO adding Etsy in under six minutes because our API fits those guidelines that we have. You can actually do the integration super quickly if you’re familiar with it. And then if you’re not familiar, you have to read some docs and figure some of that stuff out which can take a little bit of time. And then, of course, I mentioned the QA process. So that you nail it the style guide right out the gate. Pay attention to all the rules and configurations that we suggest. You can nail it the first time around and that might take 24 to 48 hours for someone to go through the review Q & A process.

If you’re not matching those guidelines, it might be a little bit of work. It could maybe take a couple days of people time. If that’s the only thing you’re focusing on to maybe get that ironed out. I know, Mike, you just went through one so maybe you can comment for you on what your experience was.

Mike [11:24]: Yeah. My experience was probably more painful. I think you’re right in terms of the people time. But the reality is it’s not like that was my sole focus. There’s lots of other things that I was doing and working on. And changing, like with my product, the entire product is built on my API. So in order to make it work with Zapier, it was actually much more painful because if I made any changes to the API then I had to go into my client code and change all that code. And then I had to go to Zapier.

So it was actually significantly more painful. And the work around I ended up coming up with was I just created a custom Zapier endpoint and anything that needs to be done, I just send it to there and then I’m not affecting my client site code inside of the app.

Wade [12:05]: Yeah. That’s a consideration lots of apps will have if they already have users relying on a particular input and it doesn’t match our API guidelines, well, something’s got to give right there. I think your solution is actually a pretty common one what folks adopt just to say this is the way it needs to be done for Zapier so let’s make an endpoint for that.

Mike [12:24]: Cool. Moving on a little bit from the technical aspects of it. You went from zero to one and a half million users in five years. What made that possible?

Wade [12:35]: I think this is the magic of having 700 plus apps on Zapier, honestly. Every new app that we would add to Zapier, or later on that somebody else would add to Zapier later on, was a new user base that we could tap into. Really early on we started developing kind of playbook for doing marketing alongside of our partners. So every time a new app is launched on Zapier, we’re trying to get an announcement in their monthly newsletter or their feature launch newsletter. We’re trying to get listed in their integrations directories. We’re making sure that their onboarding email sequence, when they send out the advanced tips email, that Zapier is included there.

So we’re doing all sorts of things with them to try and continually just tap into their user base. We sent up landing pages for all the potential integrations that could possibly exist so we can start driving search traffic to it. Just lots of different ways that we can just try and tap into this existing user base that already exists and get those to us. That’s really been the bread and butter for us.

And then it’s five years of work. You just kind of make progress every single day and push yourself to be a little bit better each day and that kind of compounds upon itself.

Mike [13:54]: Yeah. It sounds to me like the couple of different things that you had going for you was one: I guess from external to Zapier. We call it integration marketing but it’s really integrating into other apps and, honestly, Zapier is one of the big ones that is pushed because you have such a large user base and there’s all these other apps that you are essentially cross promoting your app between them because it gives you that viral component. And that sort of plays into it as well and you’re in the middle so you get the benefit of both of those things.

Wade [14:22]: Yeah. Totally. You can leverage the fact that we have a big user base to reach to our user base. Like we launched that to an email list of a million plus. Plus, if you’re creative, you can go to the apps that are on Zapier and say, “We now have an integration through Zapier. Let’s do some marketing around this.”

Mike [14:39]: You know, what’s interesting is I’ve actually used – I don’t know if you’ve heard this before – I’ve used Zapier as essentially a search engine to find solutions to problems.

Wade [14:47]: Yeah. That’s more or less what’s happening more and more these days. It’s like our app directory has tons of stuff. We have a lot of content around the best apps for certain categories of things. So people more and more kind of look at Zapier and say, “If they’re on Zapier, they’re probably a pretty good app.” It probably means their open; they play well with others. There’s some other nice signals that they’re getting from our directory.

Mike [15:12]: One of the things that you talked about very early on was the fact that you had been working with different customers to try and do integrations from your previous company where you were just doing web development for people. What were some of the earliest things that you found that got you some initial traction with Zapier?

Wade [15:30]: I mentioned the forums earlier and that was probably the best thing for getting a handful of folks. So that Highrise forum that had hundreds of comments. I remember one on Evernote and I remember one on Dropbox. I remember one on Salesforce as well, that had these forums where people would ask for it. And I would drop into these forums and say, “I’m working on a project where I might be able to solve this for you. If you’re interested get in touch here.” And I would drop a link back to Zapier in a contact form. And a decent chunk of people would say, “This is what I’ve been looking for. It doesn’t look like I’m going to get an official support for a native integration so this seems like the next best bet.” And we would get a decent chunk of folks coming in that way. One link in a forum might drive 10 site visitors and five of them would fill out that form.

So early on that was just perfect for us because it was just the right amount of people we needed to test our assumptions, build out the initial apps we needed on Zapier.

Mike [16:31]: Now that sounds like an extremely high ratio of people who visited and filled that out. I mean, you’ve got 10 visitors which does not sound like a lot. Most people would look and say, “I really want to get 100 or 1000 or 5000.” But you’re saying that 10 was what really did it for you? That’s all it took?

Wade [16:48]: Yeah. For us, I think it was those forum posts were so – If you go back – I don’t even know if you could find them anymore. A lot of people have nuked their forums. But the comments in there were so visceral to these people. It’s like, “I need this integration so bad.” It was so needed for them they took time to write on a forum about it. Just the fact that we were offering that, I think, people were like, “Oh my god. There’s a way I can get this.” So they went through, clicked through and if it seemed like it was going to solve their problem then they were more than happy to give it a try. And so I think that’s why the conversion rates on those 10 visits were so high. It was just like, “This is a thing I’ve already raised my hand and said I’m begging for this. I need this really bad.”

Mike [17:32]: Right. The fact of the matter is that they saw your explanation in the forum and then they clicked the link and now they’re at a page where they’ve almost already raised their hand and said, “Yes. I’m interested in this.” And then you put it right in front of them and say, “Here’s a form to fill out to contact us and then we’ll talk.” So they’re already interested. They’re kind of past that point. So that’s kind of an interesting data point.

Wade [17:52]: Yeah. It’s like, you know, people who are like, “I want some Girl Scout cookies.” And we just walked up and said, “We got some. You want to buy them?” They’re like, “Yes, please.”

Mike [17:58]: Yes. I’ll take 400 boxes of Thin Mints.

Wade [18:01]: Yeah. More or less.

Mike [18:04]: So, obviously, it sounds like that one worked out for you really well. What are some other marketing techniques that you tried that just completely bombed? I think that that’s an interesting conversation.

Wade [18:13]: Good question. I think later on as we got bigger, we started experimenting with some of the different tactics you hear. And one of the ones that we tried was running joint webinars with a lot of our partners. This one was one we really struggled to make super effective for us. And I think it might be because we have this freemium low cost sort of thing and webinars took a lot of time and effort to put a nice one together and to get enough people on them. And so maybe that’s why it didn’t work. But ultimately we would do these things and we might get a decent chunk of folks to show up. Like we’d get 200 or 300 folks to register and maybe half of that would show up. But a lot of them would already be signed up to Zapier so it wasn’t helping us get new users. We were hoping that the partners, the app that was in mind, would promote this more heavily to their user base. But a lot of times they would just talk about it on their blog or on Twitter or something like that which didn’t ultimately drive much traffic to it.

And so, it was just a lot of time and work for relatively low amounts of people coming to us. We were just hoping to get it scaled out more. We still do some of these mostly just to make some of our bigger partners happy. But when we were really trying to do it, we did maybe a dozen of them and we really maybe only had one that was any meaningful result for us.

Mike [19:38]: Yeah. It sounds to me like if the intent was to help out the partners who are integrating into your app then that would have been beneficial for them but not necessarily for you because most of the people who are attending are already users of Zapier. It doesn’t really make a difference.

Wade [19:53]: Yeah. It was like these people, maybe they’re looking for some extra use cases for Zapier but that’s the kind of stuff we could have solved with an email and said like, “Here’s 10 use cases with this particular app. Go try these out. They’re probably pretty good.” And you don’t have to take time to put on a real time event sort of thing.

Mike [20:11]: Right. Cool. One of the things that comes to mind is that Zapier is primarily a remote company, correct?

Wade [20:17]: Yep. 100%.

Mike [20:20]: So last week’s episode, Rob and I talked about some of the pros and cons of a local versus a remote team. And Rob also talked about kind of hybrid approach that he used with building Drip. What’s some of the biggest challenges that you’ve found with running a remote team? You’ve got what, around 70 employees right now?

Wade [20:35]: Yep. I think the biggest challenge is it really forces you to be more disciplined around communication and information sharing. So you think for us, we hire all around the world as well. So we’re in about a dozen time zones. Right now, I have teammates that are sleeping or not working. If I’m doing work that is going to affect them, I have to make sure to document that either in code like in GitHub or it needs to be Trello or Quip or somewhere that they can take advantage of it. So when they come in and start to pitch in on the projects I’m working on, they can pick up where I left off and not have any dangling threads outstanding.

So I think really just being intentional about building that communication fire hose so that people can tap into the information that exists but don’t necessarily have to tap on someone’s shoulder to get it.

Mike [21:25]: Kind of related to that, have you ever thought about opening an office some place or is it your intention to just keep the company remote forever? Or at least until the foreseeable future?

Wade [21:32]: Yeah. We’re all in on the remote side of things. The benefits for us just so far outweigh some of the challenges. And the main benefit of course being the people that you get to work with. We’ve got some fantastic folks that are working with us here at Zapier that, if we limited ourselves to a 30-mile radius around where we live, we just never would have an opportunity to work with them. And it just makes recruiting easier because you can recruit from anywhere instead of that 30-mile field which turns out anywhere is a lot bigger than 30 miles around where you live.

Mike [22:07]: Yeah. And think that that is an interesting contrast to how Rob built up Drip and his team. His view on it was that they hybrid model for them worked really well where they did have an office but they also had everybody coming into the office a couple of days a week because the collaboration opportunities and the comradery really trumps that being completely remote and in different time zones.

And I’m not saying that one mechanism is better than the other, but I do want to point out that it seems to me like, depending on who the founders are and how they best operate and the types of people that you hire, either one can work equally well. It’s really just a matter of how well you put together the team and how well everybody gels together.

Wade [22:48]: Yeah. Absolutely. We’ve had folks that we’ve brought in at Zapier that didn’t work out. They realized a couple months on the job like, “Remote’s just not going to work for me. I just need to be around more people regularly.” It’s been relatively few but it has happened. And I think that’s just you as a founder but then also you if you’re going to be going to work for somebody has to just be honest about what’s a good work environment for you. What makes you thrive?

Mike [23:16]: So, along that line, what would be your advice for people who are looking to hire either remote contractors or remote employees? Are there things that they should be specifically looking for? Like traits in those individuals. Or are there specific red flags that you can think of?

Wade [23:30]: For us, the things that we really like are folks who have shown a propensity to start and finish projects independently. This could mean that they’ve got a side project that they’ve done a pretty good job with. It could mean that at their last job they started a pretty new initiative and saw it through. You know, kick started with the principle impactors. Just anyone that kind of just gets stuff done is a big one.

We look a lot for folks who are really good at communicating through written word. So folks who aren’t curt but know how to, hey, like an exclamation point or an extra emoji or smiley face goes a long way to giving those things that you don’t get like body language when writing is your principle medium.

I think probably the last thing that’s important which could sometimes be tough to judge because it’s kind of outside of what’s legally askable but it’s really nice if folks have a social circle outside of work. If they principally use work as their social outlet, it’s really going to be tough in a remote setting because there’s just not any people around to be that. But if they have family or friends or meetup group that they go to regularly. If there’s a co-working coffee joint where they’ve got a lot of friends or something like that that they can get locally. That really helps out too.

Mike [24:53]: You know, it’s interesting because that actually came up. We kind of phrased it differently. I don’t think we worded it quite as well as you did. But the basic idea was that feeling of isolation and, specifically, looking for what somebody has going on outside of work to maintain a social life. That’s a really good piece of advice I think.

Wade [25:10]: Yeah. We have a ton of families at Zapier and it seems like a lot of them get through family. But we also have folks that don’t have families and have friends or other social outlets to make it happen too.

Mike [25:21]: Cool. In terms of red flags, what are things that you would look for that say this person would probably not be a good fit for a remote working environment?

Wade [25:29]: Well, that communication one is a big one. If they feel like, “Let’s get on the phone to discuss everything.” Maybe your remote environment is set up to work through the phone. But that’s not how it is at Zapier. We do everything through Slack or some other written medium. If they can’t communicate well in an email or their always like, “Let’s get on a call to discuss that.” It’s like is this what it going to be all the time. You can’t get on a phone call with someone who’s half way across the world very easily to discuss a thing. You’ve got to figure out how to do it written and asynchronously.

I think that’s a big one. And really it’s the opposites of some of these things. It’s like do they not get stuff done. You can ask them about a time they shipped a project. Or if you’re hiring for a customer support role, talk about the customers you supported. And you can pay attention to what do they think is impressive versus what do you think is impressive. If they’re like, “I helped out 10 customers over email today.” Well, for us that’s not super impressive. We’ve got folks that are doing 60, 70, 80. So that’s totally different volume of work.

So you can just ask those behavioral interview type questions to figure out is this the type of person that gets stuff done? Or do they tend to not be that motivated, I guess?

Mike [26:43]: So when you’re actually going through the process of hiring somebody, do you do phone calls for them or Skype interviews? Or is it all through email?

Wade [26:52]: We do both. We have an application form that asks some questions that we think will elicit responses that tell us how they will do the job. And then we do a follow up phone screen that makes sure they understand the role. Makes sure we understand who they are and get a sense for is this the type of person that is going to be a good communicator, they’re going to get stuff done, that they can empathize with other teammates. Kind of some of the values that we have here at Zapier.

And then we have a second interview which is a skills test interview where we actually have some scenarios that we’ve built out that represent the work of that role at Zapier. So we run them through that skills test. And that skills test has probably been the best addition to our hiring process because it really makes sure that folks do have the underlying skills to be successful at Zapier.

Mike [27:43]: One of the things I’ve encountered is that you make the process sound rather lengthy and the reality is it sounds like it’s only about three to four steps long. But I think for somebody who’s building something in their living room or from their kitchen table that process sounds overly long and overly burdensome for them. But at the same time, if you don’t go through that process, it’s very easy to fall into a situation where you’re made a bad hire or somebody’s not going to work out. And then you spend three months stringing things along instead of just ending it and saying, “We need to part ways because this isn’t going to work out.”

Wade [28:17]: Yeah. And you know, from start to finish, it could go really fast. When we decide to review the applicants from the time where we’re like let’s schedule that first phone screen and go through that skills interview process. We’ve had that done, start to finish, in less than a week before. So it can go really fast if you’re dedicated to making it happen.

Mike [28:37]: I guess the next question I have for you is that you’ve established a substantial sized company now. You’ve got 70 employees. You’ve got one and half million users. What’s one of the biggest challenges you see for the business moving forward?

Wade [28:49]: I think the big thing is most companies don’t fail because of some sort of external factor. Most of them fail because the people inside the company, and likely the founders, honestly. So Brian, Mike or myself, mess something up. We do something that hurts the culture. People turn against us or we make some dumb decision that drastically affects our ability to ship a good project or ship good product. Something like that. I think I’m just constantly paranoid about trying to make sure that Zapier is a fantastic place to work and that we’re bringing in high caliber folks who can make sure that we are making good decisions and that we’re making good forward progress and shipping things fast and all the stuff that we want.

Mike [29:35]: Is that something that kind of as an executive team you guys meet and talk about? Or is that just something that you guys kind of keep in mind moving forward as you make decisions about the company? I’m just wondering how much of it is keeping this in mind versus being intentional about that.

Wade [29:48]: We actually do try and do this intentionally. So once a month when the executive team, we ask two questions of each member on the executive team which is: What is the biggest problem you and your team are having right now? And then a second follow up question to it is: What’s a problem that might pop up down the road if it’s not addressed now? And honestly, that second question is way more important to me because the problems that people talk about now are the stuff you already know about. It’s like, “We know that that’s a problem. We’re working to address it.” We’re going to get that fixed up.”

That second one is the stuff that people haven’t articulated yet. It’s stuff they haven’t shared. And usually it’s phrased such as like, “What’s a problem that will pop up?” But honestly when they answer it, it’s stuff that’s already popping up now. They’re sharing things that I’ve already seen this happen once. And so you know when you hear that, it’s like, “We need to start fixing that stuff now too.” So it really helps you cut off the problem areas before they get enough room to cause a really big issue.

Mike [30:50]: Yeah. I think that’s a really good question to ask yourself. I have a couple of things that I have on my monthly to do list that just kind of pops up on the first of each month that just says look at the biggest problems you’ve had this past month and then review what the goals are moving forward to reevaluate things and find out if there’s anything that needs to be either reprioritized or anything like that. I think intentionally thinking about what could be problem down the road that would almost be a business killer is probably something good to add to that list.

Wade [31:20]: Yeah. And I think the combo, like asking them together, is what’s really interesting. Because you get kind of those things that you already know about and you already see, and then you get it contrasted against some of the stuff that maybe you don’t see. And when a company gets to a certain size, those types of questions are really helpful. Especially for me. I don’t have the visibility to everything at Zapier like I used to. I used to do everything so I used to know everything that goes on as we’ve grown –

Mike [31:46]: Now that you’re CEO, you know nothing.

Wade [31:47]: – yeah. Right. It’s just a little tougher. You have to work harder to get some of those insights that you just learned by almost osmosis in the past.

Mike [31:56]: Right. You’re a little bit more removed. There’s a layer of abstraction between you and the actual problem so you’re trying to interpret things more than anything else.

Wade [32:03]: Exactly. And it’s like, “That is a problem.” So maybe I’ll actually step in and do some of that work. Like, “There’s a problem in support.” I’ll go back and do some support. I’ve got that skill set. I can jump in and see like, “How is that causing problems? How can I better understand this so that we can come up with a good solution here?”

Mike [32:20]: Cool. So I guess to wrap things up a little bit, where can people follow up with you or keep in touch with you?

Wade [32:25]: Yeah. Two places. Email: Wade@zapier.com. And then Twitter, I’m pretty active as well. @Wadefoster. I’ve got open DM so you can DM me there too.

Mike [32:33]: Great. Well, thanks for coming on. I really appreciate you coming and talking to us and sharing the experience that you had with Zapier.

Wade [32:39]: Yeah. Thanks, Mike. I’m really excited to be here.

Mike [32:41]: If you have a question for us, you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or email it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from ‘We’re Outta Control’ by MoOt used under Creative Commens. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for “startups” and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode.

Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

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