You know how I keep saying that great business ideas are really based on addressing customers’ pain?
Well, today’s guest is a Mixergy fan who did it with me a few years ago, and that’s how I became his first customer.
If you want to learn how to start a business, learn from him.
Wade Foster is the co-founder of Zapier, a tool that lets your favorite apps work together.
Watch the FULL program
Wade Foster, Zapier
Wade Foster is the co-founder of Zapier, a tool that lets your favorite apps work together.
Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I am the man who puts his hand in your face whenever he starts a conversation. I’m also Andrew Warner, the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart.
We got an ambitious upstart with me here today. You know, I keep saying in hundreds, probably, of my thousand-plus interviews, that the way to start a business is, or the way that I’ve learned from my interviews to start a business, is not to say where is a good idea, but instead to say, where is a person who has a pain and is willing to pay for the solution?
Well, today’s guest is a Mixergy fan who did that process on me, on me personally, a few years ago! And on other people too. And I wanted to invite him here to talk about how he did it so you can learn from him how to start not just a business, but a new product. Wade Foster is the co- founder of Zapier, a tool that lets your favorite apps work together. We use it here on Mixergy and I’ll give you a couple of examples of what it does for us.
As soon as I’m done with this interview, I’m going to go to my contact management software where I have Wade’s contact information and I’m going to say, interview done. Automatically, Zapier is integrated with that software and will email my editor using my name and all my text and say, hey Joe, this interview is done, please edit it. As soon as Joe is done editing the interview, automatically an email, because it’s hooked up with Zapier, will email my virtual assistant and say, hey, can you check the audio levels to make sure that it’s all right, that it sounds good?
And that’s kind of stuff that Zapier does, it works with all our different software that we use online, it makes them all work well together, and without me, thankfully. All right, we will find out how he built this company, how well he’s doing with the company. And it’s all thanks to Scott Edward Walker, he’s the entrepreneur’s lawyer. You can find out all about him at walkercorporatelaw.com. But I’ll tell you more about him later. First I’ve got to welcome Wade. Welcome, buddy.
Wade: Hey Andrew, thanks for having me.
Andrew: Do you remember what led you to contact me a few years ago?
Wade: Yeah, I was looking for people who needed help connecting tools and I happened to stumble across a stock exchange post where you were asking about Pay Pal and High Rise integration. It was a few months old, I think it was eight months old at the time. So I was a bit worried that it was stale, you wouldn’t pay attention, but I kind of talked myself into it. I said, Okay, he’s got the problem, or at least he used to, so I’ll email him and see if it’s something he’s still struggling with.
Andrew: You know it’s interesting that you actually admitted and were self- aware enough to know that it was a challenge to contact me. It’s a challenge to contact potential customers in general. Would you talk a little bit about why that’s a challenge because I’ve noticed that it is for entrepreneurs in the audience?
Wade: Yeah, I think, for me it’s nerves around rejection. I’ve never been a sales person, I’ve gotten better at it, I’m not great, but I still hate being told no. And especially to email someone like you, who’s someone I’ve looked up to for a long time, and worry that you’d come back and say, no, why are you talking to me, Wade, this is a dumb idea. Or just say I don’t have time, I’m not interested in talking to this small guy from Missouri. That’s a scary proposition, to just get told no like that. And so, I think that’s partly why we’re so afraid to just email people.
Andrew: And what about the impact of not having a full product when you’re talking to a stranger, not having something to give them?
Wade: That’s pretty terrifying but it can also be liberating too, a little bit, because you know that you don’t have to have it figured out. I wasn’t trying to sell you, at least I didn’t feel like I was trying to sell you. I just was trying to figure out, are you still struggling with this thing. And if you were, maybe we can have a conversation. If not, that’s cool, there’s a lot of other people I can talk to, too. That was kind of the mindset I tried to get myself into.
Andrew: I remember specifically going into stock exchange, and going to their web apps forum and saying, here’s the issue. I have customers who pay me via Pay Pal, they’ve given me their mailing address, et cetera, I just want to have it in my address book so if I ever need to send them a card like this, I won’t have to go hunting for their contact information, it will be in my address book. And you’re right, it was kind of stale, and I said that’s not an issue anymore. What did you do next, I don’t even know how you got to the next issue.
So, you replied and said, “You know it’s not issue anymore” and then you left the conversation open, and you said, “Are you building something like this”? So to me that was permission to continue talking to you. So I said, I replied and said, “Well sort of” right, like you can connect PayPal and high rise but you can also connect a lot of different stuff.
And I actually did a bit of research so I knew you used Aweber and I knew you used Wufoo and I knew a handful of other things so I said, ” Well I’ll take a shot in the dark” and say like it can also connect these 3 or 4 other tools, I said,” Wufoo, Aweber and I think I maybe said like Dropbox or Google products” I forget you know and it connects in all sorts of different ways. And then from there and said, “Actually I do have this problem, I have this contact form on my site and I need to get, and it powered by Wufoo, and I need to get those emails addresses into Aweber.” So now I knew that’s something we can solve.
Wade: And I wanted it done in a specific way, I just wanted to try putting a checkbox on one of my forms that I created using Wufoo so that as soon as someone checks the box, it says yes I want to join the mailing list, then they get to join the mailing list and I was going to go to Odesk and I figured I’d pay maybe a thousand bucks for someone to do it or up to a thousand bucks and you said yeah we can do it.
And that got me excited and by the way, the reason that I continued the conversation is even though that issue was stale on stock exchange, even though I had already moved past it, I felt like it was a huge problem for me and no one cared and no one could do anything about it on stock exchange and the fact that you even cared about this issue that was so painful for me that I was going to put it up on Stock exchange made me feel like, hey there’s a really smart guy out there who cares about me, I mean this is great. So then, do you remember what you did next?
Andrew: So there was a couple of things next, we actually, I don’t know if you even know this, at the time we didn’t have, you asked for the Wufoo to Aweber and you also asked for the checkbox, we didn’t have the checkbox, which I think you knew that we didn’t have it but we also didn’t have Wufoo or Aweber supported either, so we really didn’t have anything to be honest.
And so as soon as you said yeah I’m interested I emailed Brian and Mike, who are my technical co-founders and I said, “Guys we need to like, this is our next priority because this is the only person we have that’s even interested in using our product right now.” So of course that was the thing we’re going to work on, so we added Wufoo and we added Aweber and we thought a while about the checkbox thing ’cause we didn’t know if that was actually like a feature that people would use, like if it was generic or if it was just specific to you or not but ultimately we decided well we don’t have anyone else that’s going to use our products so we might as well add it in there.
And so we added that and I think we did it within 24 hours. We had like a prototype, a MVP, like up and working for it and I emailed you and said hey it works, it’s ready like you try it out, oh I said, you can PayPal me a hundred dollars is what I said, was how much it’ll cost and we didn’t even have like a business PayPal account or anything like that. It was just my own personal PayPal account at the time because the business had been open for like a week grand total, so yeah.
Wade: Yeah and I was really happy to do it, I remember jumping in and doing it and frankly then you didn’t give me the tool, you said hey let’s get on Skype and I’ll show you how to use it. And I remember you getting on Skype with me and you said,” Okay, can you hook up your Aweber account?” And I go, “Alright.” Aweber, you linked me over to Aweber and did some kind of request for conformation, I said, “Great” and then you said do the same thing I think for Wufoo.
And one of the things that I remember about it was, it was such a clunky process that even my list was called 1257whatevers list of crazy numbers and I go,” How do I know that that’s the Mixergy list in Aweber?” and you said that’s ok that doesn’t matter. And you know what it was Okay, it didn’t matter. I just had this problem, I needed people, I needed to be able to create a form that asks people if they want to join my mailing list and I didn’t like the Aweber form for it
I figured if it took off it’s going to be great. It will bring in thousands of people, if it doesn’t then who cares I’ll toss it out, I just need this, I need to try this and I’m not a developer, I can’t do it. So, I was willing, I would tolerate the whole thing. Anyway, you built it for me and it worked and it was fantastic and I never needed it really. And so I’m glad that I paid you the hundred bucks instead of paying a developer all kinds of stuff to do on the site.
Wade: But it’s a great integration and as I understand now people still use it today.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah I mean that specific one, Wufoo Aweber, the email or the Wufoo to email form is very popular so yeah, I was stoked. You know the funny thing about that call to, is you mentioned is was very clunky, it was terrible, like you’re being kind, it was awful, like you couldn’t figure out how to even use Zacker[sp], like I basically had to tell you where to click.
Wade: Yes. And, I remember thinking after the call, I was like, “Oh my god, we have so much work to do.” But I was also really excited because you were just ecstatic about it. I was like, “I can’t believe that he is so excited about this product that he can’t even use.” Without me talking to you, you could not have used it at that time.
Andrew: No way. I could not have used it without you. And you told me, “OK. If you ever need to adjust it…” I go, “Adjust it? I’m going to call him back.” But I figured, you’ve got to start it so I can call you back.
Andrew: The big message for the audience, and you’re going to see this throughout the story, is this. If you deal with someone who has a big issue like I did, a big problem, a real deep need, we’ll put up with stuff like that. A hundred bucks to get PayPal, no frikkin’ problem. You could run away with that. I just need you to even try. It’s a big help.
Andrew: At that point, and I want to know more about how you found other people’s pain because I’m not the only person who you went through. As a result of that you raised money. As a result of that you got users. As a result of this process, not just talking to me, but as a result of this process that we’re talking about here in this interview, you were able to get real paying customers and build a real business.
Let’s go back a little bit and see how you did this all, so that we can see how this unfolds. This happened because you and Brian had a conversation. Brian became your co-founder. You were working for Veterans United doing email marketing. Right?
Andrew: And then, how did working there lead to a conversation with Brian that led you to this thought that maybe people want two pieces of program, two pieces of software to work together?
Wade: Sure. So Brian and I actually knew each other before Veterans United. We actually played music together so we were friends before that. We kind of started working at Veterans United at the same time. We worked on a few projects there together.
He is a developer. I’m doing a lot of marketing stuff. One of the things that I had a problem with was we used a bunch of these same sort of tools. I was trying to figure out how to send triggered emails based on events that were happening in their database, and I was trying to work with the mandrolic guy and the mail gunning guy, and it just wasn’t working. I’m not a developer either, so it was hard for me to even understand what I was looking at.
Brian actually had a few side projects that he was working on. He had a tool. He had a little company called Bit Buffet that was kind of like a PayPal meets GumRoad sort of tool. A lot of his customers were, he didn’t have many, but a lot of them were asking for integrations with different things and he was just like, “I can’t build all this stuff. I don’t have time for this.”
He was like, “Wade, what if we just made a thing that connects all these tools? None of the developers have time to build all the integrations between each other.” And we just kind of felt like, “Hey, there’s got to be tons of people who are hooking this stuff up.” So we were like, “Well yeah, let’s go for it.”
Before I was ready to go for it, I actually checked. I remember going to the Highrise help forum and I saw a thread about Google contacts integration that was probably 400 comments deep for people wanting it. 37 singles had commented, “Yeah, we’re looking into it maybe.” But it was like several years old and so it was just clear that it wasn’t a priority for them.
So I rinsed, washed, and repeated. I went to a couple different web apps to see if that same problem existed on their forums, and it did. It was everywhere. I was like, “Oh my god. People want integration a lot.”
Andrew: I get that. I remember going into the Highrise forum and saying, “I need this issue.” And then I’d see how many other people needed it and I felt really justified. But I also, in my mind, understood that 37signals, the company behind that contact management software, had a philosophy of not adding a lot of features and it also had gone for a long time that they didn’t build it even after they got all these responses. So it wasn’t going to happen. Today, of course, they are rebranded as Basecamp, which is the name of the company behind Highrise.
So I see this often. If I understand this right, it’s you’ve got an idea. And the idea came to you from a pain that you had. Brian had a similar issue, right?
Andrew: And you both said, “Okay. This is an issue for us and then you validated it by going online and seeing whether it’s an issue for other people. And you saw that yes, it is an issue for other people and it’s not being done.
Andrew: Okay. All right, so now what’s next? Was Startup Weekend the next step in the journey?
Wade: Yeah, so we went to a Startup Weekend. I wasn’t actually planning on…I pitched in my own idea there, actually, and wasn’t actually planning to work with Brian on it. I ended up doing it anyway. We teamed up with Mike and we built up the prototype that weekend. It was bad, too. Like, it worked. We had our demo on Sunday night. If you’re not familiar with Startup Weekend, it’s just kind of a weekend pack-a-thon. On Sunday night, we did it live. And it worked long enough that it looked like it worked, but it totally broke in the background.
So people thought it was cool. We ended up getting about 100 people that were in attendance or that were following the Twitter stream to give us an email address. So we thought this had some momentum. We decided, let’s bootstrap it. Let’s do it as a nights and weekends project for a while and try and make a run with this.
Andrew: So it wasn’t even built at the end of Startup Weekend. It was just a presentation to see if anyone in the audience cared about it and 100 people said they did. How many people were at the Startup Weekend?
Wade: There were maybe, of total attendees, maybe a little over 100. People were like…
Andrew: So you didn’t get 100% conversion rate. It was people from there and, as you said, also online who were watching.
Wade: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: Alright, so further validation. So you knew you needed it, Brian needed it. You looked online on forums and people said they needed it. And when you showed this software at an event, people gave you their email address which indicated I need it badly enough to want an update on it.
Andrew: Okay. The next step followed because you didn’t want to leave it to just an email list on a database. You called people.
Wade: Yeah, I started emailing those people who were on the list and I said, “Can I talk to you?” I would just ask them, “What are the tools that you use in your business? Would it be helpful if they’re connected?” And that was how we figured out what the first apps were that we were going to build into this tool, right? We had some gut feelings. We were like, “Okay, Male Chimp is popular.” A lot of people seemed to use PayPal, but there are so many tools these days. We really had no idea or a really good feel for what was, past the really big companies, going to be useful for folks.
So I just talked to them and I said, “If we built and if we had this thing, would you use this?” If they said yes then that was a check mark and I just kind of went through the list for a while until we had a little bit of themes. It wasn’t super scientific. It was just like, we have ten requests for Zendesk so we should probably do something with Zendesk.
Andrew: I see, so talking to them on the phone further validated it. But it also gave you some sense of what programs they wanted to have work together.
Andrew: Got it. And so did you have a sense of how they were going to use it too?
Wade: Yeah, I wanted to know. For instance, if you used Zendesk and some other random software, that doesn’t necessarily mean you needed them to work together just because you had them. So I would ask things like, “So you have Zendesk and Github. How do you want them to work? Would that be helpful?” Some would say no. But some would say things like, actually it would be really helpful if I could tag a Zendesk ticket and that would create an issue in Github. That way my developers don’t have to come into Zendesk and be all in the tool for the support people.
They live and they work in Github, and the issues just show up in Github. So I was like, “Oh, Okay. So that’s exactly what we are thinking about doing.” That felt like further validation that is something that was going to work.
Andrew: All right. Great idea, people are signing up and today, you are in Y Combinator. At that point, you actually applied to Y Combinator. What happened?
Wade: We actually got rejected the first time around.
Wade: We applied right afterwards. I think it was a combination of things. We had no users at the time. It was just an email list which wasn’t that big. We hadn’t really proven that we could execute on anything. We were from Missouri, we didn’t have a list of cool startups that we’d worked on at our hands. We didn’t have Harvard or Stanford or anything, nothing in our past screamed that these guys are really awesome. We just kind of looked like, you know, 3 guys from Missouri that were just fooling around with tech. I think that was why. We just hadn’t shown really enough progress.
Wade: And you know, this was in late 2011, and at that time, Y Combinator was really popular and they were getting really good applicants and so we probably just didn’t stack up.
Andrew: So even your application, you weren’t even invited to a meeting. Even your application was rejected.
Wade: Yeah, we got the standard, default thanks for applying, keep trying. We mess up all the time, you know, so you should work hard and be successful. So we thought we know we can do this and we just kept working for nine months. We ended up applying to the next batch, and that’s when we actually did get into Y Combinator.
Andrew: I became your first customer and you asked me for referrals.
Andrew: And then I introduced you to Kevin Hale of Wufoo, and you gave me an interesting way to introduce you. Was it Kevin or maybe it was Chris Campbell?
Wade: I think you actually introduced us to Chris.
Andrew: Okay. Because Chris, I forget why Chris was felt like the right guy. But I introduced you to him and what happened?
Wade: So I we actually talked with Chris for a while and got a Wufoo integration. We got listed on their site. They helped us do some marketing. Chris ended up the second time we applied through Y Combinator, helping, like did a block interview with us. And helped us through the process. So it was just. He ended up just being like a helpful advocate.
And then we ended up meeting Kevin through that process. And after Y combinator, Kevin actually became an early investor in Zapier. And so like that, you can see like, the dots from just, you know that connection with you just kind of kept reaping dividends for Zapier, even to this day. So, so yeah.
Andrew: I know the reason that I introduced you to them is because you integrated with them.
Andrew: I think I might have even introduced you to someone at Aweber.
Andrew: So there was a reason for doing it. I especially liked Zap, excuse me not Zapier, but Wufoo as a company. They’re really good people there. They’re smart. They’re lean. But I wouldn’t have made the introduction except you got code up and running, and it works, you know. So I wasn’t making an introduction for a guy who just wasn’t there. Why do you think they cared about you? What they can, they talk to so many developers. Kevin I think now is a partner at Y Combinator, right?
Andrew: So they meet so many great people. Why do you think they cared enough about you to do mock training with you?
Wade: I wish, I don’t know at that time. I know why they care about us now because, like, the product is so good and so much better that. At the time, I think like, we had, we’d gotten enough customers and in a short amount of time. We had gotten Wufoo integrated in well. It worked good enough. Like their customers clearly liked it. And they, like you said there were small. They didn’t have a huge team. And so it was tough for them to build a lot of integrations. They didn’t have that many. And so the fact that we could at least give them something to off offer their customers, right?
Like their customers emai; in and say, Do you have an Aweber integration? They just have to say no. Or they have to say use our API, which for 99% of people that’s not real really an option for them.
Wade: And so at least with Zapier, it gave them an option to say like, No, no not us but you can check this other company out. And so like, it it was hoped that their customers could still find something good.
Andrew: You know, I wish that more companies used Zapier for that reason. Because I ask them for features or integration and I know they can’t handle it. I wish they would just blow me off by saying, We work with Zapier now go just deal with them. Right? Because it is too much for them. If I, I happen to use pipe drive for my CRM. I don’t know that pipe drive is big enough for every company to integrate with it, right?
Andrew: But they need, I want the integration. And so that’s how I, I use you guys. All right. Let’s move on for me.
Andrew: You now have a couple of customers coming in, right?
Wade: Yep. Mm-hmm.
Andrew: How do you get the next batch of customers?
Wade: Yeah. So the next thing we started to think about was, what do, how do people search like, how do they find products like this, right? So we started to think, OK. People aren’t going to look for like a company that’s like, integration portal or like integration. That’s not what they’re interested in. Like what you were interested in when you posted on Sec exchange was Pay Pal and High Rise integration.
So we’re like, okay well if we can create landing pages that are just specific for that service. Those two services that will be interesting to people. And so we went about building out our our service directory which you can still find today. It’s at Zapier. com/zapbook And it just was at the time it was a list of maybe like 10 or 20 services. It wasn’t very big. Now it’s like 300, it’s huge.
And we would do a couple of things to try and do drive traffic there. So I would go to the web, the forums. So all these forums where I saw people asking about integration, I would make a comment. And I would try and make like a helpful comment. I didn’t just say like, “Come pay me for my product that I’m build it’s so awesome”, right? That that didn’t feel good. I, I would say things like, “Well, is a way that you can do it, you know. Here’s a link to it.”
So for instance like, the High Rise Google Contact example. I think I left a comment that said, “You can use the High Rise API. Here’s a link to the High Rise box. Here you could use the, the Google Contact API. Here’s the link to the Google Contacts API. You can, you can use those to build the product to hook it up together.” Or I’m actually working on a project right now that will try and do this. If that’s interesting to you, here’s a link to it. Just let me know that you’re interested. I wasn’t trying to be self-serving or anything.
Andrew: You weren’t selling, but you were linking and you were promoting it. The page that you link to, credit where it’s due, the idea came to you from Patrick McKenzie.
Patio11 is his screen name. What did he teach you that allowed you to create these pages?
Wade: Patio has this product called “Bingo Card Creator,” if you’re unfamiliar with it. Patio doesn’t just sell a bingo card creator. Patio sells a Halloween Bingo Card Creator, and a Christmas Bingo Card Creator, and a Math Bingo Card Creator, and a U.S. History Bingo Card Creator. He sells every single potential bingo card that you could think of.
Andrew: It’s the same program that he’s selling, but he’s allowing you to do all this stuff with it.
Wade: Exactly, and he as a page for all of those. If you look for “Halloween Bingo Card Creator,” and search for that in Google, the top thing that shows up is “Patio’s Bingo Cards,” for that. We thought, “Hey, that’s exactly what we want to do.” We have two services that people want to connect. The want to connect with Aweber, so we’ll create a page for that.
When people search for it, they’ll find that specific thing. So, rather than just trying to sell “Zapier’s Integration Hub,” which is Patio’s equivalent of “Bingo Card Creator,” we’re like let’s give them the specific thing that they want which is a specific type of bingo card creator.
In our case, a specific type of integration which is PayPal or Highrise.
Andrew: Every one of them. Every one of these apps that work with each other, has its own page on your site. You didn’t have to see it and manually do it. You created a process that does it. As a result, today, I just went right now to Google and I typed in “A Webber Ruffal [sp],” hit “enter,” and the first result is “Aweber and Ruffal Integrations.”
I click the link and I end up on a page that explains that Zapier [sp] can do it. Today’s gotten even more sophisticated. It even shows examples of the kinds of integrations that the people have done. Ruffal email to Aweber subscribers so if someone fills out a form on Wufoo, you can add them to your Aweber subscriber list; create A Webber.
It looks like all these people are essentially asking for that. They email the list. That’s actually the only reason that I can imagine you’d want to use Wufoo.
That’s the idea. This allowed you to suddenly get massive coverage in Google for the specific work that you do, that otherwise, how would you go and advertise for it?
Wade: I don’t know. It wasn’t massive coverage right away. Google doesn’t take off right away. It’s been very slow and steady and it just gets bigger over time. It compounds over time. That was just fantastic for us. It gave us the early traffic that we needed. It wasn’t a ton, but it was enough.
We didn’t need ten million people to use Zapier then. We just needed ten people to use Zapier. That would have been fantastic.
Andrew: Did it help you? Was this a good way for you to get users?
Wade: It was fantastic. It still is a fantastic way to get users.
Andrew: I typed in “High Rise Wufoo.” I can imagine someone saying I use Wufoo forms. I want the people who fill out those forms to go into my High Rise Contact Manager. I might type in “High Rise Wufoo Boom.” The first response is Wufoo integration, actually Wufoo’s website.
Right underneath Wufoo’s site is High Rise Wufoo Integrations on Zapier. That helped you get some more users. How can you apply to Y Combinator? You guys are not single guys. You’re not 19. You have a family, each of you right?
Wade: I am married. Brian was married. Mike had a longtime girlfriend who is now his fiancee? We’re all in committed relationships.
Andrew: Is it easy to move over to San Francisco? It’s not San Francisco, it’s Silicon Valley. They want you to live right next to Y Combinators on base. Was it easy to say to your wives or your girlfriends, “Hey, it’s time to move?”
Wade: Not really, truthfully. I talked about it with my wife, that this could be a possibility. This is something we wanted. At first she was hesitant. She was like, “I don’t know. This is where our family is. This is where our lives are.” Eventually, she came around to the idea.
She was like, “Okay. I think I could do this.” The day when we actually get accepted and I tell her that it’s happening, you could tell she didn’t want that. That was challenging. That was a really tough time for us. To be able to make that transition from Missouri to living in Silicon Valley because, you know, she left her job and her friends and her family. I mean, I did too.
I left a lot a lot of people that I cared about from Missouri, but I was also going to something else. She was just coming with me, which, I like to think she enjoyed that but, it was hard!
Andrew: By the time you got in, do you have a sense of how many users you had?
Wade: Yeah. So, at the time that we got in we had about 1000 users, but we had a lot more people on an email list. So, we did our beta kind of different. If you wanted to use Zapier in our beta you had to pay us, which most companies don’t do that. They give the product away for free in their beta, but we said, “You have to pay us.” And, we moved the number around. It was $100 for you, some people paid $50. Some people paid $5, some people paid $200. We just moved it around just because, just to see what people felt like paying.
Andrew: I did that to with the early Mixergy premium. There’s one guy who still is paying me five bucks because that’s the deal I made. I said, “I’ll try it? Want to do five bucks?” He goes, “No one likes this. No one thinks it’s going to work. Alright, I’ll pay five bucks. I’ll take a shot on you.” So, of course, I’m happy for him to now have been a Mixergy premium member for five bucks a month for five years now.
Wade: Yeah, I mean, that’s fantastic.
Andrew: Yes, Okay. So you adjusted it around. Why didn’t you just say, “I want to get as many people in there as possible so I can learn from them, get the data from them, get their feedback from them, get them in the pipeline and then get them to buy?”
Wade: So, I think this has a lot to do with us being from Missouri. We’re in a place where there are not a lot of tech companies. There is not a lot of funding. There’s not the bubble, or whatever you want to call it out here, where everything revolves around tech in Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
That just doesn’t exist in Missouri. There are good people and there are people doing stuff but it doesn’t even compare in terms of the scale. So we were like, “We’ve got to build a bootstrap company.” So that means we need people to pay us. We can’t have free users; that’s just not going to work for the type of company that we need to build for where we’re at.
Andrew: I see.
Wade: We didn’t really know if we were going to do [??}. We didn’t know that we were going to move out here at the time. We just thought we were going to build a company. That’s really the only thing that we know.
Andrew: I see so if you’re not going to get funding from [??], if you’re not going to get big venture capital funding, then you better build a business where people are willing to pay you throughout. I see, and that’s what drove it. It wasn’t necessarily a better decision for long term for a funded company. It was just a better decision for a company that may not get funding ever.
Wade: Yeah, in our stage.
Andrew: Were there any advantages to doing that? I told you about the advantages not charging. What are the advantages of charging so early?
Wade: So, it was fantastic because we got all these people who really, really cared. You cared a ton! You got on Skype with us and put up with a really terrible product and, in turn, evangelized for us because it solved your problem. I can’t imagine people who are free users ever going through the effort to give us that kind of feedback. I did that with, probably, the first 200 users we had.
I got on Skype with them, went through the process with them. I asked them what their problems were. I think it comes down to that they put their credit cards in there, they took a chance on us product sight unseen. You couldn’t even try the product without giving us some money.
Andrew: I also think, Wade, that there is a group on entrepreneurs who love business tools. I have friends who come over, I think I might have even invited you and your co-founders over to brunch. You guys are married and you don’t have much time to come over, unfortunately, and live in San Francisco. You’re down a few miles in Silicon Valley, so we haven’t done it, but if you come over you’ll see people get really excited about photo taking apps on their phone, about apps that allow them to find beer.
I totally get it. I install it when they’re there sometimes, I delete it when they’re gone. I have no interest in it, but their excitement is the way I get excited about Trello, which is a business tool for me. The way I get excited about Zapier which is a business tool for me. The way I get excited about, oh I’m trying to think of the name, but that sends out packages for us. The beads that we send out to people. I get excited about that and I think that people just don’t tap into it. They just don’t understand it. I would have evangelized no matter what, even if we hadn’t talked, I just think that business tools are exciting. So much more exciting than a photo app.
Wade: Yeah, and I think you’re right. I’m much more like you. My home screen is my only screen on my phone that has apps on it. It’s got my email which is my most important app there.
Andrew: I love Drew Houston. I had him on. I know him. I installed Carousel for photos, I might reinstall it, but I deleted it.
Andrew: What I love is mailbox. He could charge me 20 bucks a day, I would pay him for mailbox as a business tool. Um, okay, speaking of. So now I see a way that you got your customers. You were starting to say that you added them to a mailing list. And were you promoting to that mailing list saying you have to pay if you want to use it?
Wade: No. [laughs]
Andrew: What did you do with the mailing list?
Wade: This was a big mistake that I made, um, well, that we made, uh.
Andrew: Good, open up.
Wade: The mailing list just sat there, [laughs]. So a few people, if we were able, it was weird, like we, we over thought it is what happened. If you came through the landing page, and we supported your service, you immediately saw a landing page that let you pay. If you didn’t support it, you put your email address in, and it just sat there.
Andrew: That’s how you built your mailing list. These integration pages. Gotcha. Okay, so you built integration pages, even for apps that you weren’t supporting, just to get a sense of how interested people were?
Wade: Yeah, so we knew the next ones to build. Like, okay, we’ve got, you know, 50 email addresses for this service, and we’ve only got 20 for that one. . .
Andrew: Oh, dude, hang on a second, this is very interesting, too, as a way of building a mailing list. Imagine, if for example, for Mixergy, I went into the Inc 500 list, or the 5000 list. Got all the founders of their companies, and created pages on Mixergy, biography of whoever it is, enter your email address to get it, and then I said: “We don’t have it yet, but now that I know we’re interested, I will . . .”
Wade: Yeah, you can totally do that.
Andrew: “. . . look for him. And if enough people are interested, I’ll look for him.” Got it. Okay. All right. So then what you could have done is email them back and said, hey, I know that we don’t have a box integration yet, but you should understand that we have all these other integrations and if you’re a business user, which is what box users tend to be, you probably care about our integration with, um, I dunno, Aweber, or one of the other integrations. But you didn’t do that, why not?
Wade: I dunno, um, honestly. Like, I think, I think it came back to the thing we talked about in the very beginning, like rejection, and people saying no to you. I think we didn’t have what they wanted at that point in time. And I didn’t feel like we could email them for something that they didn’t want. Like “I wanted this thing. Why are you going to email me about this thing that I asked you for this, you know, you shouldn’t email me about a different thing.”
And I psyched myself out of it. Like we totally should have done that, but I just thought they asked for this this specific thing, the only time that I can email them is when I have that specific thing. Um, and so we, we built a mailing list of 10,000 people, and a lot of it probably wasted by the time we lost because the emails had gone stale, um, yeah.
Andrew: Ah, that’s too bad.
Wade: [laughs], yeah.
Andrew: Let me do a quick plug for and then I want to ask, well, do you hear that, by the way? You have a good headset on.
Wade: I hear a little bit of fuzz. Is that what you’re hearing?
Andrew: I’m in an office and someone’s making some kind of weird noise, I can’t tell what it is.
Andrew: Hey, quick plug here for Scott Edward Walker, he is the entrepreneur’s lawyer, I can tell you that all day long, and if you’re listening to me, you’re probably smart enough to know that I got paid to say that, and you’re going to say, “Well who cares what Andrew says, he got paid to say it.”
Well, let me give you a list of other people who are fans of Scott’s. Steve Blank on Scott’s webpage, you can see a quote directly from him. “Scott, I like Scott, he’s a great lawyer.” Mark Suster, the venture capitalist from Upfront Ventures says: “What I like about Scott, he’s very transparent about the legal industry.”
Jason Calacanis: “A deep competitor of mine has an inner view into the startup world.” And a good friend. He says Scott’s a great lawyer who loves startups. Neil Patel says: “Scott is a great lawyer, he is affordable, responds fast, doesn’t charge you for five minute phone calls, and always gives you great advice.” Nick O’Neill, co-founder of Startup Stats, Social Times, AllFacebook, he says: “Scott is an awesome lawyer, he is affordable, responsive, and is my go-to lawyer for pretty much anything.”
These are some of many entrepreneurs, in the startup space who understand they don’t just want their local lawyer to be their lawyer. What they want is a person who knows his stuff. That’s why they like Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. If you need a lawyer, go here. Let me give you the URL again. People want me to say it and speak slowly because I tend to talk fast, unlike you, Wade.
Andrew: We talk very fast. Walkercorporatelaw.com. At this point, after you got into Y Combinator, do you have a sense of how many customers you got?
Wade: When we got into Y Combinator, we were at around 1,000 that had paid to be in our beta. Then right at the start of Y Combinator, we launched, we opened it up, anyone could sign up. We turned it into a freemium tool so you could r: We turned it into a freemium tool so you could start using it for free if you wanted. The product was a lot better. You could self-serve use it. You didn’t have to talk to me on the phone anymore or anything like that. That’s when we started really starting to build a lot of integrations into the tool.
Andrew: I’m looking at where your traffic is coming from and I see Y Combinator. Do you know why Y Combinator is sending you traffic before I explain why I think it is?
Wade: Hacker News?
Andrew: That’s what I think. Hacker News is a good space for you. Evernote sends you traffic. Nimble sends you traffic. I’ll just read these names and see if the audience gets a sense of what’s happening here; Nimble, Asana, Feedley, Trello, Buffer App, Gravity Forms, Zero, Mail Chimp, Base Camp, Pipe Drive, Contractually. I could just go on and on and on.
I’ve done this. The answer is, these are [??] partners. These are sites that you integrate with. This something that the founder of Snap and Gauge told me, every time he integrates, those sites that he integrates with, have a reason to link to him, have a reason to promote him. As a result, that’s a big source of traffic and customers. Is that what happened to you?
Wade: Absolutely. In fact, Danny, who writes our blog, wrote a fantastic post today on this exact process. It’s step by step how we do it. We’ve learned this over the course of two years now. Back in the Y Combinator days, we weren’t great at it.
We’d do Okay with the launches and new integration partners. Now, we have it down to a very specific process for what to ask for from our partners and also, what to give our partners from our side to make them like us more so that whenever we launch with somebody, it’s a good deal on both sides.
Andrew: What do you mean? What do you have to give them that you weren’t aware of before and what you ask in return so that you can grow your business?
Wade: Sure, we provide them with lots of documentation about the process of being on Zapier. It’s kind of a different integration. It’s not like doing a drop box integration or Evernote. It’s this hub that does a whole bunch of stuff. I’m not sure how it works, why should I do this sort of thing. We send them links that have documentation on every part about Zapier. Not just how to integrate with us, but also about what we do to help promote you.
We talk about our service director pages. We talk about our email list. We talk about our blog. We talk about our Twitter feed. We talk about all these things that we’re going to do to try to help promote them.
In turn, we also talk about when we launch, here are the things that you need to do that are to help us out. You should email your customers. You should list us on an integrations page. You should help promote the launch through your social channels. We tell them that because it works. We’ve done this now 250, 300 times.
We know that this is the stuff that works. We also give them as much as possible. We’ll write the blog posts for them. We’ll write the email for them. We’ll give them all the assets. We’ll do the work for them to promote it. All they have to do is copy and paste some stuff in and click send email or publish this.
Andrew: Do they do it? I ask all my guests to help by promoting in my interview. I don’t know that they all do it. Do they do it for you?
Wade: Not everyone does it.
Andrew: What do you do if they don’t do it? How do you encourage them to do it?
Wade: Enough of them do it that we just focus on the people that will help us out. If they don’t help us, we’ve got 300 partners to keep up with. We’re a small team. We’ve got other folks that we’ll spend our time on. You have to make choices so that’s what we do.
Andrew: Okay. I was thinking there might be a way that you guys are encouraging them to do it because you are getting a lot of traffic.
Wade: I think over time we create case studies about this stuff and they’ll hear from their customers. We’ve had people who went on the fence about Zapier. They didn’t really care for it.
I’ll get an email six months later from someone on their team that’s like, “Oh my goodness, Wade. I didn’t know this is how it worked.” They didn’t understand Zapier for whatever reason and they completely do a 180. They love us know. It’s fantastic when that happens.
Andrew: Do they even need to do anything for you to integrate with them? Zapier comes from API right? It’s Z-A-P-I-R. Excuse me, Z-A-P-I-E-R. They don’t need to do anything really, do they?
Wade: These days, a lot of them do. They actually do the integration with us because we have a developer platform; Zapier.com/developer. You can go there and you can hook into Zapier yourself and do the work. The reason they do it is because it’s a lot faster if they do it than if we do it.
Andrew: I see.
Wade: We’re ten people and we can’t build that many integrations. We can build a lot but we can’t build a ton. It’s a lot faster if they can do the process. So that happens a ton these days. In fact, it started happening . . . We built the Dev Platform in August of 2012. Since that time, that’s been the majority of the way that integrations have been done on Sapura versus us still having to do all of the integration work. Instead we can work on features that help everybody out.
Andrew: Did that happen because of Box?
Wade: A little bit. When we launched Sapura we got an email from Aaron Levie asking why Box was not on Sapura.
Andrew: The founder?
Wade: Yeah. The crazy magician. He’s amazing. He’s incredibly smart and he cared enough about Sapura to want box on Sapura. The honest truth that we had for him was that we just hadn’t gotten to it yet. We just don’t have the resources to build out. We can do about one a week maybe and that’s if we’re really focused on this. So we were like how can we scale this out. How can we make it so that other people can help contribute to it. That’s when we built the developer platform.
Andrew: I see. With the developer platform they can integrate without you, then you get the promotion as a result of it.
Wade: Yeah. It solves the problem for both of us. We already had a lot of integrations so now it’s valuable for them. We couldn’t have done that on day one. They would have said we connect four tools. Why should they do an integration with us?
Andrew: What’s the takeaway from this part for someone who can’t build software that integrates with everything? Is it to look for something to integrate with? What else could they do?
Wade: Integrate with Sapura right?
Andrew: No. I mean if . . . I know they are people who are listening to us right now that are saying, ‘You know what? I get how if I create a page for everything that we’re doing, automated even, every combination then I get how that would help me. I get how if I even build pages for everything that comes up and use them as landing pages to collect email addresses then that could help me understand my customer better.
It would also give people another way of entering my site.’ I’ve learned that from Wade. I’ve learned from calling up customers from Wade. I’ve learned looking for ping points online from Wade. What I would like to do is integrate one of Wade’s best tactics for getting customers into my business is what they’re saying in the audience. How would they be able to do that? Is this something that other companies can do, this integration process?
Wade: I think it depends. Some companies it works really well. You came up with a great example. The idea to go find the biggest interviewed people that you’d like to interview and create pages for all of those. You could spin up . . . Even if you’re not technical you could use a tool like Unbound or something to make landing pages for all these services or all the potential interviewees and collect email addresses that way. If you think about it long enough and think about what your customers are really looking for. They’re usually not looking for yournewcompany.com. They’re looking for something else.
Andrew: That’s a search thing. Integration is maybe not as easy answer for how other companies can use this integration strategy that you had to grow their business. Fair enough. I don’t want to force it. Sapura is a pretty tough thing to explain to people. That’s why you explain Aweber and Wufoo instead of explaining Sapura and APIs. You still though went out to raise, after Y Combinator, half a million plus dollars. How much did you raise?
Wade: A little over one million dollars.
Andrew: A little over a million dollars. These entrepreneurs and investors who put money into your business had to understand the challenge of explaining it. How did they help you solve that challenge so that you could explain to entrepreneurs and to business people what it is that Sapura does and why they need it?
Wade: I still don’t have a great answer for you. Anytime I talk to a person the first question I ask them is what tools to they use in their business. That way I can customize the pitch. That’s what we do on our website. What tools do you use in your business. We try to get them to the tools as fast as possible instead of trying to explain Sapura as this behemoth that connects everything and does all these different tools.
At the end of the day the customer still cares about Wufoo and they care about Aweber and they care about Unbound and they care about the tools that they use and getting them to work together. We still try and get to that before we ever talk about broadly what the vision for Sapura is. That’s not interesting for our customers.
Andrew: What about if this, then that? It integrates services together. It does it completely for free. At what point did you find out about them?
Wade: We’ve known about them for a while. We came along at the same time as them. They may have been around a few months before us even if you look at the history. We never really worried about it too much; kind of a rising tides raises all boats. We serve a business market. That’s who our customer base is [??].
Andrew: Wasn’t there a time when you were upset or worried or nervous? This is your business and there’s someone competing.
Wade: If you’re not getting competition in your business I would think you would be more worried, because are you actually solving a problem? Maybe there are business that are big businesses that have no competition, but I don’t know of any.
I think it just comes with the territory. You have people that do similar stuff as you and you try to build the best product for your customers and at the end of the day, that’s what you stand on.
Andrew: I’ve sometimes tried to duplicate what you do with if this and that, and I can’t. For example, we talked about Trello. What of the things I like about you is I’m like Trello’s email to Trello feature that they have. With you I can say, “I want this to-do to go on my trouble board, but not just on my trouble board, but on this list within the Trello board.
And I want this person assigned to it,” and all this other stuff you guys can do. I went, “And if this and that doesn’t do that.” They are focused on consumers. You’re focused on businesses. If they don’t have that, you don’t have what they are good at which is kind of like Pink if I get a tweet.
They’re good with tweets on a consumer basis and light integration, really Philips light integration. What you did worry about, though, is answering customer’s emails. Why did you go so long doing that yourself, those tech support emails?
Wade: 1 kind of like it. I like doing it. I felt like our customers care enough to ask us.
Andrew: That sounds really nice in the PR answers, but come on, it drives you crazy when a customer says, “This doesn’t work,” and you have to explain to them, “I don’t run Wufoo. I integrate with Wufoo. I don’t run Evernote. If you’re having a problem with Evernote, here’s where to go contact them. I can’t make your Evernote better.”
Wade: That is a challenge. It is. It’s a struggle for us. We take pride in trying to help those people out, and we really don’t. For us it’s not just a PR tactic. It’s not just a thing that we put up on our site that we care about our customers.
We really do. It hurts me when I have a customer that emails in and is really angry that they can’t do something. I think they should be able to do it. It really hurts me when I know that it’s our fault. Even if it is kind of Evernotes’ problem or Wufoo’s problem, even if it is there, our product says that we can connect these two. We say that we can do it.
They took the time and effort to sign up for a product. They took the time and the effort to try and use it. They took a part of their day, sometimes a part of their week, trying to get it setup. If it doesn’t work, that’s frustrating.
If I was that person, I would be frustrated at us. I think when they email in, they deserve an answer from us. That’s the very least that we can do to help them out.
Andrew: Jeremy Wyse, our producer, talked to you before the interview started and he asked you about different milestones in the growth of your business and you talked about getting Box to contact you, having integrations as a way of bringing in new business, and so on. One milestone for the growth of your business was hiring a support person finally. What did that help your business grow?
Wade: Micah was the very first person that we hired. Right at the end of Y Commoner, we raised the money. We had a little bit of revenue, not enough to really do it.
The money helped us hire Micah is the first thing we did with it. I’d get up and start working at about 8 o’clock and I would work until about 3 p.m.. That was 7 hours and all I was doing that seven hours was answering customer support tickets. I was just saying, just helping them out. I’d done that. It gradually got longer.
It wasn’t 8 to 3 at first. It was 8 to ten. It was 8 to eleven. It just kept getting longer and longer. I learned a lot too. I knew that these are the things that the customers care about. These are the things that they are complaining about. We need to build more things here. So that was helpful, but at a certain point I didn’t need to be doing 7 hours of it. So Micah came in, took over probably 70-80% of the support and that allowed me, then, to focus on all the stuff that I’d learned about our customers and start executing a lot on that.
Andrew: What’s one of the big things that you did to get new customers once you were free?
Wade: So we started really working on more of our content strategy. I started writing a whole lot more, we started doing case studies, we starting building on our blog and spending a lot more time on that.
Andrew: What are you doing? I’ve heard you say that content marketing has helped you get new business, helped you get more traffic. On your blog, it’s just Zapier.com/blog, I don’t see what’s driving so much traffic here. I don’t see many shares, I don’t see many comments, I’m on there.
Wade: So the Zapier blog gets over 100,000 visits a month now.
Wade: And the biggest thing that it really does is it gets, a lot more people are interesting in reading about some business process or some tactic they can use in their business, whether it’s related to Zapier or not, that content is more interesting to a broad audience than sign up for this [inaudible] thing right now.
So what it allows us to do is get a lot of just, like, top top top of the funnel traffic and brand awareness. We get links directly to our blog, which ends up helping out our service directly in Google and it brings in a lot of people into our email list who we can eventually funnel into the product.
And we kind of learned this from Ran Fishkin has a great post, and I think I might have even learned this from your interview with Leo Widrich of Buffer where he talks about don’t write for your customers, write for people who influence your customers. And that’s kind of what we try and do with our blog.
Andrew: I remember Toby, I asked him why he bought a sponsorship spot on Mixergy for so long and he said, my guys know about Shopify, yes. They know how to create stores even from scratch, why are you trying to reach them? And he said that the influencers, when people need to build a store, they’re going to come to your audience and say what do I do? And if your audience knows about Shopify as a place to send them, then Shopify will do well. I get that.
Sometimes I feel like, as an interviewer, that’s almost like a trick, like when the guys at Snap Engage gave me an account on Snap Engage to try it out, then when I interviewed them I loved the product and I felt I was being to effusive. I’m a little bit, to be honest, I’m a little worried that I’m being that way here because I do love the product so much. But it frickin works. I wish I could do that. I don’t know how I could do that. I think anyone out there who can influence anyone has already seen a Mixergy interview.
Wade: Yeah, I don’t know. We know that we can, like, it’s still something that we know that there are so many people in the world that we haven’t reached yet.
Andrew: We know what to charge. Now that you charge people and have Freemium, how do you know what to charge?
Wade: We don’t. We know that what we have now works. We make good money off of it, but we know it’s not perfect. In fact, we’re working really hard on like interviewing our customers right now, serving our customers. We actually hired a data scientist who’s helping us crunch the numbers to get better at it. So we know it’s not perfect, but right now it’s good enough to help us grow the business. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Andrew: You guys are profitable now?
Wade: Yeah, we actually have been.
Wade: For the last two months.
Andrew: For two months?
Wade: Two months, yep.
Andrew: So the business is about a year and a half old when it starts to turn a profit?
Wade: Two and a half, actually now.
Andrew: Two and a half.
Andrew: How much money are you guys bringing in? What kind of revenue?
Wade: We actually don’t share revenue numbers. But you can probably take a guess if you look at how many people we employ.
Andrew: Right. Well you don’t have that many people. I’m on your About page, I’m trying to get a sense of how many people are there. We see nine people on the team.
Wade: There’s actually ten now. We haven’t updated it, well eleven actually. So we haven’t updated it in a while, but . . .
Andrew: I see. Eleven people on the team, but you’re not all in the Bay area.
Wade: No, it’s entirely distributed.
Andrew: Otherwise I would say roughly $100,000 per person, but it’s less than.
Wade: It varies, yeah. It varies based on just skill sets and, yeah.
Andrew: There’s one thing you weren’t even sure you wanted to talk about, but Jeremy is very good. Jeremy is an interviewer in his own right and he’s gotten better and better at getting people to open up and I want the personal stuff, I don’t just want the stats. And one thing that you and he, when you were talking, I can see you know where I’m going with this, do you feel comfortable talking about it?
Wade: Yeah, yeah, I think it’s helpful, yeah.
Andrew: You introduce it. I don’t want to ask the question inappropriately.
Wade: The question he asked is, “What went wrong? What didn’t work for you at Zapier?” Which I think is a great question. Traditionally, we’ve been lucky. We try and make small steps so we don’t make big mistakes. We’ve gotten lucky so that we’ve made good progress and haven’t had any major screw ups.
That doesn’t mean things haven’t been hard. I talked about moving out here with my wife. The hardest thing was in October of 2012, I got a call from my mom back home in Missouri, saying that my dad had had a heart attack and passed away. That sucks. He was only 62. It just shook my world. He’s the guy that plays catch with you and teaches you everything.
The reason I thought it would be helpful to share is afterwards, I actually got hooked up with another entrepreneur who said the exact same thing happened to him six months before. He ended up actually selling his business because of this, the exact same issue.
I got introduced to him and I met him. We just went out for drinks. We went out for coffee. It was just helpful. It was really helpful to have someone to talk to where there was no pretense or anything like that. I think that’s really important for people to understand that it’s okay as an entrepreneur to not have it all together. Things are going to go wrong, not just in your business, but in your personal life. You can still do well and thrive even when things suck.
Andrew: If my dad dies, who’s going to take care of my mom? I don’t mean financially, I mean emotionally. I just feel like she’s now all alone.
Wade: I thought about that for a long time. That was part of the issue is I have one sister who lives in Thailand and I had one who lived in Springfield, which is two hours from my hometown. I thought about it.
I was like, “Should I move back home? Should I?” I feel like I should, but my mom’s young. I ultimately decided that would be doing a disservice to her. She still has a lot more life left. She would feel bad about it too I know. You take the grieving time and you go on with your life. You don’t forget, but you try to do the best and live in the memory, I guess.
Andrew: I think I know the founder you’re talking about. I remember in the interview asking why he sold and he said, “I’m just never going to tell you. I’m not going to tell you.” Then I found out and I understood because of his dad. It’s so interesting that the decisions here do depend sometimes on an emotional personal reason. His world was shaken. There was no reason for him to sell otherwise.
Wade: I don’t wish it upon anybody.
Andrew: Was it comfortable to talk openly with him about how you felt about your dad?
Wade: Yeah, I think so. It was eventually. He was just a good guy. He said like, “You want to talk about it? You don’t have to. We can just talk about whatever.”
Andrew: How did he know to have this conversation with you?
Wade: I was introduced through and investor, actually. He’s not even an investor in Zapier. I just said like, “Hey, I can’t meet with you.” I think the auto responder came in or whatever and he was like, “Sorry to hear. If you need someone to talk to this guy in my portfolio just had the same issue. I’ll make an introduction.” I said, “That’d be nice.”
Andrew: I see. People have been really supportive of you.
Wade: You can’t do it on your own. That’s the truth.
Andrew: You have good co-founders. If you were on a lifeboat and had to toss out either Michael or Brian, if it could only hold two people, who would you toss?
Wade: I would toss myself probably.
Wade: It’s a cop-out.
Andrew: Brian and Mike will have continue.
Wade: They’re the guys that can build the thing. The product’s got to work.
Andrew: Did you ever feel helpless, because they can build it. In the early days you feel helpless because they can build it.
Wade: Oh, totally. I mean, I did the best I could to help out. I tried to do– marketing try and get new customers, try and get people in the door, build the list. But it’s tough. If the product can’t do “X” yet, it’s tough to bring in a ton of users, so you spend a lot of time trying to be as helpful as possible. So I would just do whatever it took to make sure they didn’t have to do anything that wasn’t helping build the product.
Andrew: All right. You wouldn’t give me the revenue, but here’s what we do have. You hit 100,000 users in October 2013 after two years of hard work. The next 100,000 only took six months.
Andrew: There’s no virality in it, though. Other than people talking about it. It’s not like Skype. When I installed Skype for the first time I had to teach a friend how to install Skype and use it because otherwise I’d be talking to myself. There isn’t the same thing going on with your product. What happens that allows you to grow faster and speed up?
Wade: I think marketing is cumulative. You spend a lot of time– every time we do a launch post, that’s more people that can use Zapier. Every time we integrate with a new service, that’s more people that can use Zapier and find out about us. If we write a post, that’s more traffic that gets indexed by Google and sends some traffic over time.
All that is just cumulative and we just try and make sure that just keeps going up. And so if we got 100 leads last week we’re going to get 110 this week and then we’re going to try to get 121 the next week. We’re just going to try and keep growing it more and faster with the team that we’ve got. It’s kind of cliche, but the process is what works.
Andrew: Meanwhile, I’m taking a look at your search– to the extent that I can today– to see where your traffic is coming from. We’re talking about all these integration partners and how they keep helping you grow. “Zapier” is the keyword that sends you by far the most traffic. Number two? “Zappier” with two “p”s — the typo. Number three? “Zapier pricing.” And only after that do we get to “Trello Github” [phonetic]. Then “Evernote SMS reminder,” then “Google Disk Calendar,” then “Trello Integrations,” then “Trello Google Calendar.”
And all of them together amount to roughly half the searches and the other half comes from Zapier as a keyword. But that’s not what it was like in the early days.
Wade: No, not at all. Now we’ve built up a bit of a brand and people know us. You’ve talked about “I don’t work with software that doesn’t hook in with Zapier.” You’re not the only person that feels that way.
Andrew: What do I do, by the way? It’s going to kill me that I can’t think of the name of the company that I used to fulfill my beads [phonetic]. I interviewed the guy, I’ve had him over to my house for dinner. He’s a great guy. I’m going to kick myself later for not remembering the name. But: I would like to pay someone to make that work with Zapier. He will not do it. I would give him money if he does it. If I needed to hire a developer to do this, to integrate his company– ’cause I’ll tell you what happens now. This is the most goofy thing.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit this. But here’s what happens. Somebody fills out a form to get the beads. An email goes from my form to a virtual assistant that says “here’s the address, could you please send this person a beads? That email has all the contact information. She then has to go to his site and type in or copy/paste all the address in, hit submit, in so we can get it.
There’s only one benefit to that. That we have a pair of eyes making sure no one is screwing around and getting beads for free, God forbid. But I need integration. If I want to hire someone to do that can I just go to Odesk and say “make it work?”
Wade: You know, if you told me who this is– if you make the introduction, we will make this happen. Because we have this problem, too. Sending out tee shirts. We have to type it in ourselves, too. There’s no one that has an API that lets us do this. So if you find it…
Andrew: Oh, he does have an API. And that’s his answer to me. He says “I have an API.” Oh, I know what I do. I do a search on my site for Zapier. Because I told– I should probably do Zapppier with three z’s. Mixer-G [phonetic]. He’s great. He even came over for Scotch, he was a great guy, Zapier, I didn’t do a search but I talked about you guys a few times. Nope. Oh, Zappier with two p’s. Someone in the audience right now is kicking themselves. It’s not working. All right, I’ll have to come up with it later.
You know what? Sometimes when you just try to think too much about it it won’t happen. It was Ben from Olark who told me about them. All right. I will say this, anyone who is watching who wants to learn more. Look, there are a lot of people in the audience who say “I’m done learning, I need to go do.” Like you have to do one or the other. No, you keep looking for ideas and you keep implementing them.
One thing that you have seen in this interview, over and over, is how Wade and how the team at Zapper keep doing that. They see what works for Patio 11, the point is if you want to learn from great entrepreneurs that teach you every part of this process.
How to do traffic, Patrick is one of the guys you can talk to about that. How to get traffic, how to talk to customers, how to figure out what customers to talk to, what to say to them. Its all available for you at mixergpremium.com. Go sign up and learn mixergypremium.com. I guarantee you’ll love it. Of course, you’re going to get your money back, but frankly if you’re not happy with it, hit reply and tell me why not and I’ll make it right for you. Because, I want to learn why you’re not happy with it. mixergypremium.com.
Hey, Wade. I did 1,000th interview with Jessica, from Y Combinator. She was so good, she posted that interview, my 1,000th on Mixergy on Hacker News. Which just meant so much to me. You came in in the comments. Do you remember what you said?
Wade: I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I think I said something like, I really am excited for you. Because, one I’ve watched tons of your interviews in the past. When I was in Missouri, I didn’t have access to people in tech. I had a few people, but nearly what your network was. I learned a lot of things that we tried from watching Mixergy interviews.
When we got the idea to use patio stuff, that was from a Mixergy interview. When we learned about customer development, that was from a Mixergy interview, maybe with Heaton Shaw or Eric Reese or someone. All this stuff we learned, I learned from just watching Mixergy interviews and a lot of other things. I was just really, really excited for you when you got to the 1,000th interview, that is just . . .
Wade: A huge body of work and a testament of how good . . . Because, to do 1,000 interviews, you have to be pretty good.
Andrew: Thank you. I guess it wasn’t there. That is what you said there and then you followed up with the tweet, where you said, Andrew talks about the circle of Mixergy, where you watch . . .
Andrew: You watch, you do, and you come back and teach through an interview. You said, I’m testament to that, I’ve watched, I’ve learned, I’m coming back to teach and you’ve completed the circle and I’m so glad to have you on here. I’m so glad that I’m your first customer. I could talk to people about all the time. Frankly, if I wasn’t your first customer, if we weren’t at all friends or knew each other. Frankly, we’re not that close of friends, because you’re married and I’m living far away from you.
Andrew: But I respect the hell out of the work that you’ve done. Even if you hated me, even if you posted on Hacker News, this guy is a hap we should not be watching him anymore as entrepreneurs I would still love you product. What I’m saying is, thanks for being out there listening to the interview and coming back here and teaching.
Wade: Right now, there’s someone out there, maybe in Missouri. Maybe frankly, outside of the country in a place where there isn’t a tech community and there is hostility towards entrepreneurship and they don’t have these kinds of conversations that we have here.
Andrew: They don’t have the kind of mentors that we have here and they’re listening to Mixergy and they just learned from Wade that person, I hope, will go out and use what they learned and go out and build a company, and come back here and say, I learned from Wade all that time ago and as a result I built this company and I’m here to pay it forward. It’s such an honor to see you do this Wade and such an honor to hear, excuse me, to know you out there are listening and someday will be here. Thank you, Wade. Thank you all for being a part of this. Bye, guys.
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