Wade Foster is co-founder and CEO of Zapier, one of the most popular way to build automated workflows and connect over 1,500 popular business apps. Zapier helps teams build without code and get more done in less time. And the Zapier team is fully distributed, working remotely around the world.
Ask Wade about automation, software workflows, no-code development, the SaaS ecosystem, building a remote company, and more!
Certainly some folks build native integrations, but our observation is that most don't. It's too time consuming and doesn't impact enough of their customers. For most people Zapier is the best way to cover a ton of integrations without having to maintain a huge library of native integrations and constantly keep them updated and supported.
Competition keeps us on our toes. That's a good thing.
At the end of the day though we serve at the pleasure of our customers. So we're constantly trying to learn what's holding them back from using us? What's holding them back from using us more? The answer to those questions guide our roadmap.
If others start to do a better job answering that, then we'll try and learn why. But if others are mostly trying to play catch up to us, we're not going to spend much energy thinking about them.
I think the strength of relationships you can build in a remote team are much stronger than common wisdom seems to believe. You can build a relationship with folks that is deep and meaningful and still only see that person in person a few times a year. The strength of those relationships has caused people to move to other parts of the country or world to be near dear friends they have built at Zapier. It's pretty remarkable honestly.
Our strategy has been fairly consistent. Raise money like it's the last time you'll ever need it. And only take more money when it's clear that money is the constraint for growing the business.
Funding environments ebb and flow. It's best to build a business that's enduring to the whims of investors.
Build something that speaks to customers now. Build something that speaks to them in the future. If you do that, there will always be investors wanting to be part of the journey if that's something you want to have.
One of my favorite Zaps is also one of the most simple Zaps I have setup. I struggle to keep tabs on messages in Slack. If I don't respond immediately I often lose the message and the person asking me a question goes unanswered. That feels bad. So I setup a Zap to star messages in Slack and have it send me an email. Then I can respond to Slack messages at my leisure in an organized way.
The core of Zapier has always been about helping folks automate the tedious work in their lives. That part has been true since the beginning.
What's changed in the last few years is how easy it is. We've worked a lot to make it more accessible to more people. We support over 2000 apps now. We've tried tons of experiments to make it more accessible for new folks (some of those have worked). We've added teams and collaboration features that make it easier to use in your company setting.
We've got more planned too to expand the capability set. Stay tuned.
I've seen some silly stuff, but still one of my favorites is from an early customer that built two gag bots: SeinfeldQuote and KanyeText.
The gist was you feed it a phone number and then every day you would get a Seinfeld or a Kayne quote that might make you laugh. Such a simple concept and built in a few hours.
I think the competitive advantage is decreasing. There are a lot more people doing it today than in 2012. That said, we've been doing it a lot longer and so while others are starting and learning the basics, we've been perfecting it. So I think our advantage will still exist for quite some time (or at least as long as we keep perfecting it).
Yep. Bryan and I had chatted a little about the idea on iChat a few weeks before. But the first version was built at a Startup Weekend. I don't think any of us had any idea that Zapier could be what it is today.
Tough question. There are lots of skills that are important for being a good leader.
Perhaps the most important one is good storytelling. Leaders have to be able to inspire people to a bigger purpose. Tons of companies can offer a paycheck. What can you offer beyond that?
I don't think the answer changes for remote teams either, but I do think if you're a bad leader it's going to be even harder in a remote environment. There's just less room for error with distributed teams.
Yes. We have an online community coming soon. Online communities are powerful, but I think they are even more powerful given the current global situation Covid-19 has put us all in.
We're also adding chat and some zoom for our higher tier customers on teams/company plans.
We kept this pretty simple:
Probably one of the hardest things we do. And honestly we don't always nail this. We rely a lot on customers to report things. We rely a lot on partners to keep their stuff up to date. We rely a lot on monitoring to see when things change. There isn't one single thing to make it work. It's a bunch of things that help make this possible.
We're constantly trying to figure out how to make Zapier more approachable to new people. The market for this type of tool is big, if it's easy to understand.
One thing we're bullish on is sharing. We launched Zap sharing just the other day. This lets folks share the Zaps they've built with others. I suspect this will allow others to teach people how to use Zapier in market segments where we (Zapier) isn't an expert.
Good Zap sharing, good online communities, supporting others and helping them be successful goes a long way to teaching others about automation.
The tooling is a lot better. Slack and Zoom didn't exist when we started. That's gone a long way.
Sharing is probably the most interesting new angle we are spending time on. We feel like there is a segment on the world that loves to make things and help others do the same. So we're spending a decent amount of time trying to build community around sharing. Still early days, but I'm bullish.
I used to never listen to podcasts but I've started to try some over the last six to twelve months. Digging Reply All and Conan Needs a Friend
It's definitely easier. There's a lot more information about it too. But I'm not sure if it's significantly easier yet.