Wade Foster, Co-founder & CEO, Zapier
The Road to Sweet Success with Zapier’s Wade Foster
Wade Foster was working a day job and freelancing at night—a routine that will sound familiar to many of us trying to find our entrepreneurial wings—when he and his future co-founder spent a weekend building the first version of a SaaS product made several popular apps integrate together. Zapier was born.
Within the past five years, Zapier has grown from that weekend project to a multimillion-dollar company that integrates with more than 750 APIs and serves over 1.5 million users. The road to success took Foster through Y Combinator and a round of seed funding that brought in $1 million, building a company that is now growing profitably and sustainably. Today, the remote team of 60-plus employees calls the “internet our true home,” and continues to drive remarkable growth through an extensive partner network and consistent content delivery.
The journey began back in 2011, when Foster found that many of his freelance projects were one-off integrations. This gave him the idea to build something that customers could use to build their own integrations, to answer a need he saw within his own client-base.
To validate this idea, he went through user forums of PayPal, Salesforce, and many other SaaS products to find out what the customers of those products were asking about, and even reached out to a few. One of those few was Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy, who became Zapier’s very first paying client.
Going Through Y Combinator
Once Zapier became a working product, it wasn’t long before it gained the attention of Y Combinator, the now-legendary startup accelerator. To take advantage of the hot hand, Foster, along with his co-founders and their families, made the move from Missouri to San Francisco.
“That summer we made more progress on Zapier than we had the entire year before, because we had 100 percent focus,” Foster says. While that was invaluable, he also notes that all of the advice given to startups at Y Combinator is freely available through the accelerator’s How to Start a Startup course (startupclass.com).
What advice did the Y Combinator team have for Zapier? Write code, talk to customers, and exercise. Foster laughs that the Zapier team “exercised the first day and then spent the rest of the time on the other two.” His experience at the accelerator taught him the value of consistent, intense focus and the impact it can have on your business.
Traditional Management in a Non-Traditional Way
With a team of more than 60 employees and no true “headquarters,” Zapier relies on collaboration tools and traditional management philosophies to keep things running smoothly. Heavily reliant on Slack for communication, the Zapier team also uses their own homegrown aSynch solution for communications with a longer shelf-life. “It’s like a blog meets Reddit,” Foster says.
Foster meets one on one with each member of his executive team at least once a week, a practice that trickles down throughout the organization. To keep everyone happy and productive, he encourages traditional people-management values: “Set goals, help your employees improve over time, and give them autonomy.”
Going Back to Their Roots
While Zapier is now well-established and growing every day, it’s important to the company’s leadership that they don’t get too settled in their ways. In order to stay creative, and build in-person connections, the company relies on twice-a-year retreats.
During their retreats, the Zapier team channels their hack-a-thon roots by spending the first day working on ideas. This gives them the opportunity to “lay roots in the ground for future products,” many of which become new features in Zapier. The second day is dedicated to functional team breakouts during which each individual team is free to work on whatever is most important to them, whether that is team building, strategy development, or tackling a problem.
On the third day, they enjoy some R&R and sightseeing. “Our retreats build camaraderie and remind us that we are all working on common goals and objectives,” Foster says.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Now that Zapier has experienced substantial growth, developers of SaaS products are clamoring to integrate with the tool, because of the exposure and value it brings to its partners. As a result, of the more than 750 APIs that integrate with Zapier, at least 80 percent are maintained by the partner. This means that it is up to the partner to ensure that their newly released APIs integrate with Zapier, instead of the other way around.
This allows Zapier to manage the platform integrations with a team of just five dedicated individuals, who are constantly monitoring alerts and mailing lists for potential changes that could negatively impact the performance of a client’s “Zap.”
Consistent Growth with Consistent Content
Like many digital startups, content marketing has been king for Zapier, and the secret to their success on that front has been consistency. From the outset, the Zapier team decided stick to a posting schedule of twice a week.
This allowed them to build up a backlog of content so there was room to analyze what was resonating most with their audience. Now that they have fine tuned their content strategy, the team focuses on the intersection of productivity and apps in their published pieces. “But we wouldn’t have gotten there if we hadn’t been consistent,” Foster says.
Now the team is putting out new content nearly every day of the week, in addition to their robust app directory. Their content and healthy organic search ranking, puts unique views of their site over the 1 million mark every month.
The takeaway—leverage the power of great partnerships and build a product that serves the customers you know exist, combine that with intense focus and consistency, and you’ve got a combination that is tough to beat.
Foster’s Favorite Zaps
- A Zap that automates the Zapier applicant process through notification, tracking, and email alerts. “It helps us get back to people who are applying to jobs in a timely manner.”
- The @here Alternative. As a 100 percent remote workforce, the Zapier team is a big fan of Slack. But Foster found that most of the employees were using @here to open discussions with their departments, “which is the equivalent of walking into an office and shouting to the entire building.” To get his team to interact in User Groups instead of @here, he set up a Zap to direct message anyone that uses @here, just to be sure that he or she really means to shout their message to all 60-plus workers.
- How to validate your idea and find your first customer at the same time
- The pros and cons of managing a distributed team of over 60 people
- What a high-performing distributed team looks like
- Keys to building a B2B company as quickly as possible
- Wade’s favorite apps and tools
Full Transcript of Podcast with Wade Foster
Nathan: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the “Foundr Podcast.” My name is Nathan Chan and I am your host and the CEO of Foundr Magazine coming to you live from Melbourne, Australia. Hope you’re all having a great start to your 2017. I’m really, really pumped, as I mentioned in the last episode. Me and the team, we have some big, aggressive goals. And we’re actually tracking them week by week, doing traffic light meetings. Yeah, I’m learning so much. So it’s insane.
But long story short, things are going well. I’m super pumped about 2017. You can expect a lot more cool stuff coming from us. We’re gonna be 10X-ing the amount of content we produce just to help provide you guys with a lot more value. And that’s where it’s at. We’re just trying to build a value-generating machine.
All right, so let’s talk about today’s guest. His name is Wade Foster, and he’s the founder of a company called Zapier. And I’m absolutely in love with this company. One thing I learnt from Ari Maisel from…I think it was maybe episode number…yeah, episode number 6 was you need to find leverage. If you want to be more productive, you need to find leverage. And long story short, you want to find…you know, you have to set up your processes and you want to automate those processes with technology however you can. And if you can’t, you automate them with a person. That’s how you get leverage. That’s how you get business growth.
And one of those pieces of technology that he talked about…this is three years ago now with Zapier. And we’re actually speaking to the founder of Zapier. And we use Zapier for all sorts of automation. It’s insane, it saves us so much time. And we find out how he’s built this fast-growth company. A million-plus users, incredible content. They produce a lot of great content, they’re a killer SaaS product. They have a fully dispersed team as well, fully distributed team, which is really interesting finding out how they manage that. And also, we find out Wade’s favorite tools, which are really cool as well.
So yeah, look, incredible conversation. I hope you take a ton from this. Zapia is a very, very cool tool, and highly recommend it. We use it. We love it. All right, guys, that’s it from me. Hope you have a fantastic day. And please do remember, if you haven’t checked out Foundr Magazine, or any of our other work, just head over to foundr.com, F-O-U-N-D-R.com. You can check out the digital magazine on the App Store, the Google Play Store. You can check out the club, Foundr’s Club, which is our exclusive membership site. You can check out many of our other products, our book, all the other products that we’ve got going on. And you can read our blog content as well. All right, guys, that’s it from me. Now let’s jump in the show.
The first question that I ask everyone that comes on is how did you get your job?
Wade: Oh, boy. How did I get my job at Zapier?
Wade: Well, I started it.
Nathan: So tell us about that. Like, is this your first startup? Yeah.
Wade: Yeah, Zapier’s really the first company that I would say has had, really, any success. I had some, like, middling experiments before that, but I wouldn’t really call them “companies,” per se. I never had any employees. There was never anyone besides just myself, or maybe, like, I would recruit a friend to help on a one-time project or something like that. But Zapier really is the first kind of real business that I’ve run.
Nathan: I see. And when did you start Zapier?
Wade: Zapier’s been around since 2011.
Nathan: Gotcha. So about five years.
Nathan: And how did you come up with this killer idea? Like, when we talk SaaS, I think, you know, you guys have absolutely nailed it in terms of lock-in, in terms of just value, in terms of art. Like, we are a massive, massive fan of what you guys do. We use so many of your different Zaps for all sorts of different things. And they’re lifesavers. Because there’s so many different SaaS out there. We pay, literally, right now, and within our business, for 50 different SaaS products. And your product, Zapier, helps us tie them all together many times. So how did this come about?
Wade: Yeah, so Zapier started kind of based on some of those experiments, those middling businesses I was talking about. Brian Helmick, who’s one of my founders here at Zapier, we had been doing some freelance work for a handful of folks. And we’d noticed a couple times, we’d get asked to these kind of one-off integrations. Like, get PayPal sales into QuickBooks, get this list of leads into Salesforce, that sort of thing.
And Brian, I guess, you know, he messaged me one day on iChat while we were at work and said, “You know, I think we can build something that lets people set up these sorts of integrations on their own. They don’t have to hire engineers. It can be an off-the-shelf, self-serve type of product.” And I was like, “You know, that makes a ton of sense. We should do that.” And so, that was really kind of the initial idea behind Zapier.
Nathan: Gotcha. And how did you get your first paid customer?
Wade: So one of the things we did to validate the idea was we went through a bunch of forums, where people were asking for integration. So Basecamp has their forums where they were taking ideas, Evernote has them, Salesforce, I think, had them. There’s a whole bunch of forums where people were talking about stuff.
Anyway, on one of the forums, I found Andrew Warner of Mixergy was asking about a PayPal high-rise integration. And so, I e-mailed him directly. He didn’t have any…I didn’t know him personally or anything. I just kind of took a chance and said, “Hey, you still looking for this PayPal high-rise thing?” And he replied back and said, “Well, no, but do you have something?” And I said, “Well, kind of. We’ve got a thing that connects together a whole bunch of different apps.” And I happened to notice that he was using Wufoo on his side, and he was using AWeber for his mailing list. And so, I took a chance and said, “You know, it connects all sorts of things. Like, you know, you could connect Wufoo to AWeber, and you know, da, da, da,” right? And he read that e-mail and was like, “Oh, I actually need a thing that can get, you know, folks from my Wufoo forms into AWeber. Can you help me with that?” And you know, of course, we said, “Yeah, we certainly can.”
And that night, we built the Wufoo and AWeber connectors into Zapier, and Andrew ended up paying us for that. So that was how our very first customer came to be.
Nathan: Yeah, interesting. That’s a really good first paid customer. And was he an early ambassador for you guys?
Wade: He was, yeah. He would tweet about it from time to time, and you know, I’ve been on Mixergy now a couple times, and you know, he really has been a good supporter for Zapier. Introduced us to the guys over at Wufoo, and you know, really just was a really good ambassador for us.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s amazing. So you guys bootstrapped, or are you funded right now?
Wade: Zapier, we…in the early days, we were bootstrapped for about nine months or so, like, working on the project nights and weekends, things like that. Then we went through YC, Y Combinator, which has funded companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit, etc.
Wade: And they give you a little bit of money, right?
Nathan: I interviewed the founder.
Wade: Oh, perfect.
Nathan: One of the founders.
Wade: Yeah, so they give you a little bit of money. And after that, we raised about $1 million for a seed round. And that’s all we’ve needed. So we’ve been profitable for the last three years, we haven’t needed to raise any more money. We focused on growing the business profitably and sustainably.
Nathan: I’m curious around your team. You guys are a remote distributed team, or you guys…where is your HQ?
Wade: So we are…that makes us unique is that we are entirely distributed. There’s no central office anywhere. You know, I say headquarters is in slackers on the internet, right? So I live in the Bay Area, as do my founders, co-founders. And so, I guess that’s the de-facto headquarters. But it really doesn’t feel like it, I guess. The internet really feels like our true home.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s so cool. So let’s talk about, you know…how many people do you have on your team?
Wade: Today, we’re 60 people at Zapier.
Nathan: Wow. And are you able to share some numbers around traction, growth, just so we can wrap our heads around how amazing you guys are?
Wade: Yeah, there’s about a million and a half registered users on Zapier that are using the product. So you know, we’ve gone from nothing to that in about five years.
Nathan: Gotcha. And you did say you were doing at least multiple seven figures in ARR, annual recurring revenue?
Wade: Yeah, yeah, a little more than that. Mm-hmm.
Nathan: Okay. Awesome, fantastic. All right, so you guys are doing really, really well. You’ve got a scalable asset. Now, talk to us about this distributed team. Because 60 people…wow, man. Like, how do you manage that?
Wade: It’s a good question. To us, it feels normal, because we’ve been distributed from the very beginning. We actually get this question a lot. So we wrote a book on it. So if you go to zapier.com/learn, there is a whole book on managing remote teams.
But you know, I think it’s just so much easier to do remote nowadays than it used to be. Because, you know, you can get on things like a Skype call and have, you know, pretty great conversations. You have videoconferences where you can see people’s facial inflections and interact with them that way. And the tools are just so good that it almost feels like you’re in the same place.
And so, then, what you can do is it really just comes down to Management 101 from that standpoint. It’s “Do you do regular one-on-ones with folks? Do you set good goals and objectives for them? Help them set good goals and objectives? Do you give them autonomy? Do you track the results that they’re getting? Do you help try and improve them over time?” And that kind of stuff is stuff you can do anywhere. There’s no particular reason that you have to be sitting next to each other to do that sort of stuff.
Nathan: Interesting. And what tools? What are the key tools that you guys are using to manage 60 people? And how often do you catch up as a collective? Can you tell us the structure?
Wade: Yeah. So we’ve got…we use Slack as kind of our group chat tool. You could use HipChat or any of the other ones are pretty good as well. We use an internal tool that we’ve built called Async, which is kind of like a blog meets Reddit-style tool. Since Slack is so fast…it’s kind of more for synchronous communication. Async…as in the title, it’s for the asynchronous stuff. It’s for stuff that’s a little more long-lived. It’s like, “This needs to have a discussion around it” that everyone can kind of catch up on, no matter what time zone they’re in. So it’s a really good tool for us to utilize for that purpose.
We use Zoom for, like, videoconferencing. It’s pretty good. Probably one of the more reliable videoconferencing platforms out there. You know, GitHub, Trello are pretty commonly used. A handful of others that we use, Google Apps…I’m a big Google Docs fan myself gets used.
But you know, the beauty of Zapier, too, is that we integrate so many different tools that if you ask different folks on the team, yeah, we have some core principal tools, but their individual tooling that they use might be different than what I use. And they just use Zapier to hook it all together and things like that. So it lets us be a bit tool-agnostic, “best tool for the job” sort of thing.
Nathan: Interesting. Now, how do you…we’ve talked about, you know, measure and style, but what about the structure? What’s the management structure look like? And are you doing daily standups? Can you work us through that part? Because I think that’s really fascinating for people.
Wade: We’ve kind of moved a bit of a traditional hierarchy. You know, it’s still relatively flat-ask, but we do have, like, a management structure in place. So, like, I have an executive team that I work with, and I do one-on-ones with them on a week to week basis, trying to catch up on what’s the most important task, what’s the most important strategic stuff we need to look on, how are we executing on that plan, that sort of thing. And then, those people that I…my executive team, each of them have teams underneath them that they’re working with.
So it’s kind of a traditional hierarchy. It’s worked pretty well for us, because it helps keep everyone on the same page. Make sure that they have kind of a go-to resource in the company that they can rely on, and has their back all the time.
Nathan: Gotcha. And what’s been your biggest challenge starting Zapier and building it?
Wade: That first year is always the hardest one, right? The first year, we were working nights and weekends. I had a day job, so I worked eight hours a day then, and then from about 6:00 p.m. until, like 1:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m., sometimes 3:00 a.m., we’d just be plugging away trying to make progress on this stuff. And you know, it’s really tough when you’re putting in that kind of hours to really have them be quality hours. But you know, that was what we had to do. That was the financial realities of what our kind of situation was like.
And so, that’s what we ended up doing. And it managed to get us through kind of those tough times, managed to make progress each day, and get into Y Combinator, which did allow us to go full-time. And then from there, even that was tough for us, because I was married…or I am married. My partners, Brian and Mike, have wives as well. And so, we were moving from Missouri to California, which is a big transition to do with families and things like that. It was not unexpected, but it was still a bit surprising, I think, to them, that this was, like, actually happening, right?
And so, that’s a big transition and change, too. So that was a struggle as well, just to make that sort of stuff happen from…you know, keep the business running and move and all that stuff at the same time.
Nathan: Yeah, because Y Combinator’s quite intense, right? You just work around a clock for…
Wade: Pretty much, yeah. That was probably the best thing we got out of it, was, you know, we were able to be full-time on Zapier. So it was getting our full, complete attention at that point in time. It wasn’t getting the leftover hours anymore. And so, that summer we were going through Y Combinator, we made more progress on the app and the company than we had in its entire history.
Nathan: Gotcha. And what was…you know, Y Combinator has access to the smartest and most successful entrepreneurs around the world. I’m curious, what was one of your biggest takeaways coming from there that you might have learned from maybe, you know, Reid Hoffman or Paul Graham?
Wade: Yeah, you know, I think one of the things that’s great about YC is they share a lot of their advice publicly. So if you watch, like, the “How to Start a Startup” video series on Stanford they put out, like, that’s the advice they give to all the Y Combinator people. It’s not any different being here in person versus what you see on the video series.
And one of the most important things I got out of it was just the unrelenting focus on certain aspects of your business, and just to ignore the rest of the stuff. So the very first day, PG, Paul Graham, says, “You should be doing three things this summer. You should be writing code, you should be talking to your users, and you should be exercising.” And so, we exercised on the first day, and then we worked on the other two the rest of the summer.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. That’s really interesting. So he’s all big about exercise, eh?
Wade: Well, you know, try and take care of yourself, right?
Nathan: Yeah, because, yeah, you guys work insane, right. So distributed team, how often do you do…do you guys do retreats? If so, how often? That must be really difficult to orchestrate.
Wade: Yeah, so we do retreats twice a year for the whole team. You know, usually in the beginning of the year towards the middle of the year is when we’ve kind of set up the schedule for that. And we also have smaller retreats of get-togethers of various folks; maybe a regional retreat or a team retreat here or there. Just kind of…and those are a little more ad-hoc or as-needed. And so, those kind of help keep camaraderie, keep the pace going, and keep the machinery moving at Zapier. And also, it’s just a really good time to reiterate, like, you know, we’re working with other people. This is a team. There’s some camaraderie here. We have common goals and objections. And that face time really helps to build that camaraderie.
Nathan: And I’m curious, when you do these two retreats with everyone per year, what’s the agenda? Can you just give us a little more insight, like, how a remote team would get together? What do you guys usually do? Do you do one day of planning, one day of fun? Like, I’m really curious. Do you set goals for the year? Like, tell us about that. Like, if you could, let’s go deep.
Wade: Sure. So we do a mix of work and fun. Zapier, our original prototype was built at a startup weekend, which is kind of a hackathon.
Wade: So that’s kind of our roots. So at the retreats, we like to mimic that. We like to do hackathons. So the first three days, we spend building new stuff, right? A lot of it’s just like before the retreat, there’s a lot of planning and suggested ideas, and new things that get proposed, And then during the retreat, we kind of actually try and build some of them. Like, we try and…it may not be perfect, it might not be shippable quite yet. But we try and get something a little bit on paper. And a lot of that stuff ends up actually being big features that get launched and announced at a later date.
So for example, yesterday, we launched a digest app for Zapier. And that was one of the projects that got spec’d out at a retreat. So the hackathon really is a way to kind of lay some roots in the ground on some future new projects that we want to work on. And so, that’s the first half of the retreat.
The second half of the retreat, we break into smaller teams, functional teams. Like the marketing team, the engineering team, what have you. And I let…this is newer as we’ve gotten bigger, since we’re kind of big enough to have, like, actual functioning teams. And what those teams then do is whatever is most important for them. So I say, you know, “Hey, if you need to do team building, so if you need to some just like…you’ve got a lot of new folks on the team, and you’ve got to, you know, kind of get folks working better together, you can just go do some team building stuff.” If you need to have, like, a work session, if you’re really kind of struggling to get through this really tricky spot, or figure out this tricky problem and you need to have a work session, have a work session. If there’s, like, some strategic stuff you need to work on and you need to do, like, some roundtables on that, go do that. It really is…the team days are really for the teams to kind of set their own agenda and figure out and solve the problems that are toughest for them.
And then we also have an open day, which is just like free, fun, you know, “Go explore the area, where we’re at. Do something interesting.”
Nathan: Hey, guys, just wanted to take a quick second to let you know about our sponsor for today’s episode, Infusionsoft. Infusionsoft provides small businesses with trusted and proven expertise a powerful platform for sales and marketing automation, and an ecosystem of partners, apps, and integrations. By combining CRM, marketing automation, eCommerce payments, and analytics all into one platform, Infusionsoft gives small businesses insight into what’s happening with customers at every stage of the life cycle. We actually use Infusionsoft at Foundr, so I was super pumped to have them as a sponsor. And it’s been a huge win for us and many other small businesses and startups in my network. So if you want to learn more, you can visit infusionsoftnow.com/foundr. Please also remember, guys, when you’re supporting our sponsors, you’re also supporting the show. All right, now let’s jump back in.
All right, so let’s switch gears and talk about the product. Because this is something that I’ve always been super fascinated with, and I’ve actually spoke to quite a few of my friends around it, and I don’t know how you guys do it. So how do you keep up to date with APIs changing so often?
Wade: Yeah, that’s a great question. You know…
Nathan: Because you guys got, like, how many different…just for the audience, sorry to interrupt. But just…
Wade: There are 750 APIs on Zapier.
Nathan: Yeah. For the audience that don’t know what an API is, that’s…can you explain and explain, like, Zapier, what it does…
Wade: You know, an API is just like a programmatic way for two apps to talk to each other. What that means for people who don’t know how to program is, you know, two services can set up an integration. And you can end up using it. They can actually work together because of these APIs. And so, you don’t have to know how to code. Instead, Zapier can figure it out all for you. You can set up these integrations between what…whether it’s Google Apps or Dropbox or Trello or Slack or whatever, right? All of those are powered by APIs, and you don’t have to know how it works under the hood
Nathan: Gotcha, all right. So tell us, how do you…with 700 different integrations and combinations and premutations, like, this massive machine with so many spokes, how do you keep it up to date?
Wade: Yeah, so we have a team of about five folks who are on our platform team that are basically in charge of all the apps on Zapier. And it’s definitely a shared responsibility across the whole team. But those five folks are really the key people that are making sure that this happens. One of the nice things, though, is that of the 750 apps on Zapier, 80% of them are built and maintained by the partner. So the API provider is the one that’s making sure that Zapier integration is up to date.
Now, even with that, there are still issues from time to time with things breaking or changes coming unprepared. Like, someone forgets and, you know, does something without quite thinking it through. And so, we still have to, you now, take care of that sort of stuff. And there’s a couple things we do. One is lots of monitoring and alerts. So alerts that go off as soon as something seems different, changes in some weird way for the better or for the worse, we want to know about it.
Wade: We’re on tons of mailing lists, like API mailing lists and things like that, so that we can find out plenty ahead of time if there’s something that we need to know. And then, it’s just collaborating with the companies on things. So if they’re gonna deprecate an API and we don’t think we have enough time, we’ll just let them know. We’ll say, like, “Hey, we don’t think we can make this happen.”
And the nice thing about that today versus where we were five years ago is that we’ve actually…as we’ve grown, people will kind of take our suggestions more often. So if we say we need an extra month or an extra week or two, folks are pretty forgiving of that and say, like, “Yeah, we can extend that for a week for you to make the change. Which is really helpful.”
Nathan: Yeah, I know. And that’s amazing because I can see, as you guys have grown, you have a lot more power as well in the sense that I know certain SaaS companies that, like, are new to the space, they want to be on Zapier because they want to get integrations because that will help with their growth and reach and spreading the tool. So they’d want to really work with you and have a good relationship now more than ever, right?
Wade: Mm-hmm, exactly, yeah. I mean, it’s one of those tools where if you hook into Zapier, you get all these integrations out of the box, your users are able to take advantage of it because they’re hooking up these work flows between the various apps. It’s much more sticky user that way.
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha. Question around tools. I’m sure, like, you must know more about, like, the coolest SaaS tool or tools out there on the web that you love. I’d love to hear, like, you know, just something that nobody knows of or maybe something that’s coming, like, that you think is really cool, that’s crazy.
Because, like, in our business, you know, I see scalers as two things: you can either scale with people or you scale with technology. And you know, you scale processes, right?
Nathan: And for us, if we can’t scale as people…if we can scale with technology first using a tool like Zapier, we will do it, but otherwise, we move to people. And yeah, you guys must have so many cool kind of tools that are on your radar. So I’d love to hear, like, favorites.
Wade: Yeah. I mean, you know, there’s some tools that kind of came out of nowhere. There is, like, Tightform [SP] which is not super new now, but, like, they came…they started, I think, a couple years ago. It’s like super slick forms. And totally boring space, right? Form software, you think, form, like, it’s been there, done that, right? Well, Tightform found a way to make something really neat out of it. So that’s super cool.
Something that’s not a web app that I don’t think a lot of people use…I use Alfred all the time. It’s like a spotlight replacement for your Mac. It doesn’t even integrate with Zapier, but I still love it, it’s great. You can actually set up little work flows that will push stuff through Zapier if you want to customize it. But it doesn’t natively work with Zapier. It’s a great tool, though.
Another tool that we’re big fans of is WorkFlow, which is a mobile app. That’s kind of similar to Zapier, but it does automations on your phone, which is really, really cool. So those are a couple few that we’ve seen lately that we’re having a lot of fun with. And of course, there’s dozens more. I mean, I’m leaving out many fantastic apps. I couldn’t even begin to name all the cool stuff out there.
Nathan: What’s your favorite Zap?
Wade: Oh, boy. What is my favorite Zap?
Nathan: Or maybe your most useful one to you.
Wade: Let me pull up my account here. One of the fun things about Zapier is that Zaps just work in the background. So sometimes, I forget that I have this stuff running. You know, probably one that I use all the time, like, our job application…like, if you apply for a job at Zapier, a lot of the notifications and stuff are powered through Zaps. So you fill out a form through Zapier, it pushes that form information into a tracking system. The e-mail alerts that happen as you move through the system are powered by Zaps. So a lot of those are really nice, because it helps us get back to people who are applying to jobs in a timely manner at Zapier. So that one’s really cool.
I set up a pretty cool one the other day. So as we’ve grown…you know, we’re 60 people now; that’s a lot more folks than we used to have. And one of the things…features that folks have built of using in Slack is the @here, which notifies anyone that’s currently active in a channel about whatever you want to say.
However, we’ve got some channels that have a lot of people in them. You know, 40, 50, sometimes the whole team, 60 people in a channel. So if you use @here, that sends a notification to everybody. And so, there was no other way to get a hold of a group of people, though. And so, @here was just kind of like walking…this equivalent of being in an office and just like walking into a room and just shouting, right? So I was like, “Well, how can we improve the communication that’s happening here?”
So Slack has this great feature called User Groups. We set up User Groups for, you know, marketing team, editorial team, engineering team, front-end, product, infrastructure team, what have you, right? Which is great. So now, we’ve got these groups of people. So if you want to ask a question about a specific topic instead of using @here, you can use the group. It seems like problem solved, right?
However, if you know anything about habits, habits are hard to break. So people are still using @here, right? It’s a tough thing to break. So I set up a Zap that watches for anyone using @here in a channel. And as soon as you @here, it DMs you in Slack from a Zap police bot guy…a little, like, police bot emoji that says, “Hey, did you mean to do that? If not, like, check out these warnings here.”
So it’s been on for, like, two weeks now. But our usage of the @here has gone way, way down. So it was a cool use of a Zap that just, like, did some behavioral adjustment, if you will.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s so cool. Man, you must have so many ones cool like that. There’s one that I want to do, and I’m just gonna ask you right now. I know we’ve got to work towards wrapping up. But do you know of a way that when we get a new paid customer, we can get, like, in our office, in the Melbourne HQ, because we have a distributed team, but a HQ in Melbourne, some sort of physical kind of product ring a bell, or something crazy goes off so we can kind of be like, “Yay,” you know? You must be able to do it with Zapier. Please tell me you can.
Wade: There probably is. I don’t know. There used to be this cool app called choir.io, but they shut down, where you could make music based on events in Zapier. So like, you know, if this event happened, you play this sound. If this other event happened, you play this sound or you play this beat or this pattern. So, like, based on the pattern of your business, you could set up, like, these tracks, right, these music tracks, which is pretty cool. Which I loved it. I’m certain that there is something that plays a sound.
Nathan: Yeah. And you could link it to a physical product, or there might be a physical product or something, and it links via WiFi. Or something…I don’t know, there must be something cool there. Because one time…we’ve got a really strong following on social media, in particular, Instagram, and you can actually get, like, a physical product that I saw it…I can’t even find…I want to get one. But it counts down. Like, it counts up to how many followers you have, and it’s live. So we’re closing in on, like, a million followers, and I wanted to get one. But I can’t find it anywhere.
And I was thinking, “Oh, it would probably be cool if we had one just for the team to celebrate, you know, when someone, you know, purchases one of our products or something…”
Nathan: “…yeah, and you know, link it up to Infusionsoft, which is what we use for products.” So yeah. You don’t…
Wade: We need to hook up to Alexa is what we need to do, the Amazon Echo bot.
Nathan: Ah, yes.
Wade: That would be really cool.
Nathan: Yes, yes, yes. So you don’t know of a product that does that…
Wade: I know that there’s gotta be one. But this is my challenge, there’s 750 apps on Zapier, right? I remembered them all.
Nathan: It’s all good. Well, look, work towards wrapping up. I wanted to talk about content and growth. Because you guys are doing a really amazing job on the content marketing piece. And yeah, two, three pieces on your best piece of advice on growth, and then best piece of advice on content, and then, the best place people can find you. So three sets.
Wade: All right, so best piece of advice is be consistent. So it’s impossible to have growth or good content strategy if you’re not being consistent. One of the set things we set out to do early on was like, “You know, we’re gonna publish twice a week. It doesn’t matter, you know, come hell or high water, there’s gonna be something on the site.”
And so, that consistency got us publishing. It got our, like, muscles used to moving at that pace. And then, after a month or so, we started to say, “Okay, we’ve got enough back log. What worked from the last month? What didn’t work?” And we could start to fine tune it and say, like, “Okay, well, this piece wasn’t quite right, right? It just didn’t quite seem to connect with folks.” So maybe these are better than those topics.
And you know, it tooks us a few months, but eventually, we were able to kind of hone in on a focus area, which for us, like on our blog and our learn site, is all about productivity meets apps. So it’s all about how you can be productive with these apps. And it took us a while to get to that, but that’s really where our sweet spot is. And we wouldn’t have gotten there if we hadn’t dedicated our time to being consistent. Making sure to show up and publish every day…in our case, publish twice a week, Tuesday, Thursday. We’ve had that streak running for forever. And no one wants to break that streak now. We want to have something going out every Tuesday and Thursday.
And what was the last question? I forget what was the last one was.
Nathan: It was a mixture of content and growth. So, like, what’s your number one, like, customer acquistion channel besides other products saying, “We’re on Zapier”?
Wade: Yeah, that’s a big one. Our partnerships talking about us and then, you know, we get a lot from search as well. People, you know, poking around Google, doing searches, looking for integration products and things like that.
Nathan: Gotcha. So you guys have a strong content team, SEO…
Wade: Absolutely. Yep.
Nathan: Interesting. And would you be able to show how many pieces you produce per week, and how much traffic your site gets?
Wade: You know, we’re publishing, like…we’ve upped it from twice a week to five times a week. But we also have our app directory, which has hundreds of thousands of pages on it, too. So across, like, our site and stuff, we’re getting well over, like, a million-plus, you know, seesions or unique visitors a month now.
Nathan: Yeah, wow, okay. Well, that’s incredible. Well, look, we can wrap there, Wade. What’s the best place people can find you and more about Zapier?
Wade: Yeah. I’m pretty active on Twitter. So @wadefoster. Or if you wanted to get in touch with me personally, you can e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll try and get back to you. I read all my e-mail, but I’m sometimes a little slow. And of course, if you want to know more about Zapier, zapier.com, Z-A-P-I-E-R.com.
Nathan: Awesome. Well, look, thank you so much for your time, Wade. This was an awesome conversation, man.
Wade: Yeah, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me, Nathan.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Wade Foster