How Zapier got off the ground

Zapier is now a fazillion dollar new age business – but was a startup that got rejected by Y combinator as a start up when it had a few users – but was accepted when it had 1000 users and their product was validated.

So the difference was we had traction, validation, and credibility. We weren’t just people with a nice idea, we we’re executing. 
Wade Foster and his cofounder Bryan, freelanced a lot for small businesses. They would often ask us to do what he liked to call API grunt work. Things like, “We have a bunch of Paypal stuff and we need it in Quickbooks,” or “I have this big list of contacts I met at a trade show and I want them in Salesforce.” 

They would build scripts and things to handle that for them. One day they found themselves  saying “I think we can automate this. I think we can build an out-of-the-box tool that allows these small business owners to set these things up themselves without needing to know coding, engineering or anything like that.”

If there is something that is repetitive – Zapier will automate it!!

The types of things people do that Zapier automated tend to fall into a few categories.

  1. Notifications – One popular one is notifications, like an alert when someone RSVP’s on EventBrite or a payment comes in through Paypal. Those might come through e-mail, Slack, Hipchat, SMS, or something else.
  2. Lead generation – Another big category is lead generation, so gathering information from a website form, an e-mail, etc. and saving to a CRM, an e-mail marketing tool or something like that.
  3. Archiving – Saving files into Dropbox, Google Drive, Onedrive, things like that, or opening notes into apps like Evernote.
Zapier doesn’t have a central office. Everyone works from homes, libraries, coffee shops, etc. 

Working remotely is our culture. 

That is who they are.

They use things like Slack, and have a tool that basically works like an internal blog, and we have Hackpad set up for lots of documentation.

A key behaviour at Zapier is that work is well-documented somewhere, so if a teammate wakes up halfway around the world, they know where to go to look for answers to things. In that way, we’re just as efficient—if not more so—working remotely than they would be in person. As a result, they’re able to recruit people to work for us all over the world, and not limited to a local area.

They use Giphy and have Gifs all over the place, go on retreats twice a year, fun things to build camaraderie. 

The people at Zapier get a lot of pride out of the work they do and want to do good work that gets used by a lot of people. 

That’s attractive to them, and environment are created where folks can do really great work and have the excitement of seeing that work being used by  millions of people.

Advice to entrepreneurs

Take action – Just pick something and do it – if it’s wrong – you can change it and do it again . 

Chunk it – how does one eat an elephant – one piece at a time – just do it!

Says Wade….
“Take some action every day …. even if it’s small, find something you can check off a to-do list, and say “my company is better today than it was yesterday.” If you make that little bit of progress and you do that 365 days in a row, you’ll find that you’ve made an incredible amount of progress in a year.”

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