Welcome to another episode of Team anywhere where CEOs, leaders and experts at building teams, companies, organizations,
and amazing cultures share how to lead from anywhere in the world. I'm your co host on the East Coast, Judy Bianca Lafosse.
And I'm your co host on the West Coast. Mitch Simon. And we invite you to join us team anywhere. Tired of taking notes during a zoom call? What if someone else took notes highlighted the most important parts and pulled out the most pertinent audio clips at the touch of a button. Today we interview Richard White, the founder of the first most popular application in the Zoom App Store. As soon as you find out about fathom, you'll never take notes in a meeting again. Hello, and welcome to our episode of Team anywhere. I'm your co host on the West Coast. Mitch Simon came on the east coast we have our incredible, wonderful, amazing co host Dr. Virginia, Bianco maphis. Ginni, how are you today?
I am fabulous,
fabulous. Thanks. Today on the podcast, we have Richard White, the founder and CEO of fathom a free app. And an incredible app that I started using yesterday. It records transcribes highlights your zoom calls, so you can focus on the conversation instead of taking notes. Fathom is the second most popular application in the Zoom App Store and is one of a small handful of companies that Zoom has invested in directly. Do we all know, we've been spending all of our money to zoom? And yes, we went to Richard. So that's really great. So hey, Richard, before we get into your story, what has surprised you the most over the last two years?
I mean, it's been a pretty surprising two years. So that's a high bar. What surprised me the most over the last few years. So this is my kind of like a second startup. And so I think everything is a little bit surprising second time around in terms of how quickly we can move when we kind of know how to play the game, because we played this before. And I often I see using, like this video game analogy, like startups, like playing this big video game. So that's like one of the video games like Minecraft, that doesn't tell you what the rules are, how to play. The first time you go to play, you're like, I don't know what to do. And the second time you're immediately punching trees to get wood, because, you know, that analogy. And so I think that's probably the most surprising thing is that, you know, the last year but didn't run for about 10 years. And so, you know, it's been a while since I've been alive this year to one phase, we've been kind of surprised by like, it's honestly a lot more fun the second time around here, and it's been great. It's right, you
know where the trees are. So tell us a little bit about your background, and then go into your philosophy around remote work, because obviously, at least this startup is all around remote work.
Yeah. So my background is computer science. I'm actually originally from North Carolina, I study computer science early on my career was working on the first Y Combinator companies. And Y Combinator is now pretty famous kind of like seed funding organization, if funded things like Stripe and Airbnb and Twitch and stuff like that. But back then they weren't really well known. And that's how I really kind of broke into I think this really cool, like group of entrepreneurs, moved out to California about 15 years ago, started my last company user voice. And that can be he started off being remote. And I think my first YC company, I worked half remote, so was every company I've worked for in the last 15 years, there's been some hybrid or full remote kind of experience. And so user voice or office remote, we were remote for the first year. And then we put an office in San Francisco and another office in North Carolina. And then I spent most of my life shuttling between these two offices. We started fathom, kind of right deep in the beginning of the pandemic, and about like September of 2020. So the world it wasn't a choice to have an office right at that point. But even if there had been a choice, I wouldn't have taken it because I was already like, you know, I actually was kind of being nomadic at that time. And just traveling around and so I was like, This is great. I was working from a cabin in Tahoe we have an office so I think it's way easier to build a company from the ground up around remote work, it's a lot harder to kind of shift you know, watched the last company you know, we had two offices and and try to like rebuild everything for this new kind of like remote work that was foisted upon us by the pandemic and it's why ever have a shift.
So with fathom, you just share with us that Fathom launched a couple of months after the pandemic began. How have you already thought about Fathom before the pandemic or was it as a result of the pandemic?
The idea kind of came before the pandemic and so think January of 2020. We went to lockdown in March and 20. I was doing actually research for an other products, and I was on like 300 Zoom calls in the first like six weeks of the year. And I love these kinds of calls. You know, I love getting in there and kind of doing putting my detective hat and figuring out like, what pain points do they have? How do we solve them. What I don't love about those calls is like heard we try to like type out notes while I'm talking to someone. And then like trying to clean up those notes right after the call. I always joke, I'm single threaded. So if I'm typing, I'm not talking, if I'm talking about typing, right. So it's really awkward for all involved, where I'm just like, hold on, and write that down. So there's so many amazing insights and nuggets, you know, get turned into like one liners in my notes. And I would come back then three weeks later and be like, I don't remember exactly what this was, right? Yes. And I would spend a lot of time taking notes, and I'd still have that experience. And then even worse is I would spend, you know, I'm on all these calls, not just for my own edification, but to come up with insights and learnings to share with our team and say, hey, look, I did all these calls, here's what I learned. And when I go back to the team and say, Here's my three bullet points of what I've learned people, okay, and like something was really lost in translation. And that was kind of Genesis Fathom was something that helps me so I can just have a conversation and not try to take notes, but also something that allows other people to have the same experience, I had firsthand on the call. And I actually did an experiment where, you know, instead of me sharing my three bullet points with my team, I was like, here's 3/32 clips of people getting excited or frustrated about what we've been building. And it was just game changing. All of a sudden, you saw the engineers get way more motivated. You saw everyone lean in, like oh my gosh, because they had the same experience I had, right like humans, we are emotional creatures, right?
And the reason is, the first experience you had is I think, what a lot of companies who thought oh, okay, now remote, you know, the ones who had to make the shift would say, alright, I'll just share with you the highlights, which was a common thing to do. In the face to face world, I had this conversation, here are the notes, here are the bullets, here's the summer and they just were taking those old ways of behavior and plopping them in. And of course, they fell flat. I love what you just said, No, you didn't share the transcript, what you could have done. But you took the most exciting highlights. And then your platform allows you to do that easily. Wow, there's your customer reaction right there.
I'm just thinking about how, first of all, I'm blown away by that idea, by the way. But it's almost to say that when you have a meeting with like 12 people in a room, and you want to say Well, what happened? Well, who took notes, Jenny took notes, here's the notes. But if you actually put those 12 people on a zoom call, and you record it, then you really have like, Jenny and I are always really particular about audio quality, you actually have really good capture of the emotions of the meeting, because people don't want the summary people want those three or four most amazing, energetic
last call was where's the AHA, where's the breakthrough? Notes are not going to change anybody's lives. But those audio moments are. Okay. We are evangelicals for your product right now. More about fathom? Yeah, so
we started the company likes it for that year or so pretty small team. We're actually the number one app now on Zoom marketplace. Wow, congrats. Yeah, and we're doing kind of a pretty unique thing. We're we're giving the product away for free. And we kind of can do that. Because we know that we know what scale we can operate this pretty cheaply. And we also think that, you know, there's some features we're building for teams where we can monetize there, but that allows us to kind of give away for free to individuals. So as I started breaking the companies, and you know, we're seeing obviously, a lot of traction for anyone on Zoom calls, which is almost everyone these days, but especially folks that are on customer facing zoom calls, right? internal meetings are great, too. And I think I saw this also from a different perspective, I used to run our sales team for a period of my last company, and I was on the receiving end of other people's notes. And so like the manager trying to understand what's happening to be like, Oh, here's three notes from the sales call. When again, all I really wanted was show me that 32nd clip of them, you know, pushing back on our pricing or talking about a competitor and stuff like that. So I think we focused on one, how do we make it easy for the person on the phone call to be not as stressed out? Because not worried they're missing something? But now we're focused. Secondly, on how do we make it really easy to disseminate those highlights those important moments out to the right people get into Slack, get into your CRM, get it to the right email inboxes just make that so easy. And so that everyone in the company has a shared context, I think something we do fall into is we have lots of Slack channels where you can see feedback coming in. And some of its textual from email, but a lot of it is here's a 22nd clip from a call that our customer success team is having is just really good, because now it means everyone, even folks that are not on customer calls like engineering. We all have the same context, right? We're all hearing the same feedback. And it's really powerful.
I want to make a comment on that. And I love that you are paying attention to both sides of the conversation. Those of us that then readily embraced all right zoom, and I love it and here's what I can do with it. I then became hesitant. On the second half, which you are paying attention to, which is, gee, I wish I could just take this segment. Alright, now I've got to go to the administrator, how do I do that? And I go to hell with it. Right? Right. And you're making it easy to look good, quite frankly. Yeah, you've added the human element.
Yeah, our goal is to make it so that you actually prefer to do a virtual meeting over and in person. So you know, our core thing we're doing is obviously, like taking away the note taking piece. That's the thing we heard as most stressful. We're also doing other things like we give you real time alerts, like, hey, you've been talking for two minutes straight, even monologue, and we'll give you an alert, like, you're monologuing. Or we're working on one where it's like, you know, meetings are always running over? Well, here's like, Oh, you're two minutes over. And by the way, your upcoming meetings already in the room. So like, they're waiting for you. Alright, and we'll be adding things where it's like, okay, you know, let them know, like you're running late, there's a lot of little things that the computer can do is just allow us to, like, do the stuff that humans do well, which is have these conversations, and let the computer do all the logistics around it and give us hints and give us clues.
I know you can't share secrets. However, you are thinking ahead about some stuff you might do with teams, could you give me just an idea for you
at the CIA guy you shared with secrets. So we went some secrets from you as well.
It's a good question. I don't think it's anything that you would find too surprising, right? Against how to it's basically routing, right? How do we make sure we route and find these moments that matter? Right? In different groups, people care about different things, right? Like, we often find that someone in marketing wants to hear about all the like excited customer moments, we hear the CEO wants to hear about product feedback, the VP of Sales wants to hear about competitors, different people want to hear different things. Okay, how do we make it really easy for you to subscribe to that feed of things, the thing we have found is that recording calls is not new, right? Like we've been recording calls for a couple years. The most of the problem is that like those recordings aren't very accessible. And no one has the time to go watch. You know, we ran our sales team, it didn't want to watch the 10 hours of meetings that were being generated every week, especially when 80% of them, were kind of saying that you're kind of on rails, right? Like my team had a script. And that's actually one things you found only about 10 to 15% of a call is noteworthy. And so that explains why none of us want to rewatch it, or go watch this movie, if 85% of it was like worrying. And I've already seen it like now.
Wonderful. That's great.
Oh, it's fantastic. The ease of video editing and audio editing connected to zoom connected to transcribing it's great idea. So I have a question down here, which is ridiculous. But I do want to understand it. What's the main reason why zoom chose to fund you now, obviously, because it's a ridiculously amazing idea. I'm just wondering, how did that go? Did zoom like find you? Did you find them? Or?
Yeah. Well, we
found them in some ways. Because right when we started the company, we were trying to like we knew we kind of want to do something like this. We weren't exactly sure the technical way to go about it. And we started going Ellen's one path. And then zoom announced they were building out this whole new kind of like plug in architecture for zoom. And as soon as we heard that it was funny, we've been working on which GM had a plug in architecture. And a month later, they announced that which was like a great and also really scary day for me because they announced it. And they said it's coming out soon. Here's the 30 partners we're working with on this. And I was like, Oh my gosh, like, here's the thing we've wanted, like, but it's happening without us, and how do we get involved? We did a lot of things to kind of like break into that program. Like I've raised money for a bunch of people that newseum really well. And the guy who named zoom was one of our investors and like one of the first investors so I wouldn't build a bunch of friends at zoom. But in the end, what happened was like I just cold emailed the right person who was in charge that program and made a pitch of like, here's why I think we'd be a great addition to your platform. And to their credit, they were very open to that. And they're like, Great, yeah, let's let's get you in. And so that led to us being one of the launch partners, one of the first 50 apps on the platform, which obviously yeah, got us working more closely with Zoom and stuff, so on so forth. So as we were raising other money zoom, kind of like warned about this was like, hey, we want to invest in companies are investing in us and building on our platform. So it was a very like, symbiotic thing.
Now what I would love to do is take that whole clip your answer and show it to my leadership and innovation and entrepreneurship, MBA class students, here's what an entrepreneur does. That was like, as you said, Mitch, that's why he's the entrepreneur and we're not you know,
I am an entrepreneur, but I don't have any I can't code anything.
They don't meet code anymore, either. They don't Okay, all right.
Stay away. Just come up with these great ideas.
No, it is really cool for those of us who think we are zoom professionals, you know, I founded about fathom this is like a marketing for fathom, but I used to do marketing, which is like, you know, okay, zoom. How do you do this? Oh, there's a little button down there and zoom. For those of you who don't know, it says apps. I've never used it before. Then I click on it and then boom, Fathom was at the top, like with an angel was singing Me Pick Me. And I downloaded I just use it for a meeting. And it was just, I could not believe that the quality of the audio was just phenomenal as I played it back and all the different buzz, you know, it's like going to Disneyland for a zoom call,
just really love it, hey, there's a good tagline for you.
So here we go, you're asked to speak in front of Jenny's class. And Ginny basically teaches MBAs all day and all night. And you're gonna direct them in how to be better leaders in this virtual world, and you could pimp out your product. But you're like, you know, you guys or gals, this is what I've learned, on how to, let's say, utilize technology, how to lead a virtual team, how to use great apps. This is what you guys were missing. And this is my wisdom for you to be much better at what you do.
I think the two guiding principles I have for our remote teams one is, again, I'm obsessed with making sure everyone has context, I think the one thing you always have as a CEO is you have the most context or you should, right, like you generally see across the entire org. And so that allows you to make a lot of like smart decisions just because you have the context. Now, if you want empower other people to make good decisions, you need them to have the same, maybe not the exact same level context, but you need to like figure out how you can give people almost same level contacts you do. And so some of that is coming up with processes to asynchronous processes, right? Like the ones I was mentioned about how we get, you know, highlights from the front end from our customer calls in front of engineers, other parties, like how do we get the roadmap in front of what's happening, like, in front of customer success people? So there's a lot of what I think about every day is like, what are the new kind of like ambient asynchronous communications we can be doing to just make sure everyone kind of is on the same page. And it's a constant tuning process, because you'll set up some new features like, Okay, here's the new roadmap items or something and have a tool and then you'll have some other thing, and then you'll like cut. The other thing is there's like a finite amount of like capacity for people to like, pick up on things, right. So I feel like we have very few meetings. And we constantly ask like, we have only two standing meetings a week. And we often ask like, every couple months, is this meeting still serving us? Does it need to change, I make sure the meetings are generally for discussion, not for content delivery, content delivery should happen asynchronously. It should ideally happen in a Slack channel over email, and then constantly thinking about our our asynchronous content feed serving us or you know, we had a channel in the early days that showed us every step someone took in the signup process, right? Oh, they're at this step. Now that the step that worked well, about 12 months ago, now, we have way too high volume, so it no longer works. But it served us in that period. And that onboarding process, so I feel like as the company's growing up, you're constantly building up some infrastructure to share information and then tearing it down once it's no longer useful. And I think the two mistakes I see a lot are over reliance on synchronous communication, as opposed to a single communication. And this is what impersonal companies tend to do is they tend to just put everyone in meetings in person companies tend to undervalue their like water, cooler, ambient awareness, like a lot of ways in person companies get this kind of context is people just overhear someone on the phone or talking to someone else or at the lunch table. So you have to be much more intentional about creating the streams. So like over reliance on meetings, as opposed to asynchronous communication, and then not revisiting these things, right, like we set up this meeting, and then we've always had this meeting. So we're gonna keep always having this meeting. And honestly, I found that we almost changed our entire meeting structure, like every three to six months. And so I think those are the two things I would say, are really important. Make sure everyone knows why they're doing what they're doing.
Now, I'm going to put you in the mode of being a team member, you're not the team leader. And so now I'm in a meeting, I don't need to take notes anymore, because that's done for me in a much better way than I'm even going to take the notes, what are the things they really should be paying attention to now that I'm basically having more meetings that are scripted for me, and are more virtual?
I think certainly, on meetings with customers, I'm always interested in like, minut details of issues, I think we always have the same, you know, couple of things over and over the big rocks. But where I think it's really valuable to have a really good successful work is where they can see all the little small rocks where it's like, this person is not using this thing, because it's got this one little like bug where it's like, oh, for their heard one the other day where it was like, Oh, I grabbed an opportunity for my CRM from five years ago, as opposed to one that I just created. Okay, like that level of like detail is what I think is that last mile of product that really separates most products these days, there's a lot of people that can go build some tool that does like recording and transcription, like that's kind of commoditized it's putting it all together in a way that like works really well in all the situations. And so I'm always trying to tell my team, like, I care a lot about getting the little things right. So if you're in a place where we've gotten a little thing wrong, I really want to hear about that. I want to hear about that more than the thing we hear the top five list, right? I mean, we kind of know the top five lists, it's the little things that are gonna make people happy. And then on internal meetings. You know, I think the constant challenge is, how do you get out of groupthink, right? How do you empower people to feel bold enough to challenge dissent? at ASCO, right, like, I think one thing I learned in my last company is, it's easy in the leadership seat to forget how much like wait your voice carries. And even things you say something flippantly or you just kind of like, because, you know, we get used to just throwing out, you know, making decisions very quickly, they all of a sudden become like ensconced as candidate, right. My last company, I remember, you know, I ran it for 10 years, it's a long time. And I wrote code in the beginning. And I remember, near the end of my tenure there seeing some decisions that I knew that we just kind of made over a beer five, six years earlier, that we're just kind of flipping not informed by any data, all of a sudden, we're become canonizing. We're sacrosanct. It's like, well, we can't. That's quarter what the product does. And I was like, Guys, guys, like, no, no, we just, we just rolled the dice on the six years ago. Right. And so, you know, I think empowering the team to you know, we had, I think we had a value of the last company, which was like, nothing is immutable, which is a very, like, techie way of saying like, nothing is unchangeable, right, like, challenge the status quo, challenge our existing assumptions. And I think that's your thing is like really empowering folks, not in leadership to feel comfortable raising their hands. And one part of that is culture. And the other part of that is like mechanism. So we always had a fully anonymous way, you could suggest something because speaking truth to power is scary, especially in small teams. And so I'm sure you've got a way to do that.
Like when we interviewed one of the top guys at Mentimeter, which we found to be an incredible tool for you to have anonymous feedback at anytime. And that of course, was okay. You need to bring Mentimeter into your meetings. I think Mentimeter has an app on zoom as well, not sure you the
people that didn't believe that, like, well, your team should have trusted not needed to be anonymous. And I'm always like, No, I think you don't understand the like employee experience. If you think that's true, right? Trust
goes in and out. Yeah, you don't just all have it, and then you have to keep feeding it. And that is very key piece of what you've shared with us, and why some leaders are struggling, you made the statement that, you know, hey, every three or six months, you've got to revisit the meetings you're having and throw some out. And well, that's a lot of leaders don't like that. Okay, this is set now. Now, I don't have to worry about it anymore. Right. And yet, we're throwing stuff at leaders now know, you've got this Fathom and you've got to now put something together that's more powerful. It's a constancy to it that soft meters, I believe, are struggling to embrace. Let's see how this all comes up.
One of the most difficult shifts are these in person companies to remote work was they didn't truly have trust between leadership. And I see it's right and like, and this is why everyone freaked I mean, it's inching. I think sales was the management layer that struggled the most with their teams going remote. Because salespeople are there's always like, I want to see my team in their seat, like doing the calls, right? And okay, you're like, oh, unpack that. Like, why is that? It's like, oh, because there's this inherent like, subtle lack of trust, right? They're like, Oh, I'm worried my team doesn't actually know what they're doing. If I'm not listening to them every day. I'm not in their ear. And so that's like the root cause that no one really wants to talk about. They think it's about something else. But that's the root cause, right?
Yeah, yeah. Right. You're doing exciting things.
You're doing exciting things really good. It's an incredible product. So now you're gonna put on your sales and marketing hat for all of those listeners who are like, Oh, my gosh, I need to check out Fathom I need to learn about it. And what's the best way for them to find your product?
Yeah, so we are on the web at Fathom dot video. So it's not.com and stock video. And actually, if you go to fathom dot video slash pod, you'll get kind of flagged and you can sign up for Fathom and skip the waitlist. So we have a lot of thankfully, now we're in a place where you get a lot of inbound requests every day, we try to make sure everyone has a great experience. So we sometimes throttle signups. We talked about this before the call, like we spent a lot of time and effort on customer care and customer support. Part of that is making sure we only let people sign up if we know we can support them. So but if you go to that link found via slash pod, we will prioritize your sign up make sure you don't hit the waitlist.
Sorry, right. Oh, yeah. And I was just sharing before the call that I signed up, and I had so much support. And oh, we got to end on this the five figures for free. Tell us what that is.
I think yeah. So I have this mantra I say internally, which is like, I want us to provide the level of support you get from a five figure SAS product for free SAS product. And my soapbox, I think for most SaaS products is most companies do a terrible job of customer care. And especially if it's like, you're on a free version, right? You've got to like, you've, you need some help. You've got to like, dig through the knowledge base and like make it really hard to contact them. And, you know, they send that replies where if you send a reply to their email, it goes to no response.
I know we've lived there. Yeah, yeah. And so I don't understand
it, because, you know, we have our team. It's 5050 engineering and customer success. And I think that's the right balance because it's one half product and one half the care that goes around that because if you go look at a lot of our ratings, we've got really good ratings on things like GE to our highest ratings, actually customer support. And I think it's both our team does a great job. So it It gets you to a place. You know, my last company. This has been talked about 10 years ago and I thought companies were gonna get to get the religion of like, why this is a great investment. And they just have it right. And they still have this mindset of like what spends the least amount of money on this as possible. We have the opposite mindset. And I think it served us really well.
Yeah, for sure. With the A and D solution.
So yeah, for me, it was I signed up and use it and someone reached out said, Hey, one is scheduled time with you to tell us how you're doing if you need some help. I was like, this is a different world. Anyways, I want to thank you, Richard, that was so insightful really great to see the way your mind works. Great to see your passion for the product and also to learn about this incredible product that I'm going to be using it every single time now that I'm on Zoom. And I'm not kidding about that Jenny, thank you so much. Questions as well. And thank you to our listeners out there. Please share please go gallon fathom. Please share this with your friends, your colleagues, your family, and we look forward to seeing you next time on our next episode of Team anywhere