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Welcome to disruptive CEO nation, where company founders, entrepreneurs and cutting edge thinkers dropped in from around the globe to share startup stories, insider insights, and hard earned success lessons. Now, here's your host, a woman who mastered business by placing heels on the ground all over the world, having worked with and coached CEOs and senior leaders from over 90 countries and do wants you to build your best business future. Allison case summers. Welcome to this episode of disruptive CEO nation, hey, we can't have businesses and we can't be great business builders without our customers. And so we are bringing a guest here today who really really has a mission centered around helping CEOs and business leaders really understand the voice of their customer and what their customers are saying and thinking. And he also can give us an insight now he has been a successful business builder. So I would love to introduce you to Richard White. Richard. Tell everybody a little bit about yourself.
Well, Alison, thank you so much for having me on. Yeah, so I've spent probably the last gosh, maybe 14 years of my life working on two businesses centered around voice of the customer, originally company called User Voice, which if you were seeing what feedback tabs on the side of websites that was kind of our our claim to fame and key invention. And then more recently, I started a company called fathom, and we are a free app for zoom. In fact, we are the number one app and the Zoom app marketplace. And we are an app for really anyone who's on Zoom calls a lot, which is probably most folks listening this call for I think we're all on what zoom calls these days. And I was on Zoom calls myself before the even before the pandemic. And I found I just really struggle with talking to people and taking notes at the same time. And my team struggles with taking my notes and really getting the same experience that I got talking to customers and vice versa. And so Fathom is a free app that records your calls, transcribes your calls, but most importantly, allows you to highlight like the key moments with your customers so that whether it's you talking to a customer or someone in your sales team, they can easily take those highlights, ship them into your Slack email so that everyone in your company can get that firsthand experience of excitement from customers or frustration from customers. So we can all kind of be singing from the same song sheet.
Well, and I just want my audience to know that as I'm speaking with Richard, I can see him and he's outdoors in this very lovely green background, we could hear the birds singing. And I think, you know, most of us when we think about our customers experiences, we don't think about it being all sunshine and birds singing, it can be quite stressful. So I want to tell me a little bit more about Fathom video, and really how you plug into being part of the Zoom app marketplace.
So yeah, we got started about 18 months ago, and we kind of knew from the get go, you know, Zoom is the dominant player here, we have to be able to like integrate deeply with with Zoom, right? It's what everyone's on. And we're very fortunate to kind of work our way into the Zoom app marketplace programs to brand new kind of marketplace that just launched late last summer. And so you know, if you go to the Zoom app marketplace, you'll see our app and software, if you just go to our website, and we basically built out a desktop app, it's a companion to your zoom app. So when you get on a zoom call, your Fathom app pops up, and kind of gives you kind of a single button you can click whenever you hear something important. And we also do some fun things on the side. Like we you know, I have a tendency to monologue I think like a lot of CEOs do. So it warns me if I go on like a two minute rant and don't ask any questions, warns me of someone, you know, bleeding into my next meeting and things like that. So we've really taken the approach of starting with a core problem of like, how do we make it so that you don't take notes? Because no one likes taking notes, too? How do we make it easy to share moments to how do we just do anything that makes it less stressful to be on a zoom call?
Well, and I wanted to talk to you because one of the things that I just love is practical tools. Like you don't I was sharing this with you before you don't have to have this incredible incredible complicated product. Like meet me in my point of need. And so I just I think part of the reason I wanted to have you on and say thank you for creating this because I can think of other people I would like to have them plug this in to zoom on their side.
Yep. 100% Yeah, it's you know, it's it really is it's uh, you know, it's it's really a fun product to go to because always fun to kind of scratch your own itch and you know, I think this is an issue a lot of us have right we would love to not take take notes. We love that Western I suppose zoom calls. And there really is something that's I actually really now avoid in person meetings, because I don't have the like recording and transcript and highlights refer back to. And I'm now really bad at remembering anything that happened in those in person meetings, which is really kind of a funny kind of twist.
So Richard, you this is a fairly newer company. And I want to go back and talk to user voice, but just staying on Fathom video right now. It's, like we said, a fairly newer company, what is what is the trajectory? And what you say it's, it's free on the the Zoom platform? But what's the business model for you in terms of how you monetize and how you're making your money? Or where you're going to grow this company?
Yeah, it's actually I think, both user voice and fat and have started some more ways where both are served both as companies as completely free products. And both of them had kind of natural virality to them. You know, Fathom is something where when you're using on your zoom call, right, like, you tend to kind of tells you Oh, I'm using this record, right, that okay. And that kind of tends to get us more signups? Right. And so, we kind of see this business as being two sided one is giving away, it's completely free product to end users to use. And then we're building out features that if a team is using fathom, there's other things they might want to have, right? Like CRM, integrations, Slack integrations, things like that. This really kind of cool use cases. Ron, how do we collaborate with people that are not on on the call or on the meeting? Is there a problem I want to solve? We invite way too many people to meetings, right? We invite anyone that we might need on that meeting we invite to the meeting. And so for example, we have a feature where if I'm on a call with the customer, and they ask me a question, I don't know, like a technical question, I can click a button Fathom within 20 seconds, a clip of that question has been sent to like my engineering team, they listen to the question, and they can like either message me back the answer, or they just jump on the call and answer. Right. And so T Mobile features like that are kind of where we're going to monetize in the future. And keep the core product being something that's completely free that anyone can use.
No, I thank you for sharing that. And and again, just such practical solutions that can apply to any, any, any business. I want to go back to the fact that this was part of an accelerator is that cracked? How did you win? What team did you bring together? And how did you approach the launch of
this? Yeah, it's interesting. I feel like the second time, this is kind of like my second really funded startup, right, we've raised about $6 million to date for fathom. What a different experience my first startup user voice where, you know, I think we raised 800k, in the first two years, this time, we raised 6 million, right. And I kind of tell people, it's like playing a video game. For you know, a video game used to play like playing a game for the second time, right, and it kind of like speed running through it, I kind of remember where the good shield is, and remember where the good sword is. So you know, my last company, it was, you know, beg, borrow and steal for engineers beg, borrow and steal for money. And this time, I got to start from the from basically, day one with the four best engineers I've worked with over the last 10 years, right, and the best salesperson I've worked with. And so stuff like that. And so it's pretty, I feel like the this entire business, we've only been around 18 months has been kind of this like startup speed run. We're like, what are all the things we can do? And how do we do four times faster. I did my last company. And part of that was the Y Combinator accelerator that we joined. We were kind of it's a three month program that really kind of bootstraps you for fundraising, but also go to market and just really teaches you a lot of mechanics, obviously, you know, kind of fun fact, because I was actually we were in the winter 21 batch, they do kind of two batches a year, I was actually in like I was employee in the first batch of Y Combinator, which was 2005. And the companies weren't a bunch of companies in that, that you recognize one of them Reddit, right. So I was like, in there, the founding founding team was Reddit kind of 1516 years ago. And now I'm kind of going back through this incubator program again. But it's really great, right? They've great connections to investors, they do a great job of prepping you for fundraising for go to market. And it's also just one of those things where, you know, I'm probably one of the the older people in this cohorts, like a lot of my friends have gone on into, you know, they want bigger companies or they're in venture now. And so it was kind of exciting reinvigorating to be surrounded by other people that are like back at that zero to one phase. And so I think that's, you know, I think Y Combinator has about 350 companies, they've accepted every batch, but they have something like 10,000 applicants, right, so you're really getting a it's almost like a you know, like a business school type experience or you're getting selection bias and some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs and you're all comparing notes of, you know, how to do good market how to do hiring, because a lot of that those tactics change, you know, nowadays like month to month, not even or year to year.
Well, this is what I love about talking to entrepreneurs and founders is in terms of like the business world, entrepreneurs and founders are so giving with information and so readily willing to share to help other people achieve success. It's they don't they're not ever say they don't come from a mold of I've got to keep the It's a secret, you know, other than the confidential stuff, but it's Yeah, it really is. It is delightful. We're gonna talk about user voice, as you refer to your first experiences with with that, and in getting it started. Are you know, do you still? Are you still a part of owner for user voice tell us when you decided to make this kind of change and bring something new into the world?
Yeah, I think, you know, I think every year for about 10 years, I asked myself two questions at the end of the year one was I uniquely qualified to lead this company and two is this company uniquely qualified to teach me something. And UserVoice is one of the companies where we kind of went through a number of pivots. And so, you know, it was a bottom up business to top down business, it was enterprise business, it had a lot of different angles. And it gave me a lot of opportunities to see the things that ran the sales team or in the marketing team at different points, etc, etc. But more recently, I realized I got kind of a taste of like, building out new products. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, I forgot. I love new products, much more than I love kind of growing teams, even though that's gratifying too, but I really love building new products. And so that was, you know, kind of the trigger for me. And I was very fortunate that I had some a great executive team at UserVoice. And a good bench there where I can kind of promote from within to find someone else to kind of take over as CEO. And I can kind of assume more of a board kind of level kind of commitment and interaction with a company, which is still going strong today.
Yeah, I think it's nothing like being a founder, and then being in a position where you're ready to hire the CEO. Like, I'm ready, I'm ready to move on and get somebody else to do it.
Yeah, frankly, once I did it, I was like, I should have done this a while ago. It's, you know, one of my favorite meetings every month is the one hour I spend with the new userway CEO right here about all the great progress they've made, right? And it's like, oh, wow, this, this is lovely. Right. And I think, you know, after a while, it's also great to get a fresh perspective on one of those things. Right? I did that job for 10 plus years. So after a while, you know, you know what you're gonna get for me in terms of tactics and strategy.
Yeah, very, very well said. Well, with user voice, you had a global audience, you had clients and customers all over?
Yeah, we actually started we think one of our early investors was a friend of mine, who is who has a lot of business in Japan. And he actually credit to him. He pushed us early on to internationalize the entire platform from almost day one. And that was actually a huge benefit to us. Because, you know, it's one of those things. If you have a technology product and you try to go back two years into your journey and internationalize it, it's a big undertaking. But if you started from day one, it's like, we're just going to bake this in as you know, costume business protection, not too, not too bad. And so we actually not only internationalize we've built out our own platform for kind of crowdsourcing translations so that our own users can suggest, you know, better translations and things in the app. And so yeah, I think we were gosh, I think, at our peak, we had like 38 different languages through that platform. And it was pretty fantastic. And so yeah, a lot of our best customers were, you know, Austria, Germany, even Japan, at times, etc, etc. And that's, I think, kind of unique. I think most of most tech businesses, you know, start us focused, you know, your, your US based, kind of stay there longer than I think that's what I need to
know. I think that's really good insight. And so with Fathom video, I think you shared with me before that you're you have your team of working on the product is distributed and in different countries. So what's the where are your employees based for fathom?
So we started off in the US, but we now have some folks in Australia, we have some folks in the Philippines. And I think it's kind of a you know, especially in this day and age a huge like a huge advantage to be not only fully remote, but fully remote and capable of being multi timezone. Obviously, great from a hiring perspective, but also think just great from a competing for talent perspective. You know, if you look at most of the studies now, of all the big companies that are thinking about going back to work, it's like a third of people want to be remote forever, a third of people want to go back to the office, you know, full time, the third one something in between. And I just look at that and say, Well, no matter what these big companies do two thirds, their employees are not going to be happy about it. And I'm kind of open I'm, you know, myself and other remote first, and only companies will be there to kind of, you know, waiting for those moments to go pick up some great talented folks to join our team.
Oh, great. So I want to you've had this wonderful experience working in your career, like you said, of building and leading user voice, and you've shared how the cup by contrast, you're getting to do it all over again and kind of I love the analogy of playing a video game and you're like, I know where the sword is. I know where the shield is. I usually say what's the advice that you give to other entrepreneurs, but I guess I want to ask you what advice Did you give to yourself going through?
Yeah, I mean, I think I think the two biggest things is going through it the second time. One is that ability to kind of think when the the challenges are when your first startup is like you don't know all the levers to pull. Like I didn't know what marketing was, I didn't know what sales was, I didn't really know how to do fundraising. Right. And so this time, it's like, yeah, there's a lot less unknown on nodes. And so I think I gave myself a lot of permission just to really go with my gut, this time being like, Have you spent enough time to market let's, let's go do the things that maybe your lawyers aren't crazy about, or your whatever you're finding things you crazy about, just like lean into whatever feels uniquely you. I'll give you an example. One of the things we're doing with our early users is we're building like a customer advocacy group, it's like, you know, our top users, we invite them to a club, we send them the box swag, and, you know, give them VIP support. That's pretty standard. But we're also giving them small amounts of equity in the company itself. And this is something I saw some crypto projects do last year. And that was really cool. And it was one of those things where it's like, our lawyer or legal team didn't love this idea.
So again, your your, your, your user group, if you're giving them some equity in the company.
Correct. So we're basically functionally making some more top users advisors to the company. And you know, having advisors is not new, right? Most companies have ample advisors, but we're having hundreds of advisors. And so I think that's kind of the very different thing. And I saw a few other companies do it. And it's one of the things I think, on my first journey, I first started journey, I might have been hesitant to do that. And when someone tells me something too crazy, I don't want to do it. But this time around, I'm like, No, crazy is good. That means it's differentiated. That means it's not yet, you know, I think anything marketing wise, and it's you're hearing it from everyone, that means it's no longer the Northwest Passage,
we like disrupt your server. So we Yeah, like this.
Yeah. So it's been fantastic. Right? Like, I think it's, it's amazing, you know, because we have that alignment with our users, especially our core users. You know, sometimes a lot of times I have questions, right? How is this feature working for you? What if we built it this way? And you know, one of the biggest, most challenging things is to get good feedback from users, because they're busy, they have a lot of things to do. Well, turns out when you incentivize them by aligning them, say, Hey, you have an equity upside in this company, too. I think the last email I sent out to that group asking them some question about some user research question, I got like a 91% reply rate, which is just unheard of, from a user research campaign. And, you know, so it's definitely that we're just gonna like, you know, yeah, did we spend 25k on like swag, like in month? 40? Yes, we did. But because I knew like, this is going to happen, right? I had to like high conviction that this is going to work. And we're going to scale it up real quickly. So let's not waste time. Let's go fast.
And the team that your core team that you founded this with, you said before that you got to, to take some of the people with you that you've that you've worked with and you've trusted. Did that also help you be able to move faster? Are there any kind of, I want to say, ground rules that you would advise other people about those those close core business partners, like we always talked about co founders and being really clear on the relationship between co founders. How did you set up that initial kickoff team?
Yeah, you know, very fortunate to kind of, you know, it's one of the things it's like, not replicable, right. It's like, hey, go, go work, go build a business for 10 years, and then take the best people you work with and hire them. Really, that's, that's my hack to moving fast. Right. Not completely rentable, but replicable. But yeah. And I think, you know, technically, I'm kind of a solo founder. So it's an interesting dynamic where I think, because they all knew me in this context as being the CEO, before. We had we knew we knew at working styles very well, right. And I think, you know, I think in my previous startup, there was there's honestly like, tension about who's going to be the CEO, and who's going to be this and that, right. And in this case, it was like, I had a great team that has a fantastic amount of executors, but none of them wanted to be there wasn't a question. It's not like, they were like, Oh, maybe I want to be CEO. It's like, no, no, like, we don't want that job. We're glad you want that job. And so it's kind of nice not to have to have that kind of like, strong clarity from day one.
Yeah, I can imagine that. So I have to ask, you are, you know, you're just a person that's so full of energy and you've achieved so much? What do you do for life balance? What do you do to kind of relieve that stress? Even though I know I can tell you get jazzed by this product development and doing all these new things. But
I see a lot actually. And since the pandemic started, actually have been mostly nomadic since kind of like, August 2020. I was living in downtown San Francisco. And some point I realized, like everything's boarded up here, I no longer have to walk to an office. Why do I live here? And so, for the last 18 months, I've spent about Look at those months and months and Tahoe in the summer and then in the winter, generally travel around two to four weeks at a time different ski hill. And that has actually been really good where I can, and this is such a Bougie thing to do, right. But like, I'm like, you know, I don't do meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So I also make sure I have days where like, I don't allow people to book meetings with me, so I have time to think I have time to do my own. You know, I still have projects I own to write, we're only a 12 person team. But I'll say some of the most impactful stuff is like I go skiing, and I'm just like, either sending emails on the left, or just ruminating on whatever the product problem or marketing challenges. And I usually come back from that, you know, that two hour kind of morning ski session, really energized to like jump into some work because I've been thinking about it constantly for two hours, right? And so it's a good little hack where, you know, I get to get out in nature, it gets to get a little, you know, little activity, and still kind of be on the clock a little bit.
While our brains need space to think and I'm a terrible person for meditation, people are always telling me you know, you need to meditate you need to and it's really hard when you're in a type and your brain doesn't shut off, but I do. I have a dog and so the dog walks will be like, Okay, go in clear your heart, just as you said, how you do it. Now I'm imagining you on on a ski lift, texting and try not to lose your phone in the process.
Yeah, I have a lot of again, I like one of these little rings. I'm like really paranoid about dropping my phone on the left because that would be a real productivity. Buzzkill. Right. But ya know, I'm 100% with you. I don't you know, I don't meditate. Well, at all. I don't lay on a beach well at all. My like form of like meditation and Zen is like, going 50 miles an hour down a ski hill, right? That's when I feel the most calm and like checked out of work and moving on and my brains on something else. So I totally get it. Do you
know what this is gonna sound terrible? Where I am like most Zen is sitting on an aeroplane. Think because I'm forced to just be in the moment on in that airplane seat. And I'll usually tell take a book or or do something I don't know, it's, I think we all have to have our own way.
I you know, honestly, I've sometimes consider booking flights just to get work done. Because I'm hyper productive on the airplane. Because there's nothing else you can do. You're kind of stuck on this thing. And then for me, there's also like an air or like an air of like, this is gonna sound bad, but like competition where I'm just like, I'm gonna be the hardest worker herding hardest working person on this plane, right? Like, no one else is playing this game with me. They don't even know that I'm playing this game. But I have my head I'm playing this game of like, ah, while everyone else is napping or watching movies, I'm gonna send 100 emails. Something about that really works.
No richer digested that going to Vancouver. So I get it. I'm like four and a half hours uninterrupted on the airplane. And I'm the best. I'm a really great long haul traveler, because I've done international work for so many years. And yeah, it's bad. I'm like, okay, I can, I'm going to have a 12 hour flight, I can work this much of the flight. But you know, the world needs people that are good to get things done. So I'll salute you for that one. Richard, these are time comes up pretty quick on on these interviews. And you've you've given us a lot of just we've jumped all over the place. But I want to come back and close out with, with, again, anchoring this part about your passion around the customer conversation and the customer emotion. So can you just close this out again, talking, again, or giving tips to business leaders about what they need to be paying attention to in that customer conversation?
Sure. Yeah, I think the biggest thing I've noticed, and it took me a while to figure this out as something gets lost in translation when we try to go from some sort of face to face interaction with a customer to some sort of textual representation of that, right? I think back to when I was running the sales team at user voice, and I remember, no salespersons notes were good enough. Some were too light. Some were too heavy, some were just right. But even when they were just right, I felt like it didn't really, it wasn't the same. I kept saying all the time, like, what do they actually say? Can I just see what they said? And I think there's really something to that. And creating processes for your organization where you can whether using Fathom or some other tools similar, right? You can have a way where you as a CEO never lose, like basically track of what is happening on the front lines with your customers. Because it's not the same. Just read the notes in here. Like if this went well, versus like, really hearing them struggle or succeed with your product.
No, I really appreciate that. So as I said, we're coming up on time. If people want to learn more, where should they go and give us that? You know, that push again? so that we can go check out Fathom video.
Yeah, it's fathom that video. And so actually, if you go to fathom dot video slash BOD, you know, it's a mouthful, you can sign up and skip our waitlist. So we actually have about a 70k waitlist right now. So if you go to that link, you will be kind of cookies to say it again. Fathom dot video slash pod, pod. Perfect. Yep. And so yeah, so once I got a lot of materials on there, you can read, you know, testimonials and whatnot. Again, we're a free app, so there's really got nothing to lose.
Richard, I just thank you for giving us the gift of your time. And to our listeners if Richard said something that you think somebody else needs to hear pass along a copy of this episode. Richard, if if people want to reach out to you, you're on LinkedIn, you're easy to find.
LinkedIn is probably the best place for me. I'm not much of a Twitter person. But if you message me on LinkedIn, I'll get back to you seems like yeah,
fantastic. And so to our audience, always be disruptive and keep your eye on the future. Thank you again, Richard.
Thank you. Awesome.
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