Okay. All right. Hey, listeners. My guest today is Richard White. Richard, could you just introduce yourself to listeners, just tell us your story? And let them get to know you a little bit better?
Sure, I'd have to. Yeah, so it's funny coming on on a design podcasts because I always feel like a design imposter. My background originally as computer science from NC State, and got my career started as a programmer. But as you kind of pointed out, very early on, I realized I wanted to be a designer. I'm not sure why I think at one point, I realized, you know, if you can kind of write unit tests for code, that means you kind of outsource programming, and it's way harder to outsource design work. And so maybe that's a better career path for me. And yeah, so it's funny, I was this long, long time ago, 2005, before Google Calendar, and I really wanted to make an online calendar. And my buddy told me, someone's already made it. And it's not crap, they made it they went looked at it. And it had a lot of like, technically interesting pieces to it, right? Like, right click menus and stuff on that you didn't see in web apps 2005. And eight Kony now these guys who are happy to be in this program called Y Combinator that no one's ever heard of, or had back then. And I just emailed them and said, you know, this product is technically very, you know, very amazing the stuff you've done on the hood here that I really respect. But it's a dumpster fire design was really like usability wise, they weren't finding any of these features. And then I was like, let me help you. And so I kind of like, you know, turns out like cold emailing people and offering them something of value is a great way to like, you know, break into things. I will say I sent them like design sketches for like two months, in which I found out later, they'd never understood they were, we'd never understood any of your sketches. And then one day I sent them actually like a working prototype. And they're like, This is amazing. And then working with those guys. So that was kind of the pivot of my career to kind of being let's call it a faux product designer. And then from there, yep. So what I realized every sort of I've started was solving a problem I had at the previous startup. So at Chico, this was the online calendar that Justin Kahn, Emmett shear, one of the problems we had was we had like 5000 users. And we had, we constantly had these fights around one of the top things people want us to build next. And so user voice was my next company, which was we're a platform for product feedback. We're kind of like a Reddit for product feedback. And my background is more like workflow design and interaction design. So the workflow here is like how do we get users? How do we make the most the lowest friction way for a user to give us feedback, and basically, like, curate feedback of other people's right, so it's kinda like a Reddit for product feedback. And if you've ever seen the little feedback tabs on the side of websites, we basically invented those protip don't invent things that can't be patent, like you can't copyright because there's no way to like, monetize that. But that's our claim to fame. Yeah, that was, you know, did that did user voice, you know, I was original kind of founder, design engineer, right, doing his front end, engineering, but also all the design work for it freezer was the first couple of years, ran that company for a long time, eventually, kind of stepped away from product design. And then the last year, one of the problems I had at user voice was, you know, I'm on Zoom meetings all the time with with customers, you know, doing user research, or, you know, customer sales calls or whatnot. And trying to I two problems, right. One is trying to take notes while talking to someone is just a nightmare, right? Like, humans just aren't wired for it, right? If I talk to you, and like pick out notes, and then clean them up afterwards. But the the biggest problem is like, even if you take good notes, two weeks later, you don't remember important nuance. And you can't really share that with anyone on your team, right? Like the experience of a customer telling you this design is garbage or just things confusing. It like does not translate well into a few bullet points you can share with an engineering team, right. And so Fathom is an app that we built to solve that problem, where we're basically wive like real time recording, transcribing, but critically, like highlighting, turning like zoom calls into a series of highlights that you can drop into Slack or dropping the notion or dropping to Google Docs. And it's been really fun. Because now for the last year, I've been back in kind of that zero to one phase of product design, which frankly, just really fills up my soul cups.
Yeah, I'm working on a lot of zero to one projects. Right now. My manager was like asking you, Hey, do you want to go on like one of our like, our flagship products, that's like, just optimization? And I'm like, No, that looks like a dead end. Right? Yeah. I think I just, I'm a zero to one designer. So like, I could totally relate to just well,
it's awesome. It's the same way that all engineers like engineers hate dealing with other people's code, right? Like they always want to write from a blank canvas, right? They don't want to inherit someone's code and figure out how to on like, refactoring, make it better designs the same way, right? Like, you know, you're getting someone else's sign. There's a lot of a lot of like, hidden knowledge about why this design ended up in whatever cul de sac it's in right now. Right? It's trying to, like, undo that. And peel that back is not nearly as much fun as just starting from a blank canvas starting from first principles starting from, you know, a few customer needs and and building the house from scratch. So I think
that's really entertaining and, you know, this need for you to go Zero to One has led to being designed founder. And you know, we hear a lot about, like, Oh, this is like the revenue impact of having a design founder on on the team and stuff like that. And as a designer, you know, I have like a vested interest in our profession, like looking good at the business level and the executive level. But you know, at the same time, there's plenty of successful companies that don't don't have a design founders. You know, you've done two startups already. And so in sprint, a, pretty much you've spent a decade building user voice, right, you spent a good chunk of your life getting to from startup to actual, profitable business. And now you're starting over again, like what, what have you learned about being a design founder, and the time that you have worked on these projects and these companies and? And like, what's the difference? I guess, like, what, what you have firsthand experience on like, what is like the impact of having like a design founder on the team? And like, what are the nuances or things we're not seeing?
I mean, I think, I think the biggest thing is, is this a problem space, where, you know, Design Excellence is going to be a key differentiator, right. For example, I mentioned that I worked with, with Justin Kahn, Emmett shear on St. Kiko. And the company started after this was called Justin TV, which eventually turned into Twitch. And, you know, I was offered to be one of the co founders of that company, which monetarily would have been probably a decent option for me at this point. But, you know, I looked at it through the lens of like, what is the design problem here, you know, is a guy wearing a camera on his head and chat rooms? And there's, you know, there's, yes, we can make the chat rooms more elegant, easier to use, but that's not gonna be a huge differentiator, whether this thing works or not, right. And so I think, you know, I think there's a bunch of companies where you know, it's very, very back end tool, or it's, or it's something where making a very frictionless experience isn't going to be differentiated between you and your competitors. Not a great fit for having a design founder. Everything I've done basically like, you know, online calendaring, you know, online feedback workflows, right for, for giving feedback. And now, basically, you know, in some ways 1000s, probably the most challenging thing I've worked on, because it's really like a real time app, you're using it live or doing something else, like you're on a zoom call. I saw our team, like, people start using our app, when they're hurt, like every time you start using our app, you're in a hurry, because you're usually late to a Zoom meeting, right? And so it's a really high intensity environment where the bar for good UX is super high. Right? If, if our onboard isn't super easy, and if like our product isn't super intuitive, you know, you're not gonna you're not, you know, you're not in a headspace where you're like, Okay, I'm gonna play around this and learn it, you're gonna throw it away, right? And so all of these companies lend themselves to, you know, really good frictionless design. UI UX is a real differentiator, right? And they all have they all were freemium tools, too, right? I think it's a, you know, generally, there's kind of a set of heuristics. That means like, sounds gonna matter, right? Freemium tools, prosumer consumer, but just anything where it's more of a workflow. And you've it's kind of like, time sensitive, there's gonna be a ton of advantages to having someone on the team from the beginning, who really understands design principles. And, you know, that's what keeps you up at night.
Yeah, I've thought about this a lot. Because, you know, there's definitely big wins from a product org, or it's the product managers demoing a feature. And it's perceived as like, Oh, this is a product management win. And then the designers are like, I pitched this approach, and I had to fight you on it, and and it's like, oh, well, is it like a design win? Or is it really a product win? And the way that I think, especially like, when people like arguing, like if an idea isn't like worth exploring is, oh, we've done it before it doesn't work. And I feel like, you know, good designs, like a joke that just lands well. And you've heard that you've heard that saying that, like, you know, if you have to explain the joke, it's bad joke. Well, if you have to explain the UI, it's bad UI, or a bad product, right? Bad interaction design. And I'm like, well, just because the joke didn't land doesn't mean we can't rewrite the joke,
right? Yeah. Well, it's a way to say I was I always say like it anything in your top frequently asked questions is product related? We found all your design problems, right? Yeah, it is also interesting too, I think the design to design founder is as also has to be more than just science is basic design and kind of a pm mindset to have, you know, I spend, you know, equal portions of my time in like figma. Thankfully, someone taught me figma, I was doing everything Google Slides. So that was good was kind of embarrassing, isn't equal time and figma. It's been equal time between that are actually our database running like queries, and like, like looking for asking new analytics questions today, right? And on basically reading through highlight clips of customer interviews, right. And so you, you know, it's not just about the boxes and arrows, but it's also about making sure you understand the problem space and the perspective of your user really well. Or you just cheat and do what I do, which is like, you make sure that you are the user of this product. And so therefore, like you kind of you don't have to be empathetic, right? It's kind of probably the greatest design hack, right?
Yeah, being the customer. I think that's why so many designers are attracted to just because b2c companies like, oh, I use Instagram, it's all good. Like, it's, I could design for it. But yeah, this gets me thinking, though, because yeah, like, even though it really does depend on a problem space. If like, design is going to be a big differentiator, like something that I learned in my, my, not as long career is yours. And so like, I'll take this with a grain of salt listener, is that sometimes a good answers like no answer, like, hey, like designer, like what we need to do here? And I'm like, the engineers need to make a better search. Algorithm, like we need to actually improve the engineering of this product. And that will improve the user experience. I'm not going to help her text here. Yeah, there's no point in me spending time on this if our Textpad.
And performance is part of the experience.
Yeah, exactly. Right. So it's like being able to measure speed, and prioritize, you know, engineering resources to just improve it? And if have you done your like, because if you haven't designed any, like, mocks, did you do your job as a designer, I think so. If you recommend, like, this is the problem with the experiences you should spend time on, I think that you're kind of revealing something and more like growth stage companies. The role of the Chief Design Officer, or the VP of design, you always I think, at certain point, you always need like a director of product, you know, product management, you're always gonna need a CTO, but it depends on the company, like, the Chief Design Officer, sometimes ends up just being optional, or the director, or the VP of design ends up being optional. Like, is that something that you're seeing over in San Francisco? Or am I in the back? Yes, technologically, over here in Utah?
I mean, you're not that the backwoods. So it's be clear. But I mean, you know, it's interesting, I think it's funny, my most of my visibility is in companies under 50 employees, right, like user voices by 50 employees via Fathom is now nine. It is interesting, because usually sold to a lot of product management organizations. And it was interesting to have this glimpse into large organizations that were trying to build a pm function later in their life, right? Like, like lifecycle, or, or a solid product design function later in their lifecycle. And so you just kind of see all sorts of things. And it's just think there's such a huge sea change in difference between what is asked of these roles in that pre Product Market Fit Submariner, like person, headcount, phase, and then post, right? In a lot of cases. You know, I feel like a lot of these departments and groups, once you get to a couple 100, couple 1000 people is less about, it's almost more like American politics, it's like, less about making big innovations and more about just minimizing downside risk, right? It's like, ah, like, we've got the golden goose already, we just gotta like slightly a, you know, trim its wings from time to time, and give it give it a manicure not try to turn it into something else, like an airplane. Which why like, I find the early stage stuff far more, like intellectually stimulating, right? I mean, the other thing I see, that is kind of an interesting change between early stage and kind of much more mature and mature, I often see like, two outputs and like design work. I see like, we're designing the next feature, or we're trying to design the next 30 features, right? Like, here's, here's, here's, here's us designing space in the application for everything we're going to build over the next six months, versus at our stage. I try to design for the next three features, and know that once I get those three out, I'm going to have to potentially redesign the whole thing or I have to start Like, you know, cool, I don't know what the next three features will be after that, but I'm sure if I design too far in advance, it's not gonna be relevant because I'm gonna learn something along the way. But if I designed to myopically write only one feature at a time, I'm going to have to not every time to make my work harder, because I'm not have carved out space for where these other elements need to fit into my workflow. It says this constant like, move three steps. Okay, great. How much complexity do we add? Okay, cool. Now, we need to add three more features. Okay, what are we going to what complexity can we cut to fit these in, right? And you're constantly doing this balance of how do we get feature rich, while maintaining like a low complexity, like intuitive kind of experience? And that's where I think this, this role gets really hard. But like, really gratifying, right? It's really easy when you're on that blank slate and be like, Okay, there's only three primary jobs that you need to accomplish on this page. Challenging when there's no like, 10 jobs on this page you need to accomplish and you need to figure out like, how, when to when to basically show one verse and others and things like that, and how to how to fit them all in without the house falling over.
Yeah, and having to, like refactor the hierarchy every time you release something, and
right, like, yeah, refactoring the nav, and we got to redo the whole way out, like, you know, users don't love that. Right. So he did have a bit of a path you're taking, slowly make changes, you know, you're boiling the frog, as opposed to just, you know, lighting on fire.
So I have two questions. Use the word feature rich. I have a feeling that that's different than what a lot of feature teams companies think that means. The first question is going to be like, what do you what do you mean by feature rich? And the second question is, you know, you go three, three features ahead. When you're when you're like, going zero to one, you try to go three features ahead. Because if you plan too far, you're going to your, your plan is gonna fall apart. If you plan to myopically it's, yeah, I think you're far enough ahead. But you're gonna Thrash. And the, the challenge that I have currently in kind of, like, almost C stage startup, is like, it's getting established enough where like, there's things that need to be optimized. But at the same time, it's like, you're getting challenged to think like what's like your plan for the next year? And you're like, I mean, I have like an idea of like, wow, outcomes I want, but like, I don't, I can't give you like actual features. And, and so like, how do you? How do you balance being like too myopic, and kind of picking the next feature? And actually having like, a strong vision, which kind of holds together? Like that messy middle phase of, you know, being in a startup? So? Yes, so let me just package that first one, what do you mean by feature rich? And then two? How do you balance going too far? But like, let people know, like, what the vision is at the same time?
Yeah, feature rich is maybe a misnomer? It's, I mean, two ways I think about right. One is it needs to basically do all the things you're hired to do, right? Like, I don't want there to be 10 paths through it, I just want to be this thing does as many as much of the job that the user hired to do as possible. And does that in a way like does as many things for the user, like takes as much stuff off the user's plate as possible. Or another way it's like, is as magical as possible. That's like, when, you know, I don't know that we have, we have certainly a product vision, the more important part of vision is like almost like product tenants, right? So like for Fathom one of our tenants is basically like, whoa, friction, and other one is basically, speed, like need to be really fast. But one of the tenants is that she needs to be magical, like he needs to do things for you that you can't do as a human. Right. And so, you know, I try to avoid any one of things I learned from some of our later iterations and use voices, avoid any sort of features or doing anything for a user that requires discipline on behalf of the user. Right? Like, because some of us you have discipline, some users don't, but your products probably not going to give users that don't have discipline, discipline and vice versa. So I focused on like, what can we what can the technology do, which is magical and helps take something off the user's plate, right? without being intrusive in the experience, right. So for example, Fathom started off as a PC, it's almost like we record the call and then afterwards, you can go in and you can basically like highlight portions of the call. First thing we ran into was okay, the problem is Boom, recording takes about 20 minutes before it's done. So now it's like you're recording the call and 20 minutes later, you got to go back into the call and edit it. Okay, that stinks, right? Like that's like, that's good. But the user wants to do that job sooner. So we like started real time recording. Great. Now we can edit it after the call, let's get better, right? But still editing as a job, right? And the user says, like, well, I just did my job because I did the call, can you not? Why do I have to go back through it again. And one of the stats we actually learned recently is that like, only 15% of calls are deemed noteworthy by users will get our usage. So it makes sense that no one wants to review entire call. So eventually, then said Cool, what if we instead allow the user while they're on a call just to push a button, like almost like a tag or a label, whenever they hear something that's noteworthy? Well, that's great, right? That won't get all of the things you want to highlight that gets most of it in our system can then do the rest or system to be smart about like, oh, you click this halfway through this answer, let's go find the beginning the boundaries of that answer and highlight that portion of the call. So that's kind of like things where it's like, Okay, we just kept searching for what does the user hire us to do, they're hiring us to basically pull out the important moments of the call, right? And we started with, we did a little bit of help for them, too. Okay, now we're trying to do as much for them as possible. More recently, we added on features that are somewhat orthogonal to this, right, don't really fit in that, like, we're going to help you don't take note takes not take notes, but fit perfectly under my guise of like, how much can we offer from the user? So I mentioned to you before the column that you're using our app right now, because if I monologue for more than like, 90 seconds, it gives you a warning and says, like, you've been monologuing for 90 seconds, right? And so, again, that fits under there. Like, that's a hard thing for user to know. Or it's a hard thing for me as a user to track. But if it's a software application, you're easily telling me that that's what's happening. And that feels magical. And so, you know, I think when I look down our roadmap, I'm generally stack ranking for like, things that fit our core tenants of like, helps you do something faster offload something you need to already do, or just feels magical.
Yeah, like actually, like, augments your ability, right to do things.
Yeah. Yeah, it's interesting, I think early in my career, I fell into the trap of like, I want to just I want to help users have discipline and enforce enforce a workflow or process upon them. There are products like that, and there's value in that, but it's a harder road to hoe than, like, Great, I'm not going to try to tell you how to live your life or do your job, I just want to do the things that that bots are good at doing. Right? And help bring that to bear at you can then bring that to bear at your whatever process you want to apply this to.
Yeah, I think like when I heard feature rich, like I think of like, like a thoughtful, thoughtfully designed combination of features, rather than just adding an extra thing to the navbar. New feature, you know, like, there's like, there's abundance of features. There's like lots of features, which is what feature teams like crank out. But it was like feature rich, where like you're you're kind of enhancing, like existing parts of the UI thoughtfully, to actually like improve and like augment the workflow?
Yeah, it's almost like rent value delivered divided by number of elements on the page. Yeah. Right, like, never melts on the page is, is probably the most clear factor of like, each of these elements incurs a cognitive load. So I want value with low cognitive load. Right? And so, yeah, so it's also challenging, right? Because you, you know, I think two of the biggest challenges I have, or you tend to fall in love with the pic with the boxes and arrows you've put down on the screen so far, and something new comes in. And really, you probably drop one of the things you're like one of the little like, components you're in love with. But it's hard to write because you you've you know, it's your baby. The other one that I'm really challenging is just balancing desert, like design versus interactions. I find that the hardest thing to design are really good interactions. Yeah, I think maybe it's because my early my career I started out, I was an engineer, right? So I started doing product design by like, I'd write HTML, and then it opened up a live CSS editor and just edit it. And then keep playing around with the interactions, right? Because there's a lot of things that were really good in a figma. And I can like slideshow through it on the figma. And then you click around to play with it. And I'll say like, this is not what this is not as beautiful and elegant as I thought, right? So those two things I pick always really, like how do I like what do I refactor out? And how do I really develop a good partnership? Engineering used to be easy because I was just partnerships myself, right? So I could do their action. But now without them, I'd have developed like really good partnership with our front end. expert to like, cool. I'm going to actually design Wes and give you the onus to like, figure out the interactions and you come up with some interactions that actually show them to me, and then we'll collaborate like we'll kind of like build this together if you will.
Yeah, so it's like CO designing. Yeah. Yeah, wait. Yeah, that's like what I've started to notice is like sometimes when you jump too early, into like high fidelity, work, and you're like, Oh, this is just a simple refactor, and then all sudden, you start getting into interaction design butts in your head. Because you're like already like in the UI, then you start solving problems with like, too many labels or spelling things out like this sections for this, this section, or this. Yeah. And then you have to take like twice as many like ribs of critique and feedback sessions to kind of be like, Well wait, like, what? Do you need to have that label? They're like, how can you do it in a way that's like, implied
the benefit of like designing stuff, like, you know, my team would make fun of me for designing things in Google Slides. And yet, this happened, because my last company for the longest time for the last couple years, I wasn't really in the design role. The only design outlet I had was making Google Slides, and so became really good at Google Slides. But like for the first nine months of fathom, that was all of that was all our markups for the most part. And, and like, actually, now that I think, do I sometimes find myself seduced by the control I have in figma, to like, go super deep on like, pixel perfect and something when one of the best things about maki and things in Google Slides like it's quick and dirty, you really don't have a lot of precision. So you're just like thought like gaming? No one can look at that tell me pixels high. So that should be they just know the relative size of the thing is that on the page, which in some ways was an unintended, but like positive outcome of using that tool?
Well, it's almost like you, they don't take it seriously. Like here, I mock some ideas up and you pull up like your slides. And they're like, Oh, well, this isn't like a spec. So
yeah, yeah, you've got you've got some latitude here, right? Like, which is nice, too. It's like, yeah, turns out engineers don't love it when it's like, this thing needs to be three pixels to the right and six pixels above this. Like that's, that's not the fun part of front end engineering. If there is a front end refund performance engineering, which I'm not 100% Sure there is, but that's not it.
Job security, maybe.
Yeah, if you're a glutton for that kind of punishment, you have some good jobs.
Yeah, I try to be as nice as possible. And, you know, reviewing their work and being like, Oh, this is a max width of like this much. And then all sudden, you start realizing like, was there a reason there's a max width for this? Like, yeah,
well, that I mean, that was, that's also a corner, you should absolutely cut in the zero to one face to like, for the first many months of fathom, we I basically told them like, I don't need you to follow this pixel perfect. Right? Just get it roughly in the right. Get it roughly in the right, ballpark. And that's good enough, we'll move on, right, because we're just trying to learn. And only recently in the last, I don't know, since we've been what we've been watching for three months, like really sorry, about four months ago, I was like, okay, FYI, new rule, we're now moving to pixel perfect, because we're getting to launch and now we want, we want to basically project a certain design aesthetic, which is very, like tight. But before that, we don't really care, right?
Because not as noticeable. You just need to like kind of like follow like this, the similar dimensions. Right? Fit. Yeah, like to meet the intent of like, your design. So okay, cool. So establish like a feature rich, really is more of an like, if does the feature enhance the job to be done? Like does it enhance your ability? Does it make it more accessible? Roi, like, actually, like a viable task, or, in your case, which I love, I love the the thought and the principle behind it is like, oh, are just skip notes. Like, you know, I had the right notes like, this is what I do when I do research. I mean, I'm going through like a kind of deep like interview session at work right now. And having really like, it's like having like a big pile of folded clean laundry in your bed and you're like are not unfolded laundry. And you're like, I got all these interviews and I'm like, I gotta fold this laundry list. I'm folding laundry, go watch Netflix, or like succession or something like that. But here I've like really focused and just drudgery. And I just love the idea of like, Oh, what if we could just remove the need for notes, and you just have like, a collection of snapshots?
Yeah. You know, again, this is one of those jobs where like, some people try to do with a lot of diligence, and some people don't. And honestly, I think, you know, this is one of the things where, like, if you just give me 10 highlights from four calls. Great, right? Like I'd rather you do that in like 10 minutes, then spend what most people do spend four hours carefully having to like, meticulously pick through this entire thing. Right? Humans are really good at. Yeah, we're really good kind of pattern matching machines, right? But you have to give us the raw input. Right? The raw input is like a series of someone else's notes. It's almost not even useful, right? You know, Looks like I'd almost rather if I've got a design team of three at almost all rather, rather than all have five different interviews, and kind of share some highlights from that rather than one person at five interviews and try to somehow like, you know, transmute all they've learned into, you know, Neo in the Matrix style and all the other people's heads, it just doesn't work right, like. So. It's also interesting, we saw this a lot of user was to where a lot of folks, this also happened just for general product feedback, is just creating an ambient stream of this stuff, whether it's textual, or ideally like a series of clips of like, Oh, here's a clip from a sales call, like, just, if everyone just gets the same inputs, we will roughly all come to some of the same conclusions, or will always have the same context so that when we are discussing like design problems, we have a shared context, and it makes things a lot easier, right? Like, that is the biggest problem, I think, in larger words is there isn't a shared context of what what people are hearing from users, right. And so like, I hate this phrase with like democratizing or creating transparency have access to that privilege. What is originally privileged knowledge that usually like salespeople or UX researchers have is like a really, really helpful thing in terms of creating alignment on a multiperson design or product team.
Yeah, just being able to kind of have like a repository of snapshots just point towards those like, Okay, this is where we, here's how we prioritize like, Hey, why'd you prioritize this? Oh, well, here's our snapshots like this, how we map mapped out, just based off like this, one thing that was said in like, several interviews, right.
Yeah, that's the other thing is, I think the draw people that also try to build a lot of diligence in we try to do some of these voids. And I think we've, we've learned some lessons there, which is, you know, trying to basically map the universe, everything we've heard from customers is really hard. And again, requires diligence. It's difficult. But just any a stream of like, here's an interesting product feed back into Slack channel. And kind of in the mindset of, like, consume or not consume it, right, like, but don't make it turn into a job where it's like, I'm going to sit down and wade through this, like repository of information, just be like, consumers while it's happening. And it is actually interesting, one of the things we do is like we will, we will actually share out cuts from zoom calls as they're happening in real time. So like, the original use case was like salespeople, yeah, I've got a tech question. I push a button, the customer asking question, get shipped to like a, you know, an engineering room to get the answer while I'm on the call. But we've actually found it's also really interesting that we care as humans much more about something when it's happening live, right. So if you have this stream, and you can see that like, oh, all these clips, like this feedback is coming in from like, this is happening right now. Right? That's far more engaging, impactful than, like, oh, let's go dig through this call from a month ago, that rich had, right. And so. And it also, I think, maps more to our current like, someone ADB, you know, media snack diet type thing, we just kind of want to, like, consume things as they're happening. But not, you know, I don't ever try to figure out what happened on Reddit a week ago, right? I'm just gonna like, what, what happened? What's happening right now? Right? So something that requires less diligence, right, and just easy and kind of fun.
Yeah. And so understand, like, feature richness, being more of like, if it makes it more magical, are offloads a task? Or what was the third one? So it's like it was offloading task. It was making more magical, or does, like removes the need? Right? It's like that third thing? Yep. Right. So using kind of like that frame, to, like, understand, like, what an actual, like, good feature is. brings me to my next that next question I had, which was like, okay, so you don't want to plan too far in advance. But how do you maintain like a strong vision that you could communicate to people of like, well, this is where we want to go. But we're only like, we're only going to go like, a quarter ahead on actual like, tactical.
Yeah, like, I feel like in a lot of ways, a lot of vision, in some ways, is providing guardrails for like, okay, like, here's where we're trying to go as, right. And so like, I even tell our team today, look, we are right now focused on single player experience. After that, we will focus on multiplayer experience. So then after that, there's like, so they're, like, I look at kind of, like phases of things. And, you know, for us, it's so single player just means like, you know, how to provide as much value for the art user versus how do we do things that help you collaborate with your team gather, if you will. So like, even that alone, that's pretty lightweight, right? But that's a really nice forcing function because lots of good ideas come in and I actually just have a notion board and I color code them all by like, is it single player? Is it single player multiplayer or growth or like kind of other way kind of like, you know, kind of Yak shaving right and so and by forcing ourselves to color code that we can then everyone's gonna hold me accountable. Be like, I thought you said we were working on Team features. Why is this team feature here above the single player ones, right and so even that alone provides nice guardrails on decision making, which I find super helpful. Like sometimes it's like, I've gotta like, I've got to I've got to put put constraints on future me, because future me mustn't forget what past me said. Right? And like the best laid plans that we had.
Yeah, so like vision as like a forcing function, rather than like,
Yeah, I think my vision is kind of more, it's also more of like a, here's the experience I want users to have, right? Like, I want to feature people to get on a zoom call and not worry at all about how the right moment is car getting disseminated into the right systems, right. Like, that's something I shouldn't have to worry about. I should just have to show up, be a human, be the smart human, I am to ask the right questions and provide the information, it's in my head, the other person and like, the rest of that, everything else should just get done for me. Right? And like, it shouldn't be the stressful situation is now where it's like, who am I talking to? And what do I know about them? And oh, crap, who do I need also tell this to and like, you know, like, so we just have like this view of like, here's the world should be like this. Right? Okay. So that's like vision, I guess. But then it's like, how are we going to? What are the breadcrumbs we're going to use to get there? Great. We're gonna first build great single player experience. Great, let's explode. What is a great single player experience? Well, we've got tenants for it. Right? It's, it's like it offloads as much job as much work from you as possible. It doesn't require diligence. It's fast. It's intuitive. And it's magical whenever possible. Great. There's my tenants. Now, it's also unpacked this down into like, okay, what are PACs? Like? What are sets of jobs to be done? We want to tackle first because that's their thing, right? You generally want to tackle a job, depth first, breadth first, right? I don't want to solve three jobs. 30%. I want to solve one job 90%. And before I move on to the next job I want to take on, right, and so I guess that's kind of it just kind of made? I don't know, I've intentionally thought about this before you ask this question. But that's I guess, it's kind of how I think about how to unpack the problem, or the problem space that you might choose to work on.
Okay, so like you, you define, like an outcome, like, on a zoom call, I need to just be able to show up to the Zoom call and know that like, I don't have to, like, have my notebook out and like write like, oh, follow up with this person about this, oh, show this or cut this clip out. It's like, I get to show up to a zoom call and react as informations going and even, like, proactively do stuff in the meeting at the same time, that that's not super prescriptive on like, features or execution,
or no, yeah, it's more of like the almost like the emotional outcome, I want to create
emotional outcome. So it's like you define emotional outcome and like, you give yourself like a year out, like by like, end of this year, like we want to try to accomplish that. And like next three months, it's like, oh, well, and then you kind of put some design tenants like, okay, the features can only be single player experiences. And, and yeah, if you, you know, your, is your first time being a guest on the show. And part of my podcast is like, since I work from home, you know, like a lot of people here is having kids make noise in the background. So don't edit that out. Because it's fun, but I don't
even hear anything. That's if I get it working. The your your microphone setup is crushing it to endorsement for whatever it is. You get them to sponsor you.
Yeah, pay me chaotic. Thank you for making my podcast less. chaotic. Oh, that's good. All right. I'll take moralities now, but Okay, so then you the breadcrumbs are really like designed tenants, or of like, how you want them or like, feature different
traits of the Yeah, right. Here's the traits and things we want to we want. Anything we build should fit into one of these right? are okay, we should make sure it it has these traits, right?
Yeah, so it's like a single player. And then all the other things like offloads tasks fast. Yeah. And so like, that's kind of like, all right, if someone's like we're trying to accomplish it's like, okay, well, this emotional thing. These are like the traits that and used to have. But for this next quarter, we're just working on tags, timestamping tags, being able to share those tags, and maybe one more thing. And
actually even that, say, like, the next quarter, we're trying to solve this part of the problem or this part of the job, right? Like we're, we're trying to make, we're trying to improve, we're trying to get easier for our single user to organize everything after the call or during the call, right, as opposed to get even down into the features. Okay? It's almost like a if you're dealing with like, OKRs, right, like you always have to, right? Yeah, yeah, that's right. I was like, I feel like roadmap themes are hence similar to art, we write them as an objective, the objective is this. And then under it as much of tasks and the tasks are, we think we need this, you know, we need some sort of tagging structure that does this and this and this right. So
yeah, so you even let you make like a even smaller like outcome? Yep. And say okay, well, we're focusing on this one outcome of helping them organize or I guess like in, in the case of like what I'm working on at homee, which is just a real estate, like a one stop shop real estate starts. And so like I'm focusing on like, oh, starting the offer process, like making an offer on a house, or trying to make it so that the agent can get all the information they need without having to take a bunch of notes or like do a long phone call or something like that, and so that they could do a quick turnaround or whatever are and then right, next quarter, it's like automating comparables.
And the theme this month, this theme this quarter is or this month, dependent on your remotes like yeah, hi, oh, themes are improving agent experience, top agent problems, it's too much work to to close out a deal. And the turnaround time is too long. The ways we think we're gonna address this, right? So yeah, it's funny like that, that kind of stuff matters more as you like so much more as you scale up, right? Like at earlier phases, like began, we were only nine votes. So I've worked a lot, even on this phase. And we're fully remote company of trying to instrument a lot of systems so that everyone gets the same kind of ambient awareness of all the customer interactions, right. So like, any textual product, feedback, gets reused user voice, and it gets piped into a Slack channel. Any feedback that comes up on a on a sales call, gets pumped in the same sentence, same channel, and like, kind of encourage everyone on the team engineers and all to basically scan and like read all these things, right? And so then it's very clear, when I put them in the roadmap, I'm like, Cool for solving this problem. This will help us solve this problem. Everyone knows what that problem is. The bigger challenge as you grow up, as you've got to, like, spend a lot of your time and so I think the pm role and the design role feels differently at large companies. And so water, you spend a lot of time in persuading people that this thing is a problem. Right? And then you spend a lot of time basically debating which whose problem is bigger. This is the the unfun part of the job or like the PMs do this as along with doing all this other stuff. And then, you know, a lot of kind of what we focus on these voices, how do you work across everyone has their own different set of data and different voices they're hearing and so therefore, they have their own different priority list? And how do you like the big challenge at these companies? How do you like, integrate that together? into one list? Right? Because at the end of the day, anything that's more than one list is not really privatization anymore. Right? Like it's, it's, it's, it's basically, it means we had three priority lists, it means well, at some point, we've got a job to integrate these three together, right? Because there's always some choke point, whether it's marketing, someone's got to come out in order. And so I think that's, you can hack that by trying to give everyone the same inputs. So you don't have to argue about the problems are, but at scale, as you scale up, it gets harder and harder, and requires diligence at scale. To get that done. Right. So yeah, the
technology is not there yet. I mean, I think JIRA is a great example of diligence being enforced. Yep. And a product and actually creates like a like, it's funny, it's like that some software creates a job. like project management, it was like, your job is to be good at JIRA. And it's like, Wait, did we actually fix anything? Like, is technology actually making the world better? But you actually talked about this? I think it was your talk at like a conference that Pendo was sponsoring. It's called Turning anecdotes and actionable decisions or data. It's truncated, but it you talk about, like, the multiple repositories of like, everyone has a bunch of spreadsheets on feedback. And then like, how do you consolidate it? And then like, how do you categorize it? And then all of a sudden, it's becoming this huge chore of processing this data, right? And so like, your, your vision for your work at fathom, is being able to live, instead of like having a bunch of documentation. It's just like this live stream of like, consistent?
Yeah, is that was kind of our Northstar user voice was Yeah, at some point, we went from just being disliked. Okay, here's an easy way to collect feedback directly from users when you've got a lot of them, right. We worked with like Stack Overflow. In the early days, we worked with X Box. You know, you had a big audience, you need to know, what are the top 10 things this audience wants you to build? Great. We're good at that. But then we found that later in our kind of like, you know, more recently, we worked with a lot of b2b SaaS companies. And the challenge there is how do you kind of integrate all these different channels, right? So yes, you've got direct user feedback, but you also have user researchers have been getting feedback. You've also got CSM is getting feedback sales, were getting feedback. And so it's actually a really challenging problem because it requires soft Wherever we build, but also requires teaching the company in the diligence to be like, okay, cool, you need to train your sales reps to like Wallasey back in this manner, you got to train your sales reps to do the same thing we've got to like, and then we've, you know, we got to set up basically all these input channels, and then we can merge them together. And then there's some like, just like strategy frameworks, you can put on top of that, it Okay, cool. Now that we've got all this data in here, we can enrich it with our CRM data. And, you know, if you can get to that level of diligence, and some really great companies like Zynga, which other ones have actually done this, right, like, you know, they tend to skew and more consumer, but there are b2b companies that do this really well to what's gonna go Procore that comes to mind as a construction SAS company. But it's just, it's hard, right? It's a big thing. And so, with fathom, we're, first of all, we're solving an emotional problem for the end of it for any user who's a power reserve zoom, first and foremost. But yes, long term, we're also kind of solving similar problems with user voice, which like, how do I just disseminate? How do I share out these experiences, right, with West diligence required? Right? And but also not use words to filter everything through text? And here, I've just learned that I don't know what's give them, let me give you a 32nd clip with the customer explaining their feature requests, as opposed to a textual experience of it, right. It's slightly different way to kind of come at this for a probably a different end of the market.
Well, you know, it's also, I mean, like, slack just released a feature. And I've been involved in a startup startup. Over here, local, we're, I'm at where it's an asynchronous video communication, and it's in Slack just released like its video messaging feature. And it's kind like where the world's going is. Now. You know, it used to be impossible to like, find time to like, go over, like your research findings with like a director of product. Now, you could just send him a clip in Slack of you explaining like a design or demoing something. And all of a sudden, like, you've just jumped a bunch of layers of management, and you've just engaged them in the process. And I feel like that's like the world we're going to be going into is like, it's just so much more powerful to share, like, primary source, video clip.
I used to have a rule, user voice, and I said, meetings are not for content, distribution, right. They're not for content delivery. Meetings are for discussions around content we've already asynchronously consumed, right? And if you're familiar with like Amazon's six page memo thing, right? But like every high level Amazon meeting, you have to draft the six page memo. At the beginning of the meeting, everyone sits there and reads the six page memo, right? So they carve out the first 10 minutes meeting for everyone. And then they start the meeting. And the concept there is like, okay, everyone's too busy to actually consume this content asynchronously. So you have to boil down every all the context, everyone in this room needs to know, into the six pages, we read that and then we bring, there's any follow up questions that come there, everyone, all the stakeholders need to be in the room to maybe be able to make quick decisions. But you know, I love that concept. I mean, it's interesting for fathom, we're mostly focused on external calls, right? With my calls with customers, because they're kind of a non renewable resource, right? I have 30 minutes with you as a customer. And once I get off that phone, it's really hard for me to get you back. So if I miss something, I can't just like Slack you and be like, Oh, hey, Caden, what did you say? Right? What was your action item here? And so that's part of why we focus on external but also because I feel like a lot of internal meetings are going to go the way of a synchronous, in fact, you know, we're a remote first company, I think, any a lot of good or most good remote first, companies focus on this kind of async content delivery, right? I think the company's talking about is Ping Pong. And Jeff's awesome, by the way, and an investor and so give them a shout out. But yeah, but I like I love their vision of, right. Like, I've done this with womb, and womb, can I can do this, but like, it's, you know, it's kind of square peg round hole. But like, yeah, we'll do a roadmap review. Here's the new things on the roadmap. I used to do it on Zoom meeting. I'm like, That's stupid. Let's record it, share it. You got two days to listen to it. And then let's discuss it at this meeting sort of thing, right? It also forces you to like, generally create West content. Right? Like, a 10 minute women's really feels really weird, right? Like, I generally like once they get over like the three or four or five minute mark, I'm like, Oh, I really need to stop talking because no one wants to listen to. But no one has a problem having a 15 minute, you know, presentation or a 30 minute 45 minute presentation. Right? So I feel like again, it fits into this like, we want our media in snack form. Not in three course meal for so yeah, I'm a big fan of that stuff.
Right? Yeah. No, it is. Yeah, it is Ping Pong. And I actually, yeah, worked with them on kind of like their early designs on like, on their early power users and as Joe could get, yeah, because I was like, Oh, well, you know, I use like Marco Polo and the college because I just had like, I was doing a bunch of credits. I was working full time and I'm one Like, Oh, we shouldn't do a meeting for this. Just let's talk on Marco Polo and Mike piece. I want you to do this for work. And then like, Thank you, Jeff, for rolling. It's amazing. Like it's really open on my day. But yeah, so like, we're coming up on time. I just wanted to say like, congrats on, you know, getting partnering with zoom as like, an officially endorsed app like before this. This interview, actually, like looked on the Discover tab for apps. And I'm like, Okay, let's see, let's see where these guys end up on the SEO and you guys are up top, you're like one of the first things so it's not hard to find. So if you guys want to try out, fathom, just go there. And it's one of the first things perhaps to show up in zoom.
So yep, you'll find it at the top of of the Zoom app marketplace. But if you also if you go to fattens up video slash pod, you can go directly into sign up for Father, it's free, completely self service should take you about 90 seconds to sign up. And if you go through that link, I think you get a little special prize, I won't tell you what it is. But we have like a gamification system built into our app, and we got some cool swag. So thumbs up video slash pod is the best place to go. And then you also not only get access to our zoom app, but also our desktop app, which has some extra features, the end of my plugin, that's all do
as a solid plug. And it looks like you've really thought about that problem. 90 seconds. It looks like you really thought about
it. It is funny. I've thought about people which basically, for the first year of like the last nine months of building this product, we spend about a third of our time building the core product, like platform level stuff, right? Like make sure everything works. About a third of it on like integrations, and a third of it on onboarding. We've spent so much time on onboarding actually, like I knew it's been a lot of time remembering, but it boggles my mind. And we, we launched three months ago, and even then we still spent probably a third like easily a third of the last three months like improving onboarding every day. It's anyway, so let me You can also find me on LinkedIn. Richard went on LinkedIn. Vince, we're kind of like Bitmoji esque icon, it's all blue. So that'll be me. I'd love if anyone is listening. This you know, I want feedback from from other designers. So whether on the onboarding process, or just on the app itself, I would love it if anyone ping me with any feedback they have on the product. Again, obviously, I started my career by cold emailing people and telling their shit suck. So I'd be happy to someone to tell me that. Or a middle. Might you also pay me let me know if there's anything? Yeah, products that you want to chat about? So
awesome. Yeah, I'm gonna try. I'm gonna try it for podcast interviews. See, see if helps. Maybe I'll make another vertical for you guys to destroy the roadmap, we need to help podcasters Is there anything else that you feel like needs to be said before we sign off, Richard?
No, I think this is great. I appreciate you having me on. And, you know, like I said, I have a bit of a design impostor. So take everything I say with a grain of salt and good design school. And you know, I, you know, you you'd be horrified if you saw actually what I do in figma. But, yeah, it works out in the end, and I really appreciate the chat.