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My name is Jerry Boleyn. Welcome to the entrepreneur ethos podcast. On this podcast we're going to take a deep dive into the traits, values, beliefs and skills of all sorts of entrepreneurs to learn how to build a more ethical, inclusive and resilient world.
Let's get started. Hey, everyone, as usual, stay tuned to the end of the interview, where I'll give you some actionable insights that I learned from my guest. These insights are also in the show notes and all of the show notes are over at the entrepreneur ethos.com. As always, thanks for listening. Thanks for the ratings and reviews. Thanks for the tweets thanks for the retweets. Well, thanks for everything now. On to my guest for today Richard White, founder and CEO of two Sass companies Fathom and user voice, an engineer who develops tools to scratch an itch Richard founded Fathom to solve a problem he was facing, how to take good notes on Zoom calls. As he was frequently talking to customers on Zoom, he wanted a better way to capture those insights while in conversation. Fathom uses a combination of tools to address this problem, which became a top rated app on the Zoom app marketplace. Richard's experience provides insight into the process of founding a startup, and how doing it the second time around can be a bit easier. Richard says, well, his first endeavor was a journey and just figuring out what he was doing. With his second one, he came up with a better idea of what to expect. While his first company was mostly Bootstrap. Fathom has had funding from the start, which Richard acknowledged was essential for this particular product. He also had people he could tap on to develop the product and start selling it. Another advantage of being a serial entrepreneur. Richard is a strong believer in the power of good customer service service, and of soliciting customer feedback in order to make the best product possible. Indeed, his company User Voice is a tool that enables companies to get that exact kind of feedback. In our conversation, Richard explains the way he collects the feedback and puts it to use to make better products and customer experiences. Now, let's get better together. Richard White, welcome to the podcast.
Thanks for having me.
Well, thanks for being on. I know, it's the summer, you've been telling me a little bit used to be a nomadic traveler. Now you can sort of see the tea leaves of everyone wants to travel, crush have got to get out of the house, you know. So I know you've kind of calmed down a little bit on that. But we'll talk a little bit more about that. But we also are going to talk about you being the founder of fathom, which is a SASS tool that allows you to never take notes again in zoom, which, for me, who is literally in zoom pretty much every day. That's pretty cool. Looks like you know, you were number one on Product Hunt, you know, got some great reviews, your startup, all the coolness. But before we get into all that, like I always like to say why don't you tell us how you got to do what you're doing today?
Gosh, I mean, it's it's a long and winding journey, I guess the short answer would be for Fathom specifically, it's a common story that had I think everything I've worked on in my career has generally been solving a problem that I had, personally. And so, you know, I previously started another company called User Voice. And near the tail end of that I was doing sounds like what you do, right, which is a lot of zoom calls. I think I did 200 or so zoom calls with customers in the first like six weeks of 2020. And that's and I learned you know, you do one thing a lot, you really every little kind of sharp edge to that process you become painfully aware of and I became painfully aware of how much how bad I am at talking and typing at the same time. Right and so and I also learned that like it's a stressful I remember, we're doing it research for different product. And I remember like, wow, the real pain point I have is like talking to folks hurriedly typing out notes after the call, like trying to clean those notes up into something that's like intelligible, right because when I'm taking notes on a call, I'm just kind of leaving mnemonics to remind myself of I'd say, and what was kind of depressing about that process is I think if you look at my notes, you'd say like, oh, Rich's a decent note taker, and I come back two weeks later and be like, I don't remember which call this was or what exactly happened here. And more importantly, when I go to share with my team, hey, here's what I've learned from these 200 calls. You know, I throw out a few bullet points and then really fall flat, right? And I notice there's this huge gap and the experience, and like insight that I would get firsthand on the call versus this kind of like game of telephone rice give you here's a few bullet points, right. And so that's kind of kicked us off on this, you know, now, it's about we're about two years later. Right. So it's a two year journey, to building to building fathom. And so yeah, I think scratch my own itch has just always been, I think, a, an easy way to, you know, build products that like, if you know, you're selling a prom for yourself, because you want a high conviction that like you're solving for other people, too.
Yeah, especially these kind of repetitive tasks that automation can help. Yep. You know, that's the one I've always found. It's super interesting. Because usually, you know, someone if someone's doing something manually, okay, they have to do it. There's no other alternative. It's, um, they're almost resigned to the fact that this can't be any better. But I like your approach. I mean, I'm the same way. I'm always like, well, if I have this problem, someone else must have this problem. I mean, I'm not I mean, I'm not a unique snowflake. I mean, I'm a snowflake, right? Or whatever. No, like, I'm can't be unique in the world. So cool. And how's it going with fathom? I mean, what's the what's the uptick them? Like?
That's going quite well. You know, we're the number one app on this new zoom app marketplace. You mentioned some of them, we were thinking, you know, we want product to the day last December, we actually were the number two product on Product Hunt for AI and all 2021. And yeah, I think we, it's kind of fun doing this is really kinda like my second startup, right? Second funded startup. And I really describe it as like playing an old video game again. Right? Like you said, you're kind of speed running it, right, where you're like, the first time you're playing it, you're kind of dropped into Minecraft, and you didn't know what to do and see, it's been a long time walking around before you realize you got to punch the tree to get some wood. And this time, it's like you dropped me in. I'm like, Okay, I know, which cave to go into which castle to raid, yeah, to get the good shield and good sword. And it's just, yeah, it's been a real joy, to kind of run it back, if you will.
What's been those things that you think we're like, you're glad you did it the first time so that you sort of didn't make the same mistakes? What were some of those?
Oh, gosh, I mean, I think, you know, my previous companies really ran for 10 years. And so. And I think throughout the lifespan of that company, we did everything, but we were bottom up freemium, we were top down sales. I think at any given point, I probably, you know, my background is engineering, and then product design. But I ran the sales team for a while I ran the marketing team for a while I ran like, so I've, you know, it was almost like that, that sort of gave me kind of a, like a, you know, better than business school or finishing school and like seeing all things, you know, SAS entrepreneurship. So, you know, and I think you kind of work backwards from like, Okay, what did we really struggle with last time? What we want to show you now, first and foremost, you know, one of those is distribution, right? So we first and foremost, this time around, right? Okay, how do we have a go to market plan before we have a product? The other one is, is talent, right? Do we have an idea of what type of talent we need on this team to execute right to execute against our go to market plan against our product vision? You know, I think one of the hardest things you starting out is like you don't know anyone. Right? Yeah. And I, I, my last company was not my first company to a bunch of stuff in like high school and college and grew up in North Carolina, just super hard to find other people that were, you know, wanting to work on entrepreneurial stuff. And so, this summer, I was very fortunate that I had, you know, start with four really good engineers that I knew, and really good, like salesperson that I knew, and yada yada. So, I think kind of coming up, you know, I'm a product guy, I love product. That's why I wake up wanting to do it. So thinking about product just comes pretty naturally it's it's it's my default. I think what's changed is time is thinking about the other components, team and market and go to market and thinking about those, you know, at inception, not just once we built the product.
Yeah, you have an engineering degree two. So for me, and I love products like I'm, that's that's just what I do. And it's funny because I came to the same realization I think you did. And maybe I said it a different way or I thought about a different way but I'm like, you know, this product stuffs kind of democratized I can pretty much build anything. It's like half the battle. Other Half the battle is is anyone going to buy this thing? Right? Exactly. And there are the air there the carcasses of stuff. Startups past that have not answered that question properly. So I think that's a very good way to put it. So when you first started off with 1000, was it bootstrapped initially? I mean, how did how did it go from? How did you go from, like user voice into this? Or was it like a natural extension? Or?
Yeah, so we kind of started with, we had some insights at user voice. Yes, we're kind of over the, I feel like every company, I have, like, you know, through working there, like the insight for the next problem, I want to go solve, right. And user was itself was came out of like, the company was working on before that right problems we had. And so yeah, and so we're not we were bootstrap issues. So what was also different this time around, so we raised a little bit of funding from day one. And so that was due a very different way, right? My user voice I basically, I think it was, you know, a little bit of angel money, but mostly friends and family and bootstrapping, for the first year. And I think we raised 100k, for the entire first year. And, you know, I couch surfed and like, you know, didn't, didn't have an apartment and all that stuff. It was it was that like, really gritty entrepreneurial story. This time was different this time, it was like, Okay, I've never built a company to, you know, almost double digit, just not quite, but double digit million dollar revenue, it's much easier than your known quantity to go out and raise funding from day one. And so, this time around, we started with a team of five of us, right, and we started paying salaries from day one, and like, you know, we raise money to get the tour. And then once we had an alpha, we raised over money. And once we had like, a, you know, a working beta, we raise over money. And so, you know, honestly, constantly constantly raising money and, and growing the team and improving the product. So very different, and probably not something, you know, I probably couldn't have done this the first time around. She wasn't a new quantity, but this time around, you can and so, again, I think in the interest of speed running it, it's certainly a good way to speed run it.
Totally. Yeah. I mean, I've found that as well. But I guess it also does depend on what you're doing. You know, I think that's also the thing that I always think is just the challenge of, you know, what, what you're doing, why and how it kind of how it works, you know, yeah,
I think you've your your your funding strategy, and your financing strategy, and your team building needs to fit the product in the go to market to right. In our case, we kind of looked at this and saw there's a convergence of changes in the market, right? Everyone go into zoom, you know, things like transcription becoming kind of ubiquitous, like there's a couple of technical shifts we saw that was we thought, like, there's a window to build this product. And it's not super big window. So if you're going to do it, you need to go after really fast. There's a lot of other startup ideas where that's not true, right? I think Paul Graham and yc kind of call these like, unfairly unpopular ideas, right? Like Airbnb, no one was, no one was clamoring, it wasn't 10 people trying to build Airbnb, actually, everyone thought it was a stupid idea. And so that gets you including him, including it, right? And so like, in that case, right, you want to go well, and swell and just like, you know, be super scrappy to, because you're the only one that believes the thing is going to work. Right. So like everything, you know, all of these things are, you know, is there one way to do thing? No, right? Depends on what you think you need to, you know, what the can the situation and context of what you're building? And
yeah, I think it's also you know, it's this what you mentioned, like, is it a JSON? Is it something that no one believes in? I mean, those guys, which is a great example, there had been things like that for rentals, but not like, here's a room in my house,
right. And there was couchsurfing, which was, which, like, was completely free. And like, you know, there was no exchange of monetary exchange. So there are a few things, but it was, you know, when we people show people Fathom talking about fountain people, you know, everyone's like, Oh, yeah, that makes sense. Like, that should exist, right. And so, you know, and as you'd expect, then a lot of other people sprung up trying to do that sort of thing, right. Unlike the Airbnb thing. It took them many years before anyone tried to copy what they're doing.
Yeah, I mean, there's a, there is a couple in Europe, I think, but not, not a ton. I mean, the same thing with Uber. I mean, who would have thought, right? I mean, that's the reason why they started with black car, right? It's like, oh, there's this black car market that's sort of underutilized. Why not? I mean, why wouldn't these guys want more? I'm just wondering,
Uber is such a funny story, too, because I was I've been in San Francisco for 15 years when Uber started and to understand that the rides Uber you need to understand how much everyone in San Francisco hated the taxi cabs here. I live I lived there ate it, I ate it right like I still see a tax cap here and I will out of principle, never get that tax get. I feel like I've been so abused by that industry. That I just like, you know, I think people want to talk to friends from New York. They don't get it because they never had this like crazy. due to adverse relationship with tax, yeah.
Cool. One was arrow cap, I think was the arrow was the one where you actually if you were if you were cool enough, you got their other number. Oh, okay. That's the only one now. I mean, honestly, they were really good. But then they built like the flywheel app. I'm sure you've heard of that. Yep. Oh, anyway. Yeah. Yeah. I'm sorry about Uber. Yeah, it's like no one thought. Right. Yeah. It's kind of interesting how that works. And do you think I mean, for what you're doing? It's really not regional, right? I mean, pretty much ubiquitous. And? And I'm curious, do you have like international clients? Or how does because you're doing transcription, AI transcription. I'm assuming
we're mostly we're mostly focused on the US. I think, I did a lot of international stuff early. With user voice. And I think, you know, where you see kind of be the see companies go international now pretty early and pretty easily, right, especially starting from the US be a little bit harder. And, you know, one, there's some technical limitations, right? There just, it's just, you know, unfortunately, the state of tech is outside of unaccented, English, your quality falls off pretty dramatically for things like transcription. So and just you know, it's a small team, I think focus matters. And so like, we're just don't have the, I don't have the bandwidth to be even supporting folks in like Australia super well, right, or the UK just from timezone perspective. So we're focused on the US for now. And we'll, we'll revisit the rest of it later.
And is it is the I mean, are you built on a core AI tech? I mean, as you guys roll your own, or I know, there's a lot of like, what's it called? I think it's GPT? Three, I guess, is?
Yeah, we use? Yeah, we use a mix of things. I, in some ways, I kind of look at us, like a systems integrator in that, you know, we're not inventing technology necessarily, right. Like, you know, there's so much great technology now being invented available on various cloud platforms, what we're really doing is pulling together all of these pieces to make a product that, you know, that automates all the stuff we want it to do, right, the post called data entry, the the in called, capture all that sort of fun stuff. And so it's fun. It's, it's, it's a very, you know, it's a much more technical product in my last company, right? Like it, it took us four engineers building it for senior engineers building it for a solid year, to even just do, like launch the thing, right? It's like, and in some ways, it's kind of fun. And like, gratifying because like, you know, it's, it's everyone's like, Oh, it's so simple. And it like works really well. And it's like, yeah, that took a lot of hours to get to that point. But again, that's one of the things were like, you gotta map every, like, I don't think it would have been a good idea for me to do this as my first startup because of the capital and human requirements to get to the one, right. And so, you know, unlike most SaaS companies, you know, we're just gonna like, you just stand up some servers and you got a web app, and like, you're good to go, right. And your cost is pretty negligible. We've got, you know, real costs and real tech, and it's fun.
That's fun. Yeah. And I mean, I like I like your comment about integrating systems or system integration. I remember when I used to work at a semiconductor company, you know, we'd still chips to like Logitech and Cisco Systems, right. And they I know, I remember, Logitech used to tell us, hey, you know, we're chefs, we're not farmers, when we pull together the meal, and it's beautiful meal, but we use only high quality components. And, of course, Cypress Semiconductor, we were the farmers giving them USB chips, right, which, while we're farmer off, thanks for that, I guess. But guess I'd rather be a farmer than a ship. I mean, whatever. Right. But, but but the thing about I think today, especially in SAS, is this whole system integration approach? There is so much tech out there, it really does come down to how do I pull these things together? Because chances are something somewhere exists that can do what you want to do. And I'm curious, like, what what I mean, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but like, what percentage is like we cooked it up in house as opposed to pull it together? I
mean, especially with like, open source and that sort of stuff. It's really hard to say what that percentage is, right? Because all of these things. It's maybe trying to give us your analogy, right. Like, yeah, in some ways, we are chefs. Right? And so, but it's unclear how much of it is like picking the right produce, and how much like how you cook it, right? You know, the point. So, you know, a lot of the stuff like if you pull it off the shelf, and you just use it in a naive way. Your Your dinner is going to end up like the dinners I make, which are not very good, right, like so. I you know, I there's it's funny because like, yes, like the tech is all like becoming more commoditized. But you still have to figure out how to use it. And that usually takes a lot of trial and error, frankly, right So how do you adapt it for your use case sort of thing? So that's I think, you know, that's it, I think where people can it's, and in some ways you could build a trivial version of fathom, actually, in pretty short period of time, right? Like, usually, okay, I just want to like wire up something that just sends me a transcription and whatnot. But, you know, we were doing it, like, in real time with AI summarization, like, automatically sending things to your Slack channels. Like, we basically did a much harder version of it, right? Because we realized, like, the naive, trivial version that you probably could build in a month or two, is not going to be what is like not gonna be good enough. Right. And that's, I think there's also this interesting concept of like MVP, where everyone is obsessed with, like, what's the smallest thing I can build? And everyone kind of forgets about the viable part, right? Or like, I like, I like that. I like it cool. I like, minimum desirable product, right? You've got to find something that, you know, I, I think for certain b2b products, you're fine launching a crappy first version, iterate with some customers, etc. But there are so many products out there now. I know, right? And so I've kind of pivoted anything you like, I think your first version, if you're going to launch make a splash and first impression needs to be really good, right? Because if you want something, it's kinda like, it kind of works. Right? I see this all the time, such as engineers like, well, technically, it can accomplish the job. Right? Well, but no one wants, like, technically, I get this done with jumping through 10. Hoops, right? And you don't really get a second chance. Like, unless you're super successful, you don't get a second chance to make that first impression. Right. And yeah, people were great. I saw it wasn't that good? Onto the next one? Right. And so that's what I think one thing shifted a lot in the last 1015 years.
Yeah, especially SAS, like, I mean, you know, I always sort of look at the MAR tech stack, you know, 8000 marketing tools probably now 10,000 market mean, crazy. It's ridiculous, increasing. They're all like, you know, how to growth hack how to do this, how to performance of the data in, I look at that in two ways. And I love your thoughts on this. Because first way is, clearly there is some challenges satisfying the martec market. And or, you know, people are just, they don't know what to do, or they're these growth hack thing is like a challenge for them. And then second, this must be a very hard thing to do, because no one's really figured it out. I mean, you could talk about the Marquette o's and the hub spots and the, you know, the hubs of the world or whatever. But for whatever reason, there's like, all these disparate things. And I'm just, do you think that is because technology is so ubiquitous? Or maybe they didn't really do your minimum?
Well, I mean, I think I think it's, it's, you know, for the last 1015 years, the cost of startup companies come down dramatically, right? There's just like, barrier entries are way lower. You know, you've got folks, you know, this whole SAS motion has kind of created a lot like, you know, we think the first generation a lot of SAS tools were kind of adapted from the, like, you no more perpetual license software. So you, you had a bunch of stuff. And it actually because it was the first one out there, got pretty far right, like, you know, Marketo was pretty big. But I remember using Marketo and being like, Oh, this is not at all what I thought like, this is really basic compared to what I would assume, coming from an engineering background I assumed it was gonna do from day one, like automated lead scoring and tell me the right leads to look at and what are you gonna do everything is gonna be magical, right? Was magical at all. It was like, basically just like a bunch of plumbing where you had to go in and do stuff yourself. So I think there's like this friction where you got, it's never been easier to starts companies. You got a lot of people inside this. Yep, you've got the shape. And the internal demands of companies changed a lot. And then you've got all these people spinning around, pick, oh, my gosh, I can make a better version of this. But they're all tend to be small. They're all little things right? Biting at the the elephant, right? It's like, ah, make a better onboarding app, and I'm gonna get better, you know, like, email or like that. So just turned into like, we we unpacked Marketo into 1000 different little companies. Yeah, no, no, no. And what becomes with them? I'm not sure. Yeah, I'll do I think they'll do well enough. And it's the one that's one of the dangerous things entrepreneurship is like getting stuck in kind of like zombie land where you're like, not, you have a scape. You don't have enough like philosophy to like, get escape velocity, but you're also not crashing back into the earth. You're just kind of like gliding around. Right and what do
you what do you think that is in terms of revenue? What's sort of your kind of?
Yeah, it's probably like, you know, you get to like somewhere in the like, one to one to 5 million range and you kind of have the hit this plateau, right? Like you have Excel Ask do. I think sometimes you find that like a lot of these markets, if you don't think about ahead of time, you might, you might scratch your own itch, but then go find that there are people that have your itch, and you can get it to a couple million dollars that people face. Yeah, that have its own niche that you do. But then you run out of folks, right? Or, you know, competitors swoop in and surpass us. So I think there's a lot of folks who get stuck right around that one to five range. And yeah,
I always talk about the zero to 1 million is sort of zero to hero. Like, you know, if you can get to a million in revenue on something, okay, that's pretty hard, Jim. That's pretty hard. But I like the fact that like the 1 million to 5 million, once you're stuck in the one to 5 million, do you really have something that can grow? I mean, I like actually really liked that kind of heuristic. Because a lot of times people, yeah, they scratch their own itch, but it's okay, how many people are really going to be here, and to your point about distribution and marketing and go to market? I think that right now is the key to success. I really think you have to really understand that. And I'm just curious, you know, you sort of switch your thinking on that after the first one. What sort of go to market strategies are how do you think about that with? Clearly, I'm assuming this is more a b2b type of tool, because it seems like a b2b tool. I mean, other people use it. I mean, you know, even you know, an awesome podcast host with an awesome podcast show may even use it. Because it probably would help. But I mean, that's still kind of b2b, right? But kind of walked me through that go to market motion.
They said she one of the things view, when you go through Y Combinator, they tell you, it's like, what billion multi billion dollar companies go to market? Are you going to copy? And you know, because there aren't that many different go to market motions, right. And so if you if you're kind of inventing one that hasn't, hasn't turned a billion dollar company, there's a lot of like, trepidation and about whether it's the right path. I think the thing that that a lot of folks make the mistake of is they go look at a large company, and they go, Okay, well, what are they doing for marketing? Like, let's go look at, you know, you know, what's going to look at, you know, Zendesk or something and say, like, Oh, what are they here for marketing? Well, they're doing everything, right. They're doing ballgames they're doing events they're doing, because they're a billion dollar companies, or billion dollar company, they didn't start with that, right. And if you go talk to most VCs in most founders, you'll find that they generally start with one channel, right? And so I think the trick is to figure out what's our one channel going to be that's gonna get us, you know, Escape Velocity out of that one to $5 million trap, right? And, and then yes, at some scale, you're gonna do all the things because it just makes sense to and you're gonna try to squeeze that growth and everything, but like, what's the one channel and so, for us? It's interesting, we thought, the one channel for us originally just gonna be word of mouth. Which I actually think is a product person is one of the nice things about this era. Yes, there's a ton more products, but like word of mouth is amplified in a way that it didn't used to be, right, I think there was 100%. You know, if you go back 30 years, word of mouth was was pretty killer. But then you had this, this era of like, kind of mass media, or word of mouth was dwarfed by, you know, basically, with low bandwidth, like ads and marketing and whatnot, really, like good marketing won the day because yeah, the Mad Men era, like the Mad Men era, right up until it really up until probably the 2010s. And now with social media, you've got kind of like, ah, like, we've kind of like an arms race between like mass media, and now word of mouth or social media. And now they've kind of like, you know, word of mouth is taken over again, again, with fathom, there's kind of this natural word of mouth, right? You're gonna use it on a call, and like, Hey, I'm recording this, oh, you're doing this while I'm using this new, you know, a note taking app called Palom. And then we see that kind of naturally, people sign up that way. And that was how we originally planned to get started. And then we learned about this zoom app marketplace being launched. And we kind of fought tooth and nail to, like, get involved in that program. Because do marketplaces like this don't come around very often. And when they do, yeah, you don't usually have a way to get in front of millions of users. Right?
Yeah. I mean, that's a really good point. Like, I'm always of the opinion of, this is why I try lots of different things. Being early is better than being good. Honestly, I mean, you gotta have a standard, but yeah, everything I've ever been in early, where I was like, moving the momentum. It didn't matter. Like, by the time everyone caught up, I was already riding the
wave, right? Yep. Yeah. And so that's, you know, we had this Yeah, I think solid theory about how we're gonna do it, just with word of mouth, and then the zoom thing came out, right? We got to get on that. And we, you know, thankfully, the right, the right cold emails and the right connections and whatnot. We were one of the 50 launch partners for it and quickly became the like, number one app on it. And so, you know, and then we still have our word of mouth engine on the side, right? And so those two things, but now we have this great kind of cold start booster rocket with the zoom and marketplace. And so that's basically how we're you've been doing good marketing And, you know, we don't do. I think now our team does some like LinkedIn posts and Twitter posts for that. But we didn't do any good stuff I couldn't tell my team is like, we're not going to blog, we're not gonna do social, like, we're gonna stick to like the one thing we do really well, which is we're going to focus on onboarding functions marketplace, and we're going to work really hard on getting people to share us word of mouth.
Interesting. Yeah, I think that's one of the errors that a lot of founders make, you know, they're like, they try to go too broad too quick. I know, like, there's this tool I use called respondent, I'm a big fan and full disclosure, I'm a guru of it, or whatever they call me. Right. They just love the tool. And I've known Farzana, the co founder for like, ever since he started. And one of his strategies was this single channel, okay, word of mouth, get people going. But he worked at a company called this mean, this means basically a Canva competitor for b2b roughly. And it visit me the way they grew, their whole channel was content. They're like, we're going deep in content, we're not going to do anything else. And we're literally going to have people find us. And you look at their H refs. And for visma It's just like a rocket, right? Like, how do you do that? It's like, we just had great content. And then you know, for response, they were like working on it, you know, beta for like, a year or whatever, I don't remember how long they're like, Okay, time to turn on the content engine. And that's same thing, ramp, but they just focused on that, you know, really don't do any other kinds of channels. And then of course, word, word of mouth is an interesting one. And I liked the way you brought that up. Because I think a lot of founders don't really understand or don't put a lot of faith in. If you have happy customers, they will tell their friends. I mean, I was in the P, I still am in the PR and marketing space. I tell everyone I meet Oh, you want to do outreach, you have to by respondent, and I will introduce you to farside because it just works. It solves the massive problem with PR and marketing and outreach. The automation of that task is a pain in the ass just full stop, you know, scission and muck rack and all those other ones only have a little tiny piece of it. They like cracked it right? And there's a couple other ones out there. But I'm like, Yeah, word of mouth.
That's yeah. Well, I think the other thing was word of mouth. Those I think people kind of like that MVP comment I had, like, don't it's kind of like, oh, people seem to like this great. What's getting go get more people as opposed saying people seem to like this, how do we make them love it? Right. And, and I think, you know, I like that I like like, it's not people don't refer products they like they are for products they love. And so what is that that's like, that's like partly the brand. It's like the product experience. It's not the customer experience, right? i The one thing that we've really invested in a lot is like really good customer care. We've our customer care, headcount is equal to our engineering headcount. We instrumented a ton of stuff, like, early on where, you know, we, I said, we tried to provide like, five figure support for free, right, like, usually free products, like, you can't find anyone to talk to, they're hiding behind the knowledge base, like, you got to jump through 10 hoops to send in a support ticket, and we find you, right, we will, we will, you know, make a thing, you're gonna send us a message. Anytime we'll have a dedicated account rep for you, if you're just a single user single account, we will pay you to talk to us, right? Like after your first call, we'll, we'll pay you 20 bucks, if you jump on a call and tell us about your experience. We take, we have flags to find our best users. And we invite them into a program and we send them swag. But also if they do a few extra things, we actually give them equity in the company. So we, we've always built that as you know, as much operational apparatus on the non engineering side, as we have on the engineering side to like, really find a way to like, you know, how do we make these folks love us, right, and be a product that they're super excited about? And make them feel part of like an extension of our team? Because they are, right, they're the ones that are using it. They're the ones that are helping us build it figure out what to build, what not to build. And so I think it's it's shocking to me, though, that companies really invest in this, like,
you know, shocks me too. I mean, I'm a big fan of SAS Sastre I don't know if you've heard Jason Jason Lemkin. Yep. Right. I subscribe to his LinkedIn thing. I've never gone to the show. But the guy I think pretty much every day sends out a note like yep, you know, really love his stuff. Right. And he literally sent one out. I think this one was this I'm looking at right now. Is it yesterday? It was yesterday. Yeah, it was yesterday. And it literally the title was Customer Success is a single digit higher. Like, what does that mean? And literally, he's like, You need to hire a customer success person. When you're under 10 people. Yeah. Like it has to be one of your under 10 hires. Yeah. And one of the reasons he says this was because of exactly what you said, second order revenue, right? Making fans that love you. And just like, it's the thing now, and I agree with them 100% That I see this and all sorts of companies that, yeah, you can't find someone I used to work with this company that was doing a is called Sutro. And they have a robot that tests your pool water like floats in your pool, right. And traditional SAS kind of IoT, it's an IoT Smart Home pleat thing. Well, their competitor, you could never find anyone. And this is a hardware product, it takes time to set up. I mean, they just, this is not like, free trial. This is like, screw the thing in you know. And they realized, you know, what, we need a phone number people can call and you know, when we need it on the weekend, when people are figuring out their stupid pour on Friday, or Sunday or whatever, right, so I like that. So Wow. So you how many customer care people do you have?
Now we have five, five, wow. I think it's also cheating too, because I think people like products, but like humans more than they like products, right? And so we can be like, oh, there's this product, I really like it. And if I get to meet the humans behind the product, and I like them to, okay, now I have like a real kind of like, you know, like, we're emotional beings, like, I don't get emotional about someone software, I get emotional. I'm like, Oh, I get to meet the human behind this. And they're lovely, too. And like, now I feel really positive things about this whole operation, because I know the people behind it right. And so I think that's super important, I think I think it's probably the highest yield thing we've done is just like, aggressively try to get people on a zoom call with us early in the in the process and just say, hey, you know, again, we'll like literally pay for it. Because we know as such good outcomes for us. We know that you turn into a good user, you become an evangelist, and we just get some time to talk to you get your feedback, you know, when we learn a lot from it, too. So I think that's been one of the biggest hacks we've had so far.
Interesting. are what are the metrics that you use? Mean, around that? Do you do like, you know, the superhuman guy, Rahul, forgot his last name. But he had this product market fit survey, which I'm a big fan of because we use that at Sutro. And I've used that in other places where we're trying to find signal that, hey, we actually have something. Now these are the things we need to fix, to your point about delighting customers, making them love you so that there's balus, you want always want to build on success and then give, it's interesting. It's like getting rid of friction, right? Everyone says, Oh, we got to be frictionless. In some cases, that's true. But then sometimes you actually add friction in depending on what it is, right? This is what a lot of people don't understand about, like, as an analogy, the government, the government is not about efficiency. It's about fairness. And once you realize that, then you understand why there's friction in the process. Right? Because they're their corner cases are like, you wouldn't even fathom like, oh, we have to deal with these massive corner cases. Of course, companies are a little different. But I, I'm just curious, like, what are the metrics you use to sort of, you know, customer success, satisfaction? How do you kind of use metrics to figure that out?
Yeah, it's funny. I mean, for the longest time, it was just kind of a honestly, it was it was pretty qualitative. It was, you know, how are like, how are we doing? We have a channel on Slack called Boom. And every time someone says something nice, like, it's a video clip from a call or email, we just put it in there. And honestly, it just kind of like the volume of booms alone felt like a metric. More recently, we've obviously become a little more systematized about it. Right? So we sent out a survey after you hit a certain usage like, level. And we actually asked both questions were, we're asking the NPS question. And we're asking the Shaun Ellis question, which is knowing how disappointed would you be?
If you couldn't use? Yeah, I love I use both of those. Yep.
And so the two of those, help us triangulate how we're doing. And then frankly, I look as much at also the qualitative responses, right? So we take all that like, how could it be better, we use other kind of framework that guy Shawn Kramer came up with at Atlassian called Rough, where you basically analyze all your qualitative feedback and assign it like this is reliability related usability or functionality related? And that gives us a really high level, you know, metric for like, you know, obviously, if the most most useful liability related you need to go work on bugs reliability, if the usability does not and so, that's also I think, my product is like it needs to work first and foremost, and then need to be usable. Secondly, and thirdly, it needs to be full featured, right? Most companies I think, go the other direction. So we have all these features that are kind of crappy to use, and they're not super reliable, right? But you need to the pyramid goes the other way, right. And so, we are very aggressive about solving a reliability issue. And then you know, similarly with with usability and then we add on functionality only once feel like the existing functionality is highly reliable and highly usable. So that's kind of the workflow we use for all that stuff.
And so yeah, so you use the NPS thing. And also the I love the very disappointed question. How disappointed would you be? And you know, every time I show that to folks have never, you know, been in this world, they get all like, upset. Well, how, why do you say it this way? Well, there's a reason, right? And the psychology behind it is this loss aversion. Which a signal was like, 10x 10x. Better than Do you like us? Like, I mean, yeah, I'd like to, but like, if this went away, this would, you know, like, if respondent went away, my life would suck.
Exactly. Right. You know,
that's the that's the kind of thing I want. That's the signal. That's the the massive signal. So cool. And then I never heard of rough reliability, user
usability, feature, functionality,
I think it's part of the things like you know, it takes actually a lot of effort to create operational processes to handle all this, like quality of stuff you get from users, right? Because it comes from different. And this is my, my whole company is built on this right. And so I have spent 10 years working on this problem. So now, I think we we tried to do it really well. And obviously, we use User Voice Mail company to do this stuff as well. So but that's it are part of customer care. It's like, how many times people send out a survey or ask for your feedback, and then it just goes into the ether, and you'll never hear from it again. Right? And so it still blows people's minds. And you're like that thing you told us about three months ago is now done? Or like we, you know, fit Yeah, and whatnot. Right? And so that's part of it, right? Like it was in the loop, you can, you can get pretty far with customer care, just by showing up and answering questions promptly. But it's like when you do that next level thing of like, oh, no, like, we're actually going to hold ourselves accountable to like, following up with the stuff you told us, right? Because most companies don't, especially unless they're like an enterprise company, right? For SMB, or certainly a free product. That's kind of unheard of.
Well, yeah, but even even the enterprise guy. Yeah, that's true. Well, but cuz, you know, it's interesting, because I think I think the differentiator in the world is going to be clearly products democratize. Okay, so let's just take that off the table. Second, it's like go to market and getting, you know, the real like, distribution of the product. I mean, that's hard. cost of distribution is way higher, right. But the customer service, to how customer service and marketing and customer success and marketing tie together. If you know how to do that. Well, I honestly think you're going to be way more successful than most. It seems like the right one. Everything is saturated, the world saturated with stuff you have to stand out. And I can't really think of any other better way than to delight people so much that they are like, wow, we need to use blah, or Yo, you need to talk to this guy, Richard. He knows what he's talking about. I mean, again, like it's funny Farzana, you know, from respond to, I've referred so many people, because I just love it. Yeah, one day he sends me No, he's like, maybe we should pay you for this. I don't need well, we'll give you credits. I don't need any I got like billions of Crowley and it's like, well, but you know, you're helping us out. I go, Yeah, but I love what you're doing. And, hey, it helps if it helps me help other people. That's great. And yeah, okay. Maybe when I'm giving you 100 100 leads a week. Yeah, you could pay me for that. But I mean, I just wanted to I'm just think it's fun to be part of the right, like, to your point, oh, I'm part of this, I feel it feels good to be like, I'm part of some change in the world, you know.
And that's why I think we're giving it small bits of equity. And the company has been great, because at some point, it feels weird to get people amazon gift cards, because you're like, now I'm valuing your time. And they they might feel like I'm under valuing your time or like, it doesn't feel as good as it should be like, I want to do this because I believe in this right? We want to give you something right. And so I think that, you know, and we just do it as like advisory shares, right? And you know, as a standard mechanic, and so most companies have two advisors, we have a couple 100 Right. And so it's just a different way of doing it.
I really, I really liked that's a great, that's a great approach. And next company, I started with stealing
before I saw from someone else.
Hey, Richard, it's just been so great chatting with you. I really appreciate the open honest candor, like really fun to talk with you. I'm definitely gonna go check out them.
Please do let me know what you think. Yeah,
I think it'll be really cool. And thanks again. And yeah, stay in touch. Sounds good. Well, thanks so much, Richard, for being on the show. Right after we got off the phone. I actually downloaded it started to use it. So you got me. I'll let you know how it goes. Now, as promised, here are some actionable insights that I learned from Richard Richard emphasizes the importance of making a stand out product He never get a second chance to make a good first impression. He says, that doesn't mean he isn't always trying to improve and make the product even better. Yeah, I mean, it's a bit cliche, but I think it's true. I mean, you're going to evolve your product. I mean, that's just the way it works. You can never be perfect. You know, if you want something that you're not like a little bit cringe about you probably launched too late. But ask yourself the questions, as he you know, what is the first impression I want to make with my product? How can I really be very thoughtful and forward thinking when when people interact with it? I mean, that first impression does matter. So he is right on that. Richard wants to make people love, quote, unquote, his product, not just like it, quote, people don't refer products they like, they refer products they love. And yeah, I mean, that's probably one of the most powerful marketing channels in the world, this whole idea of referral, you know, advocates, right? So ask yourself questions like, How can I get my current customers to love my product so much? That they'll tell their friends? How can you get them on the awesome entrepreneur ethos podcast to talk about it? Right? I think these are important questions. Now. Don't get too bent out of shape. Because again, you're going to be learning you have to, you know, test and learn, test and learn, test and learn constantly. But if you're thoughtful, and you're trying to put that face forward of look, I'm building something that people need, it solves a real problem. People resonate with that. And even if you don't make a good first impression, well, you know, some people can give you a second chance. Fathom is an example of a company that makes customers care, customer care, sorry, an integral part of its business. This is key for making connections and building a loyal fan base. And I'm come around to this idea over the last couple of years of the power of customer service to be a not only an advocate for the customer, and help your customers out, but also being a potential sales channel. And I know people have probably done this a lot in the past. But it really came to light when I was working at sutra with Ravi, the importance of making sure people are taken care of when they buy your expensive product. And you know, sometimes you can't get it perfect right away. Sometimes it's a bit of a challenge. And the struggle is really real on that. But you can learn a lot from your customer service interactions, they're the frontline, right? They're the they're kind of the ones that give you the most raw feedback. So ask yourself questions like, what types of customer service should I provide? Do people actually want to be able to call me, you know, or call the company? How can I make it easier for people to onboard? How can I make them feel like they're taken care of. So there you have it, the actionable insights from my awesome interview with Richard, thanks again for listening, and we will see you next time. Thanks for listening to the entrepreneur ethos podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did creating it. My hope is that you learned something that can make you a little bit better. If you enjoyed the podcast, please do share it with friends and review it on Apple podcast or Spotify. You can also join my email list by visiting the entrepreneur ethos.com To get my thoughts on what I'm doing to get better, as well as what I'm working on. You can also pick up my book The entrepreneur ethos, if you want to learn the traits, values and beliefs that I think we need to build a more ethical, inclusive and resilient entrepreneur, and frankly, world community. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at the Daily MBA. And let me know if you have any questions or recommendations for guests you'd like me to talk to also drop me a note if you try anything we talked about on this or any other episode. I'd love to hear what's working for you. Until next time, keep getting better