Richard White - Startup Mindsets Transcript
8:20PM Nov 3, 2021
You are listening to the startup mindsets podcast, a podcast dedicated to uncovering how mindsets are built from fascinating startup entrepreneurs, innovation leaders and investors. This podcast will give you a blueprint to thrive in an innovation driven and globally connected world. I've been hosting Gonzalez joined by
Earl Valencia, join us to learn about amazing people and their journeys to discover their own startup mindsets. And in the process, hopefully also discovered yours. Here we go.
Whats up guys. Welcome back to start mindsets podcast. This is Episode 38, I believe, super honored to have this guy on the show. And shout out to Steve for connecting with me. And you know, recommending rich rich is a serial entrepreneur. And currently, he is the founder of fathom that video. Really interesting company, they just got backed by zoom fund, Zoom apps fund, and they're doing a lot of great things. But Rich Man, happy to have you here. And thanks for coming in from Miami.
Yeah, thanks for having me.
Well, how are you doing today, man? Like, how's the weather? How's life?
You know, I'm doing that kind of classic nomadic lifestyle thing ever since the pandemic. So, you know, as I was saying, I'm kind of notionally from San Francisco been there 15 years, done a couple startups. But it's been interesting to explore the rest of America. I got to say, you know, it has a lot to offer.
Totally. Yeah. I mean, what a I mean, what, what kind of sparked that nomadic lifestyle? If you don't mind me asking? Sure.
I mean, you know, so we started, we started Fathom about a year ago, before that, I started a company called a user voice back in 2008. And before that, I was working on a company called Kiko, which was the first batch of Y Combinator Fathom sort of user, we started off as remote. And then we got an office. And I think that was one of the things I kind of regretted, because then I found myself spending a lot of time going to the office, right. And so, you know, we started filing in the middle of the pandemic. So obviously, we're gonna start remote, but I had every intention of like, we should stay remote one for my own personal, kind of, like, you know, I think personally, it's just very nice to be able to go anywhere and work from anywhere, but to actually think it's gonna be a huge, huge hiring advantage here in the near future. So, that's it, and how it got started.
Yeah, do you think that, uh, I guess remote work is better than traditional in office work. And I know, there's, you know, this could open up a can of worms here. But me as a millennial, I think that, I guess a hybrid option of being able to have the flexibility is definitely, you know, a key aspect of of any tech job, but what do you what do you say, Man, since your company kind of falls in to the placemat of remote work?
Yeah, I mean, obviously, everything's a trade off. But I you know, I think, especially if you can build it from the ground up as remote, I think you have a lot of inbuilt advantages, especially when it comes to hiring. You know, I think a lot of people that are frustrated, remote, are really frustrated with companies that never really figured out how to be remote. You really have to be really thoughtful and really intentional, you have to be really good at having a lot of good asynchronous processes, right? Because a lot of companies that have an office just rely on kind of ambient information, sharing, right that and so you can't have that, right. But we have to be very intentional about making slack rooms for all the right things and automations that notify the right people and having really good processes. And, you know, even down to things like I have a lot of my team is in North Carolina, I actually own Raleigh. I'm very clear with them. They're like, Hey, can we get like an office together? And I was like, No, you can absolutely not get a co working space together. You will create like inside jokes within you guys. Right? And like that's, that will start eroding the culture.
Well, yeah. Hey, you, I'm sure everyone including yourself, you know, you save rent money, right? Or like office space?
Yeah, you certainly save red money. I think you gentlemen offset that by usually have like a quarterly off site thing, which is usually pretty expensive. Right? So but you don't save as much money as I think you necessarily think you will. Right? Cuz you don't need to still need to have some team ceremonies. But I just think that what's going to happen soon here is I think hybrid doesn't necessarily work very well, right. Like we investigated this a lot in my last company, and it's just hard to have people in office and people not in the office and not have those people that are not in the office get disadvantaged, right very subtly, right. We humans are just always gonna bias towards the humans we can see in front of us. And so I think it's just really hard to scale that and I really think Next spring, there's gonna be a real you know, if you look at all the surveys that come out that every everyone's done, you know, all the employees at these major tech companies, about a third of them won't say remote, a third of them want to go back to Fuller, fully in the office, if there's going to be hybrid. That means, no matter what they choose, two thirds of their people are going to be unhappy. Right. And so I, you know, I'm really excited for us to, you know, you should be hiring great engineers spring and next year, that want to work at a place that was built from the ground up to be an awesome remote culture.
Totally, man. Yeah. There's, it's really hard to say what's right or what's not, but they'll trade off. Yeah, right. Getting into your company. Can you explain to us what fatten is? And you know, how is it different from on my way back home, I was listening to the radio and heard an ad for otter.ai. But I don't know what that they are. And they were saying like, it was like, if you ever have zoom calls or make calls, and they take notes for you, but what is fatten in your eyes? And in the future? What do you see it being?
Yeah, so I mean, oh, very briefly. So before Fatman, his company called user voice, and we were kind of platform for product feedback. And our, you know, we worked with a number of folks, we are probably, if you ever see a feedback tab on the side of a website, that was something we originally innovated many, many years ago. And the whole goal of that company is to try to understand who your customers are, what they're saying, and what they want you to prove about your product. And, you know, it's interesting, if I go back about 18 months, I was still an Add User Voice. And I was doing a lot of new product development, kind of, you know, much like an early stage founder would write and I was doing a ton of customer calls. And like user research calls, I think I did 300 calls in the first six weeks of last year, right? 15 Yeah, like 15 to 30 minutes, like, you know, you kind of deep dive into those problems. And, you know, I think all of us that are on Zoom calls, especially on ones where it's like you're with a customer, you're the prospect, you're doing some research, who's trying to take notes, kind of know how, how painful that process is. But when you do three to six weeks, it's very clear that like, it really sucks to try to talk to someone and try to like her, we take notes at the same time. And then you know, like, those notes don't really make any sense. So after the call is over, you've got to go in there and clean up again really quickly, while you still remember, kind of like what's going on. And yeah, I did that for 300 calls last year and did that whole process. What I found was, you know, two weeks after the call, I still didn't remember like important nuance from that call. Maybe even more importantly, when I try to share those notes or those insights with my team, it kind of completely fell flat compared to me hearing it firsthand from the customer themselves. And so that was kind of the genesis for fathom, which is an app for zoom, which you want to kind of got this a Maps funding, where we kind of real time record in real time, transcribe your zoom calls. But the key thing we do is we give you this almost like soundboard kind of panel, random play Star Trek panel. And so instead of, you know, I hear something interesting on the call, instead of me trying to Hurley type up notes, I have a number of buttons in my app that say like insight, or product feedback or technical question. And I just click that button when I hear something noteworthy. And then Fathom goes through the part of the process of figuring out like, okay, when did this part of the call start when it's part of this call, and and kind of make automatically, like, highlight clips from the call. And so what happens is, as soon as the call is over, instead of me trying to clean up notes, I have like this call recording within about five seconds, it's fully transcribed. But most importantly, I've got the 15% of the call that was noteworthy. I can easily write out my notes, I can jump back to those moments, right at my notes with the full clarity, the full thing, or what's really cool is I can, you know, take that clip and send it to my team, right? Like, oh, here's a, here's a piece of product feedback, boom, here's a 32nd clip that I can drop into Slack and share with my team. And so that's the whole idea, the whole idea of elements, like you know, what's make it less stressful to do a zoom call, because you don't have to, you don't have to remember everything right? Like it's something you've got perfect recall on it, you can just jump back to it and listen to it again. Write up your notes, share with your team, etc.
Yeah, I can see that, you know, being very useful, I think when I was a university student, I mean, I was a student back with a in person lectures but you know, with I guess last year seeing students have to do online classes and you know, having to write notes while they look at the screen and it's such a such a big hassle but I think you know, that problem that you guys are going after is really, you know, something that can be I don't want to say solved but we I mean everyone can just be more efficient with with, you know, online work and meetings, etc. So that's really cool. Getting into I guess your operating style, we had previously talked about you. You know your first company that you created your couch, serve in You were you know, you've been brought up like this lifestyle, you work until you fell asleep with the laptop on you. And then you know, next day you get back to work. I like this example. But if you could tell us like a little bit, what what do you think makes you hardwired to really have this passion for creating software? Just tech in general? And where do you think that came from?
Good question. I mean, I think even as a kid, I love to just build things and make, you know, I made you know, I remember when I was 13 or 14, I was making websites for like PlayStation cheat codes. And remember my parents being very confused at why I was getting 400 ollar checks in the mail every week. So, you know, from and I think I also think I remember like first grade, I used to sell to other kids in the class, like drawings and mazes that I drew. Right. So I think there is like a, you know, I just like building things, Legos, you name it, that kind of was very fortunate to grow up with. And as also very fortunate, I think part of the thing is most fortunate to grow up with is my parents were divorced. So I'd father and a stepfather. And both of those them were entrepreneurs. And so I really grew up with entrepreneurship being like the default. Does that make sense? Right. And so, yeah, I think a lot of people get entrepreneurship in there. So it looks really scary and risky. And I'm like, Oh, I just I just thought that's what you did. Right? That's cool. I'm very, very lucky in that regard. Right?
Yeah. Yeah. No, I love that story. I think a lot of people who have kind of been around and talk to something a little bit from childhood that catalyze the, you know, the yearning for just donating business on your own. Right.
Exactly. Though, I will say I think it was also very fortunate not to lose that because I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, which, you know, when I was growing up was, you know, it's a little more entrepreneurial now, but was not very entrepreneurial. Right, we start from a tech perspective. Sure. And, you know, I went through college and high school kid trying to drag my friends into doing, you know, dumb startup ideas with me, no one really wanted to go for it, because not everyone grew up with essentially two parents that that were entrepreneurs. And I think I was very fortunate that I kind of fell into a group of people in that I end up kind of like joining a company in the first batch of Y Combinator, which was up in Cambridge at that time. And yeah, I think that was the point where I was about to give up on startups and big Well, I guess it just doesn't work. No one else wants to do it. And so you know, I was about to give up on it. And then I found this, this group of people doing it really cool startups out of the Y Combinator office in Boston. Ours was a very famous, but we shared office with Reddit, which obviously is a little more famous, and really fell in with this amazing group of entrepreneurs who have now known that unfortunately, nobody for the last 15 years. And, you know, they say you're the average of your friends, and so really have that community around you of people that are also struggling and pushing and learning and innovating.
Once definitely, yeah. Yeah, that's pretty incredible. You know, you don't we don't meet too many people from yc. Number one, I guess, maybe brag about that sometimes. But I mean, that's super awesome. Yeah. And you're part of yc. Again, last or this year, right, like winner
this year? Yeah, yeah, Fathom is a is a YC winner 21 company.
I did your first kind of go around. I know, you weren't necessarily like the creator of the last company. Or I mean, the original creator, you were there in kind of the early stages. Um, how has like the experience been different from a, I guess, like a mentorship or like a, I guess, just how's
your I wasn't that cool? Yeah. I wasn't a founder on the company Kiko that went through that first batch of Y Combinator. That was Justin Kahn, Emmett shear who went on to do twitch. Obviously another great company. I funny story of that, actually, I the reason I joined that team, because all their TechCrunch posts, and I saw their product, and I just emailed them out of the blue and told them the product was really horrible. Like looking design wise, I was like, is technically a marvel. But design was terrible. And then I said, I'll help you with this right, and kind of push my way onto that team. Which is, yeah, I think one of the one of the better happy outcomes in my life, right, it's just cold, cold emails can can go away. Well, but yeah, so it was interesting. You know, I think that that batch there was seven or eight companies, there's really three of them that shared the YC office in Cambridge, you know, that fast forward to this past batch of winner 21 I think there was 357 companies, there's all remote. And wow, yeah, you know, honestly, it's, it's a trade off, right? Like, you go back to the first batch of Y Combinator. You don't get any points in the world for going through Y Combinator because no one knows what it is. Now it's like, you know, go into Y Combinator is well known thing. It certainly helps with recruiting, it helps with fundraising. It helps with a whole bunch of stuff, right, in terms of just like, social accreditation type thing. Yeah, the upside is like maybe there's over one One, but I honestly think at this point now why C is a? Is it? Yeah. You think about it. It's really I call like a union for startups in some ways. Right? Wow, that's great, great. Kind of like collective bargaining, right? Like, you know, raising money 10 years ago, raising money now it's completely different, you know, used to be you walk into an investor meeting, and they'd be like, Yeah, who the hell are you? Right? I go, do you look at my stuff? No, like, you know, and now the tables gonna turn and all the investors are Yep, super founder friendly. And that's the way to go. And part of that's just the economics of startups. And part of that is things like Y Combinator almost unionizing with startups and being saying, you know, investors that are bad actors are now going to be basically held to task, right? Because, okay, if you screw over enough startups in Y Combinator, you will get basically blacklisted, right? Like, you shouldn't invest your database. Right? Yeah, like that. So, you know, if so I think in some ways, that part's different. Obviously remote versus in person is a huge difference, right? It's a little harder to it's kind of like remote companies versus in person company, right? Like, you can do all the same things. In fact, I think there's a lot of folks that thought you can actually it can be more efficient with the remote version of yc. Because you don't have the commute time, right, like, San Francisco down in Mountain View is like an hour and a half. That's, that's not a great use of your time. But you have to be more intentional about it. Right? Like trying to build those relationships with people your batch, you have to be, like, diligent and in almost disciplined about outreach and building connections, versus viewers all in the same room, you know, three times a week, it happens organically, right? So Right. You know, but But yeah, it's a it's a fantastic experience and a fantastic opportunity. And, you know, it's funny, I was dojos YC, adjacent for 15 years, because I just know some people from being in their own batch. But now I'm actually finally YC official, which is nice.
That's pretty cool, man that congrats. If you could maybe just describe that energy back in 2005. Like, I mean, if I'm asking you to remember something that's a decade ago, I don't even remember what 2005 was like, but
I did. Well, it is funny how everything kind of goes in cycles. Right. And, you know, I graduated graduate computer science, North Carolina State 2003. And I remember them just, you know, everyone be kind of like, you know, you poor suckers, right? Because when you started college, 99% of you had jobs at graduation day. Oh, wait, 20% of you have jobs. It's graduation day. Right. And I remember eating similarly worked in Boston, but everyone then moved to California, because California was just, you know, 10 to 100x. better environment for startups back then. Probably still is. It still showed up in California in 2006. And you'd walk around, you know, Soma, which is now kind of like the tech hub of San Cisco. It was a ghost town, and people would be like, oh, you should have been here five years ago was amazing. Oh, yeah. It's a shame you missed it. Right? No, they know, right. Like, that was just the, the opening act right. And fast forward five years from 2006. And it's, you know, it's pretty bananas and fast for another five years. And it's just ridiculous. Right? So, you know, I will say one thing that is interesting is, like, if I think back to all the people in 2006, that were doing a thing. They're doing a startup thing, you know, they were all doing it for quote, unquote, like the right reasons. You know, in terms of like, everyone, there really wasn't there to be famous. They weren't there to make money. They were there because they just like building things. Right. And they just, they're generally building things. They wanted to exist in the world. Right. And, you know, I think there was a there was a, there was an apartment building in North Beach of San Francisco affectionately called the Y scraper. And like all the early YC companies worked out of it, and it was like Twitch and Dropbox and Weebly script and Xobni, Reddit and on and on and on, right. And, you know, just an amazing kind of environment that not sure you could rebuild again, if you fast forward now, more recently, it's harder to find that right, because you now have still people that are doing it for the right reasons, but you also have other people that are doing it, you know, to be cool. I mean, you know, I had a computer science in 1999, when I started go to school, and I think 85% of the people in my computer science classes, were there because someone said, you know, programming would be a good career for you. Right? They never written a line of code before college in the lives, right. I was writing code when I was 12. Right. So I think there's a big difference between folks to write this is their passion, versus this is their career, and it's totally fine if it's your career, right. But I think that the key thing is like, it's harder now to find the pockets of people that are doing because they would do it for free sort of thing.
Yeah, yeah. I think that's a key element of entrepreneurship, right? Like doing something I mean, at the at its core, you know, creating a creating something just something right, like doesn't have to be a company it could be like a tiny product. I guess it involves tech creating something is is essentially the key that you know how you know any company starts right you start really small you create something and you you know, you get feedback iterate, and iterate. And I guess it just starts with something. So I think that's, and you can't really get paid to create something.
Yeah. I mean, you could certainly be thoughtful about how essentially kind of make you money. And you probably should be thoughtful about that. But I do think it's, there's always a stark contrast between the people that lead their pitch with, you know, this is a billion dollar market, or I'm gonna make a why doing this thing, right? That's a form of entrepreneurship, right? And then oh, shit on it. But like, I think the the creative stuff, entrepreneurship that I've seen we to the greatest outcomes, right? The most outsized outcomes, where if people were just like, I have this problem, or I'm really familiar with this problem. And I just think this problem is to be solved. And I think I can solve it. It was just that simple, right? And then everyone comes in 10 years later, if you're successful and writes this like really like, sweeping vision statement, right, but no one had the dish. No one has any vision statement in the beginning, right? Everyone just has an itch they want to scratch, whether it's their own or someone else's. And so I think that's really the the most purest form of creative building. Yeah, early stage startup.
Yeah, man, I have to echo you there. You know, another thing that I'd love to talk about is your transition from being an engineer to getting into design. And I think, you know, design doesn't get enough spotlight when it comes to I guess, just, or at least it it doesn't as much as being an engineer getting a you know, computer science degree and becoming a software engineer, right, like, what are you? Can you take me through that that switch from, you know, engineering to designing products? Sure.
Yeah, it's one of those things where I think, you know, being great designers also being great engineers, awesome. If you can, in some ways I do both decently well. Right, I'd probably not amazing it either. But actually, in some ways, sometimes like, it's almost like a, you know, DaVinci thing being multidisciplinary is actually really valuable as a startup founder. Right. And, you know, one of the things I've benefited the most over the last 10 years of running user voice was not only did I go from being kind of engineer designer, but I've run a sales team and run a marketing team. And you know, now I'm very multidisciplinary. But if you go back to kind of engineering versus design, I know it's, I think design is something I definitely think there's an eye for it. Right? Yeah. Some people just, you know, for me, it was always just a thing, where I was like, I look at something. And every time I look at something I think about, like, why is it like this? Like, why is it shaped this way? Why is it shaped a different way? And so I think there is a kind of a design mindset that some people are fortunate, like myself to kind of somehow innately have, I don't know where it comes from. Maybe it was all those Yeah, Legos and building laptops as kid I'm not sure. But I knew it was always in it really fascinated me. I do remember one point thinking this much early my career after college, like, I'm a decent programmer, but I'm a classically founder programmer, right? Like I it's 80%, right and 20% of the time, right. But it's not really something you want to depend on. It's all fast and loose. And I'm earned my last company that used to always love to do engineering offsets when they put my coat my old code is example what not to do. It's kind of funny, though, but I do think there is, you know, I remember at one point thinking like, Hmm, I think engineering will get like, outsource before design. Because a lot of engineering tasks can you can write a test case to it, if you write a test case to it. If you can control if you can, like, empirically test the output of the thing, it's much easier to kind of outsource the, you know, the creation of the thing. And it's much harder, there's no unit test for design per se, yet, I'm sure we'll come up with one. And so it just felt like something that was more defensible and more differentiated in some ways.
Was there like a you know, it was? I mean, I'm not sure how difficult it is to, you know, switch from engineering to design or just any discipline, right. But like, for you was that, you know, challenging at first, you know, like trying to, I guess, use new tools. Like, I mean, I guess sketch was in really bad. What was the design tool that you're using?
It's, I mean, it's funny, I think it's much easier to go from being an engineer to being a designer than vice versa, right. Like, you know, I used to design by opening up like a live CSS editor and just literally putting down HTML and just writing CSS until it all kind of fit. Oh, I to this day, to this day, don't know how to use Photoshop. We were starting fathom. And I was kind of getting back into doing design stuff again. I'm not kidding you. I use Google slides to prototype stuff. Like you go, we'll get fat in that video. Most of that, like we had some outside source design helped that helped with maybe some of the visual polish. Yeah, but a lot of the core interactions I literally designed in freaking Google Slides, right. I've since been enlightened to use figma. And now I love figma but, but honestly, it's way easier to learning design stuff. You know, like I said it can you can just draw boxes and arrows, right? I think the core design is not visual. It's, it's functional. It's how do I, what is the optimal way to walk you through a process? With software? Wow. So you can do that with a whiteboard, you can do that with figma. He do a Google Slides, right? That transition, I think, is actually much easier than trying to learn how to program because that there's just a whole body of knowledge, you need to even get started there. That takes hours to work. So yeah, if you're going to be a design engineer, be a junior first and design second.
So I mean, another thing we could jump into really quick is, you are you You were like the creator of one company, you know, earlier in your career, and now you're doing a new company. Is there anything differently that you do or operate? Is there any thing that you've learned from your first go around or early go around to now and how you approach solving problems or building teams? And? Yeah,
that's a good question. How many more hours do we have? I mean, answers question. I mean, it'd be easier if I can tell you exactly. I actually did the same from the first one, the second one, right. Certainly, the second one is a lot more fun. I recommend anything, I would say you should always do your second, start a second start up right after having at least some some motor coming for success in your first one. It feels like a completely different game, I describe it often as like, going back and playing an old video game that used to play, you don't remember where everything is, but you kind of have like a leg up because you've beat it before, right? And you're like, I know, the good sword is in that castle. And the good shield is in that dungeon. And, you know, like, I remember how some of these things work. And, you know, it's really nice that, you know, user voice, my company, I start in 2008, I had to, you know, beg, borrow and steal to find co founders, I had to beg, borrow and steal to find engineers, I had to you know, we were literally lived on a couch for six months, you know, almost, you know, not intentionally, right. It's not what I wanted to be doing. But it was like what I need to do, because we didn't have any money. You know, I started off really focused on a product and then tried to find a team and then try to find a market. Now he kind of I always think you do the reverse, right? You find a market, you find a team, you build a product. So the first time around, we had a lot of people's first time around, right? Like it's scrappy, it's chaotic, it's stressful. Second time around, you know, part of this is the difference between starting a company in 2008 2020. Right? Like, you've got, you know, it's more founder friendly universe now to sort of create but really the benefit second time around is don't have to beg borrow and steal to fight find co founders, like you kind of know, you have a network, right? Same thing for fundraising, you have a network of people that know your work and know your worth and know your reputation know your character and makes that whole process so much easier. And hiring is great. I mean, the biggest honestly, the biggest superpower here is I started Fathom with for the best engineers I've ever worked with, right from day one. And you know, money in the bank from day one. And, you know, that's white years beyond that. It took me probably two and a half to three years to get to that point in UserVoice time. Yeah, and you having a good engineering team, like I have feels like I put on I feel like I put on an Ironman suit every day. Right? Like, i i by myself and the sad week human. But if I put on the suit of amazing engineering talent on our team, we do amazing things together. And that part is, yeah, yeah. I wish everyone could have that experience. But that thing is probably the biggest differentiator between number one and number two.
Yeah, man, I think that, you know, I like every is something about me, like, I tend to think about the last 10 years of technology quite often since not only just being for San Francisco, but just noticing how the world is changing. And I guess like, when I was in venture capital, I'd see these ideas and they're projected, I guess revenue, but also like the projected a new users that they would have, and just how much of a, you know, impact and change on the world that you know, one tiny piece of tech, I mean, not not like one idea can actually change the world. And that is quite mind boggling.
And yeah, I mean, they don't have to be very complicated ideas, right? Like, I mean, again, I can think back to the start of everyone's, you know, that wastepaper story Riley Dropbox and Twitch, I mean, I could think back to the justice all those big companies and they were all simple ideas, right? Like, yeah, drew from dropbox so sorry. He just like was frustrated with like, I think it was like there were some sad papers or something seems like they get them on my laptop. Like it just just wasn't obvious, like backup sync, right, like, obvious. Well, working backup sync turns out it's a more $30 billion idea right by itself. So, yeah, just having a good kernel to start with is all you need.
What, uh, what do you find hard about, I guess this process? Right, like you, you know, you had taught you had mentioned that, uh, it took two and a half years to get to, I guess a significant milestone in funding and I guess, also business side of things. What is the what do you find difficult about is the engineering side difficult is like, I mean, I know this stuff is innately difficult for anyone. But
I mean, it's the thing that has shown the thing that is harder and 2020, right, like, for the most part, fundraising is easier. Even if I think you're even if you're a first time founder, it's I think it's easier than it used to be. You know, but what's harder is, it's not harder to find engineering talent, right? Because there's more competition for it. And what I think's even harder than that, as most of it is that, you know, it's really hard to get oxygen, it's really hard to get get drive awareness of your product, it's really like, you know, it used to be you build a product, you're probably one of three people launching a product that month, right? In the SAS business, and you you always get your you know, you launch it, you can get a TechCrunch post just for launching a cool thing. Yeah, you know, you get 1000 people 5000 people show up your website, like, boom, right? Now, it's like, you can't, no one can get TechCrunch write about them, or very few, you got to really know some, someone pull some strings, it's really hard to get noticed. If you do get noticed, you're one of 50 things they know that user notice that week, right? So, you know, the one piece of advice either, I think depending on what you're doing. And obviously, you're a first time founder, maybe like, you know, the whole like launch early and often thing still applies. But one of the things we did do differently for this time around is rewatched. Wait, like, we literally were in development for a year, we had a small closed beta with users, but we launched wait by startup and even by Y Combinator standards, and that was intentional, because I kind of felt like, you get one crack to make an impression with the user. And we're building a product that is kind of mission critical, right? If you're hiring, if you're you know, if you're hiring My, my, my app, right to backstop your note taking process, and record your calls with time, it's got to work every time. And it can't interfere with your zoom call, right with your the meeting you have with your prospect or customer. So like, it needs to be flawless. Because it's such a, you know, critical real time environment. Right? And so, yeah, you know, so it was very intentional on our part to be like, Look, we're gonna raise money, we're gonna, you know, build a bigger team than most people would have had pre traction, right. And we can, thankfully afford to do that. Because we've got, you know, a reputation of having built things before. But we know we got to build something really good. So we want people are really blown away by it. And because the only get, you know, because the oxygen is so so scarce.
Yeah, man, I think that's another one last are Another really interesting thing you bring up with, you know, oxygen being so scarce, right, like, I mean, do you when I mean, is that I mean, well, you know, for instance, that could be a product of your low funding or low motivation. I mean, either from the team or you, or like, external factors, too, as well. What do you do you know, when this stuff becomes internally difficult, if it ever does for you? What do you think gets you over the hump? Or like what gets you to keep the keep the ball rolling? When it's internally difficult and hard to be motivated? Perhaps,
I think you'll muster just have to almost have to even like, borderline irrationally believing yourself and your vision. And you're like, the problem you're solving. Right? I think, you know, with user voice, my first company, I was actually kind of timid at times and was a little like, are we on the right path? I'm not so sure. And I think the most successful people I saw back then, were almost like, you know, they had no right to be as confident as they were right. They were often 2324 25 years old. But they were just, you know, 100% convinced that what they were doing was the right way to solve this problem. And that this problem is a big problem that you'd be solved. And if you had that just kind of almost like that level of conviction. It makes it easier to push through all bullshit you're going to hit in startup land. Yeah. And you know, I think actually this time around, I feel similarly where it's like, you know, I our Fathom has changed my life. Like I hate getting out zoom calls without it. I feel very stressed out when I don't so like, I really believe in what we're doing. And so it makes it easier to weather kind of the ups and downs of you know, whatever nonsense start playing get thrown your way.
For sure. What are you guys doing? Just curious to I guess, go go to market strategy. I mean, you know, I read it was like a free, you know, beta, or is it just enough Only right now is it anyone like myself can jump in and Testa
at this point, everyone should be able to jump it in use it, you can find that video, it's completely free. You may get waitlisted dependent on you know, we, we're a lot of our traffic comes from the Zoom app store. I think what I was checked, we might be the number one app in the Zoom app store. Oh, cool. So that, you know, anytime there's a new marketplace opens up, right? Like, that's a huge distribution opportunity. And I think I mentioned earlier how, like, with user voice, I thought about building a product and building a team and then finding the market. And now I think about finding the market finding, like, in this case, it really early on, we looked at this and said, Okay, great. We already we get the concept, what we're trying to build, how the hell are we going to get it out to people, and we kind of realized, you know, what, I think there's a unique opportunity here to do something very bottom up, do a freemium model, that hasn't really been done. You know, there are there are some big folks in our space, like companies like going course, but they're doing these top down sales. So, you know, I think bottom up always going to be top down, kind of like scissors and paper. But really, the X factor here was, you know, getting involved with Zoom apps program, you know, getting involved with that launch. And, obviously, Zoom is dominant market player and being able to be hooked into their ecosystem is a huge benefit for us. Like it just puts really puts rocket boosters on what we're doing.
And that's awesome. We left off, you know, with you talking about the partnership with the Zoom apps fund, and that's, that's quite exciting. Just, you know, me being a Jeff KidiZoom, and huge fan of Eric won at the same time. You know, growth, that Zoom also had last year, and in general, it's been mind boggling in itself. But you had mentioned that your company and product they integrate with Zoom. And I know that, you know, being a young upstart, like yours is, you know, you might see zoom, and slack and all those other players as the competition or, you know, potential competition with them having, you know, kind of the ability to create a product, you know, with, with all their money and their tech, and engineering, they could create something like yours, I want to say once he wears, but anything really like that, that comes out of the blue to, to kind of just put an arm out and just resist the attrition or this switches users. How did you I guess, approach fundraising from zoom? And if you don't mind telling us
that cool story? Sure. Yeah. First of all, I think one of the things that's unique about the zoom in this, you know, they always say, you know, startups fall, the culture falls from the founder. And I have to say, like, I have not met or heard of anyone in startup land, who is seemingly so universally kind of like, really beloved, is Eric Yuan, from zoom, just like, you know, an engineer at heart, like Super Down to Earth super genuine. And, you know, I've had not a ton of interactions with him, but like, where I've had, I've been honestly blown away by like, how accessible and how like, down to earth that guy is. And I think that's kind of that is the culture of zoom there for a large company very accessible, very down to earth, great people to work with. And I've now worked with the people cross product and also corp dev and stuff like that. It is interesting, you know, like, we got a lot of investors asking us about platform risk, right? Because not only integrate with Zoom, we are 100% dependent on Zoom, right? We have fully hitched our wagon to two there's Yeah, I can picture that. You know, and then you know, what happens if x y&z So it's a it's a it's a risk, it's a calculated risk. Someone else I talked to describe it, as you know, startups, right, kinda like mice, right? You gotta be careful playing with elephants, right? Because the elephant may not mean to kill, you just may accidentally may step on you, right turning around, or something, right. And so that's true, I probably do work with any large company. But if you can manage to figure out, you know, where's the elephant going. And if you can kind of, you know, finally figure out that you are in alignment. And I think their alignment was in very good right there. They're wanting to build ecosystem, you know, they've got this big, they've got this really big valuation, now they've got sort of big user base, and then, you know, the next step is for the become really this, this really big platform even worse than they are today. And that's one ecosystem. Right? And so, you know, do you have to worry about them, you know, competing with the ecosystem, you know, Salesforce had a problem with this early on, where they would often like take out the top companies in their ecosystem. But then eventually learned that that's like, not a great thing to do. If you want to build ecosystem I think zoom already knows that intuitively and Eric being kind of an engineer himself and again, be genuine person. I don't you know, there's no, you don't question their intentions there. Right? You just be careful to be thoughtful. What I like is what I'm building like very horizontal and varied. Eric Right, you know, if you're building like, you know, a, something that feels like a feature of zoom, I think ours is close, but not quite there. I mean, we are really for zoom power users, right? We're, you know, we're for the people that are doing zoom calls a couple zoom calls a day, right? That's our target user. So we're, you know, and you know, we're doing integrations with a lot of very business tools. We use Slack, HubSpot, Salesforce notion, you know, stuff like that. So, we are specific enough that you think you think, okay, you know, this is not going to be kind of just a horizontal feature that they'll add into their product. Right. Yeah. And obviously, you know, the Zoom apps fund investment, and just the the existence of the Zoom apps Fund, in general, signals you how important is to them to build that ecosystem, right. And so, you know, we're very candid with them about our hopes, aspirations, and they're very candid with us about their hopes and aspirations for the platform. And, you know, you can never there's no promises and startup land, right? Who knows, maybe two years from now something happens, there's new CEO new direction, and they're like, great, we're gonna go go compete with them, because they're crushing it, hopefully. To be, but I you know, it's is it's, we've de risked it as much as one can. Really, right. That's awesome.
I mean, you know, you have such a large definitely some of the, I guess, the funding side of things in the venture side of things. One or two more questions here, before we let you get back to being a nomad is, what advice would you give to somebody who's, they have the product and they're ready to meet the first VC or angel investor? What do you think is something like your two cents? And I mean, this isn't necessarily to be advice, but I guess just what is your, your opinion? Or how do you feel about fundraising? Things like that? I, you know,
I haven't done it like relative to people I know, right? I have not done a ton of fundraising, right? Because user voice was basically profit company for a while for a while, and you know, but now I've had to very, you know, we raised about 9 million with user voice and yeah, I can't say exactly how much we've we haven't disclosed. But it's, I'll tell you, it's over one in less than 10. Right. So like, we, we've, we've raised money with both of those. And obviously, the experience is very different, right. And I think probably the most important thing to remember with when raising money is no one wants to invest when you really need the money. Like people want to invest your like, you don't really need the money. So you need to make sure it seems like well, I can I can get the money from anywhere, right? Or I don't really need it. Right? Those are the two strategies like I can do without it. Or I can, you know, I've got to, I feel confident enough, I can project confidence in my pitch and my product that like, well, if not you someone else is gonna give us money. So storage question whether you want to, there is I will say the thing that is, which I think is one of the most like on it, like the most unintuitive things, probably the most, like unintuitive thing is that, like, no data is often better than some data. So, you know, there's a lot of folks that will, you know, it's like, the classic thing, like you, you launch, you know, you had a good first like launch a good spike, you go to some investors, and oh, that looks good. You know, great, come back in three months, when you've got more, right today, you're almost better off like, you know, raising money before the launch on the promise of the launch, right? Then getting back to data, because then everyone just wants to sit around and wait, right? And see what what's gonna, what's gonna turn up, right. And that, you know, your initial data and anything, whether it's user growth or retention or or monetization is never flattering the beginning, right? So you almost always want to like raise slightly ahead of a milestone, and then as soon as you hit the milestone, right. And that's something we've actually done with fathom, as we've raised almost every three to four months as we've hit it, like over the last year, with a new when we when we hit a new milestone, it kind of like, okay, we hit this milestone, what's what's got to market and raise a lot of money. The other thing I'd say in general is just like I think, you know, especially if you're a first timer. Things like why common air serve to solve one of the biggest problems? And that is just kind of who the fuck are you problem, right? No one wants to know what really wants to invest it on quantities outside of crypto where we will invest in all sorts of unknown quantities, but outside of crypto, people want to invest in, you know, people they know, right? If you're getting started your career, you're not someone anyone knows. Right? Yeah. And your mom is not a good reference for VC. So you know, I think that's, that's the whole benefit of almost it's, again, kind of a union or accreditation, right? It's an early social signal. So I think it's really important to look like all the other investments, right? You want to you want to look like that what all the hot companies look like, what are the hot commercials like, well, you know, they raise money quickly. They've got good teams, but they like go through Y Combinator and they do this and they do that to do that. Right? And so like, you know, it's invested in pattern matching, right? So you want to make sure your pattern matches the standard thing that most people want to invest in as much as possible.
I love that advice. You know, I think that's It's hard. I mean, it's seeable. It's just hard to put into words, I think you did a really good job of putting it into sentences.
I also think it I think funding is like, I used to do a couple different talks about, like startups, and, you know, what it's like, And invariably, the hottest topic is always funding. Right. Yeah. And, and, and I think, you know, honestly, funding is the, like, virginity of, of entrepreneurship, right, like getting funded is losing your virginity of entrepreneurship. Right? Everyone wants to talk about it until, until, like, it happens, right? And then once it happens, you don't really like it just becomes very, like wrote very quickly, right? And, you know, like, everyone who hasn't been funded, like, like, you know, it's like, how do I do it? How do I get there. And then once it happens, even like, when you do eat your first funding round, by the time you actually get the money in the bank, you will be completely unexcited about it almost every time. Because by the time you get the money in the bank, you You knew it was coming, right? You'd already kind of like, if there's no like, someone's gonna surprise you in a field and slap you with a million dollars, you know, you're gonna have a good meeting, and another good meeting, like feel confident it's slowly going to build up like you're boiling the frog. But you know, I think the one thing I was saying to people was like, you know, I love fundraising. I love I love raising money. Because it's very rare that you can get smart, accomplished people to take a real critical look at what you're doing, and give you really critical feedback. Right? That is actually a very rare resource. Most it's because No, no one's best interest your friends, it's in their best interest to like, tell you everything sucks, right? Like, most people are not going to tell you your thing sucks. And most VCs won't say it outright, but they'll say it with their actions, right? And they'll put you in there with questions they ask. And so honestly, fundraising early in some ways, maybe don't go after the, you know, if your goal is get funded by Sequoia and entries, and don't go pitch them first and foremost, write someone like, you know someone else and see what they had to say. And see if they glean and see if they excited if they don't great. They're like stress testing your startup for you in a way that you or your co founder really can't do. Right? Again, YC kind of performance attacks as well. But third parties poking holes in your startup is a very valuable resource. So, you know, sometimes I would say like, ask for money, get advice, ask for advice, and you get money. And so, yeah, whether you get advice or money are valuable to you at an early phase. Right?
That's awesome. Yeah. One last one. I promise a lot. Were last two more things here is how would you? I guess just going along the theme of the podcast with you know, startup mindsets, how would you vocalize your, your startup mindset? And what I mean by that is just how do you understand startups and like your approach to building great products, teams and companies?
You know, a couple a number of ways you can take that. But I think the sick the most important one, which is the mindset, right? There's a lot of people that are like, Oh, my God, I can't we were doing a start up. It's so risky and amazing, scary. I'm like, I don't think so quickly that we start to rally, obviously now at this point, unfortunately, I've had some success. So it gets a little less risky. But even, you know, when I first started off, it never felt risky or scary. And I think that's about getting your mindset, right. And I think before I ever started user voice, I had this really interesting experience. You know, I've worked with the company Y Combinator when selling a company on eBay, not to E bay, but on eBay. This is Justin Kahn from twitches idea. And it's where it's like sold for a quarter million dollars is a whole nother can of worms, really funny stories. But what that did for me is it set me up with like a really good freelancing career, where I actually could freelance either as an engineer or designer and make decent money. And I remember, like living out of like this small apartment in Montana at the time and just feeling Wow, okay, like I can always probably, I've got enough skills here. And now I have enough as ability thanks to exit that I always fall back on having, you know, a livable wage, right, which again, not many people can say that. So if you have, you know, technical skills, design or engineering, you always can get, you know, probably hired in a minute, right? Like if you have some people that will vouch for your senior work. And the second thing that happened to me, I mentioned kind of in the middle of starting user voice, but my girlfriend I broke up and I decided to like without her car and really live in the cars, couch Earth and kept all my stuff in the car. And I actually found that a really freeing experience, right? There was really freeing check. Oh, shit, I don't need almost anything. I've got two suitcases in the trunk of a car. I bought this car. And I'm good. Right? And, again, I had this other backup of if I ever want to, I can break the glass and pull down the fire alarm and go back to a steady job. Right? Yeah, I realized I could always go to city job and gosh, I can work very minimally be fine and be happy. Once I had that those two things were very freeing and let me have this mindset of like it's all upside, right? Like I'd rather pursue, especially early in my career in my 20s I'd rather pursue the like I think doing startup even fails, you tend I see even seems to fail for people as long as they're kind of doing it the right way. They tend to fail up anyways. Right? Someone notice your product, even if you didn't get funded or it didn't work out, someone saw your product, someone was probably impressed by it, or was impressed by your your gumption or your balls on your whatever to good thing. And so good things will happen. Right? And so, but it comes from you have to have this mindset of cool, it's all upside, which I think is why it's harder for people to start up later in their career. Because they, you know, they got a wife and they got kids, they got a house and all this stuff. It makes it really hard. Like, gosh, like, now it is risky to go to start up. Right, right. And so I think that mindset of it's all upside is really important. I mean, I honestly think this is the greatest challenge. Yeah, I actually honestly think of startups as a video game. Like, I love SimCity. And I feel like Fathom is playing SimCity right. And every day I wake up, and it's like, great, what are we gonna fix today? You know, the traffic is part of town is bad, you know, we got to rezone this part, like, just to constantly tinker with all different parts of, of the city and just make it you know, one to 2% better every day. And it's with that mindset of shortcuts. I love to wake up in the morning. And like, let's jump back into it, because it is just, it's the most fulfilling video game you can play.
And that is, that is some awesome advice. I think that that, you know, is a, you know, a lot really does resonate with me, and you know, it's invaluable, man. I mean, can't Can't, can't get around that, that. And I think that it is, you know, really key to, to have a healthy approach like yours. And I find that fascinating, too. You know, having been a couch surfer Nomad, and being able to create a company at the same time. I think that's rather difficult to do both at the same time. But I think, you know, you you had shown that you can have fun with it. And honestly, just, if you, you know, have 100% conviction, you can be successful. And yeah, I think it's great. Well, I think
the biggest the biggest thing kills startups is distraction. Like, I was in New York last week, and all my friends showed does like, I was like, I don't think we'd invest in a founders in New York, New York, just too distracting and fun and cool, right? That's like, you know, early days a user voice I was in like a house in Santa Cruz. There's nothing to do about work, right. And even now, I'm traveling around, and I'm in these great places, but often, I'm just sitting in a room all day working, right? So it's kind of ridiculous, but like, distraction is the only thing that really kills you. Right? And so in some ways, simplifying your life, and even traveling, so long as you can do that without distraction works really, really well.
I love it. You know? How can how can people find out more about fathom that video and I guess yourself and how can they become used to that?
Yeah, fathom that video, is the website and go on there. Again, it's a self service signup takes about two minutes. You know, it's, again, it's completely free. So I would love anyone listening this to give a shot. Especially if you're you know, you're in that that startup that really scared startup mindset. And you're you know, crying and through customer calls, you're trying to share your team or just remind yourself of what held I talked to you about everyone out? i You can find me on LinkedIn. I'm also on Twitter are white at Twitter. Feel free to reach out to me on probably more LinkedIn than Twitter. And it'd be happy to help however I can.
Thanks, Rich. This has been an honor man. And I can't say enough about the work that we've done over the years. And I guess just this whole conversation has been a great learning experience for me as well.
Yeah, it's been a lot of fun. Thanks again for having me on.
Hey, that's another episode surmises podcast. Thanks y'all for listening. Shoutout to y'all. For you know, messing with us for 40 episodes deep, the st. Animas. Yeah, definitely tell a friend tell your brother tell your sister about this podcast and yeah, I mean tears entrepreneurship and, you know, people grinding on their own ideas. I hope you got value out of this episode. And yeah, give us a follow on Instagram. On Twitter, a great piece