Are you a work at home Rockstar? Or do you dream of becoming one? Then you found the right podcast? Your host, Tim Willemsen talks with successful work at home rockstars to learn their secrets and help you in your journey. Are you ready to rock? Here's Tim.
Hello, and welcome to today's episode of the working home Rockstar podcast excited for today's guest. He is the founder and CEO of fathom. And what they do is they've got an app that helps remote teams take notes automatically during their zoom meetings, so they can focus on the discussion at hand. Excited to be rocking out today with Richard White. Richard, you ready to rock?
Red Rock Tim? Ready to rock?
Good. So let's start off on a good note. So tell me a story of success in your business that we can be inspired by.
Early in my career, I you know, I think I was really interested in doing this like one, this one sort of idea. And then I saw that it someone kind of launched that idea. And I was kind of bummed my coworker at the time showed me this like news clipping musical Be sure means is going to see this article online. And instead of kind of like, getting rejected by that actually cold emailed the people that built that, or building that app. And I emailed them and said like basically like your product is like, technically really impressive. But like design is really bad. And I want to be a designer and I think I can help you. And actually, you know, I was kind of just a random quality manner. And turns out, they actually read it then responded. And I ended up like working with them for you know, good amount of time. And actually, that was a company it was in the first batch of Y Combinator, which is like now this pretty famous, she's fun seed funding organization. And it kind of made my career. That's kind of how I met all the people I know now and you know, got me into startups.
How, okay, you cold emailed somebody, a potential competitor, and ended up working with them. That's really, really cool story. Right on. Okay, so then, you know, that worked out really well. But sometimes things don't work out well. So we do talk about the bad notes. So tell me a story of something that didn't go as planned on your journey and how we can recover, avoid it.
Yeah, a couple years after this, I had started another company called User Voice. And we were doing decently well, we raised some money. But we were, you know, one of the classic startups where we were spending more money than we make every month. And that was fine. We kind of had a plan. And I had delegated all of the finances to my co founder and just said, Okay, you're in charge of this, I was the CEO, but I was like, What I don't like doing finances. I like I like just like, you know, I'm like a designer, I just like making pretty software. And, you know, so we're bringing money, bring money, Team find some fun, I think I remember at some point, I was like, it feels like our bank balance is lower than it should be. I don't know, I didn't really follow that thread. And then, I think one day actually was like, you know, dug into finances myself and realize that my co founder had like, like, Miss estimated something like very wildly and we were actually like, on a trajectory to run out of money, like in a few months. And it was kind of like this, you know, like, I don't I don't have ever panic more my professional career when I say oh, my gosh, like, we were gonna go out of business. And because I just just screwed up, right? We just got the math wrong. And thankfully, like, we're able to get some some folks that put in some extra money and like retooled a number of things. But a the lesson I learned there was more things your business, like, you know, your finances, you can't delegate someone else, or you can delegate, but you have to, like, trust, but verify and check their work all the time. And I think in general, I've seen that where a number of things throughout my career I've done I don't like to do like marketing or finance or whatnot. I can delegate to other people, but I still have to I can't just complete the checkout or that part of the business.
Yeah, you need you need at least, you know, regular reports from that business. I mean, that's what a CEO and a big old company would do, right? They have their people and then those people sort of report with the, you know, the summary. Summary, I
was so young, and it measures it sounds like you've got it right. Even thick to ask for these things. Exactly.
Yeah. And I mean, I think I think you are kind of demonstrating the opposite of what a lot of people on this podcast and even listening I do like a lot of people have a hard time delegating, you actually went and got and delegated quite easily to people, which is really impressive.
Yeah, like over have delegated. Yeah.
But that's it's a really good lesson because it's one of the reasons why people have a hard time delegating is because they want to be involved in everything. And you you can't be involved in everything, but you've got to have some sort of idea of what's going on. Right. So like, where would you find the balance?
Yeah, I think about being I call it being like, I think the terms like T shaped right, where it's like, you know, I'm a couple inches deep across all the disciplines, right marketing, sales, finance, you name it, and then I'm super deep on one discipline which for me is like product or product design and how we build the product. And so I think it's, and I think most of the founders I talked to have the same sort of like T shaped right, where they're kind of generalists. They have their domain of expertise, but they're, they've kind of learned over time to be generalists. So they're, at least they have enough background, to have the conversation with the head of marketing, the head of finance the head of sales, and not completely not have zero idea about like, what the other person is saying to them. Right, I think it's kind of important to you understand how all the pieces kind of work, even if you're not, you wouldn't be an operator of those pieces yourself.
Yeah, and, you know, part of the main topics on this podcast, really, is that when you do become a business owner, or even self employed, you tend to wear all these hats, of areas that you might not have expertise in, like finance, or like, marketing or like sales, right. And I mean, you know, you might get into business, because you're really good at, you know, this skill. And think, hey, you know, I don't need to have a boss, I can do this myself, and you end up having to do all these other things, right. But that's a good thing. Because if you learn how to do all these things, even though you're not great at them, you at least have an idea so that when someone tries to, you know, when you try to hire somebody, you know what you're hiring for it, because that can be a challenge, too, is hiring somebody to do something that you don't know how to do, right?
I think that's like the hardest challenge, right? When you're getting started. And, you know, I think my original strategy for this was like, Okay, I'm just gonna, I'm not even trying to do it, I'm gonna immediately delegate and hire someone to do this role. But what evolved to do is like, I'm going to try to do this role for a little bit just so I like I have to get in there and get try it myself, right? Am I going to do an A plus job? No, I'm probably gonna get a C minus job. But at least then I'll have an appreciation for like, what the levers are and how this thing kind of works. And then I'll be so much smarter, when I do hire someone to do the a plus job for me.
And the other thing is, you'll be a lot more grateful for what this person is bringing to the table. Because I know, as a service provider myself, you get that quite often that people don't understand what you go through on a day to day basis. And they're asking you things going, like, why don't you just put that up? Right? Yeah, no problem.
That's a good point, too. Yeah, I think it was much better person to work for or work with, because I had some appreciation for like what that job entailed.
Right on. So now, we talked about fans, and I suppose you know, nowadays with social media, they audiences everywhere. But but I'd like to make a distinguished, distinguishing between what an audience is and what a fan is. And so how do you go about, you know, converting the audience into a fan? Or how do you go about even getting the audience in the first place?
Yeah, I mean, I think so we are with fathom, we kind of had a very fortunate situation where, you know, we're building an app for zoom. And then zoom, announces, they're building out the small Chase whole new marketplace for apps. And yeah, those types of opportunities only come around every so often. And so that was a great way for us to kind of bootstrap kind of the audience, if you will, right, and get a bunch of folks trying our app for free. But I really think a lot about how to build fans, because I do think not enough companies, I think so many companies just think about getting users, like, oh, we just want people using the product. And I don't want people using a product. I want people like loving the product. I don't want people liking it, I want people loving it. And so, you know, I mean, one is first and step one is like, you have to build a great product, right. And for me the hack for that, as always, I've always built products that solve problems that I personally had. And so it's like, if it really crushes the problem for me, I have some confidence that Oh, like crushed for other folks and obviously do research and stuff like that as well. But obviously, it's a big, great product. But I think the other two things that people tend to miss is, we also try to pair a good product with a really, really good customer care. And so I think, most free products, it's impossible to like contact anyone and get any help with it. Right? It's like, there's always just like, oh go to the knowledge base are they like trying to like hide from their, quote unquote, users. And we really early on invested in, you know, making it a really good customer care team make it really easy to make them accessible, making sure they're incentivized not to just give the most, you know, pat answer, but give a really detailed answer, instead of us even jump on the phone with you and talk you through it. And I was talking about giving five figures, like five figure support for $0 product, right? So that's one half of it. And then the other half is really when you do find people that are, you know, kind of power users right, that really love the product that are you can tell are telling their friends about the product, like find ways to get them, you know, to bring them into the fold. So we actually have a thing for Fathom called Fathom founders club. And after we see people get to a certain level of usage, if we're talking to them and super excited about it. We invite them to join this club. And of course, we like send them out like swag and stuff like that. We summons big boxes, like shirts and hats and whatever. But we also give them a small piece of ownership in the company itself. And this is a kind of a new idea. I've seen a few companies do, but it's still pretty, like, it's still pretty rare. And so a lot of companies have advisors and we just look at our using our power users as advisors. And we treat them as such. Because they're giving us good advice about how to make the product better. They're telling their friends, and it's been kind of a huge, you know, huge success for us so far to have kind of this like, army of fans, right? Very similar music, right? Where you can marshal to like, go tell their friends rally folks online, just keep water buzz up?
Yeah, I mean, your best salespeople is happy is happy customers. Right? And it's funny that you say that, because it's like, it's, it's kind of like coming full circle with how you contacted a company, because of, you know, as some of you would have been probably a power user to them, you know, and you actually ended up bringing a lot to the table, which makes sense. I mean, people who are big fans of your product could bring things to the table, right?
Yep. And we've had fans turn into investors, you know, we've had, you know, it's there, it's, I think, probably the most important resource, right? It's not enough to have just like, people that like you, right? In this day and age, there's so many products out there, people really need to love you. Yeah.
And you said it like this day and age, there's so much competition in just about every market, that there's going to be something that distinguishes you from everybody else. And like you say, the customer service, hey, I know what you're talking about. Because I mean, there are some apps, you cannot get ahold of whoever you know, wrote it or did it. And it is interesting that you say that because I'm a developer myself, I do. I do development for websites. And I actually contacted an App Maker, because there was a feature that I wanted, and it didn't do, and I was like, so I sent it to them to them. And turns out he did it. I was surprised that he responded back. But this is awesome. Now I have a really, really cool feature that I'm going to use on multiple websites. And I've also sent it to him. And now he'll be able to probably promote that same feature, because no one else offers it. That's why I asked him for it.
That's a great point. I think there's one, like one level, it's like just doing good customer care, like solving problems. But it's also another level of like, oh, you actually have a good system internally for like how to, like manage and organize product feedback. Because most companies don't like most companies, you fill out their survey, you tell them that approach to their product, you never hear anything about it. And it's funny, in my last couple of years, I spent 10 years on the problem. So like, we've got a really good process for that internally. But it blows people's minds still, when you're like, you know, if you're on a survey, and two weeks later, like, oh, we built that, you know, the thing you asked about in your survey response, we've actually built it right. And, you know, most companies just kind of drop that on the floor just goes gets filed somewhere and you know, never sees the light of day to be able to like tie back. You said this. And because you said this, we did this. That's a big game changer, I think for most people's experience.
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100% cool now, so let's talk. I mean, we're, this is a great segue into the next topic, which is talking about the band and talking about the people around you. I'm wondering like, what is your approach to, you know, to building that, that that band around you? And actually, what was the first thing you delegated? That would be another question for
you? Oh, that's a good question. You know, it's kind of changed throughout my career, right. I think, you know, early on in my career, I was more hands on, like writing code myself and pushing pixels. And first things I delegated, obviously, like I told you, like finance and marketing, all these other kinds of aspects. And now it's actually kind of like inverted, where I actually, you know, now that I've worked with a number of good developers over the years with fathom, you know, but perhaps pretty, somebody's voice. I started I wrote code kind of day one myself, I have a friend that started doing that with me, and we try to find people do sales and marketing for this company now that I've got, you know, spent 10 years in market and no good developers and stuff like that. I actually first delegated the programming. And I focused on doing all the other little things that I learned over the years to do like I do, you know, couple of just even marketing sales and whatnot. So I delegated out customer I'm here and actually engineering. And I've stayed on marketing and product design.
Interesting. And I mean, I can speak directly to that, because that's something that I have not delegated. And I've considered delegating multiple times. But, you know, it is my genius zone. So I'm having a hard time dropping the genius Jones zone and giving it to somebody else. But I think you're onto something. Because if I did, I mean, as a business owner, I mean, I've had discussions with people before, like, what is the CEO supposed to do? Right, what what is their main role is? And actually, I can ask that to you, what do you think are the main roles of a CEO that they should be doing in their business? Well, I
think a lot of ways to fall on the bank concept. It's almost like you, you play the music with the with the band members you have, right? It's, it's also kind of a, it's not a like, Oh, I'm definitely gonna delegate this, because I don't want to do it. It's okay, well, who do I have around me? Who can I get to join me on this mission? And then I kind of like we, you know, we kind of figure it out based upon that, right. And I think if I didn't have great developers to delegate to or if that was still my, my superpower, I think my superpower is product design. And so I have delegate that with, I've got some folks that I collaborate with, but I still own that. And so it's a little bit kind of like, where are you strong, where you weak, I think you should always stay, I think one of mistakes I made, my last company is I got out of product design too early, and let other people just completely come in. And they didn't have the same vision I did. So I don't know, I kind of resonate with the stay within your genius zone, if that's the thing that like you wake up in the morning really want to do. Like, the whole point of doing it your own businesses, like you get to do the things you want to do. So maybe I wouldn't delegate that. But depending upon who I had available, I would find those folks to work on the rest. And then what I think the C is supposed to do, I think the I think the most important thing is, is creating shared context, making sure everyone on the team understands the whys behind what we're doing. I think most people focus on like telling everyone what they should be doing. And not enough time telling why they should be doing this. Because when you get a good group of people around you, you get much better outcomes from them, when they understand the why. And honestly, if they understand the why, though, they'll figure out the what if they're smart enough, right? And they're what might be different than your what would have been, or you might combine together and come up with like the better answer. But I think that's the hardest part. Because you always have kind of like this full omnipotent view. Generally I'm like what's happening and how all the pieces should be working. They don't have that. It's easy to forget that as a CEO, it's you have to be very intentional about finding all sorts of ways to be like, Oh, my gosh, I need to spend time making sure my team all knows what each other's doing and why they're doing it where we're going. And when.
Wow, love it. Yeah. And and I agree, I mean, it especially like you said, you have really good people around you, you don't need to tell them what to do. There's a million ways to do the same thing. So the way you do it might not be the way that they might do it, you're really wasting your time. You know, let them do it the way they want to do it, as long as you get the right result out of it. And like you say, I mean, if you give them the right reason to get that good result, then they're going to work harder for it. Right? Yep. Yeah. And it's funny that you said something about the, you know, depends on who you have around you. A music story and I've read it in the book is that when the Beatles formed, Paul McCartney plays all instruments, he's a very talented musician, and he was back then as well. And he ended up picking up the bass because there was so many guitar players. You know, he ended up being the bass player for the Beatles only because not because he wanted to, he would probably prefer to play piano or guitar, but there was no bass player. So he did it. Right. He filled in on the on the gap that was there. That's amazing. Cool. So now how about So speaking of jamming, and practicing and all that stuff, you know, we talked about the jam room is the home office or wherever you get your work done? Tell me how you have found a place to work, you know, over the years work from home.
So since Shayla I might take a pretty, very different tack on this than maybe most most folks you have on this podcast. At the beginning of both of the companies. I've started user voice and now fathom, I spent at least a year most recently have almost two years kind of living nomadically when the company started. And so rather than having like one space that I go work in, I actually my whole challenge though is how do I find a place to work? I don't have a good workspace anywhere I am. So there's a few kinds of things like one is like I always focused on making sure I had like a good internet connection. Me Back in the day. It was like I had like these like my Fi's. Now I make sure I can tethered to my phone. I actually travel with a good microphone because my team is fully remote. And I actually find that it's the difference between listening you know, I'm setting context and my meetings all day talking to folks about what's happening and hear having good audio for those calls just makes it so much easier to listen to me for hours than not. So I like my travel kit is the battery pack So I have a battery pack that can like do two full charges on my laptop, I have my phone, which I can tether from, I have a microphone with me, I usually bring a like, memory foam seat pad. And I also make sure I like actually never use an external monitor. And this is also a really weird thing because back in the day, I would have a home office that I would sometimes stay at. And I found when I had external monitor, I get used to like, all of my, you know, my like productivity was based around how I use this space, right, I get really addicted the extra monitor. And I found that whenever I went traveling, and was like working from a car or working from an airport, I wasn't as productive. And I actually get easily frustrated because like, ah, oh, I had the big monitor, I'd be so much more productive. So I almost had just like for a while to give up use extra monitors because I couldn't deal with this kind of switching costs between those two experiences. And then I just got really good at working on a small screen and like got some apps without me like have multiple desktops and that sort of thing. So it's been an interesting challenge. I think for the last few years I was nomadic around the Southwest I did calls out or like the passenger seat in my car, you know, think of virtual background at times. I actually traveled with a tiny little laptop desk that had wheels it was like standing desk and and honestly just worked from a lot of couches and Airbnb s and so got really good at like looking at Airbnb listings and be like, Okay, there's a good couch I can sit on. Oh, it's got a recliner, even better, it's got a view even better. And so kind of get good at figuring out like, what is my happy place? Am I happy places, sitting on a soft, comfy chair that reclines walking out on some view. That's where I'm most productive. So that's kind of my that's my jam room.
I'm experiencing that exact same phenomenon. I've gone to the two monitors, but a year ago, and now anytime I have to do something on my laptop. It's it's frustrating. Really frustrating. Yeah, I feel like you've got to move this over here. And I can't move it. Yeah.
So good call it makes it makes you not want to like you just don't want to do it. So I get home now right now. Ah, it's just not an option. I gotta get this done.
Yep. Yep. So I guess it depends on I mean, if you want to live that life of going to coffee shops and traveling around and work from a laptop, then it's probably better to not have a situation where you're frustrated. Right. Exactly. Yeah. Because you're gonna bring that into into the work as well. Right? Yep. Wow. So now the mic do you have so you just put that into your into your laptop then? Yep. Right on, look at that. That's awesome. And it is
also a directional mic too. So like when you're traveling, and there's some, you know, noise outside, right? It doesn't pick up any of that, right? I don't think I used to have to like cancel meetings or moves nursing. Oh, there's someone jackhammering outside or whatnot. Right? And so directional mic is key.
Yeah. And the I mean, the laptop cameras are very good these days. So you don't really have to worry too much about that. It's mainly just the mic that you're thinking about, right?
Yeah, I do also travel with like a little ring light. Because like, yeah, sometimes the lighting in these places is terrible, right. That's the other piece I would bring.
Love it. Love it. Great, great advice. So now it's time for your solo. So tell me what's going on in your business that you're excited about.
It's I mean, we started this company 18 months ago, we launched just under a year ago. And it's you know, I think the first six months, you know, it was kind of a struggle. And like we were we learned a lot about, you know, how to make the onboarding process better, and so and so forth. But now we've hit our stride. And, you know, it's amazing, when all the pieces come together, and you see all the graphs start really going up and to the right. And so we've been growing like 30 to 40% a month for the last four or five months. And it's it's just really fun, you know, has brings its own set of problems. But But yeah, and yeah, I think I wake up every day, mostly excited about getting emails, we have a Slack channel called Boom. And boom is where people post just like video clips from fathom, or like, you know, screenshots of emails, where people are just a few sort of excited about the product. And I always found that far more exciting than like, even making money, right? Like the idea that people love the thing you're building. And so I feel like we're finally hit our stride where we've got tons of people who, you know, a lot of people are on Zoom calls these days, right. And a lot of people have the same experience I had on Zoom calls, trying to take notes, either on pen and paper, or trying to type up notes on a Google Doc, while you're talking to someone, that process sucks. It's not like, it's not fun to try to talk to someone. And like also being really afraid you're gonna miss something important when you're like talking to a customer or client. And so, you know, with that, I think we're not just making a free product that people love. But we're actually making people's lives a little less stressful because now they can jump on these calls. 1000s, recording it, transcribing it, giving them easy way to like highlight the important parts of the call. So you just have a conversation. And people seem to love it. It's changed my work life. So it's just fun to see something that like was an idea in your head two years ago now manifesting something that that is really kind of game changing.
That's really cool. So So So what you're saying is that you have you somehow interact with Zoom and you're transcribing the call as it has happens. Yeah, I know that for me, I use I transcribe the calls from all these podcasts afterwards using something like descriptor, whatever. So this would basically take a step away.
Yep, yep, it'll record the video, record the transcript. And then one most fun thing is like, if it has the ability to like, while you're on the call to basically like annotate. So if I was talking to you, you're a customer, I'm interviewing you. And you said something really interesting, maybe a piece of product feedback or something I know I want to share with my team, maybe you got really excited, I can just click a button and Fathom and Fathom will basically clip out that portion of the call, like highlight that, and jump back to it after the call, I can take it, take that clip, send it to my slack channel. And so it kind of also makes these video calls even more than a transcript, I can just take small snippets of the audio video and send it to the right places, my CRM, my slack someone's email. Wow, that's
amazing. How does that work? How do you do that? He's just a button or something? Or
yeah, you should we just have a little desktop app. So when you the Fathom app is with your desktop app, or Zoom app, and we just have a thing that's listening all the time for who's talking. And so just pays attention to the transitions in the call, right. And so when I hear something important, it like rewinds, back in time to figure out when that person started talking, listens for when I start talking again, like he says, Great, here's the video clip for this. And, and I think that's great, because transcripts are cool, and like kind of helpful mnemonic. But actually find like, the tone, like seeing the person's face, like all that stuff, like hearing the actual conversation is, is the killer feature. Right? It's so I, I be on the receiving end of notes for my team. And going back to like making sure you have shared context in your team. You know, sharing some notes, recall is one thing, but when you can actually share, hey, here's like a three minute highlight reel of this call I had with a customer that then gets really everyone on the team aligned and understanding, you know, and excited. Wow, I love it. I'm gonna try. Please do?
Well, now. So I'm now curious. So you have a free app? So where does the business make money, there has got to be some sort of upgrade or something, or?
Yeah, so we find that, you know, we want it we want anyone to be able to use it as an intro for free. And then we're we're making our money is when we see it spread within a company. And you know, someone in management wants to use it across their team. And then they're like, you know, I want to aggregate all my team's calls. So I can search across all my team's calls and be alerted when you know, someone mentioned a competitor or some sort of, you know, interesting moment happened, right. And so we never ask individuals to pull out their credit card, we're asking kind of like, managers and executives,
really, and so what you're doing really is your, the, the individual gets a benefit of, you know, automatic transfer transcribing and all that stuff. But when it comes to an organization, they get the benefit of, of searchability, you know, making their teams work more seamlessly together and getting a better picture of what's going on in the organization.
Yeah, it's like, you know, handoffs, between teams, right, someone bought the product, now they gotta handoffs, this customer success here, watch the highlight reel of the call. So you can really understand who this customer is. Someone's ramping up and learning, you know, the business, great watch, watch these calls with this customer or watch these clips. And then, you know, it's also fun stuff, like, again, tying it back to like, how do we get back to the right place in New York, right, here's a stream of all of the feedback that we're hearing from customers on calls are all the objections. So, you know, I think we're finding that most people's business are run on this year ends and most of their serums are filled with notes. And we'd like to replace that with video clips of customer calls go in the right place. Very cool, Richard. So
how do we find out more about this?
Yeah, it's Fathom dot video, so not.com But Fathom dot video, and if you go to fathom dot video slash pod, you will get the product nearly for free, but you will make sure to skip our waitlist. That's we do and wait. Let's see we have about 40,000 people on the waitlist right now. Because we've got more demand than we've got ces folks to service that so if you go to fathom that video slash pod, you can skip right over that.
Love it. Thank you so much for all this and for rocking out with me today, Richard, there's
been a lot of fun to have. It's been fun. Thanks for having me. Cool to listeners. Make
sure you subscribe, rate and comment. We'll see you next time on the work at home Rockstar podcast.
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