OK, so I have to be honest. When I first heard of Zapier and checked out the website, it took me a while to figure out what they actually do. A bit embarrassing for a tech writer, right? Luckily, I found a great explanation on the site, and instead of me trying to explain it to you, I’ve decided to let co-founders Brian Helmig, Wade Foster, and Mike Knoop speak for themselves:
“Syncing data on the web has always been a pain. Either you did it by hand or you buckled down and built it yourself with an API. If you weren’t technical you had few places to turn for help.
That’s why we built Zapier.
Zapier is for busy people who know their time is better spent selling, marketing, or coding. Instead of wasting valuable time coming up with complicated systems – you can use Zapier to sync the web services you and your team are already using on a daily basis.”
We caught up with Wade to talk Zapier inspiration, quitting his day job, and why he loves Hacker News.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Zapier started at a Startup Weekend in Columbia, Missouri. So once we knew this was the idea we were working on the team got down writing code and I spent about 10 minutes finding a decent name that had an available domain. Since we were doing integrations and used lots of APIs I thought it would be clever to fit API in the name. I came up with Snapier. We could cleverly call the integrations snaps so it would work great for branding.
About a month later we came across another vendor with snap in the name so we switched to Zapier and now integrations are called Zaps. It’s better and shorter anyway so I we’re lucky that we got to change our name.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
Every day I have a list of 3 things I like to accomplish from the night before. The first thing I do in the morning is one of those three things. I do that before checking email, twitter, our support tool or anything. This helps me make sure I’m at least getting one important thing done every day.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
When we started the company it was myself and my two co-founders Bryan and Mike. For a year it was just the three of us. But we recently got enough revenue and funding that we’ve brought on two new employees: Micah does support for us and James helps architect the Zapier backend.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
One of the biggest things I struggled with was the decision to quit my day job and go full time on Zapier. I was really nervous because the revenue wasn’t there yet, but we started having a lot more demand for our service and more customers that were demanding support during the day. I was kind of bored with my day job too and really wanted to be doing Zapier full time. But any first time entrepreneur will know how scary that leap can be.
Luckily, my boss at the time who is now a mentor and investor in Zapier, recognized this and gave me just the push I needed to jump into Zapier full time. It was definitely one of the best decisions I ever made.
How do you handle frustration?
Frustration is a daily part of running a startup. Whether it’s inbox overload, a disgruntled customer, a late project or an anxious investor it’s definitely easy to get overwhelmed. The key I try to do is have a list of 3 things I want to get done every day. And then just finish those 3 things. If I do that then I can feel good about my day no matter all the other things happening.
I also try to spend time away from my startup. Every night I like to have dinner with my wife which reminds me there’s a heck of a lot more in this world than what’s going on in my little corner.
What’s your office environment like?
Most of our team is remote so it’s pretty tame most of the time. Everyone has headphones on listening to music and cranking out code or blog posts. From time to time we’ll crank up the tunes though and let loose a little more.
How do you picture Zapier in 5 years?
Zapier is already the easiest way to connect hundreds of web applications online for anyone. In five years though, there won’t be a web application that can’t be connected through Zapier.
Who or what inspires YOU?
I’m always inspired by people who are risking their lives to do the impossible. Growing up I read every single book in my elementary school library about space. Every single one. Being able to go to space is something every kid dreams of, but very few people actually get to do it. For that reason I’m a huge fan of every single person on the list here.
How’d you fund this venture?
We bootstrapped the product from Oct 2011 until May 2012. We then applied to Y Combinator and got in which provided a small amount of seed funding. After Y Combinator ended we raised a larger seed round that should sustain us for the foreseeable future.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Focus on getting customers. There’s a lot of buzz around MVPs, but unfortunately MVPs don’t pay the bills customers do. We started by charging every person who wanted access to the Zapier beta $100. This provided a small amount of money, but more importantly it provided proof that this was something people valued and would spend money on.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)?
Wow this is tough. Since my current startup is exactly what I’d be doing with or without money it’s hard to pick. I’d likely spend the year traveling, writing and improving my coding chops in preparation for my next startup.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now?
I’ve always defined success as a current state of mind. I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing at the current state in my life and I’m happy doing it. By my definition I’m successful. If you define success in terms of money or fame then I’m still working on that.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Zapier of course.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
I’m someone addicted to Hacker News so I’ve tried just about every Hacker News reader app under the sun.
Dogs or cats?
What’s the greatest thing about Zapier?
The best part about Zapier is that we let people do work from wherever they are. Most of the time that’s in Mountain View, CA or Columbia, MO. But as of writing this we’re in Mountain View, CA, Columbia, MO, St. Louis, MO, Jefferson City, MO, and Chicago, IL and the company is churning along great. In fact, often times we are more productive when we can be by ourselves to create awesome things.
Where can our readers reach out to you?
The best place to do some online dancing with me is on Twitter. I’m @wadefoster.