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“The thing we’re really excited about is bringing automation to the masses. We see so many small businesses and so many individuals inside businesses using automation to level up their own skills.” –Wade Foster
Wade Foster is a unique founder for many reasons. He started Zapier as a side project with his two co-founders while working a full-time job. They worked late nights and weekends as they bootstrapped the business until they hit an inflection point. Having only accepted a little over $1 million in funding, Wade kept his focus on customer development and solving for the customer’s problem, which made all the difference.
Zapier is now doing the job of trained developers, connecting back end applications (aka ‘Zaps’) for small businesses that would otherwise have to outsource or hire help to complete the task.
All along, Wade had one idea for the business, “Let’s make something cool that solves some people’s problems.” At the time of Zapier’s founding, Wade lived in Missouri and didn’t want to start a company using the Silicon-Valley route, which dictated you borrow huge amounts of capital to achieve a higher and higher valuation. Instead, Wade stayed focused on the customer and delivering a solution that would make sense for them.
Wade recalls the first customer who paid for a single ‘Zap.’ “The first customer we had was a huge ‘Aha’ moment for me,” he says. Wade explains how that customer needed help beyond the initial Zap that Wade had connected for him. And he wasn’t going to be the only one. It was in that moment that Wade and his co-founders realized Zapier could be so much more than just a side hustle.
Zapier was growing fast and the only way for Wade and the team to keep up was to build out the developer platform. It was this decision that proved to be a massive inflection point for the company’s growth. Zapier now has more than 1,600 apps on its platform and more than 220 employees worldwide. The company — which has always been remote — is still a 100% fully distributed team, meaning Zapier does not have an HQ. But the lack of offices hasn’t had any negative impact on the success of the company. In fact, Wade has made it a point to help other remote teams figure out how best to achieve their goals.
(Check out Zapier’s Ultimate Guide to Remote Work, in which Wade and his team have laid out the fundamentals for successful remote work here!)
Zapier continues to change the way companies scale by allowing small businesses to act like a much bigger company. Where small businesses would normally need to hire a couple of developers to reach their goals, Zapier is filling the gap with a product used by virtually all online businesses today.
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Quotes by Wade:
1:38 – “We started the company as a side project, three people — just me and my co-founders. We had a problem that we wanted to solve for some of our consulting clients. We wanted to build something together because we thought it would be fun.”
2:02 – [On starting Zapier] “Let’s make something cool that solves some people’s problems.”
19:27 – “Hire your former colleagues. By hiring people you have worked with before, it kind of de-risks it a little bit because you know there is a level of professionalism there.”
21:22 – “We’re staunch believers that remote and distributed work is here and it’s here to stay. A lot of people believe its the future, but we live this every day.”
41:54 – “The thing we’re really excited about is bringing automation to the masses. We see so many small businesses and so many individuals inside businesses using automation to level up their own skills.”