The journey of a startup: from Day 1 to becoming Slack’s most popular app for enterprises with Drum

Since day one at Drum, it has been important for us to focus on an area where our users are likely to congregate. Where users’ habits are likely to be similar. The easing-in process would be much simpler and we would be able to gather instant feedback from our users. The place where they flipped email right on its head. Where communication becomes increasingly more effective. And that area is Slack. We use it every day here to tackle product developments, our marketing content and to arrange our Friday lunch (Lunch Train for Slack isn’t such a bad idea!). It just makes sense to begin Slacking more and more each day.

And it’s not just a one-way street: it’s been apparent for a while that the guys over at Slack also like what we do here at Drum. Late last year, for example, we were one of their ‘new noteworthy apps’ for over a month. And, since first launching Drum within the tech and telco industry last October, we have progressed and evolved even further. We have developed our audio to be super HD. We built the Slack integration. And now, we have over 2,500 companies using Drum with nearly 8,000 meetings held in the last 28 days (at our last count). And this year, Slack launched a brand-new category: their grid for enterprises. And guess what? We are now the most popular enterprise app.

We couldn’t even have made this up back in September 2016 when we were just a small team of developers (and one marketeer, hello!) sitting in our office in Brighton. Our offices were based in the quirky Laines, overlooking a primary school (where we would regularly, ahem, benefit from hearing band practice all summer long), and the cobbled walkways through various boutique shops. Inside, the office was a little less glamorous, the 80s polystyrene tiling on the ceiling and the pasty orange pillars kept our eyes firmly on our screens. But then who really starts off in a nice fancy office anyway?

After 4 years of development and several levels of feature advancement… we made it. All while consuming 4,232 cups of coffee (312 decaf), 461 packets of biscuits, countless amounts of crumpets and the occasional birthday cake (Choccywoccydoodah never fails us). In the process, 8 MacBook Pros, 2 iPads and 15 iPhones with 1 Linux user on an Asus machine. (There was even an abundance of tuna tins under one desk although we never saw them being eaten.)

ON OUR WAY
Those cups of coffee, with varying strength depending on who made it, (it’s ok, we still found time to get some fresh air and walk those biscuits off), the introduction of two office dogs, a bright neon Drum light — these were all things that led us to this moment. We’re now a significantly larger development team and marketing team (we’ve doubled in size to two!). Being the most popular integration for enterprises simply proves how Drum can and does adapt to varying environments. And it makes what we have been working towards over the last four months even more worthwhile.

So how did we do it? How did we get here? Success certainly didn’t come overnight. We didn’t wake up one morning and simply build Drum and make it into what it is today. Let’s go back to last year, to just before we launched Drum: we knew it was time. The market was ready for a new way of meeting. We had seen the industry being dominated by traditional solutions that failed to meet user needs. The benefits of a new way to meet online were clear whatever you want to call it — web meeting solution, web conferencing solution or online meeting. These all ultimately aim to meet one need: a quick and easy way to save you money and time, with the additional benefit of helping the environment. This is especially useful for those of us in the UK where public transport is rather temperamental.

TIME AFTER TIME
Timing is always key — it can be everything for a product. When you choose to launch can have a significant effect or none at all, and, of course, we always wanted to have the maximum possible impact. We didn’t want to be like the poor MP3 player, for example, which no-one really knew how to use or had the equipment to make the most of when it was first released in 1997. But then, four years later, in waltzed Apple with the iPod — right time, right place — and revolutionised the market.

So before we could go ahead with the launch, we knew we had to wait for when the timing was right for the market. We just had to sit back and be patient. Minutes, hours and days ticked past and we lost count of the number of times when we just itched to help that commuter or this business person make it to their meeting. The times we saw a meeting host in a local café struggling to join their existing meeting solution. The dreaded warnings of ‘Update required’ or ‘your system does not support this application’. Sometimes it was just the continual frustration of travelling by train (significantly worse when the conductors go on strike, by the way).

But it doesn’t always take a strike to see a business man or woman in need of help. Sometimes, it’s just seeing the crowds of people trying to clamber onto the same public transport. But still, we held back. Waiting, making doubly, triply sure that Drum was ready. Developers spent weekends deep inside the code attempting to fix even those bugs that were thought to be just ‘edge cases’.

THE BIG DAY
But then, on 26 October 2016, we did it. We finally launched. On that first day in the office after the launch we were filled with so much enthusiasm, not to mention expectation for the boards to light up within minutes, to see server loads increase. We hung around, we looked on, eagerly anticipating that very first meeting. It was real bum-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-type anticipation. A moment I can only relate to the moments before England won the rugby world cup for the first time in 2003 when Jonny Wilkinson kicked a drop goal in the final few minutes, or the Patriots’ historic comeback at the 2017 Super Bowl. Real nerve-biting stuff. Then, just like when the points hit the scoreboard at major events like these, we were flooded with a sense of accomplishment — and relief.

We don’t use any fancy names here, such as ‘Code ninja’ or ‘Content Archivist’ (thanks to Forbes for those titles:), but what we do IS a little fancy, a little different, even if I say so myself. We focus on you, the user, and our job is to help you into that sales pitch or product demonstration, or just to give you a way of contacting family back home when you’re away on business.

Times have changed, we are by no means extravagant (out of choice), but our new office is airy, there are clean crisp walls around us, and no more polystyrene keeping us stuck in the 80s. I hate to say it, but it’s what you might imagine a cool start-up company to be like. Halfway towards that ‘ideal’ Google-type office, but without the sleeping areas or the boring-after-one-week slides. We do, however, have solid-oak flooring in our boardroom with extensive stocks of salmon and cream cheese that *always* seems to run out by Wednesday no matter how much we get in (how?).

Seeing what a small group of developers could build and how each and every one of us has stuck around for the entire journey, really adds the personal touch, the sort of love you’d expect to feel for that brand-spanking-new Tesla the moment you drive it into the work car park for the first time. Like all companies should be, we are continuously developing our technology and learning about our users. In a start-up, the story never ends. Each person buys into the company and the product and the tale continues. We enjoy the highs together and we pull each other through the lows (there have been a couple!).

But this isn’t just a win for Drum. It’s a win for the business world with our better, quicker and more economical way of ‘getting stuff done’. Gone are the days of long emails or substantial downloads to achieve this relatively simple thing. Real time is a new time.

Let’s recap on what Drum meeting Slack integration allows you to do:

Create meetings directly within your Slack feed by entering /drum
Set up a no-strings-attached, hassle-free disposable web meeting
Have your meetings in one place for easy and instant access if you have a Drum account