Taking Zoom meetings like a pro with Fathom (YC W21) founder Richard White
The below is a full (unedited), machine-generated transcript of a Youtube session / podcasting episode I recorded with Richard White, founder of UserVoice and Fathom.video in Q2 2022. You can view the video/listen to the podcast on Youtube, Apple Podcast, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.
Erasmus Elsner 0:20
All right. Welcome, everybody to another episode. I have a very special guest with me here today, Richard White, who has been part of the first YC batch, and one of the last YC batches. So he’s been through the full arc of startup life in Silicon Valley. Seeing, you know, Paul Graham in the first batch with Jessica Livingston, still cooking the meals too. Now with this being obviously, huge batches. So welcome, Richardson. Really happy to have you on the show here.
Richard White 0:50
Well, thanks for having me.
Erasmus Elsner 0:52
And to give people some chronological background, you’ve been a builder, a product engineer, a startup founder a couple of times you started as I mentioned a while ago in 2005. I think you were with Justin Kahn and Emmet the Twitch founders part of the first YC batch working on Kiko back then you’ve since build user voice. And now you’re working on fathom, maybe just give us the quick intro, the cliffnotes. Who is Richard? And what’s sort of your background?
Richard White 1:20
Yeah, so originally, kind of a classic kind of computer science programmer did actually a lot of like, website building in like high school and it worked in high school, and then went and got a computer science degree. And then kind of early my career actually with Kiko kind of transitioned into being what I call like a design engineer. And so I ended up doing a lot of product design work. And that’s actually how I ended up working with Justin Emmett on basically the startup before Twitch, is I kind of like cold emailed them and says, your product is really cool, but its design is pretty garbage. And let me help you with that. And probably one of most impactful emails in my life. And so yeah, so worked with them for a bit for a minute there and Kiko, which is basically Google calendar before Google Calendar. And then yet after that transition to doing user voice, which was kind of, you know, my, my baby for 12 years, from inception to where it is today. And so, you know, and that was a similar role kind of product design programming, the early days, and then more recently, transitioned over to fathom. But yeah, I think the common thread through all these things is I really like building I really like building first of all, what gets me up in the morning is not revenue, but like people using things I build are things that build by proxy through great teams and things that are kind of like productivity driven that, you know, I had an opportunity actually to join Twitch is one of the co founders back when it was Justin TV. So even though I passed on that opportunity, which is probably a mistake in retrospect, because I was like, Oh, this is so far from kind of like my my productivity a happy place. Right? It was Justin strapping a camera to his head. And I was like, I don’t see a real design problem here. I see a lot of problems here. But I don’t see design problems here. So yeah, you know, builder designer, kind of, you know, corner, a designer, if you will, right. perfectionist and yeah, kind of lifelong startup guy.
Erasmus Elsner 3:35
Love it. And you talked about it in the past that you had a couple of those cold emails. And I always say don’t ask don’t get people don’t send enough cold emails, I think you were reached out cold to to Justin, and Emmett back then then you reached out also to become part of the Zoom programme. How do you think about these cold emails and how you have to phrase them that people actually respond?
Richard White 3:58
Yet to see I’m very much like a internal focused kind of like CEO or builder, right? Like I, I did, put my head down or like write code or work on the product. So it always takes me out of my comfort zone to do one of these. And it’s usually my thing of last resort. So for example, you know, we got into the Zoom Apps platform, where we’re now the number one app and the Zoom app marketplace. We didn’t, we weren’t originally invited to that programme. And in fact, I asked a bunch of people like for intros the right people. And eventually, kind of as like, almost like a last gasp attempt was like, I’m just gonna cold email the person who’s charged his programme and give him my best pitch and see if it resonates. I do think it’s this is like one of the hidden secrets of Silicon Valley that a well written, like, clearly personalised, clearly thoughtful, like cold outreach, email goes a long way. I know when I get those. You know, I always feel like even maybe it’s for karmic reasons. Like, I’ll read it, right. I mean, I’ll do what you asked me to do, but I will definitely take the time to like read it and consider it and I don’t think most people realise that that I get a bunch of like, really lazy ones, right? Just kind of like, clearly mass produced sort of blah, blah, blah. When they get things that like, are clearly personalised I take the time.
Erasmus Elsner 5:04
Yeah, I absolutely love that. Going back to the very beginnings with Kiko talk a little bit about that experience. I think I heard Justin Kahn talk about how the Google calendar was enhanced shortly after they had started the project. And that was sort of a killer for them. And then, you know, Justin TV came talk about these early days, the first time at the rodeo, and, and then how you transitioned to user voice.
Richard White 5:28
Yeah, I, you know, I did a bunch of startup stuff on my own. I grew up in North Carolina, which actually where I am today, because I’m travelling, I grew up, you know, I kind of grew up doing sort of stuff myself. And I actually, I think, was pretty much getting burned out on it. Because no one in North Carolina really couldn’t find people in North Carolina that wanted to do that sort of thing. It was like, Oh, maybe I just need to go work at IBM. And so I was really thankful that I like, you know, this, this, you know, random chain of events that got me working with Justin and Emmett and working out of the Y Combinator office, which at the time was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, right outside Boston, and across the room from us was Alexis, and Steve, for Reddit. And then Aaron Schwartz was there and a few other people were there. And so in one it was, it was just really exciting to be around people that had the like, had that like startup energy. They were like this. This was like their default assumption, right? Yeah. I was very fortunate. I grew up with a couple parents that were both entrepreneurs. And so like, my default assumption was always like, you should be an entrepreneur. Right? Not you should go get a job. And I’ve, I think maybe that’s why I’m a really bad employee. But it’s really exciting to fall into a group of people that also were default entrepreneurs. Seemingly. Yeah. And so then we start working on Kiko. I think, you know, I think we often say like, oh, yeah, like Google Calendar came out, of course, we like folded up shop. But I think the real answer there was, I remember being in a car ride with Justin Hammett. And we were kind of searching for direction. And I won’t blame them or be like, have any of us used a calendar before? Because we were all like, 23 to 25 at the time. And I remember like, we were like, No, and that was like, maybe we’re not going to be the people to make a billion dollar business, no calendar given that we, ourselves don’t know the problem. It’s funny because user voice was almost, you know, the, the inspiration for user voice was like, Reddit for customer feedback, that a lot of ways. And it came from me watching the Reddit guys do what they do, and thinking about how could you use that for customer feedback. And I thought about that, because on Kiko, I struggle with customer feedback, because because we had no internal, like real vision for like, exactly what the product should do. We were very externally focused on what do users think it should do? And very quickly, you know, I think we had like, 5000 daily users. So very quickly, it was, I can’t possibly keep track of all the signals coming in. And that was kind of the genesis for what’s do something like read it for feedback. So I can at scale, understand what people want from me. But I think one of the things you know, since then, like User Voice fathom, I also did some, like open source projects that were really great in terms of like honing my programming skills, but also getting me connected with great programmers. But all these things were unlike Kiko, I was building something that I had the problem, right. And I feel like that’s also like a, as someone who exploring productivity stuff, a real hack, just build something that like, oh, I have this problem. And then I find out later, like, turns out like, I’m not alone, a lot of other people have this problem, it just makes, it makes the process so much easier when I don’t have to completely put myself outside my room
Erasmus Elsner 8:17
Completely agree. I mean, people talk about founder-product-fit these days. And I think there’s just too many founders who were chasing, you know, verticals or ideas that that are “fundable.” And if you go one level deeper, you see that all they want is to quickly scale it quickly sell it, thinking about the exit from day one. And those founders who are really passionate about the product and experience, you know, the the pain themselves, it’s easier for them to build a great product, it’s easier for them, to scale it and to credibly stick with it for a long time through the ups and downs, I would say. And on user voice, I looked into it. And as you mentioned, the first sort of announcement press announcement described it as the Reddit for customer feedback. And you talked about sitting across the Reddit guys in the first YC batch, I think TechCrunch describe that as a focus group for companies that can’t afford focus groups. And then it seems like there was a second iteration or let’s say, a second version of user voice, which was this feedback video, talk about sort of the product, how it emerged and how it sort of transitioned over time.
Richard White 9:22
Yeah, so it was interesting, because this was during a phase where actually, I’ve a bunch of other little projects never really got out of the incubation phase. And I actually had a partner at the time, this guy, Lance, and him and I were doing like we would do like, three months of consulting work. And then we do like three months on the startup idea. And like the consulting work would pay for us not to get paid for that sort of idea was enough to like incubated idea. And in the first iteration of that, we worked on this like time tracking app that I was building had built inside of swim timer. And then on the second iteration, we’re building user voice. And so what was really nice is that we had this like pre built test harness because we had this like other app and it had enough users be interested. And we were like, well, we kind of know, we kind of know what the top feedback is from this community because we’ve been doing this. But like, what’s this a test, like, set up a user voice, like, plug it in, like, you know, dry, like, put a bunch of ads inside the app saying, like, give us your feedback, go to the site and fill it out, right and vote things up, and see if it actually can, like replicate the knowledge we have from like, many, many months of working on this. And so it was a nice little test harness. So we did it. And I think we were shocked that like within 24 hours, like, oh, my gosh, we have like the top 10 list of most requested like, features and problems. And so we kind of were like, Oh my gosh, we’re on to something. That’s why we like wouldn’t be on a three month window and kept building on it. But very quickly, we realised that people weren’t getting same outcomes. We weren’t they weren’t getting this great, like 24 hour experience, right? We’re like, you turn this thing on, immediately, you have this wall for feedback. And we realised that most people’s default assumption was, okay, yeah, I’m gonna get some feedback. I’m gonna put a link in the footer of my website that says feedback. No one’s clicking that right. Like, you know, the there’s been links and footers of websites say feedback since the dawn of the internet. And they almost always went to places where it didn’t matter. Right? It was kind of a catch all for like the noisy Karen in your in your customer base, right. And so we were like, just one weekend work. So you’re like, how do we? How do we fix this? Because it’s, it’s an on ramp problem, right? Get people to the site site performance while the app performs well. And we were just like, let’s just put a big red button, click on the side of the page, it says feedback. That’ll like really shock people be like, Wait, what’s this tray, like, there’s something above the fold that’s like big and red. It’s this feedback. And that was, yeah, it was a very simple idea. And it really worked well, in terms of like, broke people’s mental models and got and really like 10x Generally, the number of meta feedback that people would get from their user voice just by deploying that there’s a lesson there about like, you know, building things IP that you can’t really defend, right, like now you it’s trivial to rebuild one of these tabs. If you look across the internet. Now, there’s tabs on the side of all sorts of websites, but further for window there, it was, just us doing it. And it was like a really impactful thing in terms of fixing a core, the core mechanic,
Erasmus Elsner 12:06
talk about early traction that you had, and I think you you quickly on boarded major logos major clients, managed to what is nowadays called Fun strapping that you raise a small seed, and then basically be able to be profitable, and fun, strap it for a while on a smaller seed round. And then I think in 2015, you raised a Series A as well, some of the half a million series a talk about the whole journey in the last couple of years.
Richard White 12:35
Yeah, I mean, I think in a lot of ways, I said that can be for 12 years and waterways, it was like three different companies, you know, there was this company in the beginning, which was very much kind of bottoms up freemium model, and we were completely free. And to get started, because there was kind of this like, virality to the products, right, people that used it, you know, if if Company X set up a user voice and and you were a user of company X products, and you wouldn’t give feedback on that, you would then be like, Oh, that’s cool. I want one of these for my product. And so we intentionally went after what I call builder communities. We went after, you know, design tools and developer tools. And at that point, like early social media tools, so we had, it’s gonna take me over like things like TweetDeck, right? Like the one of the top like, Twitter apps, we had Stack Overflow was a bigger one, right? It was a big one, I think StackOverflow itself, generated, like 4000, other user voice accounts, a site staggering amount of accounts, right. So we had this intentional strategy, where we’re gonna give away things for free just to like, get it out there in the wild. And then at some point, we’ll pivot and like add on premium features. And so it grew quite rapidly. In the beginning, I think, you know, money were roughly 40% per month. And that allowed us to secure that the funding, you mentioned, the 800k, which, you know, at the time wasn’t really a small seed round, that was kind of like a pretty standard seed round right now. It’s like a micro seed round, right? By modern standards. But in 2008, that was pretty normal. Yeah, so we had to be sharper with that kind of speed. And then we kind of pivoted monetization and everything went pretty well, like we actually think got to a million dollars in revenue, million dollars run rate in like 10 months after turning on, on turning on the paid plans. And so it went really well. But, you know, there’s kind of this to zoom back out and kind of like there’s almost like this, that phase where it was like freemium selling the startups. The problem is startups had like high high churn, like potential numbers. And so then we kind of like, actually kind of pivoted, almost like customer support for startups. And we’re kind of like, you know, a Zendesk competitor for a little bit, and then completely just got out of selling startups and just found out like, this is not like actually turns out, you know, we had a problem, like, user voice was built to actually solve a problem where I’ve had a couple 1000 users and I can’t understand them. And back in 2005, to 2010, because there weren’t a lot of startups. Yeah, you could get to five that that 10,000 users, right. At some point, it became like people would launch their products and they’d have 100 people on their website. And I bet you don’t need a tool to like help you aggregate 1000s of voices you’ve got you can count on On three hands, all of your users, you should talk to them. And so there kind of became a sea change, we kind of looked at the markets and well, who has a lot of users? Well, turns out, it’s like Microsoft and Adobe. And so we basically pivoted the company again, and went back to our roots of focusing on product feedback, but focusing on it for more established or high growth companies. And that’s kind of where it is today. And, you know, it’s actually an almost like an act 3.5, or went to focusing also on like, feedback from internal teams like success teams and sales teams, whatnot. But so it lived a lot, a lot. But I think, you know, it was we raised that a kind of on that last transition to we finally figured out oh, we’re, we’re actually I’ve been marketing enterprise company, we’re not necessarily a startup company, the value for startups is like, to well,
Erasmus Elsner 15:41
super interesting, that notion of you had sort of three different startups in one or three different companies in one, you know, starting with the, let’s say, bottoms up, go to market motion, really like product led growth before PGL was even a thing. And then, you know, catering to other startups, and then, you know, going upstream to the more corporate accounts, and to the larger companies. And what’s your involvement with the user voice today? Are you still involved? You’re obviously still a founding shareholder. But what’s sort of your day to day? I mean, we mentioned in the beginning, you’re actually in the offices of user voice. But other than that, what’s your involvement?
Richard White 16:18
Yeah, so I’m actually on the board. I’m the chairman of the board for user voice, we able to kind of promote within the setting that Young, who is our originally kind of our VP of engineering to basically be the new CEO of user voice, but two years ago, and you’ve been doing a fantastic job with it. So that’s also kind of an interesting transition, too, as you know, what is it like to turn over the keys to your, your, you know, your first car sort of thing, but again, say like, Yeah, I kind of wish I’d done it years earlier. Right? Like, it’s, you know, it’s one of the things where I think you have to do it for 12 years, you’ve kind of, you’ve pulled out all the tricks, you know, and sometimes it’s time for like a fresh perspective on stuff. And that’s what Matt has brought. And so it’s been been quite nice, and obviously allows me to focus on on something new and fathom.
Erasmus Elsner 16:59
Yeah, I think you mentioned it in the past that some of your peers in Silicon Valley, let’s take Justin Khan he has had for startups in the timeframe, right.
Richard White 17:06
I think he’s actually had four startups this year. But yeah, like he said, for like, majorly funded startups. I think now we’re probably on five. But yeah, I think to most of my friends, it’s a strange comparison. Because yeah, they’ve I’ve been it’s one thing, it’s almost like I’ve been travelling at a different speed, did them write it with three wives while I’ve been on this one. But, again, that’s owing to the fact that really, it was like three different businesses. And I always asked myself at the end of every year, am I uniquely qualified to, like lead this company? And is this company uniquely qualified to teach me something 11 out of 12 years, the answer to both those questions were Yes. And I think that’s because I did get a lot of exposure to top down bottom up, like, you know, what, I ran the marketing team for better and the sales team for a bit, and a lot of what we’re doing at Fathom wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t really have that context of really understanding. You know, I’m someone who kind of likes to do it. All right, always understand how to do it all to at least like a you know, 60th percentile, kind of like a passing grade, just barely. And so it’s us versus like a very warm, kind of like finishing school or B school for me in startups.
Erasmus Elsner 18:09
And now transitioning to fathom, you build that company, in the midst of the perfect storm for video conferences, at a point where everybody was just word of the next couple of weeks, and basically getting coffee in the morning. How in the hell did you decide this is the time for me to start fresh and start something new.
Richard White 18:29
And what’s funny, I think you think I saw a tweet or LinkedIn posts from you talking about like the dissatisfaction cycle of like Silicon Valley, where it’s like, founders want to become VCs and VCs want to be influencers. And it’s funny, because I think most of my friend group, most folks have now kind of or not most, but like a large percentage of them have like, either their companies have grown up become really big, or they matriculated into kind of like being a VC. And it’s weird, the VC path, it’s like never really interesting whatsoever. And near the end of user voice, we did some things where I I got a taste of like, starting from zero again on some new products and new projects. And I was like, completely reinvigorated. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I forgot. Like, I really love just pushing pixels with a with a small team. And so let me try to get back to that. And, you know, and some of the inspiration came from somebody, somebody’s voice where we were working on new products, and we were doing a lot of I was doing a lot of zoom calls myself, I was doing a lot of user research, I think, beginning of 2020, I think the first month in 2020. And for six weeks, I did something like 300 Zoom calls for user research. And I was like, in the service and so the product we’re building, and but the process of doing that I was like, Oh my God, this like trying to take notes and talk to people things really terrible. Like, I’m single threaded, right? As soon as I have to like, type out my notes like, my face goes like expressionless, my mouth stops moving. It’s very awkward for all involved. As soon as I kind of like came on that problem was just thinking about some of the shifts in the engineering landscape, right, like transcriptions become more commoditized. There’s now is pretty much a single Video Conferencing Provider, there’s a market leader in video conferencing in a way that hadn’t been done before. There’s actually like good API’s yada yada and was like, we can really do something here and built out some, some prototypes and got really excited about them and just got really high conviction very early on, because again, it was a problem I had. And then we build out a prototype that like, didn’t quite solve my problem, but like, solved it enough that I could be like, Okay, I think if we keep following this thread, pulling this thread, we’re gonna be really on to something. And so it never really felt like a risk. And honestly, it’s like the pandemic was almost kind of this weird kind of orthogonal backdrop, because our target users a lot of ways were sales, customer success, people doing a lot of customer calls, user researchers, they were already on Zoom, right? Like the pandemic moved all of our move everyone’s internal meetings on Zoom. But we always thought customer meetings were more important. Like we’re getting more like, more where we were going to succeed anyways, so it kind of just, yeah, it was this nice thing that everyone now is on Zoom. And zoom has a lot more money to invest in these types of programmes. But But yeah, it was just this weird, kind of like, we’re doing a startup, and everything sounds weird. But you know, everything’s weird when you do a startup anyways, right? There was ever a time to hole up in your house and like, just work on something non stop for like, 80 months, right?
Erasmus Elsner 21:14
I can fully relate to getting reinvigorated if you dive back into building product. And it’s sort of this honeymoon phase in the beginning, when you have the first version that MVP out. Every weekend. It’s a new iteration. It’s a new feature I’m adding I know this feeling. That’s what I’m trying to say.
Richard White 21:29
Yeah, it’s it. It was also exciting. Because it was different this time to write like, the first time around user voice. It was like, I’m writing code, I’m falling asleep on my laptop every night. And this time around. It was I started with, like some of the best engineers I’ve worked with over my last 15 years, right. And so it really felt like I was speed running a video game I’d played in the past. And so like, that also is exciting. We’re just like, oh, wow, like, we think it and like, put a few pixels down on a figma. And two days later, it’s real, right? And we just were moving a lot faster than I had before. Because I feel like startups are, like, starting and you’re frustrated because I’ve been dropped into Minecraft for the first time, right? Like, I’m like, I don’t know what to do. Right? Like, you know, versus like, you know, after watching couple hours of YouTube videos and getting dropped into Minecraft and being like, cool. I know exactly the first 10 moves of the game here,
Erasmus Elsner 22:20
right? Absolutely. I love that. And you know, every time it gets quicker, you have the playbook you have the team in place. Let’s talk about the core product of fathom. On a high level, it is a note taker for zoom. But it is not a plain and simple transcription app, it is a smart note taker. So it lets you highlight important parts.
Richard White 22:39
So Fathom is an app, a free app for zoom, to record your calls, transcribed your calls, and gives you this helpful control panel to highlight the important moments of the call. So instead of trying to reach my keyboard and type up some notes, when I hear something interesting, I simply click on one of these customizable buttons. After the call is over, you get instant access to the call recording your transcript, and all of the parts that you highlighted, so that you can go in and write up a note, an auto generated call summary you could share with your team. Or have that call summary automatically synced over to your CRM.
Erasmus Elsner 23:13
It’s available on the Zoom App Store, but walk us through the core features of fathom.
Richard White 23:19
Yeah, so we we started off with basically just like, can we, how can I get the like recording, and we actually do this, you know, my experience originally was like, I’m on these all these calls. I’m like furiously typing notes. And not really typing notes. I’m like typing like mnemonics randomly, like one word things that like, right after the call, I have to go back and like flush out and I have like a 10 minute window where my brain will remember, like the nuance of what that person said, and I can kinda like flush out my notes. So it’s kind of a high stress thing, right, like, talk and type. And then after the call, like time sensitive task, cleanup those notes, make them make sense. And then share them with the team. And honestly, you know, the first two steps are like a personal pain. But the third step is kind of a shared, like needle payments, like I’d share, you know, you 300 Zoom calls, I like, I get really excited to hear a lot of amazing, like anecdotes and insights, I go compile these notes, take a lot of spend a lot of time compiling it put in for my team. And my team just goes, okay, and kind of shrugs, right? Because like, a lot got lost in translation there. And so what we started with was, well, can I just like, you just give me kind of like a video editor for my Zoom calls. And so we said like, Are you cool, we’ll like download, we’ll record it using Zoom cloud. We’ll download the recording. And then I can go back in and just like pull out snippets of it and show it to the team. And they did that. And that worked pretty well. Like it was a lot better experience for them. Right in that like okay, hearing a 32nd clip of customers and excited is is way better than my notes. But from my perspective, it wasn’t for those first two parts of the problem. It didn’t really work. Because I had to wait one zoom cloud recordings take like 15 to 30 minutes sometimes like a couple hours to get there. So like now I’ve got to Wait hours after the call. And then I’ve got to go into the call and be like, Where was that like, important part, right? So I’ve like, created a new kind of work, where like, my net amount of work is kind of the same, that I’m just doing different work. And I think, you know, humans are like, if we’re going to change behaviour, it needs to be like, an order of magnitude better experience, not like, slightly better. And so we very quickly realise, okay, we need it to be, we need to get the video faster. And I remember telling the team, I was like, cool, we need to get the recording within like, I don’t know, a minute. And then we got to a minute, I was like, still not fast enough, probably need to be there within like, 10 seconds. And I remember, you know, this is one of those things with the it seems like that’s not possible. But eventually now he had to like, we get the recording within five seconds. And that was still pretty good. So now I don’t have to wait to do it. But I realised I still have to go back in and like review the call. And the last thing I want to do for dual call is like review colleges hat. Right. It’s terrible. So that was kind of a big thing for us in the moment. So what two things. One is, most of the call doesn’t matter. Right, in fact, is born out that we found that like 80% of the call is not highlighted by our users, right? They only highlight like 15 to 20% of calls. And so it’s really like, how do we find what those appointments are? And right now, I think I think long term AI can figure that out. But right now it can’t, right? It’s too personal use too personal use case too personal too, like that whatever relationship exists on the call. And so we said, well, what if we just give you like a single button to click whenever you hear something like, oh, this part of the call is important. And then we do the work to like, figure out when that part of the call started, like when it ended and like walk off that. And so now, what happens is like you’re on the call, here’s an important you click the button, and then you go back to just having your conversation. And after the call, within five seconds, there’s the recording. And critically, you can jump back to, here’s those three to five to six segments that you said, this was where the nuggets of gold were jumped to them, right your notes, get the clip, send it to Slack, shipped your CRM. And so that’s kind of how the product has evolved to today.
Erasmus Elsner 26:58
That’s exactly the point I was going to bring up next, which is sort of finding these nuggets of gold. I mean, I create content for YouTube. After every YouTube session, I go back I edited I create chapters, it sort of requires me to listen to everything again, and structured afterwards. And oftentimes I have some chapters prepared in advance so I can sort of structured on the basis of that. But let’s say you’re someone who has an open call reference call in a project that you’re working on. And you don’t know where the nuggets of gold are. What’s your sort of thinking around the the perfect customer persona for fathom? I think you mentioned in the past salespeople have very structured sales processes. What’s the thinking around that customer persona as well as getting to the nuggets?
Richard White 27:44
Yeah, I think most people actually do know, like, they know what they’re looking for in their conversation. And so they kind of know, what’s, what’s going to be interesting, important to them, or to the team they want to share this call with is a good thing. It’s like, they know, we don’t really think it’s really hard to abstract that and generalise that maybe at some point, we can’t on a roll base. But yeah, I think we’ve worked quickly learn in this kind of our hypothesis going in that it’s external calls, right? Because if you have an internal meeting, it’s good to have that recorded to there’s some value to that data, but you’re not likely to be like, let’s pull out the segment of us debating this thing and rewatch that again, right? You’re going to do more synthesis in the call. And it’s also an internal call perfectly fine for you to be like, Hold on, I gotta write up our action item from this, right or Omi, what’s our takeaway, or takeaway is this great. It’s a very different motion. And so we really focus on where are people doing a lot of external calls, customer calls, vendor recalls, you name it, right? Because that’s where, gosh, it’s a limited resource. I can’t get this person back on the phone, probably or not very easily, right. So if I miss something, it’s kind of gone. Right? Especially in sales can’t be like, Oh, I zoned out for a minute. What did you know, send a follow up email, I zoned out. What did you say there? Right. So it’s a much higher stress environment. And also, it’s basically the coalface that everyone in the org wants to see, right? So they learn to use your voice, right? I think I told you, like the end of user voice, we kind of pivoted on relativity, but like added on this whole other layer, which was not just direct to customer feedback, but feedback that comes by proxy through sales conversations and success conversations. And we found those were super valuable. There’s like, a lot of like, interesting stuff happening there. And everyone wants to get access to what’s being said on these calls, but no one wants to watch, right? Multiple hours or so many hours of this call is generated every week everyone wants but what are the nuggets of that? And so from both a presenter perspective, but also like, where’s the most interesting conversations happening in the organisation? It was always kind of external facing that’s, you know, you know, being on an app marketplace, we don’t get to 100% choose who the people who signed up are, but certainly we found that the that those groups you have a high number of external calls are much more successful.
Erasmus Elsner 29:51
Yeah, that’s interesting, because it brings me to my next point, which is, you know, indulge me for a moment here. I’ve been thinking a lot about remote organisations. I think oftentimes In large organisations, they drown themselves in meetings. And for new joiners. I think the first couple of weeks or month are often trying to understand what was said in previous meetings. I think Fathom in that sense could be, you know, the perfect productivity tool for companies. And maybe you’re using it already internally to basically structure and optimise on internal meetings on internal note taking and for new joiners, as well as people who are not at meeting to get the key takeaways from it. What’s your thinking around how Fabin could fit into fully remote companies?
Richard White 30:36
I think a lot of foldermill companies like like ours, actually have a lot less meetings. And I think it’s important to draw a distinction between like, intentionally remote, like, intention remote from the get go versus like pandemic remote. Right. Like, I, I think a lot of you have experience with now working remotely, but you’re in these companies where they kind of dragged all their in office like ceremonies and protocols into remote work. We have only one all hands standing meeting per week, I only have like, three standing meetings on my calendar every week that have more than one person in it. So we actually have very few meetings. That’s another reason why I think we haven’t focused too much on internal because we think that a lot of these, there’s so many times where it’s like this meeting could be an email, or a womb or a Slack message. And I actually think that’s like, really helps with the scalability organisation, right? Because meetings in some ways are really kind of like lazy communication medium compared to a really thoughtfully written Google Doc, or word or whatnot. And so we really push ourselves, we use them for our internal meetings, of course, and we do use it to like, take notes and share things, but we mainly do it when people are out. And we’re a small team or small folks that like that doesn’t happen super often, I always inconsequential ourselves like, how do I cut more of these meetings? Right? How do we, how do we have less meetings? And more? You know, asynchronous communication
Erasmus Elsner 31:58
Makes a lot of sense. And when you’re personally using fathom, what is sort of your mode of operating? Do you know, okay, I’m gonna chitchat a little bit in the beginning, have some small talk, and now we’re getting to the juicy bits, and then you know, exactly when to push the record button or basically highlight certain features. What’s your day to day use of the product?
Richard White 32:19
Yeah, I tend to just kind of like, use our like, auto record, and just like have it recording the chitchat in the beginning. Because again, I think, you know, the tooling and having ability to highlight like, I’d rather just some, it’s easy to forget to turn things on, right, like one of things we’ve learned, it’s kind of makes it exciting product to work on. Because it’s a really like, people, the cognitive load is already high when people are using our products, right? Like, because they’re in a Zoom meeting. And being at a video Zoom meeting requires a lot of like, our CPU power, right? It’s very easy to forget to do things, it’s hard to get people to remember to like, get into media, and then start recording. And so as soon as like an on call, it’s recording, I have like an email that gets sent out to people at a time, hey, that’s gonna be recorded. And they can opt out of it if they want to be recorded, or they can tell me and I can turn it off anytime. So that part’s easy, and most people don’t care. That’s actually one of the challenges like everyone thinks everyone’s worried about being recorded. No one’s really worried about it that much. Unless it’s like some sort of like, really like, you know, you’re talking to your lawyers about something nefarious, or the various adjacent, I have it just kind of come on as soon as I generally start a call. And yeah, and then kind of like I hear something interesting, my brain has been trained to like, go click that big button in the right corner, and then just keep talking and don’t even think about, you know, I don’t think about trying to write the notes on it or anything I got it. Like, I can feel confident that I can come back to it later.
Erasmus Elsner 33:37
And then the next phase of the product is the sharing. And there we talked about the product, lead growth, motion and User Voice already. And you have a lot of integrations, you have integrations with Slack, you have integrations with Salesforce with HubSpot, talk about how crucial these integrations are, for the product and in building the product, how they are used on a day to day basis.
Richard White 34:02
Yeah, I mean, I think, for our product, like integrations are a kind of P one concern, right? They are a core part of the product, because no one wants, like another tool, they have to deal with it. Right? And so we kind of want you to live in Fathom while you’re on the call inside zoom. But after that, we almost look at ourselves as like a waystation. Right? It’s like great, you get you know, you can do any post called cleanup, you want to you missed a highlight, you want to tweak a note or something. But then you got to get it out to the right places, right? We gotta get it into that Google Doc, where you keep doing your research notes, we got to get it into the Slack channel of like, all the customer wins. We got to get it in probably most critically. We got to get it into your CRM if you’re in sales and success, right. And, you know, I mentioned like I ran our sales team first time. Two things sales team, people hate doing one is like taking notes, and two is entering all that data into the CRM. And so, you know, I think we also take this approach and integrations that are integration should be every bit as high quality as our core product experience. They don’t think that’s pretty common. I think there’s a lot of just like, there’s an integration steam, that’s kind of like, you know, just checking the box, I guess we have a blank integration. It’s, it’s there, it does something, right. And we really look at that as an extension, our product in, you know, 2022, we see all the time, people do not want to buy a thing, unless it works with everything else. They are us, right? We, everyone now is a pretty savvy SAS buyer, right? They’re not gonna, you know, we know that you’re, you know, you know, we know that you’re forever free versions not going to be good enough, we know that you’re like integrations are going to be checked the box, we’re like, a lot of cynicism when it comes to SAS bytes. So I think it’s really important to like, make sure that we like have really good integrations. And it’s also like part of the virality piece, right, like, obviously, getting more into the slack getting into is how we kind of spread internally within the org. But first, but it’s also one of the nice things where it’s like, it’s not virality, for the sake of virality. It’s like, first and foremost, it’s what the user wants us to do. And the nice byproduct is like it generates visibility for the product, which gets more signups.
Erasmus Elsner 36:01
Let’s talk a little bit about the giants that you’re in bed with, which assume you’re on their marketplace. You’re currently I think free. But you’re planning on I think eventually monetizing through the CEU marketplace, which is still sort of in the making a lot of moving parts that’s talked about becoming accepted on the CEU marketplace as sort of one of the first cohorts and all the other companies I think were larger corpse that were accepted, but also about the platform risk, which is obviously part of being integrated.
Richard White 36:33
Yeah, I mean, like I said, I think we started the company like September 2020. And then October of 2020, as zoom announced, they were building this zoom app marketplace. And really the Zoom app, it really it’s like a plug in architecture for zoom. Right. And it’s funny, because we were trying to have a ways to go about this, we’re actually like, build our own zoom call. And at one point, it was very clear that like a plug in architecture was like the right architecture, but zoom didn’t have it. And then so it was very mixed emotions when they announced six, right? Oh, my gosh, this is what we this is perfect. This is what we need, like this perfect for what we’re doing. Oh crap, like, what are we gonna get shut out? Like, are we not gonna be able to get into this. And so, again, cold email, fortunately got us into the programme, we ended up raising money from a bunch of like, zooms, own angel investors. And we were very aggressive about like, building as many relationships at zoom as possible. We were one of the first investments out of those maps fund. And so I have good relationships with people in a lot of departments at zoom, and they’re a fantastic partner super accessible for the GM, for how big that company is. They are super accessible and responsive and things like that. So yeah. And so you know, there is platform risk, but I think the biggest risk always as a startup is distribution risk. And so would I trade platform risk for distribution risk? Hell, yeah, I would, right, like and so, you know, we’re the number one app in the Zoom app store a firehose of signups, you know, which is great, we’ve really honed the product a lot and the onboarding process quite a bit, because we’ve have enough statistical significance on a daily basis to be able to really test and iterate quickly. We couldn’t do that without that partnership. So it’s been fantastic. I mean, it’s not you know, without challenges, sometimes I think there’s some analogy about like elephants and mice. And like, you know, if you’re careful, the author didn’t step on you. It’s not intentional, right? It’s like one of my favourite, you know, my favourite phrases like, you know, it’s not meaning to it just didn’t even see you there. So, but you know, that’s why you have to build relationships on with it. Right. Make sure you understand where the orphans working, I think we really lucked out, frankly, there, right? Because without that thing, you never come to light, we would still have to figure out distribution. We had some plans for that. But this is obviously way better RAM are going through our YC batch and people are talking about like go to market. And I was like our go to market is this platform. Not many new marketplaces open up to a couple 100 million people. This is what we’re focused on.
Erasmus Elsner 38:46
Exactly. I mean, it’s one of the big fire hoses of the internet. And distribution is everything that if you want to get to virality. And I think your your angel investor, Shawn also talked about, you know, when you’re dialling into a zoom call, you know, you have this blank page that comes up, and it’s basically prime real estate that gets billions of visits. And you know, Zoom is doing nothing with it at the moment. I mean, they could sell ads all day long, and
Richard White 39:10
I’d buy them back.
Erasmus Elsner 39:14
As we’re running against the clock, something I wanted to touch upon is the fundraising journey. And it’s not your first time at the rodeo. And I mentioned you were part of the first YC batch. And then during the pandemic, you went through yc. Again, talk about, you know, how it changed and how that decision came about. Because I assume you had as a repeat serial entrepreneur, you had other ways of financing it but you you decided to go through YC again, sort of this loyalty to the programme. Yeah,
Richard White 39:45
I mean, I think it’s going back to my thing of like, trying to speed run, like how do we do all the things faster? And, you know, could we have done this without yc? Sure, I’m sure we could, but were we you know, more than the 7% Faster than yet. The Yeah, basically then their take by doing it. Absolutely. Right. Still, you know, I’ve got a great network, but it’s still accelerated fundraising. And I think also for us it there is, you know, I started to use your voice in 2008, things have changed, right, like, so I know how to play this video game, but it’s a video game, there’s been a lot of DLC that’s come out since I last played this video game, right. And so no, I think mentioned also, a lot of my peers have gone on to do now they run really large companies, or they’re running VC firms. So I also thought it was really important again, for the speed, I’m a competitive person. And I like need to have kind of like, I needed to, like, have peers that I can learn from, but also kind of like, implicitly compete with. And so I think that was one of the big benefits for us, while I see was getting back in the arena with the other folks that didn’t Rena seeing what tools they’re using, seeing what tactics they’re employing, because that stuff shifts a lot. Right. And, you know, you know that that’s the kind of stuff where, you know, especially when it comes to like good market and, you know, various start tactics by the time there’s books written about it, or in lots of blog posts, it’s no longer the right thing to do. Right. And so it’s like, what are the smart people that are operating from first principles doing about, you know, you know, all these various operational problems and market challenges? And so I think that’s yeah, the fundraising and getting that cohort was super viable. And yeah, is it different? I joined at the tail end of the original YC batch, right, as an employee, and so I didn’t really see kind of like some of that process. But like, is it different going from like, a companies to 358? Companies? Yeah, it’s a little different, right? Like, I still haven’t met probably like more than 25% of the people in my batch. But you know, honestly, I think the remote thing was great. Like, it’s just a different animal, it still has all the core, the core things, right, like celebrating fundraising, celebrating knowledge transfer, and like building competitive communities, it’s just you, you just have to work at it now. Right. So, you know, there’s a little less serendipity, as you mentioned earlier, and so you have to, you have to kind of like manufacture your own serendipity a little bit and make sure you go to the local meetups, and, you know, ping people randomly on Slack and put yourself out there a little bit, but I think the quality of people is as higher or even higher than it’s ever been. So
Erasmus Elsner 42:05
I love it that you showed up there, this reminds me of Tony Hawk, you know, going to the public skate rink and trying to see if he can still do the tricks. And you know, I love it.
Richard White 42:15
It was really funny because Michael Seibel is a good friend of mine. I remember, like he did art, you know, you don’t know who you’re gonna get your interview. And, you know, for West partners get on to our entrance interview. It’s like Michael Seibel, who I’ve known for 15 years, and then Gustaf who I’ve known for, like, 12 years, like I knew half the people. And then when we ever we had the kickoff meeting, and all the YC partners are saying hi to me, they’ll go hey, Richard, and everyone’s like, what? Yeah, so it felt like it’s like, the old like, what’s that? Billy Madison, right? Where it’s like the old you know, the old guy going back to going back to school sort of thing. But it was fun experience.
Erasmus Elsner 42:47
Love it. Yeah. I remember when Gustaf made an account in my startup’s app, and that was the most precious account I can remember. Yeah. And then let’s talk about the seed round. And when I looked at the seed round on CrunchBase, it looked like the perfect party like this is the party I want to be be part of, you know, 70 people, everybody who’s close to the soon network, I think was your intention. But it’s like the CEOs of Reddit Twitch, Shawn puree we talked about, but also soon with their corporate VC fund. And I think you’re really optimised for having, you know, having a lot of smaller angels and Angel checks in there as well, instead of one big firm leading around.
Richard White 43:26
Yep. And you know, what’s interesting about that is like, whereas with user voice, there was this treat moment in time where we raised 800k. And it was really from 90%, like one firm, and it all happened in one moment. You know, we kind of leverage the fact that like, fundraising changed quite a bit, we really raised money. Every three months since we started, when I think actually in total, now we’re up to like, close to $6 million raised. And so one strategy was just like constantly raising money, just you saved. It’s kind of ratchet, you know, when you hit a milestone, raise more money, Ratchet valuation a little bit, not excessively, get some more folks on the team keep going. The other strategy was, as someone who’s done this before, I wasn’t, you know, I wasn’t looking for one loud voice at the table. But I really wanted to kind of in create opportunities for serendipity by building like a really big coalition of people. When I send out the investor updates. And I have an ask, I’m not asking the five people that invest in us, I’m asking at this point, like 90 people who have invested in us that are really well connected folks. And I have this kind of theory of investors caring about your startup, it’s kind of binary, either they care, they don’t care, and how much they care. It’s not like someone write you a 25k check, versus a 50k, check the 50k check cares twice as much as 25k Check. They kind of care the same. And so the phrase I used a lot last year was, what’s the smallest check, you’ll write and still care because we’re trying to get as many people around the table and try and get as many like advocates as possible. And so there were themes along the way. The first batch was a lot of my network. So it was a lot of like early sort of startup CEOs like you mentioned CEOs of crews and Twitch and Reddit and snapdocs and mercury and on and on Ron Clearbit, product, etc. And then the second the second cohort was the next batch was like, Zoom associated folks. And then the next batch or on Demo Day was more, you know, really like more well connected angels in an early stage firms. And then more recently, we’ve pivoted and and really focused on like executives, sales executives, marketing executives, customer shifts, executives, CEOs of companies, like we got the CEO people AI so people, you know, now we’ve sort of honed in on that persona of sales and customer success. Let’s go find people that know that market super well. But it’s great. I mean, we’ve got designers, we’ve got engineers, you know, it’s like a very, you know, we’ve got it’s a really broad coalition people. So again, I think we’ve really achieved our goal here where I get to send out this industry update to a very broad audience. And, you know, it’s worked really well through it, oh, we need a connection to here, or has anyone heard about this? Or what do we think about this tactic done it all? And I get great answers for it. So
Erasmus Elsner 45:57
You know, when I looked at it, I was like, this guy likes fundraising. I mean, it’s not legit once. Once I have a one and done fundraising, one meeting one partner meeting and be done with it for the next two years. This guy wants to speak to the investors and he’s doing doing it very strategically.
Richard White 46:13
Well, actually, yeah, I actually do like fundraising. I do feel like it’s one of the rare times you can, it’s hard to get the one the hardest thing is to get smart people to critically evaluate your startup. Because there’s really no incentive to do it usually. Right? You go ask your smart friends, they don’t they’re not incentivized to tell you your shit status. Right. And so I do think it’s nice to like you get in front of people, and they tend to like, poke on things, which kind of makes you smarter about where am I? Where have I not been thinking, right? And but I also just think I was also in the centre, like, I never wanted to do the thing where, you know, I’d like from the get go get five person team. And so I never thought there was an opportunity where for us to maintain speed where I could just go to fundraising for six weeks. And so instead of doing this fundraising process, writing 1000, your process for six weeks, I’d much rather kind of spread that out, and basically do a few calls every week, over, you know, over a couple different batches with a 70% success rate. And just, you know, kind of de risk of that way. Right? It’s like, I’m not waiting on Yes or No, on the entire round. I’m de risking by slowly collecting money as we go. And I think that’s worked out really well for us.
Erasmus Elsner 47:18
Absolutely. So Rich, as we’re running against the clock, what does the future hold for fathom? What are you working on? How do you want to scale it up? And what sort of the next two 510 years look like for you and your hands,
Richard White 47:29
what also excites me about this product is that like, there’s a lot of technical depth to it, you know, we’re deep into like scaling challenges and things like this. But we also are constantly shifting based upon when there’s like new technological breakthroughs. And so we’re actually doing a lot of stuff. Now, with AI, while putting more AI into the product. It’s one of the things we knew from the end to be AI, we knew, like we’d add more over time, and we’re adding more AI over time. And our goal, like, you know, we still have this human in the middle clicking the button. But our goal is increasingly, what are all the things we can do around that one, can we eventually get you to not have to click the button, but to can we also detect things you wouldn’t have otherwise detected? There’s still a lot of depth to this product that’s coming out in terms of our goal being we want you to be honest, Zoom call, actually await better experience than even an in person meeting, right? We want you to feel like when you get on a zoom call with Adam, you were like, putting on your Iron Man suit. Right. And you have just all this like, Insight intelligence that you can just kind of like, you feel like you are rocking that call. You’re not stressed out, you know, the person is paying attention, don’t have to write notes. You know, your team’s involved. I’ll give you a hint of like, one of the things we’re really excited about this, like, how do you do collaboration with people not on the call? So you know, one of the things salespeople in successful run into all the time, I’m gonna call customers ask me a question. I don’t know. Why, but usually, I’ll be like, Oh, after the call to find the answers or get back with them? What if instead, I click a button, inside fathom, immediately, the question is shipped to my engineering team and slack room, they watched within 10 seconds that are watching that question. Within 30 seconds there, I’m getting a pop up with the answer. And also a do I want this person to join the meeting and answer the question, right? Like, that kind of feels like that’s the way to the Ironman suit. So it’s stuff like that, that we’re really focused on.
Erasmus Elsner 49:14
What’s the Tom Cruise movie where he sits and and navigates Oh, like Minority Report Minority Report. Alright, so I love it. I love it. That’s that’s the next chapter for fathom. I think it’s a great idea. All right. So we’ve recorded an hour now full arc of your story from you know, starting with Kiko user voice now fathom, I think it’s super exciting. I think you’re an incredibly curious mind product builder, engineer, creative mind. I love it. And thanks a lot for being here with us today. Where can people find out more about Fathom and what’s sort of the CTAs the calls to action for you?
Richard White 49:49
Yep. So if you have fattened up videos slash pod, you can you know, 1000s completely free. We do plan to monetize in the future, but not on this version so you can feel comfortable being like committing to its products. We’re not going to extract dollars out of you, we’d love for you to sign up. And then if you want to reach out to me, I’m on LinkedIn, feel free to cold message me or cold email me. I’m Richard fathom that video. I’ve made my career on cold email. So I would be a real I’d be really doing myself a disservice if I didn’t answer do the same for others. So
Erasmus Elsner 50:17
And you have a NFT as a picture on LinkedIn, right?
Richard White 50:21
It’s actually dotted NFT it’s just that we, we made all eight bit emojis of everyone on the team, we call them pixel peeps. And just like we joined the team, you get your little pixel beep and at some point, I was like, Oh, this is way better than just carrying around headshots all the time.
Erasmus Elsner 50:34
That’s great that you’re not shilling your your NFT
Richard White 50:39
NFT Gosh, someone someone’s done some identity theft, good on them, but now I have a very modern and you know, you’re getting older so I might as well digitise myself before. You know, it’s very clear that I’m getting older.
Erasmus Elsner 50:53
I love it. Richard, thanks so much for being with us today.
Richard White 50:57
Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s been great.