- What could you use Zapier for?
- Do you know of any alternative services?
- What do you think of Wade?
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Full Video Transcript
Wade: I'm one of the co-founders and CEO at Zapier.
Ben: For my audience and anybody listening, can you just outline what Zapier does in a few words and its vision?
Wade: Zapier, our tagline is it gives you superpowers to get stuff done on the internet, which basically means you can connect all sorts of different apps. If you're using an Unbounce landing page, you can easily take those leads and save them into GoToWebinar. If you're using Gmail, you can create cards in Trello automatically. If you're using Evernote, you can save those notes back to SalesForce; just all sorts of just little bits of automation. You don't have to be technical. If you're familiar with web apps, you can use Zapier, and it just makes your life a little bit easier.
Ben: Why did you start it in the first place? What got you into it? At the same time, is this your first startup?
Wade: This is my first legit startup. I've had other little small businesses and things like that, but this is the first one where swinging for the fences. The reason I started it is I'm a marketer by trade, and I started to teach myself how to code to basically be better at marketing. One of the things I was doing was trying to send automated email based on event changes in a database that I had, working with things like Mandrill, SendGrid, and things like that. I'm a marketer, not a developer, so this is a ... it's challenging for me to deal with these API's and figure out what's going on.
My co-founder, Bryan, pitches me on this idea of an app marketplace where anyone can hookup all these different tools using the ... fundamentally using their API's without having to understand what the API's are under the hood. The reason he thought it was a good idea was he was building some SaaS apps, and everyone wanted integration with everything and he couldn't build it all. He was like, "It'd just be really nice if something like that existed." That really resonated with me, because here I am hacking on API's and I'm not good at it. I'd rather be spending my time actually doing marketing, positioning, launching campaigns, and things like that than dealing with API's. That's where the initial idea came from.
Ben: To let my viewers know, as I did in the John interview, just to clarify, an API application from ... should I say that right; and application programming interface. What it's about is connecting web services together. If you ... really, I think we're moving into a world where web services can't do everything, so if you've got ... you recommended to me Unbounce; it's a great landing page creation tool. People might say, "Why do you pay money each month to ..." It's great. It is very focused on making pages that are split tested, that look pretty, serve fast, and it does its job. It knows where it ends. It doesn't try and build a whole site. It doesn't even try and let you do very much with the forms that people submit, but it does have an API which means that it will then connect into other things.
It was you, Wade, thank you very much; who suggested ... I know you've got a vested interest, but when I put out on Twitter 'How do I register people for my webinar?' you said check out Unbounce and use Zapier. I wonder why you suggested that ... to connect it to GoToWebinar. It works great. It's working right now. My webinar registration page system is breakthrough.com. It does it right now, works a treat. Thank you. Zapier's been fantastic there. I started using Zapier for basically the same reasons, bunch of disparate web apps. They're great on their own, but they really need to talk to each other. We're moving into a world where you've got all these specialist systems, but they're really not all singing from the same hymn sheet, and that's frustrating. I started to tie these services together.
I think it's a huge market. I think it's really important to take this meta-level view of your business and not expect to put everything in one basket. It allows me to craft my ecosystem of services to be what's right for me, and then use things like Zapier to tie them together. I love it. I love the job you've done on the simplicity. I've tried some other systems, and yours is just the easiest to get into. It's just the steps come in order, they make sense; it just flows. It only asks me things once. It's great. I love that.
What I don't love is this flip side, the simplicity, which is there's very little it can do. It can't check for duplicates, it can't be programmatic. The other day I had to use ItDoesIt to make a phone system work. It's ugly, but it works. It does more. I just wanted you to address, how do you think Zapier can both stay as simple, beautiful, clean as it is and yet give the people who wanted a little bit more sophistication to do things in loops, orders, checking, or code. You know what I'm saying?
Wade: That's the magic question. The beauty in a simple ... like you've discussed, the beauty in a software like Zapier is its simplicity; it's what makes it accessible to the masses. The more complexity you add, by nature, you diminish the appeal. The thing that we're trying to figure out is how do you expose that complexity and offer that complexity to those who need it without detracting from the simplicity. I think we've got some stuff coming here in 2014 that'll allow you to do some of the more complex logic, whether that's chaining apps, whether it's duplicate checking, whether it's loops, or what have you to basically give you the power that you need when you need it but hide it when it's not necessary.
Ben: Perhaps the very service providers themselves can help with that. They can help. I would like to see that, because I know that most of my customers are not going to sit there and get in any more detail than Zapier. Zapier is probably at the limit of their comfort zone, frankly. Actually, if I can encourage them to embrace that technology, it's not that scary. You start putting more complexity in it maybe. If I connected to Nimble and in a context-sensitive way it asked me questions about Nimble and the way it functions, then that would be great. I look forward to seeing what happens.
Wade: It's an exciting space to deal with. API's are so new. They're not that new, they've been around for a while, but APIs in the web and the Cloud are just starting to get to a bit of maturity. You're starting to see people think more along the lines of not 'Should I have an API?' but 'How should my API work? How should it adapt to what my actual customers are trying to do with my software?' That'll ... when we're thinking about stuff like, that that'll allow us to expose more functionality in a way that customers actually want to deal with it, rather than what an engineer just thought was cool or interesting.
Ben: Very cool. What are the biggest challenges for Zapier at the moment?
Wade: One of the things that's really fun and exciting but also challenging is the fact that as we're ... the web has grown so much and there are so many systems that can be connected now. Zapier supports almost 300 web apps today. That is a lot of options, a lot of possibilities, and a lot of ways people can potentially run their business. The thing that's exciting for us and challenging is providing a marketplace where people can find the tools that make sense for their business easily. Right now, it's not super-great at doing that. There are a lot of tools; it just lists them there by popularity, and it's just like 'Go find the stuff.' If you know what you want to do, it's great. If you're not quite sure, it doesn't do an awesome job. We're working really hard on helping users understand 'You're a marketer; these are the 5 apps that you need to be using. These are the ones ... the way you should be connecting it, because that's the stuff that's going to drive results for your business.'
Ben: Interesting. What's the biggest opportunity you see coming ahead? Let me seed that question a little bit. I really see something quite exciting happening in the next 10 years. I start to see personal API's, the API of me, my body data, my weight, my movement, my activity, all this stuff being exposed. That's going to be combined with not only wearable computers, but I think that certainly within 10 years, we'll have a lot of embedded computing and actually break under the skin barrier, and start to change us. When that happens, I think I'm very excited. A lot of people are very scared by it. I actually think it's going to allow us to have quicker, deeper connections with more people. Where does something like Zapier fit in, in a world like that do you think, Wade?
Wade: I think the beauty of a world like that is the power is ... when the data is so free-flowing, the power is in the interfaces that you can build. How can you expose this information in ways that are timely and useful to people? Most of the time, you don't really care about the data; you only care about it when it's useful. You care about making sure that your leads know about your webinar right before the webinar happens. Whenever there's nothing going on, the data just needs to exist somewhere and be stored somewhere. The interesting part now is what interfaces can be built on top of all this data. Zapier is the tool that will help get the data from all these different places into those types of interfaces. Whether it's Google Glass on your eyes, a wristwatch, or it's a tablet device, it's a machine, or some other device that we've not yet even seen yet; Zapier's going to be one of the ways that all that data can get to these different devices and display information in meaningful ways.
Ben: I'm involved in a startup over here in the UK which is going to go live soon, called GetMetaFlow.com. It's a way of graphically designing the workflows in your business with a drag-and-drop interface. You draw the flowchart and that is the workflow. I would like to see ... a general frustration of mine is I left the university about 10 years ago or more now. When I revisited programming, I was a little bit upset to realize you're still in a text editor. Actually, I would like to program a computer like I'm talking to you, by waving my hands, being a lot more graphic, and moving things around. It'd be great one day to see more intuitive graphical-type interfaces to this type of programming, where I can literally see the icon of an app here and the icon of an app here and maybe draw lines and be challenged on the interaction. Is that something you've got in the pipeline?
Wade: In a way, that is exactly what Zapier is; it's visual programming. You're telling these different API's to do this thing and to do that thing. Interestingly enough, Zapier used to be a drag-and-drop piece of software. You would drag icons up to the top and you would drag them over here. That's the original ... I guess V2 of Zapier looked like that. One of the interesting things that we discovered, though, while drag-and-drop sounds cool and we talk with our wavy hands, it doesn't work very well on mobile devices. Dragging is a lot harder than clicking. We went back to clicking, which is a much more intuitive way for people to interface with machines, though it doesn't look as cool on movies and things like that.
Ben: No. Very cool. When the Oculus Rift becomes mainstream, virtual reality becomes more mainstream, maybe we get into a Tom Cruise 'Minority Report' situation where we are going back into grabbing things, moving them around.
Wade: 'Minority Report' is probably one of the ... that's probably the coolest thing about that movie; seeing all the interfaces and machines, and monitors flying all over the place.
Ben: Then we can allow for three-dimensional connections. Your Unbounce is sending leads to your GoToWebinar, but also behind the scenes, you've got Nimble there wanting to know about the people, and stuff like that. It could be pretty cool in 3D when the enabling technologies get there.
Wade: Exactly. It'll be fascinating to see when you have all your systems working perfectly in orchestration.
Ben: Who do you consider your main competitors, Wade, for Zapier?
Wade: For us, the thing that we compete on is the zap level. A lot of our competitors end up just being plugins or third-party systems that have built something very specific for one thing. If someone were to build an Unbounce-to-GoToWebinar connector, that zap would compete with that plugin. We compete with lots of different plugins all over the place. The thing that we're trying to be, though, is the place where you just come to handle all your plugins, essentially. We want to make it easy, we want to make it simple. One of the challenges with the plugins is that they're not very well supported. There are usually not companies behind them; it's a solo developer or something like that.
Zapier's a fully-functioning company, profitable company, that can make sure that things are well supported, that there's a team behind it to back it up, and that when you need support, it's going to exist. Things are always going to get updated as APIs are improving. A lot of what we try to do is make sure that our connectors are simple and high quality.
Ben: You talk about how many other things that you overlap with and compete with. If I'm doing my math right, if you've got 300 different connection points and most of them talk to each other, you do the math; you've got about 90,000 different pairs in there.
Wade: There's actually also multiple triggers and actions for the different services. It adds up to be even more than that. It's right around 700,000 potential combinations of zaps that you can create on Zapier.
Ben: Impressive. How quickly before I don't need to keep using ItDoesIt, though, for my phone? What I've got is I want to use Twilio to phone. I've got a new system where my guys have come through my Growth Systems Academy or any of my other events; I put them into accountability groups of 5 people. I want my phone system to call out to them and put them in a conference call automatically at a fixed time and day. I can do that in itdoesit, but I can't do it in Zapier because it doesn't give enough access to things like their code. It doesn't let me inject instructions and stuff like that. This is the question, one of the questions we started with: How do we get the functionality without killing the simplicity?
Wade: You actually might be able to do that with Zapier today. There's a Google Calendar. If you had your calendar events and the phone numbers inside the events, there's a trigger called Event Starts. You can set it to call ...
Ben: That's what I tried. You just can't get to the point where you make a conference happen. You can make it call 5 people ...
Ben: ... but you just can't quite get it to make a conference.
Ben: I put it out on Twitter, actually, to you, to ItDoesIt, and to TwiML. ItDoesIt came back and said 'Here's a recipe,' which was pretty cool.
Ben: I had to navigate their horrible frontend and go and use it.
Wade: I don't know an exact ETA, but I'm hoping for some interesting things to come through early this year along some of the more complex workflows.
Ben: To zoom back, the reality is here that what we need to do, and I want to help you, is to get more people to embrace what's already there. People are under-adopting the Cloud, although it's happening quickly. Of those who are in the Cloud, they're certainly not thinking about this connection to the level they can. You've got a huge, huge number of people just waiting to discover what Zapier can already do for them.
Wade: Absolutely. It's interesting, because this type of integration is so common in the enterprise. When you're thinking Fortune 500 companies, they're always thinking about automation like this. For SMBs, for small business, for solopreneurs, for marketing agencies 20 people, automation hasn't been something that's accessible to them. It's not something you could buy with off-the-shelf software. It's not something that people are ever really thinking about, it's something that developers thought about or big business thought about. It's cool to have a tool that provides a power that hasn't previously been available to small businesses and solopreneurs, and things like that.
Ben: More and more, another example of the leveling of the playing field. First, we could setup websites that look like a big corporation, and now we can actually have internal systems that allow us to compete. Of course, all big businesses have decent systems in place. This really is a leveler.
Thank you, Wade, for creating it. Good luck with continuing to develop it. I do recommend everybody has a go with it. Just try it, allow yourself to fail. Play with it, explore it, it is cool. I'm really looking forward to see how it goes, Wade. Thank you very much.
Wade: Thanks, Ben. It's been a pleasure chatting.
Ben: See you soon.