March 30, 2023

4 Strategies to Prioritize User-Centricity with Richard White of Fathom

4 Strategies to Prioritize User-Centricity with Richard White of Fathom
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

Episode Summary:


In this episode of SaaS Origin Stories, Phil speaks with Richard White, CEO of Fathom, a free Zoom app that records, transcribes, and highlights the key moments from your Zoom calls so you can focus on the conversation instead of taking notes. He is also the Founder and was the CEO of UserVoice; currently, however, he is Chairman of the Board at the same company.

One of his previous colleagues, Jim Wright, has praised him for his approach to problem solving, “Rich is one of those developers who can see the whole picture and find a real world solution, not just a fix for a particular technical issue.”

They discuss how the conception of SaaS products are usually due to finding roadblocks in technology, what it’s like searching for investors, the amount of effort it takes to keep an audience’s attention, and how Fathom became a Zoom native app and if they have any plans to expand outside of it.

Guest at a Glance:


Name: Richard White


About Jon: Richard White is the CEO of Fathom, a free Zoom app that records, transcribes, and highlights the key moments from your Zoom calls so you can focus on the conversation instead of taking notes. He is also the Founder and was the CEO of UserVoice; currently, however, he is Chairman of the Board at the same company.


Richard on LinkedIn

Fathom on LinkedIn

Fathom’s Website


Topics we cover:


  • Why Fathom came at the perfect time
  • Understanding exactly what users want
  • Searching far-and-wide for investors
  • Building a solid SaaS team and product 
  • When are you ready to launch your product?
  • Trying to keep the audience’s attention
  • The high standards of making something easy and memorable
  • How Fathom became a Zoom native app
  • Plans to expand outside of Zoom

Key Takeaways:

The Difference Between Hearing and Listening to Your Customers


Fathom was created for people like Richard, who have a lot of meetings on Zoom, yet struggle to take notes at the same time. Ever since the pandemic, people have been faced with this issue, and after researching into the user experience, Richard came up with the idea for Fathom, an app which takes important notes from zoom meetings so you don’t have to.


Understanding what users want and need is a skill; it’s something you have to train yourself to look out for. Pay attention to how your customers are speaking, how they’re asking questions, what specific words are they using? It’s only because of this ability that Fathom was able to exist in the first place.

Searching Far-and-Wide for Investors


Since its conception, Fathom has managed to raise about six million dollars in investments; a million of that money is from the users themselves. It started off by asking friends and family and putting on events, but they also wanted to try to reach people with connections to Zoom, considering it was the platform they were focused on. If they could find people there to invest, then they could not only raise money, but they could build solid and professional relationships. They also did a WeFunder campaign which allowed users to donate and invest.


“I’ve found that, when you get people putting their own skin in the game - angels and our users - you just get a very different kind of relationship and engagement.”

Houston, We’re Ready for Takeoff…


You have to make sure that before you launch your SaaS product, everything is ready. Richard explains, although they had a rough version of Fathom ready within the first few months, it took about a year before they could confidently release it into the world. In fact, a lot of the time, even when your product is in the early stages of its existence, warts and all, it’s easy to see what it could evolve into, and if you can envision that end goal, then you can easily tolerate some of the bugs at the beginning.


“If you can create something that solves a problem you have, and make sure there’s a big market for that problem, it’s such a hack. I had such high conviction for the product at an early stage because it’s like, I’m willing to tolerate some of the bugs at the beginning, we just needed to polish it up.”

Keeping the Audience’s Attention


When creating anything - not just a SaaS platform - that involves grabbing an audience’s attention, you need to be able to keep them interested for at least the first five minutes, otherwise your product just won’t work or take off. Once you’ve lost a customer’s attention and focus, it’s exceedingly hard to get it back, so make sure your product performs the best it possibly can when showcasing it. 


Try to take a step back from your work and be honest with yourself about it, be subjective - ask yourself what you need to alter, what needs to go and what needs to be added. This way, you’re more likely to keep the audience engaged and interested.


“You learn a lot of things about how hard it is to get people’s attention. We  actually started off as a desktop app, then a zoom app, but we moved back to being a desktop app because we saw that in the zoom app, people would start a meeting and then they’d have to remember to turn on Fathom [...] It’s  very easy to be forgotten, especially when you’re trying to change people’s habits and behaviors.”

Transcript

I'd say we probably spent another four months or five months until we got something that I would consider more like an MVP.

And the reason I say that is because we saw a lot of churn up until that, right?

We saw people like, oh, you know, again, this is kind of a product where if it breaks even once on you, you kind of give up on it. You're like, this thing's supposed to reliably join my meetings and do all this to take this workload off me. If it breaks and doesn't take that workload off my plate, well, then I can't trust it and use it. Welcome to SaaS Origin Stories.

Tune in to hear authentic conversations with founders as they share stories from the earlier days of their SaaS startups. We'll cover painful challenges, early wins, and actionable takeaways. You'll hear firsthand the do's and don'ts of building and growing a SaaS, as well as inspirational stories to fuel you on your own SaaS journey. Here is your host, Phil Alves. They have Richard White. He's the CEO of Fountain. Welcome to the show, Richard.

Thanks for having me.

So the first question I like to ask is, what problem does your SaaS product solve?

It's an easy question. So I think it's a problem we all, a lot of folks we can identify with is being on a bunch of Zoom calls or being on any kind of video call and trying to have a conversation and trying to like furiously take notes to remember what that conversation is about, either for yourself or like share with your team.

And I was doing a lot of this two years ago before I started Fountain. I was doing a lot of Zoom calls, a lot of like talking to a lot of customers, writing a lot of notes, sharing a lot of notes to my team. And that whole process is just, it's tough. I'm not very good at talking and writing or typing at the same time. It's really frustrating. It's really intense.

I'm like super scared all the time I'm going to forget something or I'm going to miss an important detail or it's just not going to translate well when I try to share it with my team. So Fountain is a free kind of AI meeting assistant. We join your Zoom calls. We record them. We transcribe them. We highlight them. We use AI to summarize them.

We do all this stuff basically so that you can just focus on having a conversation. And then afterwards, if you heard an interesting moment or interesting piece of conversation, you can just like grab that piece, send that link to a friend or a colleague to listen and watch that part of the call. You can automatically fill in your CRM with summary and all the information.

And it just makes life a little less stressful. That's great. And let's talk a little bit about your background and like where you come from. You kind of touch on it, but I like to understand people's background up to the point where you had the idea and how your background influenced you to build this project. Yeah. So my background, I'm originally a computer science grad, programmer, turning out a product designer.

And I previously ran a company called User Voice, which is a platform for product feedback. If you ever seen the feedback tabs on the side of websites, we're actually the first people that productize those. I ran that company for about 12 years. And it was at User Voice where I was doing all this research for new products.

What put me on, I think like, I think it was on like almost 200 Zoom calls in the first six weeks of 2020. Whoa.

And so that process was like, you know, it's one thing, you know, like I said, the pain of note taking, you know it, but if you're doing like one call a day or one call every, you know, a couple of hours, when you do something like back to back to back like that, right, that's when you're really like, oh my gosh, every little tiny pain point becomes like a really big one and becomes so obvious that we should fix this sort of thing.

So yeah, so then at that company, you know, I'm CEO, but I also run a bunch of teams. So I like run our sales team for a bit.

And that gave me some perspective on the other side of this, which is people that are receiving notes, right?

People that aren't on calls with customers or prospects or whatnot that are receiving notes and asking all these questions of like, you know, I was always asking, what did they actually say, right?

Oh yeah, they're going to buy it or they're going to get it next next quarter.

Yeah, but how did they say it?

What words they use?

What tone did they use?

And so I think for context, like it's a pretty technical product. There's a lot of like to do this product well, you also have to have a really good, I think, concept of user experience.

And I think it was helpful to be not only kind of the end user of the product, right?

Customers on a lot of calls, but also having the perspective of the manager who's trying to understand what their team is doing on all these calls. Makes sense.

So your second time founder, why after exit you decide to go right in and build another company or did you take a break?

We went straight in.

We, well, we didn't exit the previous company, but did I did exit?

We put in someone else in place to run it as CEO and he's doing a great job. I think at some point after running that company for 10 years, I had a few opportunities to like build some stuff on the side myself. And it reminded me how much I really love the zero to one phase of like building a product.

And at some point you build up the company and now you're building the company and you're building the team and the management team and it kind of shifts. And I just got, I was very fortunate to have some experiences where I get reconnected back to my love of just like shipping early product iterations. And I was like, oh, okay, I can't wait to like dive back in and do this again.

And so, yeah, got the opportunity to kind of stumbled upon this idea and was like, great, like this is actually something we should go build. And it was actually my current company Fathom was a bit of a spin off of that company. We took some of the top engineers and whatnot to the new one.

And so that also was fun because I think, you know, obviously second time around, a lot easier when you start with like four of your best engineers sort of thing. That makes sense.

So did you exit or did you not exit the first company?

What happened to that company?

First company is still a privately held company. We didn't sell it. So it's still running. It's still on its own. You just put someone, another person to be the CEO and you got back to do what you love the most, which is creating the product and being the zero to one. I totally understand you. I kind of have been doing the same thing myself. I started consulting for them.

I grew that to like more than a hundred people and I love building products and I wasn't building product anymore. So then I decided to build my own SaaS product. That's what I'm doing on the side. And then I'm just so much closer and I'm the product person. I'm actually even doing code review and working so much closer with the developers. That's a lot more fun.

And I think even helping my consulting business because I can like talk about real experience because I'm kind of like frontline, you know?

Yeah. Yeah. You can kind of speak with authority because you're so close to it.

For you on the other end as the founder, how is that different from like having the big VC they had the last time?

Why is that better?

I mean, I think first time out having a very institutional VC or something like that involved, especially the early stage can be super helpful, right?

Because they're going to be more hands-on. They're going to kind of be, hey, you should think about this. You think about that. I've done this enough where I'm kind of or through my peer group and just my personal experience, I was like, this time I don't want as much kind of mentorship as much as I want access to network.

And I also have this theory about kind of caring, which is that like people's caring about your startup is kind of binary. Like they're either going to care about it or they don't care about it.

And for an angel, kind of like whether they write a 10K check or a 50K check, they're probably going to like there's some threshold where they're going to care, right?

Or not care.

And I'd always rather have, and I said this a lot, I was like, I want people to be like, what's your ideal check size?

I mean, what's the smallest amount you'll write and still care?

Because I want to get as many people caring about our outcome as possible. And I think when you raise money from people where it's their own money, and they're also operators and founders versus, you know, there are some great early stage funds. There's also just a lot of you know, PC slush funds are like, oh, we'll throw a million dollars in the startup.

And does anyone really care what happens to you?

Right?

When it's like, you know, it's always got a $500 million fund and we're throwing a couple hundred K here and there out of it, right?

It's early stage drugs.

It's just, it's someone else's money.

It's like something else, right?

And so I found that I think when you get people putting in their own skin in the game, right, which is why we've done both with angels and our users, you just get a very different kind of like relationship and engagement. That's awesome. And I'm sure that engagement can help you in many ways, like you said, the networking and the things that you're trying to do to move the product forward.

I mean, for a product, you know, it might be different if our products are more verticalized, but we're such a universally applicable product, right?

It's used by anyone that is on a lot of Zoom meetings, which is a lot of people. And so that kind of strategy, I think, you know, just, you know, get as many people on your team as possible has paid out really well because we have a really high kind of virality and word of mouth spread. That's amazing. So walk me through building the first version of the product.

Like how long did it take to build Vue 1 to like have something that actually had customers using?

Yeah.

So we, I think we started in fall 2020. We didn't launch the product until the following August. So it was almost a year of building the product until we got to like launch, launch.

But there were kind of intermediate steps in between there, right?

I think we had, we had a version that I could use probably within two to three months, if I remember correctly. And you know, I used it and I'm like, yes, this is great. Like it's got a lot of rough edges, but like I can kind of like squint and look at it and be like, this is great.

And you know, that's another great hack is like, if you can build something that solves a problem you have and make sure that there's a big market for that problem, right?

It's such a hack because I had such high convictions product from an early stage because like, okay, like I'm willing to tolerate some of the bugs and stuff like this in the beginning. And it's fantastic. And it's like changing how I work.

Okay, great. Now we just need to like polish it up and make it consumable. So I think we got our first users on it in December of 2020. But I would say we probably spent another four months or five months till we got something that I would consider more like an MVP.

And the reason I say that is because we saw a lot of churn up until that, right?

We saw people like, oh, you know, again, this is kind of a product where if it breaks even once on you, you kind of give up on it. You're like, this thing's supposed to reliably join my meetings and do all this to take this workload off me. If it breaks and doesn't take that workload off my plate, well, then I can't trust it and use it.

So, you know, I think we probably got hundreds of people to try to beta test this thing. I knew we were a good spot once we saw the same 50 people over and over using it day in day out. Right. And that took us up four or five months of just iterating and, you know, burning through a lot of early users. Right.

Like, you know, and then, okay, what's going on in the cohort?

People dump it in.

How are they doing?

Okay. Right.

So for me, an MVP is a product that has actual stickiness, right?

It was like people come back day after day. And that's, we got that probably in like April of that year and then iterated a bit more and got it ready for launch about, like I said, about three, four months later. So all in about a year to like build the product and something we felt comfortable launching. Okay.

So a year to build the product, but then after that year, you talk about four months finding the product market fit. I'm unpacking that year. So do it three months to build a thing that worked for me, another like three to four months to build something that was sticky and another three to four months to get it ready enough for launch. Right.

So I kind of went backwards where, you know, build a really crappy version for me, right?

That shows, okay, now we need a reliable version that works. And then the third step is, okay, now we got to bolt on onboarding onto the front of this. Right. Because in the beginning, you know, remember I said I had 50 people in a beta that were using it pretty regularly, the onboarding was atrocious and we had to like hand walk them through it.

And they really only did it because they had a relationship with us, but we didn't worry about that.

It's like, I'm not going to worry about onboarding if the product itself doesn't hold users, no sense building your own. So we spent, I think, a lot of the back half of that year. Right. So you break up that year really into three quadrants, four months, four months, four months, alpha, you know, sticky product. And then one that has okay onboarding.

Though I would also say once we launched, we probably had one engineer working on onboarding full time for four to five months. Right. Like just constantly making better and better and better. Yeah.

Because you're a product-led company, right?

So the onboard is super important.

And so what are some of the lessons that you learn when you are in that phase, like tweaking the product to make sure it's a sticky product?

So work for you. It was great that you were the first user, but it wasn't working for everybody. People were churning.

What are some of the lessons that you learned in that phase?

Yeah.

I mean, I think, you know, this is a lesson I thought I knew, but I'm always reminded by it all the time, which is that getting a user's attention is so, so hard. Right. People don't like, you're lucky if they give you five minutes to try your product. Right.

Like, and it better work within those five minutes. One of the things we did was that we realized that, you know, okay, we had to create onboarding and get you set up with the product. But the aha moment is not when you get Fathom set up. The aha moment happens when you have your first call with it. And then you get the recording afterwards.

You get the transcript and you see your highlights.

And so I think originally we thought about onboarding, like, okay, we got you set up so that you can do that thing, right?

Use it.

But no, we had to rethink it.

It's like, no, how do we get you to that moment as fast as possible?

And so we actually, you know, that was something we learned really early on and we built out actually our own infrastructure where we would send like a bot with a video to join a Zoom meeting so you could have like a fake Zoom meeting to test it out on.

And the reason we did that is because we found that like, if we didn't, you know, once I have the user's attention, I have it for a finite amount of time. And once I lose it, it's really hard to get it back.

So if they didn't really in that first five minutes they gave me to sign up, really understand how they're going to use it on their next Zoom call, it really didn't work.

Right?

So you just learn a lot of things about like how hard it is to get people's attention. We actually started off as a desktop app and then we moved to being what's called a Zoom app, which kind of plug-ins that Zoom.

And then we actually moved back to being a desktop app because we saw, you know, in the Zoom app, people started a Zoom meeting and then after a member to go turn on Fathom.

No one remember like once you get on a meeting, I'm in the meeting, right?

I'm not like doing so, you know, we had to like build out, like we had to build out a desktop app that did notifications that were like, hey, you're about to join the Zoom meeting.

You know, here's how you join Zoom meeting and automatically turn on Fathom at the same time. And so there's just all these things, you know, I think the biggest lesson to learn is that it's really a high bar to make something so easy to use that people remember to use it regularly.

Right?

It's very easy to get forgotten, especially when you're trying to change people's habits and behaviors. And I think too, like over the years, software just got so much better that people got so much more impatient.

I mean, I'm the same way.

It's like, I try to use competing products and think, I don't get it working like two minutes.

I'm like, oh, whatever.

Well, also there's so much software comes out. You're just like, well, maybe something better will come tomorrow.

Right?

There used to be a period where like, you know, you're going to make this thing work because it's the only thing that's been solves this problem for the last three years.

Right?

Yeah, for sure. And that's a huge lesson. Time to value. It's basically what you're telling me. You realize I have to get the high moment and time to value as quick as I can because people are going to forget about it. And you also learn that it just has to be super easy for them to use your product or they will forget to, to start the product. Yeah.

There's a lot of people that confuse it like, okay, here's the job the user is trying to accomplish. And they're like, oh yeah, my product can do that.

It's like, technically it can, but functionally it can't because like no one's going to figure out all the levers to pull to make it do the thing they want.

Right?

And so like there's that's, again, I think that's really, I think I see that mistake a lot in MVPs. We're like, oh yeah, if you pull this lever, it just works.

But, but yeah, time to value is absolutely critical and just, you know, do you really need this part of the onboarding?

Do you really need this part?

And like, you know, we were also lucky enough that we launched with this Zoom app marketplace, this new Zoom app thing, which drove a lot of signups. And so we had enough every day to get statistical significance.

Right?

I think that's a challenge. Sometimes people have is like, it's hard to make onboarding good when you only get 10 visitors a day to your website.

Right?

We were lucky enough to get in this program. So we get hundreds of people a day trying to sign up, which very quickly we can look at and be like, okay, you know, here's where things are going wrong. And we would, in the beginning days, we actually piped in every single step a user took in the onboarding process into a Slack channel.

And we would just like watch every little thing and see how long it took me from step to step. And you know, all that, there's all these things you do that just don't scale, but are really, really helpful in the beginning. And you're using AI a lot on your product. And that's another new technology.

Looks like you're taking a lot of advantage of new things, like the new thing that happened in 2020 with everyone now moving to Zoom and Zoom becoming so big. The new marketplace and also AI, something that's not very, it's very techy, like we're like trendy, like the latest cool thing that we were thinking about nowadays.

So how it is that you're using AI and what are the lessons there?

Well, it's funny because when we started AI, it was not a cool thing. There was a lot of AI companies from like 2016, 2017. There's this first wave of AI companies branding themselves as AI. And it was funny, I had a bunch of investors where I was like, we're going to call ourselves AI note taker by fathom.

Or like, we're going to really lean into the AI aspect. They're like, you shouldn't do that. Consumers don't like AI. It doesn't really work. So behind the scenes, all those first AI companies were not really AI. They were like a lot of if-then statements kind of masquerading as AI.

And I think one of the things we've always, but one of the things I looked at is like, I think we're getting close, right?

We're getting, you know, two years ago, I was like, I think we're getting close to a lot of technological changes that are going to really make this business possible in the way we want to do it, right?

The other one is ASR.

And so with like transcription, right?

So if you look at trying to build this business, a big cost of it, if you go back two, three years, is transcription costs. And we had this theory that transcription costs is going to zero. And therefore, we can be the first and only person providing services like this completely for free. If you buy it completely for free, then you can actually have a viral model.

It's hard to have virality with non-free products. And similar with AI, we kind of looked and said, okay, there's some things we can do with AI today. And we're confident there's going to be a lot more you can build in the future.

But we're going to basically brand ourselves and build the product with the future in mind, right?

We're going to build it based on what we can do today. We're going to keep our ear to the ground of like, okay, we know soon we'll be able to do this with sentiment and this with summarization. And this would kind of had a sense. We didn't know exactly the timing. When at some point in the future, we'd be able to fold those things in.

And so a little bit, we kind of thought of like, here's the product we want to have in three to five years. Here's what we can build right now. And we'll just, again, we'll be very reactive to what new technologies come out in between that. Walk me through the business model.

Like, it's a free product.

Like, how do you guys make money?

What's that long term play?

So we just, you know, we just actually kind of announced or like soft launched what we call our Fathom Team Edition.

So if you go to Fathom.video, on the homepage, you'll see kind of like core Fathom, right?

It's a desktop app, it's completely free. Use it to core transcribe how your calls, like always will be free. And you'll see this button at the top says Fathom Team Edition.

And that's kind of a new product that's targeted more at like teams and managers, right?

So it's like, okay, remember, I said, okay, there's like two problems I'm solving. One is for me as a person on the call, and one is for the manager.

And the manager's challenge is, you know, my team's having all these calls, I don't have a lot of visibility into what's being said, or how well my team's doing, you know, or handoffs between teams, right?

And you know, rather than read someone's notes, just better to watch that call or watch the last five minutes of that call and see what's happening. And so the Fathom Team Edition is a bunch of things like keyword alerts and different integrations and metrics and visibility into kind of a shared workspace of here's all the customer calls.

We always see every call we've had with HackMe and every call we've had with, you know, Blue Ocean or whatnot, right?

And so that's where we're charging the manager. And that allows us to kind of like get into an org by giving a product free to ICs. That builds grounds well. That then gets us to the manager and then we say, hey, we've got this cool new product. It's going to help you. And also you can, it unlocks a few features for your team to make them more productive. That's amazing.

What's the first oh shit moment that comes to mind from your journey so far?

I think there's generally, if I thought about this, it's probably one every six months, right?

There's like, you know, in the beginning, it was the oh shit where that's, yeah, that Zoom program is the program we absolutely need to be in.

How the heck do I get into that?

Like it's, you know, I'm not Jira or Song or whatnot, you know?

And then more recently we've had, you know, a lot of oh shit moments just around scaling, right?

It's like the classic like, oh shit, like we, you know, I don't think we're ready for this level of traffic, right?

Oh crap. Like we need to quickly provision a bunch of more service for this sort of thing.

But yeah, I mean, I think if I think about, you know, I think actually even also the first, you know, we launched in August and we got a lot of signups. We didn't have a lot of usage. Like three months in, we like, you know, I went to launch very bullish. We got the Zoom thing at our back.

We're going to get a bunch of, we're going to get thousands of users signing up.

We've been testing the product, right?

We feel pretty good about the retention of it.

And you know, the first three months, honestly, the usage metrics were really anemic and I was like, oh shit, like what did we miss?

And yeah, eventually it took us probably a month or two to really figure it out. And really by that December, like we launched in August and took us till December for us to really take off.

And then once, once it took off, okay, you know, it's like one of those things where it's like, you know, you get something 90% of the way working, it might as well be zero percent, right?

So we found some things with onboarding and found some things with, with, you know, you know, the desktop apps and stuff like that.

And we, you know, I think around December we got enough things working right.

We're all, so we just saw the slope go from, to like, you know, flattish to straight up.

And so, but that was no shit moment because like we had raised a lot of money at this point and had a lot of conviction. And I was like, maybe I'm wrong.

So, but again, I think again, throughout all this, I've had just really strong conviction that like, you know, when I do talk to individual users and get anecdotes, people are really excited about it. So I'm like, okay, there must be something else we're doing wrong here. Because at the core of it, we feel very confident. Makes a lot of sense.

So could you share like a very smart decision that you made in the early days?

I mean, I think a lot of decisions that we validated, like again, I think the fundraising things worked very well for us. That's that's strategy.

I would say focusing away on Zoom, you know, having that extreme focus on one platform, right?

And then having a scope and going deep and being like, okay, we're gonna have a really good product, right?

Less, we're gonna have less of a really good product than more of a mediocre product.

I think, you know, those are the things that pop up to my mind. And then obviously, like really dedicating ourselves to onboarding and, you know, building out lots of Slack channels, doing a lot of, we also would do things early on where we would, you know, you would sign up and have your first call and we would pay you $25 to talk to us and tell us how it went.

And so we do a lot of that where we will pay users for their time, you know, or I have an email that goes out, it's like, yeah, I'll give you $20 if you tell me like, I saw you signed up, used it a bit and then you churned. I'll give you 20 bucks if you just email me back and tell me why you stopped using it.

And so a lot of what we did, I think was really good, is just really invested in building relationships with users and really trying to understand what they're doing, not just looking at the metrics. And we built that a customer success team, like a support team, I think, ahead of growth and really said, we're going to be kind of crazy. We're going to be a PLG products, we'll get you free.

I said, I want to be a free product with like a five figure support service, right?

Like, I want to feel like you're buying a $20,000 product, the way we treat you and the way we're super available. And we ask you for your feedback, we reach out to you and like, that's the feeling I want. But the thing is free. And I think that's worked out really well. We've probably equally invested in engineering as well. We've equally invested in support and customer success as much as engineering.

And how about like a decision that was a mistake that you learned from, that maybe other founders could learn from you?

The fact that I can't think of any is probably why we're doing well, because we've made lots of little mistakes, but I don't think we've made any like glaringly large mistakes. One could argue that we should have probably improved our onboarding before launch.

We should have known it wasn't as good as we thought and done more testing on it because we probably, you know, because we kind of squandered five months of post-launch weeds because we weren't quite ready for them.

But it was challenging because we just we went from one day of like, we're getting two sentences a day to getting a thousand and we just didn't have, it's hard to know that ahead of time.

So, you know, we also re-architected a lot of the backend a couple different times. And so I think we could have probably maybe been a little less reactionary and thought a little more, you know, future work and all that. But you know, I wish I had a better answer for you.

But no, I can't think of anything like, oh my gosh, we totally bungled that sort of thing.

Well, that's a little mistake, though, that's for sure.

If you could go back in time and meet yourself the day you start this company, what do you tell yourself?

I probably would tell myself everything since I was very focused on optimizing for speed this time around. I had this analogy I really like about like your first time doing a startup and your second time doing a startup.

Have you ever played Minecraft?

The game?

Yeah. Okay.

So the first time you get dropped into Minecraft, you're like, I don't know what the hell to do, right?

And it's kind of like you've got to look around for a while.

You know, it takes you a long time to realize I got to punch this tree to get some wood out of it to then make the torch that I need to like do this, right?

The second time you play Minecraft or after you get to know it, like, see, come back to it.

You know, you see these people within 30 minutes, they've got this castle and they've got like a farm and they all these things, right?

And that's kind of the difference, I think, between your first startup and your second startup. First startup, it's like, you don't even know where to begin. You don't know what the levers are. You don't know how to craft anything.

You know, everything feels like an open-ended question. The second time around, it's like, you know what all the levers are.

Everything feels like a multiple choice question, right?

Like, what should you go to market point?

Well, there's one or four we can choose from, right?

And so a lot of the second time around, I was very focused on speed.

How quickly can we do everything?

Because now we have a better view of, you know, I was fortunate enough to run every department at some point in my last company. But probably the advice I would give myself is like, it's still going to take you longer than you think.

Right?

Even if you think like, ah, I'm not a speed run this game. It's still going to take you longer than you think. There's still going to be what Paul Graham called like troughs of sorrow. If you've ever seen this like very cool graph, like the same parts like that first three months after launch, we're like, it's not really working.

And you know, so I probably give myself more heads up because I had, it was a little like the sunshine and rainbows. It's going to be, it's going to be so easy.

And you know, there's definitely been some moments, some, some, oh shit moments around everything, right?

Tech, fundraising, you know, traction, you name it across everything. There's been a moment where I'm like, I don't know if we're going to get through this. Right. But so. I think it's a good advice for yourself and for any other founder that might be in the same position. It's my second time around. I have been to that myself too.

Like this is my second company and I thought this is going to be easy. I did it once and it just took a lot longer, actually even longer than took the first company. I'm in my third company building my consulting, my SaaS. It is funny how, how it works.

So how is the company doing today and what does the future look like?

Doing really great.

We, you know, we're setting usage records almost every week.

Unless we have a very keen awareness of when people are on holiday though, right?

Because we know we were using. We're doing really well. We're still like iterating the product at a pretty high velocity.

You know, we are kind of continuing to make the product more robust. We're adding in some cool new features like AI based call summaries and stuff that I mentioned and we're continuing to round out our team edition. We're actually just in the, you know, we're kind of wrapping up. I mentioned we did this kind of crowdfunding round, which has been really, really fun. I've been loving having users.

We hear this a lot of like, oh, use your product and then I invested in your product and now I'm buying your team product. And I was like, amazing. So we're about to wrap that up this month and then we're going to start thinking about series day. I'm really excited to take this team now. This team has been great.

We've had around 10 to 12 people for really the past 18 months and I think we will get the market. We're excited about the opportunity and we're excited to kind of go grow this team and kind of ship even faster if you will.

You know, our vision here is that we think there's a lot more things we can do with AI to help you in your meetings. Right. And so there's lots of, you know, some of it has come around the corner from a, you know, what AI can do perspective and some of it's just, you know, the trade-offs we have to make. Right.

So more platforms, more assistance pre and post call, more integrations is probably a big thing. I think if you look at a lot of the great companies the last couple of years, things like ClickUp and stuff like that, they integrate with everything. Right. No one wants a product now that doesn't integrate with everything.

And so I think that's probably the next big step for us is really going heavy on really good integrations too. Because also users now know like when you make a crappy integration, it doesn't really work. People figure that out. Right. For sure. That game plan, that like check the box to make the sale game plan doesn't work anymore.

So you really need to have a strategy for how to build integrations that at the same level of quality that you build your core product. So that's what we're working on. That's awesome. Thank you very much for sharing, for coming to the show. It's an amazing orange story. I have one final question for you.

What book do you recommend for every SaaS founder?

What book do I recommend for every SaaS founder?

That's a great question.

Honestly, I think I generally answer this question with it doesn't really matter what book you read as long as you read any book. But I actually think for a SaaS founder, I'm going to go off because a lot of the books around how to do SaaS and those tactics, whether they go to market tactics or product learning tactics, those tactics shift a lot.

And so I think actually a lot of the best things you can learn from are your peers that are also in the arena. That's actually one of the biggest values of going through a program like Y Combinator is by the time a marketing strategy is in a book, it's no longer probably that effective. So you need to learn what are the smart people doing first principles around marketing, around sales, around whatever.

I love, love, love science fiction books. And I think they get you to think about, especially love alt history sci-fi. I also have what we call hard sci-fi or it's near term sci-fi. It's not like Star Trek, it's grounded in the physics that we understand. But I think it tends to get you to think about how the world might look.

Even if you just have a lot of perspectives on how the world could look in 50 years, that is a gold mine for really understanding what you could be doing with technology. Because sci-fi books are actually pretty good predictors. Timescales aren't always right, but a lot of the concepts are generally correct.

And so I would say pick up any quality sci-fi book and read a sci-fi book once a quarter and I think you'll become a better founder.

Could you recommend one?

So this is kind of a, I recommend the Three Body Problem trilogy is great. The character development in it is terrible, but the concepts are huge. And it looks at sci-fi and the universe from a very different perspective. So you can also kind of skip book one, in my opinion, and just go straight to two and three.

Concepts in two and three, one's a little bit slow, but it's a fantastic series that just really makes you think. Every chapter I'm like, well, I didn't even consider that. That's a great advice because we don't always have to be reading a business book, a sci-fi book, or like I get inspiration from everywhere. I get inspiration from my hobbies. I get inspiration from movies.

You don't have hours to be reading a business book to get inspiration to run your business. My other problem with business books is they tend to be like, they tend to tell in 300 pages what you can generally tell in like 30, because no one wants to pay 30 bucks for a 30 page book.

So I also have learned to like, when I do have business books, be totally comfortable with like not reading the whole thing. Once I feel like I've got like 80% of the concept, I'm like, great, I'll just read the next one.

Yeah, makes a lot of sense.

And if people want to follow you and learn more about you, what's the best way to do?

Yeah, if you want to check out Fathom, again, it's free. It's fathom.video. That's the website. If you want to chat with me, I'm not much of a social media person. Where I am is on LinkedIn. So I'm Richard White on LinkedIn. I've got this little blue avatar.

It looks, everyone says it looks like it's a little 8-bit kind of Bitmoji, bitnappy thing. It is not an NFT. I get that question all the time. It's just like a, you know, it's an avatar. So if you see this bright blue avatar on Richard White working for Fathom, that's me. Feel free to follow me.

Feel free to send me a message if you have any feedback on our products or any questions. I'm happy to pay it back. Awesome. Thanks again, Richard. That was a great Origin Story. Thank you very much for your time. Thanks for having me, Phil. It was a lot of fun. SaaS Origin Stories is brought to you by Dev Squad.

To find out more about how we help entrepreneurs launch new products and help larger businesses plug in a ready to go development team, visit devsquad.com. Add us to your rotation by searching for SaaS Origin Stories in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or anywhere else podcasts are found. Make sure to click follow so you don't miss any future episodes. Thanks for listening and remember every SaaS hero has an Origin Story.