Wade Foster is the CEO and co-founder of Zapier, working and living in the Bay Area he leads a team of over 45 people, entirely remote. Wade and his two other co-founders started Zapier as a side project and grew it into a product used by thousands of teams and individuals today. The team at Zapier has been a sponsor of Ways We Work for the past six months, they're a fascinating team for so many reasons and I was excited to talk to Wade to learn what some of the biggest challenges are. He shares how he divides up his time to address the most important tasks, the best part about his role as CEO and how he does it all remotely.
Tell me a little about your role and what that encompasses?
I'm a co-founder and CEO at Zapier, I have two other co-founders, Bryan and Mike, they're the CTO and CPO respectively. As the CEO my responsibility is to oversee the leadership team and anything else that is most important in the company at the given time. That can change depending on what’s happening. To give you an example, we launched Multi-Step Zaps in February and prior to launching that I was helping coordinate the launch and playing goalie to make sure that no tasks slipped through.
The launch went really great and we realized, "Oh crap, we're short staffed on support now.” We didn't think it was going to go that well, we thought it would go well, but we didn't think it would go as amazing as it did. So for the next month and a half, I did a lot of support to help out the team, while I was doing a lot of recruiting, hiring and training to get new people in the door to help out. I see my role as helping out where I’m the most needed at any given time.
How did the original idea for Zapier come about?
My co-founder Bryan and I were doing a lot of freelancing for small business in Columbia, Missouri and even though we were in Columbia our clients were located all over the place. We’d set up Wordpress sites, create forms and little lead gen things for them, and we’d often get asked to do a lot of API grunt work. A customer would ask, “can you get our PayPal sales into Quick Books for us, or get our leads coming from this Wordpress site into our CRM or mailing list for us?” So we’d write a little API code, set it up and it would work fine. The customers liked it and they’d pay us our rates. It was boring work but it paid the bills.
Bryan came to me and said, “I think we can build a tool that productizes this API work we’re doing so that the end user could set this up themselves and wouldn’t have to come to a person like us.” That seemed like a no-brainer to me, it was clearly something that was valuable. So we teamed up with Mike and for the first year of Zapier it was this side project we were doing on top of our day jobs. Mike was actually still in school at the time. We just worked as often as we could to get the app launched and off the ground, trying to get people using it and to a place where we could finally go full-time on it.