SaaS Founder Interview with Dave Schatz, Founder of Circles for Zoom
Tony Zayas 0:05
Hey, everybody, welcome to the tech founders show where we have outstanding conversations with founders who are leading the way, and being agents of change and doing disruptive, exciting, innovative things in the tech landscape. So today, I’m excited to talk to Dave Schatz, he is the founder or the co-founder of circles for zoom. And circles for zoom is pretty cool. I think most people are gonna find this really interesting, but it’s a new way to experience zoom, that gets out of your way. So you can take notes multitask and get your desktop back. So with that, let me pull Dave on screen here. Hey, Dave, how you doing?
Dave Schatz 0:44
Hey Tony, how’s it going?
Tony Zayas 0:45
Very good. Thank you for joining. We’re excited to talk here today. Dave, why don’t you tell us a little bit about circles for zoom. I think you know what’s cool about it. And this probably was, we’ll talk about, you know, how you’ve, you know, launched the product and grown the product. But intuitively, it makes a lot of sense. Like, it’s, it’s easy to comprehend. So just tell us a little bit about the product. And we’ll go from there.
Dave Schatz 1:09
Cool. Yeah. Thanks. And thanks for having me, by the way, Oh, yeah. So service for zoom, where a you know, where zoom alternative, we connect to meetings in the Zoom network. And essentially, our goal is to enhance the meeting experience, enhance workplace collaboration, and the primary, the primary problem that we’re solving is giving people their desktop back, while they’re on these zoom calls. Zoom, as everybody knows, we’ve all been stuck on Zoom for the last year and change, right? If this huge window takes up your entire screen, if you’re trying to do anything else, while you’re on a zoom call, it’s pretty complicated or cumbersome, like you’re resizing the zoom window to resize a notes window, or, you know, trying to position things just so so you can, you know, be productive again. And, and we try and do is is get zoom out of your way make zoom feel, make your meeting feel more like a part of the OS, turn everyone all participants in little circles at the top of your screen, or you can position them wherever you want. So you can have your desktop space back, which is great for working sessions or collaboration or multitasking when you’re on calls.
Tony Zayas 2:14
That’s awesome. So where did the idea for it come from?
Dave Schatz 2:19
Yeah, we. So we, my co-founder, and I’ve always been interested in the workplace collaboration space. And and our previous company originally started in the workplace collaboration space. And then after a series of pivots moved into a sales focused SaaS business. But uh, you know, as the pandemic struck, and you know, we were all forced to go remote, we found ourselves on Zoom more and more. And as we were trying to do working sessions like we normally would, we found it to be pretty difficult with Zoom taking up the entire screen. So we kind of prototyped a little, you know, little mini version of circles for zoom, just something to get it out of our way and start using it a bunch started talking to our friends about it, put in some friends hands, they started using it. Some demand was starting to build up, we put a landing page together just to see what kind of demand there would be. And signup started flowing in. And we thought, hey, maybe this is something we should put some more cycles into, and, you know, explore a bit deeper. I love that Genesis.
Tony Zayas 3:24
Yeah. So I mean, typically, I was gonna ask a lot MVP. And that’s typically something people struggle with, right? Like, everyone wants to add, you know, a few more features. They want, they want it to be perfect before they get it out there. But I love you said, you know, you just throw a landing page up, you know, wanted to see and test the waters and see what happens. So it sounds like you guys were, were pretty bold about just putting it out there.
Dave Schatz 3:49
Yeah, I think he said something that we’ve, we’ve learned in time. So the two of us are engineers. And I think one big problem that often, you know, we face and I think many engineers fall victim to is the desire to over engineer or build too much up front. And, you know, keep building and keep building and try and release something great. But uh, I think we just wanted something that worked for us just to get out of our way, cuz we were trying to solve our own problem. And so we slap something together something pretty basic, minimal features, just, you know, get zoom out of the way. And that works for us that you know, and as we started using it, we start to feel one of the pain points we would need, as we had more users coming on, we’d start to get more feedback. You know, one thing that, you know, we’ve been really focusing on is building our community of users and keep a really tight feedback loop with the folks that are using it. And that’s really helped us get a sense for what’s important, because right now, you know, our team is down to just Tim and myself. And so the types of meetings that we have are very different than types of meetings some other people have and so, you know, some folks are on you know, 100 150 person meeting some people are on 10 15 person calls, and there are different types of calls to summer working sessions. several webinars, some are, you know, one on one syncs it, it all depends. And so there’s no way that we’d be able to predict all of the use cases. And so, you know, we’re not gonna delude ourselves into thinking that we have all the answers. So we have to rely on, you know, customer feedback, user feedback sessions, and understanding what you know what people need out of the product. And then the other thing is, it’s, I think it’s a lot easier when you release something basic. Because it’s, it’s less confusing of a product. As soon as you add more features, you have to figure out how to make those features intuitive. And another thing that we’ve learned is that everyone has I mean, seems pretty seems like common sense. But everyone’s got their own workflow. And when you see that put in practice, as people use your application, everyone tries to use it a different way. And so what might be intuitive to one person isn’t to another, what you think might be getting out of someone’s way might be getting in the way of another person. So introducing all these different ways of flexibility within the product, while still trying to keep it easy to use, has been a challenge for us. But but it’s exciting. It’s a fun. It’s a fun experience.
Tony Zayas 6:06
Yeah, that’s super, super cool to hear, you know, kind of what you guys have done. I want to get back at some point to talk about that user feedback, because I think that’s super important. And I think there’s a lot to learn there. But I would like to hear first about, you know, you having that engineering background, that software engineering background. And knowing that at times, you need to take that hat off and look at business in different ways. How has that been for you? And how for you and your co founder? How do you guys balance? Or you said, you’re both, you guys both have a technical background? Correct?
Dave Schatz 6:44
Right? Yeah, correct.
Tony Zayas 6:46
So how do you kind of as a team, how do you guys make sure that you’re stepping back and looking at things from, you know, the basic, you know, user perspective, and like you said, everyone’s going to use things differently. And you got to account for all of that, I would just love to hear a little bit about how you guys did planning how you look at the product, how to make improvements, and all of that?
Dave Schatz 7:07
Sure, yeah, yeah, that is a great question. Um, so yeah, I mean, spot on. As engineers, all we want to do is build all the time. So it is, it’s a lot to try and force ourselves. And we constantly have to remind ourselves and force ourselves to pull out of that engineering mindset to take a step back and take a look like you were saying, fortunate, I think we have very complementary skill sets. And given that Tim and I have been working together for a long time, our communication is really great. And so So yeah, you know, Tim, Tim leads engineering, Tim leads our engineering charge, and he leads our design, he’s got a really great sense for products a really great eye for design. So Tim leads both of those, I, these days, I support on engineering, and mostly lead our growth efforts. And and it’s kind of a back and forth to depends on the needs, and you know, where the products at. So we’ll come up with milestones, and we’ll push ourselves really hard. So there’s could be growth numbers, retention numbers, or, or certain product goals. So for example, you know, if, if, if there’s a feature of zoom, that circles needed support that we aren’t currently supporting, and it’s gonna require a ton of time and engineering effort to get done, we’ll break that work up, and we’ll split it that way. In terms of growth, if their marketing efforts or, you know, community building or outreach, I’ll devote a lot of my time to that. But when it comes to, in product growth features or product like growth stuff, yeah, those are conversations, idea sessions, brainstorm sessions, where we’ll come up with ways that we think we can lightly encourage folks to do things in the app that would, that would encourage growth, or encourage referrals or invites, and, you know, those end up being product features that we split up. But, you know, the beginning of the week, we’ll set goals for ourselves. So the end of the week, we have, you know, quarterly goals, we have monthly goals, and then we’ll constantly review those and just check in to make sure that parties haven’t changed. If they have, how are we dividing and concuring network?
Tony Zayas 9:12
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So it sounds like you as you guys divide up, you know, areas of the business that you’re responsible for, it sounds like you’re the one that has stepped a little bit more outside of your comfort zone, at least from that, you know, software engineer perspective. How has that been for you? What is that is has it been challenging if you enjoyed it, you know, what does that been like looking more on the, you know, growth side of things, marketing and all that kind of stuff?
Dave Schatz 9:43
Yeah, I’ve definitely enjoyed it. It’s definitely a personal growth experience for sure. It definitely is stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’m most comfortable when I’m in my ID writing code, but but it has been fun. I think a lot of my past experience has help me out as I got to this point. So I was at Facebook for a number of years. And while I was there, I work closely with folks in the partnerships teams and the sales teams and I learned a ton just being around them and sitting into meetings with them from the engineering side, at least. And, and, and that’s also given me a great network of folks to reach out to for support. And so, you know, when it comes to sales, so I think I mentioned, Tim and I had started a previous company together, that had turned into a SaaS business. And, again, being two engineers, we needed to find a way to grow and sell the product. And, you know, I didn’t know anything about sales, so I leaned pretty heavily on my network, my past colleagues, friends of mine, to build those skills. And I think a lot of that has prepared me for this, even though it’s a, it’s a very different approach. This isn’t like a sales lead approach. But that definitely got me out of the comfort zone. And now it’s exciting. It’s fun, I think moving metrics is fun seeing you know, seeing the, the results of you know, growth experiments, not all of them work, many of them don’t. But the ones that do, you know, as you know, I mean, your, your growth expert, you know, way more about this than I do. So I
Tony Zayas 11:13
well, I totally agree. It’s exciting. Like, it’s super fun. When you find something that works. It’s like, it’s it’s so exciting, you know, but you got to do a lot of those tests to find that one. Right. And that’s for that. Yeah, so that’s, that’s interesting, we see a lot of people with, you know, we work a lot of clients and talk to a lot of folks that, you know, with a tech background and a tech business, and that’s kind of the whole team is everyone is a team of engineers. And so sometimes that’s, you know, how are you how the growth really needs to happen, when you step away from the product, look at what, you know, your target audience wants, needs, how they need that articulated, so on and so forth. And that can be challenging. So that’s cool to hear that, you know, in your past role. So this isn’t your first rodeo as far as being a founder. Right?
Dave Schatz 12:03
Yeah, we, I mean, still making mistakes, I think you always make mistakes, but I learned a ton, you know, while building the last one, and trying to apply a lot of those learnings now. But, you know, you were mentioning, as we talk about growth, I think another thing that we focus on too, is just this oscillation between a product and growth and like retention and growth. And so there’s a lot that you can do to try and force growth. But if you’re not building a great product experience, then you’re building a product that’s just designed to churn. And so one thing that we try to balance a lot is, you know, trying as best we can to ensure that hey we have good retention be we have a product that delivers true value, and then trying to grow on top of that, you know, early on. The other tough thing about our business, I if I’m rambling too much, please reel me in are going in a direction. One of the interesting things, so coming from Facebook, Tim came from Amazon, you know, we both, we both have this desire to keep shipping and release new features and keep pushing and pushing and, you know, talking to customers, you’re trying to deliver on some of the requests as soon as possible just to like deliver, you know, love to our customers and let them know that we listened to them. One of the challenges with that, with what we’re doing now is that meeting software is really critical to day to day in a business. And if we push an unstable build, or if you’re meeting crashes, you know, circles crashes during your meeting. That’s not something that people are willing to forgive, especially not all that easily. And it it’s embarrassing for user if, you know, if if you leave a meeting or freeze on a meeting or the software glitches up. And so there were a few times where we pushed some unstable builds caused a lot of problems for us, cause a lot of problems for some of our users, we feel terrible about it, when it happens. We’ve you know, updated our QA process to anything that’s in meeting related goes through heavy heavy QA, you know, other ancillary features, I think we can be a little bit more more loose with but um, but it’s really taught us the importance of, you know, how careful we have to be with with some of these things and, and a lot of empathy for people, unfortunately, through this tight feedback loop that we’ve had with customers, you know, we’ve been able to you know, when some folks back and they’ve been able to go and have a chance but but yeah, it’s it’s it’s it’s interesting finding where those levers are in terms of where you can move fast and where you need to optimize for true stability. And another challenge that we have to is just that, you know, we have some of these platform dependencies. So we’re built on top of the Zoom SDK, which is what gives us access to the Zoom network. And, and if there are issues with that Zoom SDK, you know, no software is perfect. One of the challenges is that If there’s a bug in their software it reflects is if it’s a bug in our software, and folks think that we’ve released a buggy product and so requires even more testing and even more process just to make sure that we do deliver that good experience.
Tony Zayas 15:14
So just to clarify the Zoom network. That is one of those other kind of brands that are that are really running the Zoom platform, is that correct?
Dave Schatz 15:27
Uh, when I say the Zoom network, I mean, there are a few different popular meeting conference networks. There’s like the Zoom network, the Google meet network, Microsoft Teams Skype for Business, we only support the Zoom network right now. We’re exploring what the engineering effort would be to support something like Google meet or Microsoft Teams. You know, one of the ideas being, if you like, the circles experience in your meetings, and you have to have a meeting on Google meet, you know, why not be able to use this same interface? And the same experience in any meeting that you have? Why does it just have to be zoom? Right now? We’re limited by engineering resources. But
Tony Zayas 16:07
sure, yeah, that’s great. So is that part of your growth plan? You know, the roadmap down the road?
Dave Schatz 16:13
Long term? I think so there are a few different directions we can go. And I think we’re, oh, I think it’s it’s good that we’re considering a bunch of different options. I’m happy to share what some of those some of those are. But, uh, but I think the important thing will be listening to our customers and seeing where that takes us. And yeah, again, I I think one of the hardest things for any startup is finding product market fit. And I think we’re very critical on ourselves. Because we don’t want to assume we have product market fit. Before we do I, that’s one of the mistakes we made with our last company. If it’s okay to share, absolutely. But yeah, um, you know, with our last company, we, we set out to build a mobile workplace communication tool, we raised money. And I think at that point we had, so we had some companies beta testing our product, we just raised money. And we assumed that meant product market fits mart folks invested, decent amount of money into us, we have beta customers using it, we use it internally. And we’re like, wow, we’re off to the races. Let’s just iterate on product. Yeah, yep. But but that’s just not the case. And, you know, we ultimately had to pivot a few times before we found a product that that delivered on, you know, market needs. And so, so here, we’re extra critical with ourselves. And yeah, and just trying to make sure that with everything we do, we’re delivering real value to our users.
Tony Zayas 17:44
That’s great. So to talk a little bit about users. I’m just curious what the process is, and how do you communicate and engage with those users to learn about, you know, their concerns, challenges, things they like? Is that a formal process? Or how do you guys go through and document that? And then after you collect that feedback, how do you guys work to, like prioritize as far as what you’re going to actually work on in upcoming releases? I’d love to hear just kind of what that iteration looks like.
Dave Schatz 18:20
Well, yeah, those are great questions. So, uh, it started pretty informally. And I think we’ve gotten some structure down for it now. But, uh, what we’ll do is, we’re, we’re very active in responding to customer support emails. So you know, users will email us reach out and different means we have a, you know, Facebook community in there. Fortunately, folks are helping each other as well. So it’s, it’s less of a burden on us as much now, but we’re constantly in there helping and as we get emails, and as we work with folks, we always insert a little Calendly link at the bottom, and we ask if, you know, they’re willing to spend 15 minutes with us, you know, we’re hopeful that we’re delivering enough value for them. And maybe they have enough ideas or feedback, especially when people send, you know, really critical feedback or complaints or you’re running into issues with the with the software, we really try and get on a call with them. So anytime we speak to anybody over email, we always try and push for Hey, are you open to a 15 minute phone call with us or a 15 minute zoom call with us. Just we can learn more about your experience. Learn how you use the product, learn a bit more about what your use case is and what we can do to better support you. And oftentimes folks are willing I mean, 15 minutes a short commitment, really respectful folks times we try and keep it really tight. More in there., the conversatio, the the only guiding questions that we ask are, you know, to share their experience, share a bit more about the types of meetings that they’re in. And then and then it kind of me enters from there, depending on the feedback they share. And we’ve learned some really great things and we’ve learned about some issues with our products from flows that we just don’t experience ourselves. And when it comes to how frequently we ask, so anytime we send emails out, anytime there’s a major update, we’ll send a major update email. And at the bottom, we’ll you know, we’re constantly requesting time with folks. And, you know, fortunately, folks are giving it to us. And we always want to honor the folks that spend time with us by, you know, posting on our, you know, social channels, so LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, thanking them publicly, and, and our goals out of these are A, to improve the product and understand what we can be doing better. B, defined, at least one small feature that was requested, and that that we could deliver right away just to, you know, really deliver love to folks that that chat with us. And then, and then try and pull up themes across these conversations. So folks will ask for things and, and it’s important to know what they’re asking. But it’s even more important to know why they’re asking for certain things, because they only know how to ask for things in context of what they’ve seen so far. And they’re not oftentimes able to envision where the product could go, or what’s possible, what else we could do. And as we hear feedback from folks, we try and take a step back and have conversations afterwards trying to understand what is it that they’re trying to do with that feature request. And sometimes what they requested is absolutely the way that we should do it. Other times, it’s it’s very directional feedback and you know, very helpful in guiding us towards a direction that will not only solve their problem, but solve other problems that we’ve heard too. And so in terms of prioritization, we prioritize bugs at the top, anything that’s causing issues, you know, is a high priority, we have these longer term goals that are guided by these conversations based on things that the product needs to deliver on that it’s it’s currently not. And then, and then where we want to take the product, I think a lot of our time was spent catching up to zoom, because in order to deliver a zoom client get off at the same features. And but beyond that, our goal is really to deliver, you know, we want to give you superpowers in your in your zoom meetings, you know, we want to give you the ability to do all these things in the most convenient way for you. Zoom, by necessity has to be this one size fits all tool, it has to work for grandparents, it has to work for business folks has to work for kids in school. So for teachers, like they need to define their interface in a certain way that that’s consistent and makes sense across all users, we have the opportunity to build a tool for power users. And I think everybody now whether they believe it or not, is probably a power user of zoom. And if we identified, you know, some common workflows that we think we can really deliver value on and understand what some of the common activities are, or common frustrations or common actions are maybe there ways that we can make that easier, make that quicker with like one click or two clicks, or, you know, keyboard shortcut, or, you know, what can we do to make that experience seamless and out of your way. Anyway, I’m, I’m probably rambling here.
Tony Zayas 23:18
And I really love your approach. Just interacting with your users, you get a little bit of feedback here. But I think it’s a, it’s great that I love what you said there that you you know, when you’re talking to users, obviously you’re collecting, you know, information in your some are themes that you’re seeing come up, you know, across many users, different groups. But I love how you said you’re also looking, you know, to deliver a little something, you know, so that people could, I mean, I would feel really good if I, you know, gave some feedback about you know, I’m using your software. And I came up with a little suggestion, and then I see that down the road. I mean, I think that’s really cool. And that shows that.
Dave Schatz 24:07
Sorry about that. I think my internet may have
Tony Zayas 24:11
no problem. Can you can you see and hear me?
Dave Schatz 24:14
Yeah. Can you see any hear me? Yeah, you’re good.
Tony Zayas 24:18
But I love that kind of commitment and focus to user inner voice kind of really trying to get the platform to, you know, where it needs to be for them. You know, there’s a lot of, in a lot of cases, you’re going to understand you’re you’re trying to understand what they’re trying to accomplish, and there might be a better way. And that’s what software engineers can come in, figure that out. But that’s, that’s great. I think something I would love to hear a little more about is it sounds like you have you know, that user network, I think you said it was a Facebook group that people are on and interacting. I love that and I think that’s such a cool, you know, that is so valuable to have something like that. So I would ask how did you grow that group to get, you know, the goal is to get the power users talking, so they’re sharing and helping others out, like you said, and that they become the evangelists, they have a purpose in that group, because they, you know, they’re, they’re becoming a subject matter experts, people are, you know, talking to them asking them, they’re supporting your product and your model. So how did you grow that, to get people active to get people talking and sharing, and to that point.
Dave Schatz 25:28
this is something that we put together. Forget when we started maybe about six months ago. So it wasn’t something that we thought about from the beginning. It came out of we would get a ton of emails, I mean, when you get a ton of emails asking for the same thing, or asking questions about the same thing. You know, our mentality was okay, let’s add that to our FAQ. But nobody reads the FAQ. But you know, it’s good to add that anyway. And then we thought, well, you know, and then obviously improve that in the product. But if there are many people asking the same question, you know, maybe they’d benefit from if there’s a better way for us to deliver that information, for everybody to see it or that was kind of the impetus behind why we decided to create a group or create a community. Also, as engineers, you know, we participate in all these communities. So whether it’s, you know, the Zoom developer forum, or something like Stack Overflow, or other communities that we’re a part of, we find so much value in those. And there are other software tools that we participate in communities for. And, as engineers, the first thing we thought of was, or let’s spin up some forum software and put it all together. But you know, you really need to prioritize your time and you need to, you know, understand where you’re spending time and, you know, how much value are we going to get from using our own custom forum versus using an existing platform? So the question was, what platform do we think most people will be on? That came down to either Reddit or Facebook, and we thought Facebook might, might have more people might be easier to use. So we started this Facebook group, and then, you know, similar to our requests for time for folks, at the bottom of our emails will also say, hey, heads up in case you don’t know about it, we have this Facebook group, check it out, there are a lot of questions being asked in there, a lot of there’s a lot of support. Inside the product, we have a link to the Facebook community. So people find it that way. And inside each of our release emails, we always linked to the Facebook community. So it’s a slow process, you know, it’s not, we don’t have we don’t have all that many folks in there right now. But the folks that are in there are engaged, and they’re helping each other out. And it’s growing. And so we hope that that channel continues to grow, because we think that’s a really, you know, efficient way for folks to learn from each other. And um, we’re learning a lot. I mean, being engineers, we’re not growth experts, we’re trying to be more we’re trying to gain the skills that you have Tony, so yet, this is just it’s just one thing. We’re learning how to do.
Tony Zayas 27:53
Yeah, no, that’s, that’s cool. But it sounds like you guys are, you know, taking what you learn and moving forward with that, which, which is that’s, you know, that’s, that’s awesome. I would love to hear a little bit just with your backgrounds with I think you said, Tim, having worked at Amazon, you having worked at Facebook, I think that is just that was a bit I wanted to ask just, you know, looking through your LinkedIn profile and seeing a little bit of your, you know, your work history. What would you guys say you guys have? I’m sure there’s a ton of things you learned from working in those organizations. Are there any things that you really pulled from them that said, you know, when I was at Facebook, this is how we handle this. And, man, we need to be doing that or here’s something I learned that didn’t work? And let’s, let’s make sure we have, I would love to hear just what you learned what your take was, I think the obvious thing is, is you probably both have an awesome network of really talented people, which is fantastic that you can tap into, but from an organizational standpoint, the way those companies were run, I would love to hear just a little bit of kind of what you’ve taken and tried to, you know, use what you’ve learned.
Dave Schatz 29:04
Absolutely, yeah, I I feel very fortunate. I think we both do that we had the opportunity to work at those organizations, especially, you know, at the time that we did is, you know, especially Facebook is a very transformative time for the company. And so you I don’t know if my camera is my connection. I feel like my connections getting weak again, I apologize.
Tony Zayas 29:27
No, you’re okay.
Dave Schatz 29:29
Okay. So, yeah, I learned a ton at Facebook, both from the incredible engineers that I worked with, and I leveled up a ton in that sense. And then also just the, the methodologies and the practices like in place at Facebook. And so you know, there are a lot of core mantras within Facebook that I still hold dear today and have shaped me a lot as an engineer. So you know, one of the core ones is done is better than perfect. Facebook used to always say done is better than perfect just shifts something and then we can iterate on it, but we can’t start learning until we do. One fun, you know story about this, too, is well, I’ll share a bit more and then I can I can share some stories, but done is better than perfect is one that we live by. And it, it kind of forces us to keep shipping. The Facebook mantra, I don’t know, if they still say it, but move fast and break things. The idea behind it isn’t to break things, but it’s move fast enough so that, you know, if you’re not moving fast enough that you might break something, then you’re not shipping fast enough, and you’re not learning fast enough, the more you ship, the more you learn. And so the idea behind that is ship fast. And if you break something, you can always fix it, but you know, move fast. And so depending on the organization, certain organizations and Facebook have a lot more focus on stability, certain, you know, organizations that Facebook can be a little bit more loose, we find that with us, you know, the in meeting part of our products versus the other part. So you know that that kind of works for us, too. Another thing I loved about Facebook was I think at the time, the motto was code wins arguments. it may have shifted to data wins arguments, but that’s something that we value as well. And I think we’re very data driven and data oriented. And, and another thing that I really loved was inside Facebook, we used to always say nothing is somebody else’s problem. So if you see an issue, or if you you know, find a bug, even if it’s in a part of code base that your team doesn’t work on, submit a diff, you know, push a fix, try and fix it, it’s you found it, fix it, nothing is somebody else problem goes, you know, across everything, not just engineering, but it just builds this supportive culture within the company. And and so I learned a ton from that a couple stories that I think reflect some of this, within Facebook. On facebook.com, the website, when we’re launching chat, there was this internal debate between should it be on the right side of the left side, you know, Where would people want chat to be? Would folks want to see it on one side or the other where were they naturally look? And this conversation went on for longer than it needed to until a product manager was like, what are we doing? Let’s just A/B test this. And that’s the only way we’re gonna find out, we can sit in a room all day and bicker back and forth based on what we think but we’ll never know, the data will tell us and, you know, it’s a it’s that kind of attitude that we try and run with. And we did it at tape. And now it’s circles, which is we’re not, you know, we’re not, I don’t think anybody is capable of predicting what the right answer is to everything. And, and a lot of these things, and I mean, I’m sure you’ve experienced this a ton and growth, I mean, with growth, you can have a great idea for a growth experiment, and it may fall flat on its face. And then you might have this, you know, this other I, you’ll come up with a ton of ideas, and, and some of the ones that you think will really work out won’t, some of the ones that you never thought would work, do, you know, show results, and then some of the ones that you thought would work really do work, but the only way to do this is to test and they all take time, but you know, it’s anyway, so I don’t know if that’s helpful. But um, you know, so aside from the operational side, and some of those mantras from the engineering side, I think we both leveled up a ton as engineers, through that experience, just, you know, scaling software, scaling these code bases, supporting, you know, building services that support tons of traffic and scale and, you know, engineering practices, you know, that are done the right way. Since then moving into startups, I think it, at a startup, it takes the right set of trade offs. And I think you have to know when to make those trade offs. And so as engineers, we always want to engineer the perfect thing that scales the right way. And that takes so much time, but we need to make the right trade offs in terms of, we can cut some corners here, knowing that we’re cutting some corners, and we can come back to those in the future. But in order to ship something faster, or to get to market faster, because the worst thing in the world would be to spend two weeks building something that we released and doesn’t get used or is built the wrong way. And then we have to you know, rebuild it. So I think startups are an interesting, you know, an interesting exercise in in making those trade offs and everything, not just engineering, but all of the trade offs you have to make as a startup because you’re so limited on resources and time. Yeah. And yeah, I think I’m rambling a ton here. So hopefully some of this is is onpoint to what you’re asking me and relevant
Tony Zayas 34:44
No, a lot of really good stuff. I mean, you shared a ton of really valuable things that I do love. I wrote it down if you know, nothing is somebody else’s problem. That’s fantastic. And I think to your point, that’s something that’s like a culture builder, because if you can get people that start to see the world like that and see, you know, it’s not all that’s, that’s not my problem, right? I mean, that’s the worst mentality to have. But I love that it’s, you know, Andy and I, we talk a lot about, you know, core values and, and our company insivia that was something that attracted me to join was that you know, and he has his core core values, you know, think smart, act bold, always innovate, open yourself, be passionate. And so when I heard those and like, so that’s what you guys are really about, that resonated. So I love hearing that type of thing. And having it that’s something that opens people’s eyes, you know, and you’re saying, Oh, this, this is the mentality that we need to have, you know, moving forward, just call so what I’ve gathered from you today, and so far, it’s like a lot of learning lessons. And I think that they’re super valuable. Those you know, what is a failure? You know, your last endeavor is now something you paying close attention to, that’s helping you had the right direction. So that’s pretty cool. Just to shift gears a little bit, it sounds like at your last your last company that you founded, you guys raise some funds. Yeah, yes. What about circles? Are you guys bootstrapping now? Are you raising funds? Where things at and what is? What does that all look like?
Dave Schatz 36:21
Yeah, so, uh, right now. So we were fortunate enough to exit tape. So with the proceeds from that, we’re, you know, we’re moving forward on, on circles. But, uh, you know, the way we think about fundraising is, you know, fortunately, we have the runway right now, to continue moving forward, we want to get the product into a stronger position, where we have a more repeatable growth, I think we’ve gotten into a place where the product is delivering true value, we have really strong retention numbers, I think now, we just want to focus a bit more on growth. And, you know, there are a few other things that we want to do, but you were thinking about fundraising. But we want to do when it makes sense for the company, when we’ll be able to use that money to fuel growth, and we have, you know, we have a strong plan for, for how we’ll use that money. And I think we’ve been so in the weeds with building the product and trying to get to this point that we haven’t really spent the requisite time to, to plan that out and think about how we would use those funds if we were to raise them. And so that’s probably something we’ll start thinking about. But, uh, but it’s not our top priority at the moment moment.
Tony Zayas 37:40
Yeah, that’s, that’s great. I think that’s a very, you know, smart and responsible approach to that talk to, you know, sometimes you hear from founders who just like, I think that’s gonna just solve all their problems if they just got some funding. But you know, you’re looking at it realizing that you have to have it to a certain point. And, you know, you have to grow this product in a way that it makes sense. And so you got to be built from a strong foundation before you decide to scale it out, and all that. So that’s cool. What do you think will be what are some of the things that you guys will be looking for indicators that will tell you the time is right, to say we need to scale? Let’s, you know, figure out funding and pursue it? What do you think some of those triggers are? Just, you know, for those watching?
Dave Schatz 38:31
Yeah, it’s a it’s a good question. Just to take a step back. Looking at the space that we’re playing in, I think there are a couple factors given are given the space we’re playing in that also affect that decision process. And so, in that, I think we’re in this unique time, where, because of the pandemic, you know, most businesses have been forced to go remote. And in doing so, I don’t think there are we don’t believe that they’re the right tools out there to help many of these companies be successful as remote companies. I think there were remote first companies like Zapier or automatic that started remote and built processes and have over communication is one of their core values and know how to be remote. And then there are companies that started co-located that have become remote. And they had ways of doing things that were centered around being together in an office that just don’t work when they’re remote. They don’t have the same philosophy in the same processes as these remote first companies do. So those same tools don’t quite work. And then there’s a lot that gets lost when you move from co-located distributed which is, you know, like a lot of these spontaneous conversations that would happen amongst co-workers. You know, I’d be in an office and at the desk to desk away from me there could be a conversation starting up about you know, some part of the code base and questions that two engineers are asked me and I may have experience in that. So I might chime in. And then through that conversation we all identify, we all identify like a new paradigm, or a new feature or a new bug fix or a new something, and there’s so much value in these spontaneous conversations that happen that you just can’t have. And if that’s the way that you’re used to working and, and so we believe that there’s a huge opportunity for us or someone else to develop those tools and, and, you know, build the tools that will help companies in the future, even if there is this hybrid, remote and co-located space, you’ll need the tools to support these people. And so we’re in this really unique position. Because of that, I think we need to move fast. There’s a limited amount of time before I there’s a lot of competition in our space, there’s a limited amount of time, because of a the competition and be a, folks will figure out what works for them. And if we don’t move fast enough, we won’t even have a seat at the table, you know, offering an option for them to try. So those factor into our decision around when does it make sense to raise money. Additionally, you know, well, we don’t have many direct competitors. There are a few that I think are pretty close. But there are many people playing in this space. And a lot of folks are raising a lot of money in this space. And so another thing to think about is you know, that there’s the the the old saying, you know, don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, you know, and so if if these competitors can outspend or, you know, can build up a resource, whether that’s, you know, engineering talent, or marketing or whatever else to out compete us in that sense, then we might lose out just from that alone. And so, in order to stay competitive, we might have to raise but, but like I said before, a, you know, we have to make sure that the product is right, we have to make sure that, you know, we’re confident the direction that we’re moving. Before we can constantly go on fundraise. I mean, I’m putting my investor hat on, I want the answers to those questions before I you know, invest some money into somebody. And we also want to be as confident we can be going into this that, you know, we have a plan, and we know how we’ll win. And we know how we will, we will change the way that you know, folks collaborate in the workplace. Again, I feel like it’s a bit of a ramble. Hopefully, some of that is valuable. But there’s a lot that goes into it. And so, as we come up with that plan, which is something that we’re thinking of, you know, what are some of the milestones you want to set for ourselves? What would it take for us to get there? You know, as we plan that out, what would it take if it’s just the two of us, what would it take? If we add some more engineers? What would it take we add engineers and marketing folks, who would we need on that team and try not to over hire, I think that’s another thing that, you know, we have, we’ve good learnings and experience from is, you know, we want to stay lean as lean as we can for as long as we can and always stay lean and, and only hire when it’s necessary. And, you know, there’s no point in growing too fast. But you grow as it’s necessary is is kind of our attitude.
Tony Zayas 43:19
Yeah. This is all you give him a lot of really valuable perspective of the different things that you’re thinking through. So you might feel like some of that is rambling. But throughout here it is, there’s a lot of things to consider kind of looking at all this. I think that’s really valuable. I’m sure for a lot of people that are watching. I would like to ask just about the point of what you guys are doing. It’s so timely and relevant right now, with businesses force remote, many of them not going to be going back. It’s an interesting thing that you mentioned talking about, you know, some companies were remote first. For them. This isn’t a big deal. So it’s just kind of business as usual, that you know it but it’s that is not necessarily the the majority or the norm. A lot of companies were you know, people were in person, like you said, you know, people can chime in on conversations and things that it’s totally different now. Is that part of your focus? Has it been to this point? Or do you think that is an area that you guys will kind of go to market with that in mind, looking at companies that word traditional people in an office, and now they’re trying to figure out the whole being really effective remotely? Is that something that you guys have, you know, put intention on?
Dave Schatz 44:45
Yeah, absolutely. We think about that a lot. We think about Yeah, the the various ways that folks interact today, and our product right now is primarily video based. But you know, video isn’t perfect. for everything, and it’s not necessary for everything. And as, as we’re seeing zoom fatigue is a real thing. You know, staying on Zoom calls is energy draining, especially if you’re going back to back. And so we’re not trying to say that the perspective that we take as a company isn’t that Zoom meetings are the way that you should handle every meeting moving forward. No, it’s my internet again. Oh, we’re here. Sorry. I’m worried I think I have a bad connection today. So, uh, you know, even though, you know, Zoom meetings are our primary focus today, we don’t believe that they’re the correct solution for everything, you know, some meetings, you know, you don’t need a meeting for everything. I think one of the benefits of circles, one of the things that we’re trying to do is today, especially for these teams that were co-located, or now remote, a scheduled Zoom meeting is so structured feels so structured and heavyweight, it feels so heavy, it’s someone puts it on your calendar. Now we have this structured 30 minute meeting, and we need to make the most of it. And it’s it’s kind of draining, we’re paying close attention. And we feel like we need to use that entire time. And it’s, it’s just it’s not the same as if I were to walk up to your desk, Tony, and, you know, very quickly be like, hey, had a quick question about something, if we could avoid a meeting altogether. And I think, you know, just like in the office, there are a lot of meetings that could be avoided, by a simple quick conversation or some slack messages back and forth, I think the same can be done remote, I think, you know, text and slack can get a lot done. I think audio calls are great, I think go, especially with a pandemic, get out of your house, get out of your apartment, go for a walk and take a call, I think that’s really healthy. And what we try and do as circles is it feels lighter weight. So you see these small circles on your screen, you can resize them, do whatever you want. But the point is you can pop in and out of these things really easily. So it doesn’t have to feel like this really heavy meeting that that’s scheduled and structured. And and so that’s one thing. Another thing that we’ve been seeing that’s really interesting is we’ve been seeing some teams and you know, hearing from folks that they’re staying in circles meetings throughout the day. And so someone will spin up a circles meeting, their whole team will jump in, they’ll stay muted. And they’ll just see each other across the top of their screen really small, and they’ll feel connected. It’s that personal connection with other folks in the office, when they have a question, they’ll unmute and be like, hey, if anyone’s there quick question. And then you know, maybe that’ll start a little conversation once all them and then they’ll mute again. And they’ll just leave it up. And it, it builds that human connection that they felt when they were in the office. And I think there’s something to that, too. And that’s something that, as we hear team share that with us, we always try and pull the thread on that and you know, double click on it and try and understand that behavior a bit more and explore that more, because, you know, I don’t have all the answers. But it’s interesting being in this space and seeing how the product gets used, seeing how different teams interacting, seeing the different ways that they’re trying to be productive with each other. So that’s been that’s been exciting for us. And it gives us a lot of hope that there’s some real value we can deliver and some really interesting things that are going to happen in this space. I think, hopefully, we’re the ones to do it. But we’ll see.
Tony Zayas 48:17
Really cool. We actually for onboarding purposes, we would do that we would, you know, set up, basically a channel where people can pop in, kind of whenever they need and kind of hang out, you know, everyone would kind of hang out on their, I would jokingly call it the breathing room. Because at times it would be a little awkward, right? But it’s just figuring out like, how do we how do we connect? And how do we communicate using one more remote using these different technologies? To me, it’s a fascinating time. And it’s, you know, people like you that are paying attention and trying to innovate and figure out what works best. And you know, what works for this team isn’t gonna work for that team. It’s just a really cool space. And, you know, appreciate those of you that are trying to improve this workspace, because it’s certainly not at a mature level where, you know, everyone’s gonna run a Zoom meeting for everything. We got to figure that out. And that’s a big undertaking, but I think it’s a cool, really cool time to be focusing on a product like this. So love it.
Dave Schatz 49:21
I think just one last thing, I think one of the things that keeps us going to is the responsibility that we feel for building a workplace collaboration tool. I mean, you spend most of your day working, you spend most of your day using these tools, if we can eliminate some of that frustration that you feel scale that amongst everybody that’s using this product, if we can make you more efficient, make things easier to use for you delight you a little bit more, you know, make your workday a little bit more pleasant, a little bit easier, a little bit lighter, and scale that amongst everybody that uses our product I think I think we’re we’re making an impact on people and and then people will be, you know, ending their day is a bit happier, hopefully, or at least a little less frustrated or feeling a little more confident or comfortable in what they’re doing. And so that that kind of keeps us going.
Tony Zayas 50:09
I’m sure it’s it’s super influential at this point, you know, with the shift of how people work, and it’s yeah, it’s important work that you’re doing. So that’s awesome. Um, I would like to ask, you know, what’s the next 12 months? What do you envision for circles, I would love to hear kind of what the roadmap is, and kind of what you foresee and some of the areas you want to focus on.
Dave Schatz 50:35
Yeah, so right now, a big focus of ours is Windows. So right now, we’re we’re Macko as only. We’ve got windows and development. We built for Mac first because we use Mac computers, and we built this originally as a product for ourselves, and then it kind of spun out from there. So we’re building for windows now, I think that’ll be really important for us is, you think about your the, the machines that folks use at work, majority of which are Windows machines, for variety of reasons. And so if we want to impact more employees, and more, you know, workers than I think we need to be on both platforms. So that’s, that’s a big priority for us. Beyond that, I think exploring, we’re really excited to explore a bit more these always on meetings and see what that’s all about. We need to get a better sense for the networks that are being used. I think zoom was something that we were using, it was also incredibly popular at the time since then, things like Google meat have jumped in popularity, Microsoft Teams is growing. So you know, where are most of these meetings happening? And where can we deliver more value? That’s engineering effort there. And then what else can we be doing aside from just enhancing the meeting experience, there’s a ton that we want to do on top of meetings as well. So you know, imagine you’re in a meeting with maybe not an all hands, but you’re in, you know, you’re in a meeting with your team, and your team is 20 people, and you’ve got the Zoom grid, and you’ve either got the Zoom grids that you see all 20 people, or you see, you know, paginated, nine, you know, page two, nine more page and more. And then there are a few folks that are really important to you in that meeting. And other folks, you know, probably won’t be speaking and are just participants. You could quickly search for those folks, tap them, Star them, add them to your dock of circles, and then pay attention those folks like, what are things that we can do? What are some actions? How can we help you filter, find people send messages easier, you know, do different things, make the Zoom experience to make the meeting experience better? So there’s a lot we want to innovate on on top of these platforms. And that will take work. I know moving in a bunch of directions here. But but these are the things that we’re thinking about.
Tony Zayas 52:49
It’s great. It’s fantastic. So just kind of the last question here to kind of wrap things up, is we’ve been asking, you know, the founders that have been on this show, what’s the technology and this could be anything, it could be related, it could be totally separate? What’s the technology that you’re really excited about? That you see really transforming the way we work the way we live? Whatever that is just would love to hear from your perspective?
Dave Schatz 53:16
That’s a great question. I wish I was more prepared for this. And it’s a really it’s a fantastic question.
Tony Zayas 53:32
Anything that immediately kind of comes to mind that you’ve,
Dave Schatz 53:36
I’m so biased because I’ve been thinking about the video conferencing space for so long. I do believe that there’s a ton that can be done with real time video that hasn’t been done. I do believe that, you know, we’re just scratching the surface with how folks interact. Right now, whether that’s through video or other means, but I think I think video is very powerful, I think provides that real human connection I think you and I have gotten to know each other a whole lot better through this than we would have on the phone or certainly you know more so than email. What we’ve seen through the pandemic is that you know, video brings people closer together whether it’s in the Zoom happy hours or Zoom meetings or what have you and remote teams certainly feel a sense of camaraderie with their folks when you know when they’re on video chat with each other more so than just speaking over slack or otherwise. I think trying to find ways to use video when it makes sense in ways that don’t cause fatigue, and help connect folks in better ways. And using video when you need that fidelity and then downgrading to other experiences like audio or something else when it’s less important and then helping folks understand when to use certain methods interactivity to be more effective and, and build those connections. I think there’s a ton that will still be done in the real time communication space, through combination of video and, and other interactive tools. Biased because that’s where I spend most of my time thinking but uh I know it’s not a new up and coming technology it’s not it’s not a as sexy as something like crypto but um, you know, these days amongst, you know what folks are talking about but but it’s something that I truly believe there’s still a ton of room for innovation on and
Tony Zayas 55:21
I love hearing that I think a lot of people feel like oh, well we got zoom so that’s reached a level of maturity that that’s what it is but I love knowing that there’s people like you out there that are looking to innovate that take you know, the whole idea of real time video and communication and take it to that next level so we can get even closer to you know, the the real kind of connection and you know, idea sharing that could go on collaboration through these types of tools. So that’s awesome. Well Dave, this has been fantastic we’re just you know, we’re here at the end of the hour I would just love to for you to have a chance to share where people can see what you’re up to help the business personally where they can find you where they can follow
Dave Schatz 56:09
cool yeah, thank you um, circles for zoom dot comm check us out. All the social networks Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn slash social slash circles for zoom. So check us out there my name is Dave Schatz. If you have any questions for me, anyone who’s watching this reach out to me anytime, David at circles for zoom dot com, just, you know, reach out happy to be supportive of this community. I’m a obviously a huge fan of what you’re doing, Tony. Huge fan of what you guys doing in Serbia, and yet, I want to get back to your community. So anything I can do to be helpful, you know, reach out.
Tony Zayas 56:48
Awesome. Well, again, thank you, Dave, so much for your time here. This has been fantastic. And thanks for everyone tuning in and we will see you guys next time. Take care everybody.
Dave Schatz 56:58