March 29, 2024

Obsess Over Distribution - Richard White | BCL #313

Richard White is founder and CEO of (YC W21), a free app that records, transcribes & instantly summarizes your meetings so you can focus on the conversation instead of taking notes.

Fathom was the #1 Highest Satisfaction product of 2024 out of 100K+ products on G2 with over 2,000 reviews and a perfect 5.0 score. It’s also the #1 installed AI notetaker on both the Zoom and Hubspot marketplaces.

Prior to Fathom, Richard founded UserVoice, one of the leading platforms that technology companies, from startups to the Fortune 500, use for managing customer feedback and making strategic product decisions. UserVoice was notable for being the company that originally invented the Feedback tabs shown on the side of millions of websites around the world today.

Richard is passionate about designing intuitive productivity tools with delightful user experiences.

Richard: I have suchstrong conviction when I'm building.

I very feel like that's very analogous to like your firststartup versus your second startup. First startup, you get dropped in. Youdon't even know what the rules of the game are.

All my startups have been like, "Oh, I experienced thisproblem. Okay. Here's the solution I want." And now I'm going to go getfeedback to figure out how many other people have this problem.

Like Fathom where we're like recording your meetings, wereliability is super important, right? Like it's a real time system.

I'd rather have a greatproduct that only worked on the happy path than a good product that worked onall the different edge cases.

I was very fortunate to fall into this group that was reallyexcited about startups. and I ended up deciding to like work in this company inthe first batch of Y Combinator.

We think AI is going to get good in the next couple of years.We don't think people want transcripts, but we think you'll need a transcriptto do all the fun stuff with AI.

Julian: Firstquestion off the bat, only because it was so interesting and I'm totally theopposite way. I can't sit for a long time with video games, but what's your goto video game today, and what's one that you, nevermind kind of playing again,taking off the shelf?

Richard: Oh gosh. I'membarrassed to say what my video game is today. my girlfriend and I actuallyplay Fortnite quite a bit. Yeah. Yeah, we play Zero Build Fortnite quite a bit,though recently I also got into, the Hogwarts game, which basically is, HarryPotter meets Skyrim sort of thing.

Really? Okay. yeah. Okay. It's like a Harry Potter RPG. It'spretty good.

And what platform is like your preferred go to? PC?

I intentionally only keep a Switch around because I find PCgaming can be too addictive. I actually like Will. I still kind of watch a lotof boss fights on like YouTube just as inoculate myself and be like, I need toplay that game. okay, I saw the end, if I had one game ever to pull off theshelf, it'd have to be, it has to be Zelda, right? not the original one. No,the switch one, just like discovering just like climbing around that world islike so intoxicating. It's just like such a cool little alternate, likereality.

Julian: I love it.Yeah, in a previous interview I heard you describe that building companies is alot like playing a video game and Describe that to our audience so that theycan hear kind of your philosophy behind You know the different phases ofbuilding and how returning to the game it always has a different but uniqueexperience describe that.

Richard: Yeah, Imean, I think and again, I realize it's like a very privileged way to look atit, right?

But I think it's an important perspective of like I think atleast for the startups I've been starting, I'm fortunate enough to like, thegame doesn't go well, you can always go get another job type of thing, right?tech, which is nice. I always like to kind of draw analogies back to Minecraft.

If you're playing Minecraft, it's just like this open worldgame. There's no instructions. There's no way to win technically. You just kindof get dropped in and stuff starts happening. And the first time you getdropped in Minecraft, you have no idea. It's Oh, this is cool. You kind ofwander around.

You don't know what you're doing. I think it took an hour tofigure out. You'd punch a tree to get some wood, which then you can make atorch. But once you play it or you watch people play it on YouTube, you startfiguring it out, right? Next time you play it, or if you get a littleexperience, like experienced players within 10 minutes, they built a castle andit's got a moat and a drawbridge and all sorts of crazy stuff.

Right. and I very feel like that's very analogous to like yourfirst startup versus your second startup. First startup, you get dropped in.It's just just this open world. Like you don't even know what the levers are.You don't even know what the game, like what the rules of the game are.

Like marketing channels. I don't know what marketing channels Ineed. I don't even know what marketing channels there are. Right. And thesecond time you do a startup. you kind of, you start realizing that all thesethings that seemed like open ended questions are actually multiple choicequestions.

Oh, marking channel to use? Okay, there's only seven really,like four of these don't make sense. and so it just kind of feels like thatgame where all of oh, I know how to play this game and I know how to like, Takethings that were kind of open ended essay questions before and now turn theminto multiple choice questions that I can just make rapid decisions about.

Julian: Yeah, it'sfascinating thinking about, your journey in particular, and for those who don'tknow, this is not your first startup that you built. this is, it's similar inthe essence of its core philosophy behind, feedback. And I hear founders alwaystrying to get more feedback and customer user feedback and really trying toidentify, The direction they should go, when you kind of, you learn that firstprocess of gathering feedback, why was it so valuable to be such a corephilosophy for now, and I'm assuming if Fathom goes well, you'll take that onto the next company. what kind of is behind the feedback that you should belooking for as a founder? Not just asking questions like, hey, do you likethis? Or does this look cool? Because those don't really get you anywhere.

Richard: Yeah, Ithink there's this interesting kind of like tension between like conviction andgetting feedback, right?

I think, you need to have enough conviction in the core of whatyou're building. and then you want feedback to help you like iterate the lastmile and figure out the finer points of it. The rough edges and things likethat. there's the whole lean startup methodology where you use feedback just totry to figure out what the heck you're building in the first place, but that'snot my strategy.

I tend to be fortunate where I've built things that solve theproblem I've had. all my startups have been like, Oh, I experienced thisproblem. Okay. Here's the solution I want. And now I'm going to go get feedbackto figure out how many other people have this problem. And, Does their, dotheir needs dramatically, differ from mine and stuff like that? I think where Isee people go wrong is I see like people don't have any conviction. They'rejust I'm going to twist in the wind based on the last thing I heard. Right. andthat becomes really problematic if you don't have kind of this core vision orconviction. Or the reverse. I have such strong conviction when I'm building.

When I hear feedback that's counter to that, I just think, ah,they're wrong. Right? and you kind of throw it out. It's actually I think, Idon't think we talk about this stuff. It's really hard to be open to feedbackbecause you almost never best case scenario feedback is you get someone saying,yep, you're right.

Keep going. Right. This is great. But a lot of times you getoh, it's not quite great. Right. And that takes a lot of like emotionalfortitude to put up with. Someone telling you your baby is ugly. Um, and I, andI think as founders, I see, I still I think that's the hardest thing as afounder is to look at your baby and be like, it is kind of ugly. let's, let'smake it better. Right. yeah. So I think it's important.

Julian: There's aseparation between good and great.

Richard: That's agreat question. I mean, I think, I may use this analogy I've used before, Yeah.To me, I think Android is good. iPhone is great. That analogy maybe doesn'thold as much water in 2024 as it did maybe 10 years ago.

I haven't used Android in a while, but I often think that wasinteresting. I mean, they all, they do the same thing, right? Features andfunctionality are there. So what's the difference? I think it's the last mile,right? And so I think that's true in a lot of products where a lot of peopleget hung up on, My product can do this thing.

Therefore, like, why wouldn't you use it? Right. It'sfunctional, right? Like it can do the thing. but there's like a big differencebetween it can do the thing, which is Oh yeah, I can receive a phone call andit can do that really elegantly and and better than anyone else. And that'sgreat.

Right. yeah. And I think in 2024, most of what you, I feel likemost of the stuff is now gravitating back towards like word of mouth as theprimary channel for marketing again, it's paid ads are a mess, content SEO is amess. all these kind of like Northwest passages to like a bunch of cheap usershave all dried up and now we're back in this like really competitive marketspace where you have to have a great product to get word of mouth.

People don't talk to their, they don't tell their friends aboutsome like good enough, It functioned, right? Kind of product, right? And so Ithink a lot of, for a lot of founders, their bar isn't high enough, in terms ofwhat their product needs to be. we know what great is. you've used it, you'veused iPhones and you've used other apps that are fantastic, but we, but somehowwhen it's ours, we don't hold it to the same quality standard.

Julian: And why doyou think that is? is it like, an ego thing? Do you see it as a perspective ora vantage point? Maybe they can't really see the angle that others are seeing.what would you call out that is common or common for a founder that you say,oh, that's a really good product, but they're not delivering on, thisparticular thing that could make them great, whether it's visually userexperience or business model.

Richard: yeah, Imean, I think, my background is engineering and product design. And I actuallythink where a lot of these things fall down are in those, one of those twodisciplines. And I think it's actually really challenging sometimes if youdon't have a background in those disciplines to recognize the differencebetween good and great.

If you don't have an engineering background, how can you reallytell that your platform isn't that Oh yeah, I guess all things are kind ofbuggy, right? How can you tell when your engineers tell you, Oh, this is good,it's good enough, right? The honest answer is like, Oh, If you don't have atechnical background, if you don't have a very technical, strong technicalteam, it's really hard to get to great, right?

I think the biggest blocker I've seen for most startup foundersis like, how do I, if I don't have the skills myself, if I don't have top 10percent engineering skills and design skills, going on sourcing, that's reallyhard. And so I think you end up in this place where this is the best I couldbuild with the tools I had at my disposal sort of thing. now to be clear, Thereare markets where good is fine. You can go find go find some niche where justthe fact you're serving that niche it doesn't have to be Apple level of productpolish for you to win. I am thinking about, specifically the things I've goneafter like 10 to have, they're not consumer, but they're like consumer ish B2Bkind of plays where product design and stuff like that's really important. Butyeah, I think, I think it's generally it's hard to build products. It's hard tobuild, it's even harder to build teams to build products. Right. And if youdon't have that eye for it yourself, it's really hard to hire for it.

And if you don't have that team, then you're I can't make thisthing any better. So I'm kind of just going to go to war with the army that Ihave sort of thing. Right. And I'm going to put myself into thinking it's

Julian: Yeah, I feellike that typically works when founders have a perspective of, this is like mybeta or my alpha and then my MVP and they kind of build in, use this wordtranches, not necessarily it captivates what we're talking about now, but in,in step by step motion, they, they kind of know where they want it to go, butkind of build What are the most necessary features to get users on and to go upto that point? I'm curious because, coming from an engineering and productbackground, I had another conversation with the founder of a similarbackground, and I'm curious if this affects you as well. Changing, kind of,your mindset that, if there's a bug, it's stop everything, I gotta fix that onething, nothing else works, and complete it.

But as a founder, Some things kind of can be haphazardly puttogether and you can do some manual effort to, get across the line for acustomer. Do you still have to go through that code switching or when in, yourfounder experience, did you kind of make that relationship change?

Richard: Yeah,there's what we call in engineering, like the happy path where it's the happypath is like the most average use case, average user, right?

Like they do everything right. They don't have any weird kindof set up things, right? Like it doesn't work in the happy path. And I do thinkIn the beginning, depending on what your product is, right? Obviously, forsomething like Fathom where we're like recording your meetings, we kind of,reliability is super important, right?

Like it's kind of a real time system. But for a lot ofproducts, that's not true, right? And so you can kind of suffer through in theearly days. I'd rather have, we'll put it this way. I'd rather have a greatproduct that only worked on the happy path than a good product that worked on,all the different edge cases.

Right. I think you want to first prove that like there, I canbuild one great experience and then I can fan out from there and make it workfor more scenarios, if you will.

Julian: Right. Yeah.Did you always think you were going to be a founder, an entrepreneur? Is thatsomething that was always in the cards?

Richard: I guess so.Yeah. I mean, it was reflectance recently. I think in like first grade, I waslike selling pictures to other kids. Like I drew mazes and sold them to otherkids. And like high school, I sold like fake Oakleys to other kids and stufflike this. but I grew up in North Carolina where it wasn't really like a strongentrepreneur, always tech entrepreneurial scene back in the day. probably abetter one now. and I actually struggled to find other people to do startupswith. And I, I think right after, right after college, I did like a startup incollege and right after college, I kind of honestly was kind of demoralized andgot a normal, like nine to five job. Cause I was like, Oh, this thing doesn'tseem like it's going to, can't find anyone to do this with.

And these things don't seem to be working. Maybe I should justdo what everyone else around me is doing and just get a job at IBM or whatever.Right. and I was very fortunate to kind of fall into this group that was, that,that was really excited about startups. and I ended up deciding to like work inthis company in the first batch of Y Combinator.

I didn't know what a Combinator was at that point, but I justknew I found this dislike. Of folks that thought like default assumptions, likeI want to build something new. and so that was like super, that was like asliding doors moment for me, I very easily could have been a, a band engineerat IBM at this point in North Carolina and said, I'm a multi time like founderhere in San Francisco.

So I do think yeah, I always kind of wanted to do startupstuff, but it was, It's hard to do alone. Like you really need to find thetribe of other founders. And I think that's the other challenge of thefounders. Like everyone tends to fall in love with their idea. And it's reallyhard to get people to like, if you bake that thing too much, really hard to getother people excited about your idea.

Right. That's almost like the first person feed, first point offeedback you need. And if you look at things like Y Combinator, they tend toprefer, multi founder. Companies, right? Not solo founders. And I think, causeit's just like a, it's almost like a signal, right? It's in the same way thatlike all the best salespeople go work at the companies where the product iseasy to sell.

Which is VCs use that as Oh, all these good salespeople want towork here. that clearly means it's an easy product to sell. If you can't, theearly stage investor, heuristic is, if you couldn't convince anyone else towork on this with you, that's one sign that maybe this idea isn't as good asyou think it is, sort of thing. so yeah,

Julian: yeah, it wasan interesting thinking about user voice, which was, the first startup you, yougrew and, have such a fascination with products that are seeminglyunnoticeable, but are everywhere. And the fact that you can get them there issomething I obsess about.

And UserVoice, for those who don't know, which I didn't knowuntil I read your background, is the reason why you see that feedback tab onalmost every website that you go and visit. I don't know if it's still truenowadays, but I feel like I still see it all the time. But, how did you firstinitiate that strategy of okay, we're going to lay on, was it trying to lay onevery website and just figuring out how to then sell back to whoever owned thatdomain or whatever company?

How did you first get into, being on say a website and platformand then grow that and then now be completely kind of almost like a standardfor a lot of companies trying to get feedback?

Richard: Yeah, Ithink My buddy Justin has this great tweet. It's first time founders thinkabout product, second time founders think about distribution.

And, I've been fortunate for both the businesses, UserVoice andFathom. UserVoice, we kind of locked in distribution strategy. Fathom, we werekind of intentional about it from the get go. But in both cases, we had thiskind of more like viral bottoms up type motion where it's for Fathom, it'slike, Found the bot, joined your meeting, it's recording summaries, you cansend them out to attendees.

There's kind of a natural, other people kind of interact withit. Uservoice had the same thing, where they had, we set up these sites,Uservoice you could think of as like a Reddit for product feedback, right? Andif you were kind of a tech company and you were getting a lot of feedback, youdon't have time to comb through individual ones and read everything.

Great, let the community submit ideas and vote up each other'sideas, right? and it was pretty successful when we were able to get people tothose. Those sites, like to that company's website, if you will, right? Liketheir user voice site. The problem was, most companies just would put a link inthe footer of their page being like, you know, Feedback, right?

It's right next to support and like FAQs and about us, right?Like in the footer. And we kind of felt and most users aren't seeking that out,right? Most users were just like, most companies don't want feedback. And mostcompanies like put that down there. It's like a, I guess we got to havesomething for someone to go yell into the void, but let's put it in the footer.

Right. And so early on in that company, we kind of realizedlike we need to somehow communicate to the users of this product, right? Thatlike this company has set up the site. They actually really do want yourfeedback. And we need to make it like really stupid simple for the companies tobe able to promote this.

And so we said, we could banish the top of the page. It's alittle too invasive. Let's just put this little button on the side of the pagethat says feedback. and originally it was like red with like white text. It waslike a really high visibility and it worked because then other companies,people go to those sites and be like, Oh wow, there's this big button that saysfeedback.

Clearly this company really Oh wow. Okay. I guess they do wantmy feedback. Right. And click in and see what that is. and then, and then thatjust, that paradigm, got copied and emulated by everyone and now it became avery standard thing if we want feedback. And now it's kind of back to where itstarted, where it's now you see them so much everywhere that it doesn'tactually tell you this company cares that much about feedback.

It's just kind of now the new standard version of putting it inthe footer. but it was an interesting journey of how quickly like a concept canjust be replicated throughout the internet very quickly.

Julian: Yeah, youmentioned virality and of course I think founders are always trying to hitvirality but I don't know if a lot of them know what goes into actually gettingto that point where you can reach a mass amount of users in a short amount oftime.

A lot of them think it's oh, a social post or, something that'shopping on a trend. What actually leads into creating virality for a company inyour book?

Richard: It'sinteresting because the original like if we go back 10 years to like the earlyFacebook apps and all this stuff, when people talk about virality, they talkabout, typically they're always talking about this like spam your contact listtype mechanic, right?

Where it's like, you sign up for this app, sign up forFarmVille, one out of 10 people will allow FarmVille to spam everyone on theirlist. That hits a hundred people of which, And therefore, for every 10 signups,you got 11 new ones, right? and the curves there tend to look very frontloaded.

Like I knew some friends that were doing these startups andthey would like, amazing growth, like they would get through, they'd havemillions of users within a month or two. And then it was just absolutelycrater. Cause they'd hit the, they hit the ceiling of the, they basically wouldhave crawled the entire Facebook graph, right, within two months and hit it.

Right. And see, so historically, Virality was like this, Justthis like firecracker, like boom, explosion. But I actually think that thevirality that we're going for that I think is more just like really it's, wordof mouth marketing at internet scale, right? Word of mouth marketing used to beblocked by it's word of mouth.

Like literally, someone talking in the grocery store and howmany people, this is kind of limited by how much interaction there is ingeneral populace. But now social media, like word of mouth is like actuallyweaponized and like now it can spread really far and wide.

The problem, the challenge with virality actually doesn't, it'snot a, it has a cold start problem, right? Like for it to For it to work inthis new method model, it's not going to, we're not spamming people's inboxes.What we're doing is every time someone meets with someone, that person they'remeeting with is somewhat likely to sign up for Fathom.

But it takes it's a very long slow burn. And it, the hard partis how do you get the first 10, 000, 100, 000 users. To then kick up the, tomake that flywheel start working effectively. but you know, if you want to makesense, word of mouth goes back to what I said earlier. It's one, it has to besomething that's visible. if you've got some back office B2B product going tobe, it's going to be tough, right? Like you certainly get some, but it's goingto be hard. You're going to have to manufacture people posting reviews orbuilding some sort of thing. so obviously it helps if you're like us and youbuild something that's like kind of like.

Public Facing, if you will, in a way, right? At least yourusers usage is clear to other people. Right. and then you honestly also needsomething that's like not vertical specific. It's hard to get virality withvertical specific because, if we were just selling to salespeople, how often dosales people talk to other salespeople? maybe one out of 10 times. That's, andthen you have to make something that's like really good. And for us, it waslike building something where. my background is product design, so we spent alot of effort making the user experience really good.

But we also were the first people to give away this kind ofproduct for free. like a free kind of AI note taker. And that was not just freebecause everyone has a free plan, but like unlimited use for free, like areally good free version. You can actually use this free version forever,right? and so that, I think those three things are really important for us,right? it's okay, people can see it being used. People love it because it'sfree and it does something for them. And the other nice thing about free ispeople feel like they have good, like brand vibes with companies that give themsomething for free, right? There's almost this like social indebtedness whereit's like, ah, you gave me this thing for free.

I feel like I owe it to you to tell my friends about it. Or Iwant to share it in a way that doesn't work for paid products, right? If I'mpaying you 20 for your product, I feel like there's a transaction there, right?I don't owe you anything. it's, in fact, you probably owe me, I gave you 20bucks, right?

You owe me really good support and dah. And so I, this is why Ithink giving away product for free is really powerful for word of mouthmarketing. Cause it just creates this like gratitude amongst your users. Andalso you get a lot of affordance, right? oh, there's a bug with it. it's free.I guess, what, how am I can't really complain. I'm getting, I only think aboutthe upside. Right. I think there's a cocktail that makes it work.

Julian: Yeah, andwhat made you, the way you charge, and correct me if I'm wrong here, of course,the way you charge is you have a free product, and for those who have teams ofpeople and want insight, or have managed, they have team managers, you sell tothose organizations so they can, have more intelligence for their teams andthings like that.

How did you come upon that? Was it just the fact that it's lowbarrier to entry, kind of a Trojan horse, approach? Yes. And not do, say, tiersof offerings or maybe just a complete paywall in general, like a lot ofcompanies do. What made you go the route you did?

Richard: Yeah, goingback to what you were saying, I think having a completely free product, I thinkusers, I think, consumers are pretty savvy in this day and age about, you showthem three plans and, one of them's free.

They're going to know that, you're probably smart enough that,that, I, there's no way I could possibly use that thing for free, right?there's going to be some gotcha in there sort of thing. Right. So I also justthink that for B2B products like ours, right. You can make a lot more money byselling to a manager than selling to an IC. which is why most of the existingproducts have been built for and sold to ICs. Like our top competitor is acompany called Gong, is for sales only and really targeted the sales manager.The ICs don't use it as much. It's what I learned in my early research. And Iwas like, Oh, I think there's an opportunity here where we can give away ourproduct for free to the ICs.

Develop a lot of goodwill that allows us to get in a companyand have a warm conversation with that manager, right? It's tough to come incold. It's tough to get leads. Everyone's inbox is full. it's hard to breakinto talking to managers unless the manager is my team's using this product.They seem to love it.

And they reach out or it just really pre warms thatconversation. and so that was always our thinking. It's we'd much rather usethe man, the ICs, the individual contributors, the folks on the front lines to.Use the product, get excited about it, become champions. And then we get themanager and say, Hey, we have a slightly different product for you that buildson top of this, right?

And, if you can charge, it's tough to charge individuals morethan 15 bucks, 20 bucks or something, but you can charge managers. two, three,exit that pretty handily, right? If you can build a product that also maps tothem. So that was a very intentional strategy. I think there's a, there's a fewcompanies that have done that.

I tend to think, you also see this a lot like open sourceproducts as well, where they give away, they give away the core product andsell to executive audit, something different. Right. Like a man package orsomething like that. I think when these models like this kind of free, I hateto call it free, but like this kind of free plus, Premium upsell model.

When it comes in contact with someone that's a traditional topdown sale, take a demo, talk to my sales team. The free model crushes it everytime, because what would you rather have? Would you rather have something youcan just start trying and using, or would you rather have something you gottatalk to a sales team and pay for that figures for?

No one wants to do that anymore, right? And everyone's,everyone has enough software, everyone's had enough experiences where they'vebought some software and it didn't work. So no one really wants to take therisk anymore. Everyone wants like a, something they can validate first and thenpay for maybe later.

Julian: Yeah, how doyou go through as a founder to accept that fact, because I, there's so manyfounders out there and who are like, my company's got to make money, and so wehave to figure out monetization fairly quickly, even with a rudimentaryproduct. How do you accept the fact that okay, for the first, I don't know howmany users until we have, some kind of critical mass.

We're not going to really think about monetizing as much, interms of our roadmap until we get to the next thing, which is keeping thoseusers, and then we start to distribute and things like that. How do you gothrough and accept the fact and kind of prepare your team around how thestrategy is going to lead to long term success?

Because, you're hiring people and you bring them on, they'relike, we have a free product, what's the strategy here, what's the long termplay? go through that kind of decision making thought process and thencommunicating that, to your team and everyone else.

Richard: Yeah, Imean, I think, I tend, I like to attack the core metrics of the business inserial, right? if you think about the core metrics of business, like how do weget new users? How well, how good are we at kind of onboarding them into theproduct, making them successful? How good are we at retaining them? How goodare we getting them to refer other users? And the last one, how good are wegetting them to pay us money for it?

That's, those are all really hard things to get, right? Andit's really hard to do them all at once. which I think is like what a lot offolks try to do. They try to do Oh, I'm going to put, if I go back to somevideo game analogies, let's imagine these all as like different talent trees.I'm going to try to put a few points in each one of these.

We're going to have okay, customer acquisition, okay.Onboarding, okay. Across the board. Right. And I tend to think that strategydoesn't work. Now what's challenging is. If you're trying to raise money andyou're a first time founder, everyone wants you to show revenue. no one elsebelieves you until it's kind of a tough reality, right?

And so you got, you get all these folks that are like, how do Iget someone paying me something, paying me for vaporware in six weeks? I don'tknow how you solve that problem. That problem is hard, but what I do think is amore sustainable way to build a business is at least ones like ours, wherethere is, we have a plan for, we know how to monetize.

I was never, the monetization part wasn't risky for me. Therisky part of Fathom was like, can we actually build this free product? Willpeople actually stick with it? And will they recommend it to others? That to mewas the hardest part. And I was pretty confident. We get people using thisthing day in, day monetize it.

We have some ideas, but like very few products, there are veryfew products out there that get high usage and have poor revenue. This was theknock on Facebook 15 years ago. Oh, people use Facebook. How's it going to makeany money? No one's asking that problem, that question today, right? it's wellvalidated that you get millions of users, hundreds of thousands of users,whatever.

For the most part, you can always make some money on it. Now,Can you make a billion dollars? Can you make meta level money? Maybe not. Butso I always think this, we've got to validate this by getting someone to pay usfor it immediately. I don't love that strategy. And I think it's all, that's mycontrarian take of this podcast. I think just getting someone to use somethingday in day out is a signal in and of itself. Right. And we were veryintentional with Fathom where we're like, cool, we're going to build theHappyPath version of the product. We're going to have ongoing cohorts of betausers, and we're not going to stop until we get to one cohort where it's kindof sticky, where they stick with it.

And I think it took us, it took us like 800 people that mynetwork that I got to try to install Fathom, till we got to 50 people that on arecurring basis kept using it. yeah. And once we had that, okay, great, we'vegot something. And then we launched and then we launched on this appmarketplace, the Zoom app marketplace.

And so we're pretty fortunate that got us a bunch of users. Andthen we focused only on onboarding. Great. we're pretty confident this thing'ssticky once you start using it. Great. Now we're going to focus on making surethe onboarding is really good and like really buttery smooth, really simple.

We remove all the things we don't, we defer. We don't have tohave it in the setup process. We defer it to later and breadcrumb it out like avideo game would in a tutorial, right? And then we started thinking, okay,great. Now onboarding, we 3X our onboarding rate from like 30 percent to 80%,right? great. Onboarding is good. Now we're going to tweak the things thatallow users to refer to other folks. Great. Now, once we did all this, we'regoing to start charging for it. And honestly, It was two years after we startedthe company and a year after we launched before we charged the first person.and very candidly, I would have pushed that out even further if the markethadn't shifted in 2022. And it kind of, now you had to start preremodelization. Everyone wanted to see it. And that's kind of the environmentwe live in now. but if you can find a way, if you can find a way like, Hey, wedon't need much to live, and we can just focus on building a product, give itaway for free, getting a bunch of users.

Again, have a theory for how you're going to charge them atsome point. Cause it is hard to convert those free users into once someone getsused to free, they're not going to want to pay for something. But in our case,the free user was never the target buyer. It was always going to be theirmanager.

So it was fine. Yeah.

Julian: Yeah. Supersmart approach. I love it.

and you also talk about something, and I'm curious, Because,you mentioned something before the show, something about customer support andhow much your team focuses on having excellent customer support. But myquestion, and I'm sure a lot of founders have, is like, what's the cost tothat? those are, whether it's, if it's people, what's the cost to your companyif it's a certain type of technology or feature you've built in? What's thecost nowadays to having high quality customer support when everyone's trying tojust have, offload support to something else?

Richard: I mean, thisis, I always think when everyone's doing it one way, you should always considershould you do it a different way?

Because that's an opportunity to differentiate yourself, right?And if you go back to our, one of our original topics about feedback, supportis feedback. Support is actually the most honest version of feedback you willget, which is actually the second part of feedback that's hard. It's hard toget honest feedback.

Because you'll share your friends. Oh, what do you think ofthis? And they'll be like, Oh, it's great, Tim. I love it. They're grading youon a curve because they like you. Right. Yeah. Support is not graded on acurve. These people are frustrated. And, I think that's where you learn a lotabout.

Where the product is falling down. once you get back, like itcan be a distraction in the beginning, right? if you're just trying to figureout how do I, can I build a happy path product? That's really awesome. Thengetting supporting queries about all the little ways it breaks for all theseedge cases should be ignored.

But maybe not ignore, but you just tell them, Hey, like we'reearly. We don't know how to support that yet. Create feedback, come back to it.But I think that my, my big thing with support is like founders do supportearly on. Right. And then, always, almost always the first person they hire isa support person.

Like I want to not do this anymore. And it makes sense. Right.and so it's but it's the first thing you want to outsource. And I don't thinkit's a bad idea to do that, but I think you should always stay engaged. You canmake sure that person's really good and you should always stay engaged yourselfof making sure things get this way to you.

And honestly, it's never been easier. We have a, we've had Webuilt out a system a couple weeks ago that uses an LLM and looks at everysupport ticket and just analyzes the sentiment for it. And if it, if we thinkthat user is really frustrated, it pops up in a Slack channel and I jump intothat ticket.

Right. So if you ever want to talk to me on support, just bereally ragey on a support ticket to fathom and it'll like immediately pop in myinbox. but I also feel like we're entering this era pretty soon where Supportshould get really easy. A lot of these like LLMs for support are gettingbetter.

They've been hot garbage to date, but they're, I think they'reprobably going to get that good enough this year. but yeah, it's weird to methat companies always under invest in this and just try to like, I think oncethey start scaling, they just want to, I get the same questions over. I want tocreate distance.

I want to put all these hurdles between users and contactingme. And I'm always like, again, if you're a word of mouth product, It's not agood idea to ignore that. Like when people are really mad, that just means theycare. I always told people, what you should be worried about is indifference,not angry customers.

Angry customers are people that really want your product towork. And if you could fix it for them, they're going to be really happy withyou. And so that's why I think invest in support, make the process good. Don'tput all the, I hate these companies where it's I get the chat bot and then I'vegot to talk to the AI and I've got to like, Convince it that I've got a realunique problem that's not just in the knowledge base.

And yeah, I read those three articles you shared with me thathad nothing to do with what my problem is. don't do that. That's so obnoxious.We all hate that experience, right?

Julian: Yeah, I laughreally hard because that's just I mean, I don't know how many products, whetherit's government or, commercial products, they all have that same experience.but it is exciting to see where it's going with a lot of the, AI chatbots andhow much the standards is being increased and the want for it to feel human isalmost becoming mandatory for a lot of customers because of that experience. Iguess,

as a second time founder, I was looking, reviewing your productas I do, and I mean, you're doing all the right things, right?

It's transparencies on your, your webpage, it all looks good.You tell us why you're not charging, what we're doing with our data, where AIcomes into place. You're giving us transparent pricing. you're doing everythingthrough word of mouth. You've got great social channels. Everything looks likea startup should nowadays. I guess for you as a second time founder. What'sthere to learn rather, other than testing out this particular hypothesis,

Richard: I'd saythere's two things. I mean, one is there's this whole community of video gamerscalled Speed Runners, where they just try to, try to beat a video game asquickly as possible and Shaman's, Zane stuff that these folks do.

It's kind of cool and I kind of feel like. I'm speedrunning,right? It's like a runner who's always trying to beat their PR, right? Whereit's okay, we kind of know the levers to pull. So yeah, I think speed ofexecution is everything. And so like, how do we just do this thing faster thanlast time? and so that's part of it. The other part though, is like, A lot ofthe tactics change, right? Like my last company started over 10 years ago. Sothere's a lot of stuff that has shifted and that's been the value of makingsure you've got a good tribe of other startup people around you. I was, Imentioned I was an employee in the first batch of Y Combinator. Back in 2005,2006. but I went through, we went through Y Combinator with Fathom. Everyone'slike, why did you do that? I was like, I know all the, I knew most people thatworked there. Why we did is because I wanted to get reconnected to thiscommunity of people that were all starting companies that were very candidly,generally a lot younger than I was sort of thing.

Because, by the time you read like a marketing book or youmight even read some blog posts or some book about Here's how to do a thing. Ican almost tell you that's not how to do the thing anymore. that's how to dothe thing 18 to 36 months ago. And you benefit a lot from having other folksthat are in the arena that are trying things from first principles.

Oh, we tried this on LinkedIn and this really works. Right. Andit's going to work for two months and the algorithm is going to change again.You've got to adapt. It is kind of speed running an old video game, but it'salso it's not quite the same video game. Remember, it's actually, slightlymorphing like every time you look back at it.

And so it's kind of fun and kind of redeeming.

Julian: Yeah. It'sexciting too, because a lot of companies are building from their customerspoint of view, thinking a lot about the experience, thinking a lot about howthey can have their customer do exactly what is happening with Fathom is telltheir friends about it.

How much can you enable the customer to have a more. Intimateexperience with your products. Obviously, I think it works more in depth withothers and less so with some, but that whole approach is going to lead, in my,I guess, experience, to, more trust, faster adoption, and that just overallleads to better growth.

And then you could test, in different markets.

when you think about, Fundraising, and I know you've gonethrough the process again, but you did something unique this time, with Fathom,which is you crowdfunded. and I'm curious, was that just to get, more peoplealigned to the mission and goal of what you were doing, and kind of get moreevangelists on board, or was that a different kind of strategy, that you justwanted to test out?

crowdfund route when, I'm sure at this point, you have a lot ofcontacts, you've got a big network, That's not necessarily, you think ofcrowdfunding as more of a necessity rather than a choice.

Richard: Yeah, Ithink that's, I certainly see that in a lot of the crowdfunding sites. I, it'sbeen awesome for us. I mean, we had raised, I think, already, I think aboutfive or six million dollars, from traditional investors before that. ourfundraising strategy in general is really typical. Most companies go and youkind of go find an institutional investor at a VC, they're always a huge fund,and you go find maybe one of the, maybe two or three of these, sometimes justone, and you go raise a million dollars. We actually kind of had a, almost likea crowdfunding strategy from the get go where we, I think we've got about 100people on the cap table, right?

We had 25k checks, 50k checks, and I was very intentional. Iwas like, I want to build this big coalition of people that have our back, butalso have unique insights, right? That like CEOs of these types of companiesand, people with this kind of background. So when I send that investor updateevery month, Right.

And I make certain asks like, Oh, I need to connect to thiscompany or this company. And you don't understand this. So we already had kindof this like strategy. It was a little atypical of let's go get a bunch ofchecks and a bunch of investors. And some ways crowdfunding is the logicalextension of that, but you're right.

It was also really started off as a marketing campaign. It waslike, I don't see why not to do this. I asked some of our existing investorsabout it. And they said, it used to have a bit of a stigma around it with VCsthat like, only the worst companies were doing it. You're doing it because youneeded to.

It was like, no one else would fund you. So you're going thecrowdfunding route. but I think it's kind of changed a little bit morerecently. And honestly, I think it's fantastic. I mean, we raised the kind oflike the legal limit without some regulatory paperwork, like 1. 3 million fromabout a thousand users.

And the number of times I hear, I was a user and it wasinvestor, and then my company bought your team edition. again, for a word ofmouth product, I think it's just, I love that alignment. we actually even earlyon gave equity to some users. this is an idea that you see a lot in crypto.

I don't have a lot of good things to say about crypto, but oneof the things I would say is Some of the crypto projects have this cool thinglike called airdrops, where it's like early users, depending on how much youuse that platform, get actually a stake in the token for that platform. And Iwas oh, that's a really interesting alignment.

Right? if you think about how valuable the first token is.Couple hundred users are, that are really engaged, give you great feedback,telling their friends, those people are super valuable and yeah, why shouldn'tthey have a little skin in the game sort of thing. and so I think thecrowdfunding thing is just a much more scalable way to kind of enable that.

Right, right. cool. Throw in a hundred bucks. Throw a thousandbucks. it's great. I, yeah, I'd rather have a, I'd rather have a hundredthousand, like a hundred dollars investors than the, than a bunch of a hundredK investors. Right. People's caring about something is binary, right? They'regonna invest some money in you and they're now gonna feel what they put, it'sall relevant.

I guess investors put 100, they'll probably care more thanpeople that wrote me a hundred K check. And it's super cool. Yeah.

Julian: When do youthink was the, I guess, shift for Obviously, I think the younger generations,nowadays seems like Gen Z is super tied to what companies are doing evenoutside of their products. it's okay, here's the user experience, but what arethe other things? How are your, how's your leadership team acting? What's theirpedigree? And, but now it seems like that's, it's a global switch. Everyonewants to be a part of the products that they're using and it's even that muchmore important, like some restaurants I won't eat at because they have adifferent political point of view, And when do you think that shift? Is thereany moment in time where you really felt customers or this whole relationshipbetween customers and companies changed from, Okay, I'm going to try to get asmuch out of my users as possible, whereas now it's, I'm going to make my userslife so much better that they can't help but talk about how good we are.

Richard: What do youthink? Yeah, I mean, I think, like I said, I think social media kind ofweaponized word of mouth, both in the positive and negative directions, right?So it's individual users, especially if they have an audience, have a lot of,can have a lot of sway, right? And so it's kind of leveled the playing field.

Whereas before, back in the day, it was like the users have nopower, right? Like the customer doesn't have a lot of, Yeah, vote with yourwallet. kind of not easy to do, right? no, Nabisco doesn't care what you dowith your wallet as an individual. Now, 100, 000 individuals cares, right?

Or one user with 100, 000 individuals that pay a lot ofattention when they say care. So I think social media has Rebalanced, the powerdynamic, it may have actually kind of swung it now to where I think in a lot ofcases, sometimes the users have more power than some of the platformsthemselves, in certain niches.

Right. But that's, I think, so I don't think there was amoment, but it's been, that water has been steadily warming to a boil over thelast 10 years. Right. And now it's definitely boiling. And it's again, anotherreason why You've got to, we actually intentionally didn't do much on social.

What we really have only done is just like all the effort Iwould have historically put into social, I've just put into like customersupport. My argument that you've always like things don't, you don't end upwith bad stuff on customers on social media. If you do cut good customersupport, if you don't do good customer support, there's just, there's reallythis like second, you can always escalate the social media, right?

Like it's whether your company has escalation process or not.The world has one. It's called Twitter, right? And LinkedIn. And so if youdon't handle it well, it's getting escalated there and you're not going to likethat. That's going to be a way more expensive ticket to solve.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah.

I've got some rapid fire questions for you, Richard. cause I'dlove to hear your perspective. one of them honestly is what do you think thebiggest risk is that your company faces today? What do you think about as afounder?

Richard: Yeah, rightnow I think about hiring, and this is a cliche answer, but I just think thatit's, We have a very small team.

It's, I think once companies start growing as quickly as we'regrowing, there's always this tendency to drop your quality standards and justwe just need help, right? get in, sort of thing. I think a lot about that,right? Like it's tough, it's when we're sub 20 employees, it's somewhat veryeasy, it's not super easy, but to have a great culture where everyone knowseach other and they get along well and, but that's the thing that I think abouta lot is just it's, it's tough to really get to know the measure of someone inthree hours of interviews across five people. it's challenging.

Julian: Yeah,

as a founder, if you're hiring, hearing that you are you goinglocal, hybrid, remote, what's kind of your philosophy behind team building nowthat everyone seems to have their own unique way of, having people on board,whether it's for, compliance reasons for businesses that need that, security,or preference.

Richard: I vastlyprefer remote. it's funny. Yeah. Usually started off really remote 15 years agobefore that was really a thing. And then we built an office, then we builtanother office, and I spent most of my life flying between these two offices.And then COVID hit, and I'm like, why did I do that? so I love working fromanywhere.

And I think, I think when it comes to this, like the most I'mpretty skeptical of hybrid. I think, I don't think you can have some people inthe office and people not. I think you just got to pick a lane. I think there'sbenefits to, if I was younger and I was building a smaller team and like ayounger team, like having an office would not be great, right?

Most of our teams are a little more senior. They'll havefamilies like, being remote is great. Like it allows them to have more timewith their families. It allows them to be anywhere in the country. We're fullyremote, mostly US, though we have a similar team in the Philippines, we've gotsome, we've got another person on our team in Australia, but I, I think there'sgonna be a lot of people, I think if you're also fully remote, a lot of folksin the last five years got a taste of what that is, and they really like it.

Employees like it, and management hates it. And now you'reseeing all these return to office things, which are kind of befuddling to me.I'm not sure why they're doing the return to office. I think because they justhaven't figured out how to scale managing large groups of folks remotely. Andso now you've got all this great talent that's I don't want to move, sometimeshave to move towns if they want to go back to an office.

We had a couple, employees, ex employees from my last companyare like working at Amazon. Amazon's you have two months to move to one ofthese places in the country and go to the office. I'm like, so I tend to thinkif you Depending on the kind of talent you want to hire, going full remote andbuilding that in your core DNA from the beginning, which is like superimportant.

Like it's a different kind of business. You can't, I think whathappened during COVID is a lot of companies had an in person office and thenthey just tried to replicate that in person experience on Slack. And it doesn'treally work that well. Right. but if you start from the beginning, I think it'sa real superpower at this point, from a hiring perspective, you'll be able tohire people.

You probably have no right being able to hire because you canoffer them something that the FANG companies want.

Julian: Yeah, and Iwas gonna say, from, when you're hiring talent, also, you have so much more at,your disposal in terms of types of skill sets, specializations, people work forso many different types of companies, even from different countries, and so youwill get the access of talent for what you're looking for, which is amazing tosee. and interesting to your point or kind of point, I think the challenge acompany faces is how do I manage people? how do I not only just grind forinformation. Six hours and then maybe talk to somebody every one or two hours.That's not culture. That's not team building. So as a manager yourself, how doyou maintain that culture? how do you not just grind out for eight hours andthen Oh wait, I guess I got to talk to my team and maybe we'll set up some oneon ones and do that haphazardly. How do you build that into your culture? Andas a manager, change your daily habits and activities so that you can actuallyhave your team kind of feel.

Richard: Yeah, Imean, I think it's interesting as a company that builds meeting software,right? I don't really like meetings myself, especially internal ones, right? Ithink obviously external meetings are super valuable and important. It's theonly way to meet these folks. I think about this, I think about more aboutshared context, right?

Like I think the challenging part for remote is making sureeveryone has a full picture of what's happening. Cause they won't get it,historically we have an office, there's like kind of this. Ambient awarenessyou get because you overhear conversations, you all eat lunch together, thatsort of thing.

So I actually think the hardest thing to replicate is like thatreally good kind of ambient awareness of what's happening in the businessoutside of whatever you're working on. right. And and, I think the way a lot ofcompanies try to tackle that during COVID is they just have a lot moremeetings.

Oh, okay. Cool. If I have more people in these meetings,everyone knows what's going on. And I think that led to okay, now I'm at home,but I'm on eight hours of Zoom per day, Zoom fatigue and that sort of stuff. SoI think a lot about like, how do we build and constantly rebuild all of ourlike, asynchronous communication mechanisms, right?

Like we only have one standing meeting a week across the entireteam. and honestly, we reinvent that thing probably every nine to 12 months,right? Do we still need this? What do people need to hear about now? What arethey not learning about? And Try to create a lot of things where the numbersand stats and whatever the people you know, just kind of bubble up in differentchannels.

And if you're interested in that stuff, you can subscribe tothat channel sort of thing. So I think about that much more. I think to try toreplicate, it's almost impossible to replicate the human relationship piece,right? Where if you're going to the office to build friendships and whatnot,again, this is why I think it tends to be a little more generational.

Like folks younger in their career are going to an office alittle more because they want to build that network. They want to build thosepersonal relationships. I tend to think when you hire people remotely, they'vealready built a lot of those relationships. they're almost, they're near theirDunbar number.

And so they're just like, I just want to work like, therelationships I want to build are with my family, like by being able to havelunch with them and stuff like that. So I just think it's, you're, it's aslightly different trade off.

Julian: Yeah.

when you think about, your product in particular, Have you hadany signals on what industries you think it'll have the most impact long term?

Obviously, we think, okay, if it's, listening to meetings,sales, anything sales, maybe marketing related, anything, more communicationheavy, we think will have a huge impact, of course, but is there anything thatyou didn't assume or didn't hypothesize before where you're like, wow, thisactually might impact this industry a lot more than I expected coming into it?

Richard: Yeah, it'sinteresting. I think we had a hypothesis that like the original types ofproducts in the space, like recording your calls and transcribing them andsummarizing them were only built for sales. And we had kind of this theorylike, okay, like we think this market's bigger than sales. like certainly likefounders can use it well, product people, customer success.

But what I think I've been most surprised by is It's evenbigger than we thought, right? Like it's, I look at our top customer list allthe time and I don't recognize two thirds of the companies on it. I'm like, Idon't know who these companies are, right? I think it's a really good thing. Ithink you're also seeing this world now where historically companies were,excited about showing you the logos of their Silicon Valley startups they soldto.

And now everyone's no. We'd much rather build businessesaround. Normal companies, right? Advertising agencies and consultancies, andwe're seeing therapists and nonprofits and dah. And so what we've kind of seenis like Fathom, your, how much you're going to we're going to, how much you'regoing to enjoy using Fathom.

It's directly correlated almost like almost exactly to how manymeetings do you have per week? Right. More meetings you have, more week, themore you're going to like Fab. And so like we actually, when you sign up, welook to see like how many meetings are on their calendar. Not that we doanything with that.

That's just kind of like our own bellwether of okay, how goodsare onboarding rates and all these sorts of things. And so you kind of findthat like number of meetings per week isn't correlated with any industry. It'sjust core, more correlated with like roles and across all industries.Everyone's on a bunch of these video calls.

So it's pretty broad.

Julian: So that'skind of surprising. The healthcare bit is pretty cool. and I totally couldimagine how much more present. It allows practitioners, even maybe, one thingcomes to mind, it's okay, I go to the therapist and they have this, andeverything's remote now, and how much more better they're going to be atserving their customers because, or their patients, because of what they knowor what they can recall from those.

Because, I mean, I've, I'm sure you hear this all the time, andI've heard you say it in interviews, but there's so much you miss from themoment you end the call to when you're trying to recall what happened. There'sso much information. And that's not verbal that you missed too, how was theirfeeling, did they like, did they have a good time on the call, I can't rememberthat interaction, was it positive, was it negative?

So much more that goes involved.

Richard: Yeah.There's also some fun use cases that I hadn't thought of, but were like, Hey,we run, X business and our customer said, why on a meeting? And then later on,they said, they never said that they didn't agree to that or dah. And wegrabbed the clip and no, you understood the price was this and you agreed toit.

They're like, oh, We've had, probably like once a week or likeonce a month, I hear about this, you saved us thousands of dollars because somecustomer said they never said a thing, which they absolutely said. So there'sthere's some fun use case, like human memory is like way worse than I realized.

Right. and it's kind of cool. Yeah. I mean, it's changed theway I work. Right.

Like you, and I think that's a, going back to my thing aboutconviction. This is why I think it's kind of a super, like a hack to build aproduct that solves a problem you have, right? if you look at a lot of the, thebest companies, I feel like the founders were building, there are some reallygood founders that can, go into a business they know nothing about and, do theresearch and build out some good product.

I just think that's way harder than you yourself have thatpain, that problem. Build a product that solves your pain point. Because you'llknow when you've solved it, right? oh, this is really, again, with Fathom, it'sI just hate taking notes. Like I, I kind of joke to my girlfriend and it's I'msingle threaded, right? it's I can talk or I can write. I can't do both. And soit kind of, I can do like rapidly switch, but I can't do both. And now it's notonly does this thing take notes for me, But more so it's just changed the way Iuse notes where I don't, if I meet with you and I meet with you two weekslater, I don't think about you anything in between.

And then, but when I have that meeting with you, the follow upmeeting with you 10 minutes before I go look at the previous recording and readthe summary and watch the last three minutes. And it's Reactivate that part ofmy brain and it's almost like we got off that call 10 minutes ago, even thoughit was two weeks or two months ago.

Right. And that's a really powerful hack for buildingrelationships when they feel like, Oh, I talked to Rachel once every sixmonths, but it feels like he remembers everything I told him. I was like, Idon't have system dubs. Right. So building something for yourself, I think it'sjust such a like.

It's too easy to get seduced by, oh, I heard this market'sreally big. But, unless you have a lot of domain expertise, you're probably notgoing to be the person that's going to figure out how to build the perfectsolution to that.

Julian: yeah. It'sfascinating too because the more we learn about memory, and I was listening toa Hubram Lab podcast and he was talking about how, we have Spotlight, Focus,where we focus on what we're working on.

But we also have another, mechanism that's almost like a RAM inthe sense that we, it's a more automated procedure. and then when we thinkabout memory, it's really just, it does store very specific and uniqueinformation to where, you can have the same part or similar memory storage fora particular celebrity. there was a test they did. Yeah, I don't know if yousaw this one, but everyone has a. I don't know if it was Emily Blunt, but theyuse some celebrity and it's like everybody has that who then encounters thatperson, and so that happens with any new knowledge. So it's almost like you'rejust strengthening the path to that recall.

And it's not gone, it's just finding it there, the breadcrumbto get it is more challenging than we expect a lot of times.

Richard: Yeah, everytime some like Tupac song from the 90s comes on and I remember every singleword of it, but I can't remember like what was on the grocery list from twohours ago. I'm just like, I don't know.

Scumbag brain. What is it? Yeah. Yeah. Why? Why can't I havemore agency over how we're storing these things?

Julian: Yeah. Yeah.three more questions for you, Richard. one, one is, books, nonfiction books,no, sorry, not non, nonfiction books. Non fiction books, non business books. Ialways like to get recommendations on books, but I find myself now reading thesame, Lean Startup, Zero to One, what's another one?

Contagious is a really good one for those who want to learnword of mouth marketing. but non business books, what would you recommend, totap into? Something interesting, something that Just takes us out of thestartup building, monetizing, scaling, all this stuff.

Richard: Okay, I'llgive you one that's on the line, one that's definitely on the line. one of myfavorite, one of my favorite books, it might be a business book, it's probablya business book, but it's called The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh.Bill Walsh was the 49ers coach in the 80s. I love that book, yeah. And it'sreally good, just like a mindset, of Don't worry about the top numbers, justlike work on the little things, everything will happen. I, so I typically tryto oscillate between a business book and a fiction book, and I exclusively readbasically like sci fi. I feel like sci fi does for my brain what video games doa little bit too, which like just gets me to think outside my world and justGets me more creative. yeah, now I think everyone's caught on to this, but Istill love the three body problem series. especially the second book. and thethird, honestly, I could do without the first one. The first one's fine. Just,it's, we're all building for the second and third one. And you could probablyskip the first one.

And if you wanted to, it's also very unique. it's was the, Iforget. It was like the first, Chinese literature to win this like prestigioussci fi award that's escaping my brain right now. but it's a very differentwriting style than I'm saying anything you'll have read because it's I thinkthat also is interesting, right?

Like the character development is actually really bad, but theworld building is fantastic. and it, the story arc over the three books stretchfrom like modern day to like the 80s. Heat Death Of The Universe. like it'sjust so big in scale. Like it's just like mind bending. So I think that's areally great read.

Julian: yeah, I lovethat because I recently I was like writing something. I realized man, I don'treally do a lot of creative or math. Everything's really pointed writing. Andso it's nice to go into something that. Talks about a feeling, but using,whether it's the external environment or something adjacent to it tocommunicate it. that's the stuff that I think is getting me more interested andexcited. and I think it helps with, crafting stories and messages to customersand people you talk to in your life. next question is, now that we're coming tothe end of the episode, Obviously there's a bunch of things we should havecovered, maybe we, probably need so much more time, but is there any question Ididn't ask you that I should have, anything we didn't touch upon that, we wantto touch upon right now?

Gosh, no, I feel like this is pretty thorough.

Richard: I you onething.

Julian: Hypothesisbuilding, I heard you say it in another podcast, and I was like, ah, I waslike, I hope we get to there, but, the whole theory that you have around,Testing hypothesis versus a product, and I really loved how you captured thatidea, of, good founders test a hypothesis, and the solutions and product,that'll all unfold, but don't stray away from the hypothesis testing becausethat leads you in the right direction.

I really liked, your point on that, in particular.

Richard: it really,it really anchors you. You can tell when it's like, You talk to some foundersand they're like, for example, with Fathom, it's we had this hypothesis thatlike transcription was the primary, like cost of this business four years ago.

We think that's going to go to zero and therefore this will bea possible. And then therefore this would be possible. and, but if you talk to,I think, I think good founders sound like that and there's a lot of folks thatlike, I don't know, I'm kind of building a thing and hoping people like it.

And it's what's the, If you actually force yourself, what do Ithink is wrong with all the existing ones? Oh, I think that there's a muchbigger market for this if you actually gave away for free and charge thisamount afterwards, right? and then that keeps you honest with oh, Right.

Why am I building all this? what am I trying to learn? You'regoing back to feedback too, right? Like you just ask for random feedback on,you'll get a bunch of random stuff, but if you actually are trying to figureout like, oh, our first hypothesis, we think that if we make the happy pathsreally good, this is a product that will, people will use day in, day out.

Great. Right. Don't stop until you validate that or invalidatethat sort of thing. So yeah, I think that's something I think YC tries to teachfolks a lot, but I think it's a pretty clear difference in the outcomes whenyou think about it that way.

Julian: Yeah,Richard, like I said, I could ask you, I have a whole list of other questionsthat, that maybe we'll spend another podcast, answering, but last little bit isfor our audience, for those out there, where can we find you and be a supporterof not only what you're doing, what Fathom is doing, anything exciting, anynews about the company?

Last little bit, where can we find you support and what shouldwe be excited about on the horizon?

Richard: Cool. yeah,you can find me on LinkedIn. It's like the only social media I know how to doanymore. connect with me there. Leave a message. I've honestly, I've got athousand invites with no message.

If I don't see a message, I assume you're some like recruiteror spammer or something like that. So leave a message, be happy chat. if yousign up for Fathom, it's fathom. video. Again, it's completely free to useforever, right? love your feedback. If you have any thoughts on where I canimprove, always love to get that. where am I excited? I mean, We're in crazytimes, man. This AI stuff is insane, right? Like we, another hypothesis we hadin the business was like, we think AI is going to get good in the next coupleof years. We don't think people want transcripts, but we think you'll need atranscript to do all the fun stuff with AI.

And that's certainly come true in the last six to nine'll be really interesting to see. If the pace of progress in AI continues orif it hits some plateau, like I basically have like in my core friend group,like 50 50 split between Oh, we think we've hit the like plateau of what thisapproach to AI can do.

And other people are like, no. It's going to blow. It's justgoing to keep on this like exponential curve. it's kind of crazy, right? Like Ithink, may you have an interesting times thing has never been more apt. right.

Julian: Yeah.Awesome, Richard. It's been amazing hearing about your journey as a founder,how you build, how you think about building, businesses and what you'velearned, your experience, and really what you're excited about on how thisapproach is not only going to reach a lot of users, but lead people into ahappy place.

It sounds like you're thinking about product and building itthe right way. So hope a lot of people can extract gems out of thisconversation and implement it in their business and offering better productsand solutions and get them over the hump. so Richard, thank you so much forbeing on the show today and joining us on Behind Company Lines.

Richard: Thank youfor having me.

Julian: Of course.

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