37: Why I'm Working On Drift

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This is a podcast episode titled, 37: Why I'm Working On Drift. The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- David tells us why he made the decision to start Drift. We thought we'd rewind back this week to tell the backstory on Drift and the connect between all of David's previous companies. PS. In a few weeks we’re launching our first book -- and just like all of our content at Drift, it’s going to be 100% free. If you’re on our email list at Drift, you’ll be the first to read it (all about the customer-driven revolution and why it’s the only way to build a business today). Be the first to know right here: go.drift.com/newsletter Come hang out with us at seekingwisdom.io and on Twitter @seekingwisdomio. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. drift.com

Speaker 1: All right, today on Seeking Wisdom. We're going to do something a little bit different and we're going to answer... I hope we're going to answer a question that you have been getting all the time, and we're going to do it in a little interview format.

Speaker 2: Why did I start Drift?

Speaker 1: Yeah, we're going to talk about why you started Drift.

Speaker 3: Here we go.

Speaker 1: Here we go. So from an outsider's perspective, I'm going to say, cause I knew of you before Drift and all this other stuff. Outsider's perspective I think you get this question all the time, because you've done a bunch of companies... You probably don't need to be doing another company, right? You could be hanging out on the Cape somewhere if you wanted to.

Speaker 2: Sand in my toes.

Speaker 1: Which I'm sure you remind yourself of all the time when it's really hard, but people want to know. Why are you doing drift? You've left HubSpot to come start Drift with Elias. I want to dig into that and just get a better understanding for why you did it because there's kind of been a common thread across all the companies in your career.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think the short answer is: unfinished business and we can dive into that. And it's definitely been a common thread and it's one of those things that has taken a long time and lots of hindsight in order to be able to understand like, wow, these were always the same thing.

Speaker 3: But did you know that at the time?

Speaker 2: No, of course not.

Speaker 1: Okay, all right. So the connection is... Well actually, no, it's the connection between business and customers. That's kind of every company that you've built has had some connection there.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. So it goes back, you know, back to how I started this journey in the first place was when I was in college. I was bored, extremely bored, and so I would skip all my classes and hang out in the library. And the reason I had hanging out in the library was at that point, they had internet access, which we didn't have in our computer lab, right? We just had network access, had internet access and they had early versions of a first Mosaic web browser, and then later the first version of Netscape web browser. So I started to hang out and use the early internet through those browsers and I became obsessed. And what really got to me was I had been coding software up until this point; desktop software and boring software for me. But I wasn't really feeling it. I didn't love it. But when I was discovering this early web and this early disability, which seems kind of funny now, to have access to all of this information across the world. And I was able to build some early web apps and websites just messing around on the side. I was able to firsthand have this direct connection with the people that I was building this product for.

Speaker 1: Oh yeah, Okay, tell this story. Weren't you, didn't you build something and some dude in Russia sent you a message.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that was my light bulb moment. So I built a website. Back in the day, you would put your email address at the bottom of the website because there were no spam bots. No one was on the internet to find...

Speaker 1: There was no Drift on your website to capture emails or talk to people, and...

Speaker 2: No, definitely not. So I put my email address on there. Some guy in Russia wrote to me, I can still remember it. And he sent me an email, which you didn't get many of back then. He sent me an email and he said," Hey man, I really like your website. It's really cool." That's all he said, end of story. He was from Russia and I knew that from the ISP that he had sent the message in. That to me was a light bulb moment. That was the first time that I actually had what we know is the feedback loop, right? I created something, someone that I didn't know used it, and I don't know how they even found it in the first place. And then they reacted and they liked it and they sent me a message. And that has been the thing that I've been chasing the rest of my life.

Speaker 1: And you still love doing that.

Speaker 2: I still love doing that, and that kind of experience- I can see this in hindsight- led to this obsession that I've had for five companies now, wanting to help businesses communicate. It's all around this communication with their customers, right? And I've been chasing that in different forms for five companies. Now, I didn't realize it at the time, but now I can look back clearly at all those and understand I've been chasing that same pattern since college.

Speaker 1: Okay, what I think is interesting about this is I actually think there's two tracks; you have this, all the businesses that you've built and the companies that you've worked at have been about business software for customers, right?

Speaker 2: Yep.

Speaker 1: Connecting businesses and customers, but then you've also taken that approach internally and built teams around the same thing, right? Like from Performable and HubSpot. Everybody that listens to this podcast and reads the stuff you write all the time knows about the customer driven movement. So it's kind of two fold. It's like the companies themselves and the software that you've built, but then actually the people in the processes inside of those companies.

Speaker 2: Yeah, and now I can look, you know, just like the first example, I can look back and see," oh!" This is what I'm doing, right? This has been everything for me, but I didn't realize that at the time. So I took this obsession and started to build companies around this idea, but up until Performable, which was my fourth company, I was following the same playbook internally that everyone else would follow. And we don't have to belabor that, but it was a very non- customer driven approach and it's how most companies have historically been run internally and a lot are today. At Performable, I shifted the model to actually build not only software to communicate with customers, but also turn the whole model internally to be focused around that customer communication.

Speaker 1: Let's just explain that model for people. So the thing that you did, but didn't like was basically creating things that were self- serving. Like setting a release date for some feature, building something because internally people wanted it or...

Speaker 2: Yeah! So before Performable, I follow the same playbook everyone did when it comes to building products, creating companies all that, which is largely driven by the ideas of the people within the company. Then within a product team, engineering team, or the way that you build things, it could be Waterfall, it can be Agile, it can be all of these different development methodologies. What's missing from all of these methodologies and from the approach of internally generated ideas being the way is that the customer is missing from both of those. The customer is missing from Agile. The customer is missing from Waterfall. The customer is missing from this idea that all the ideas come from the founders and from internal generation.

Speaker 1: Yep. So did you... Here's what, I want to get out of this.

Speaker 2: Yep.

Speaker 1: So now, it seems like the reason that Drift was started was to actually be able to enable every company to do the things that you've learned over those 10, 20 years.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. So, it's all Meta. At Performable, I discovered this customer- driven approach to build a company and we did it within the product team, within marketing, and within the entire company. We were a small company at the time that we were acquired by HubSpot. At HubSpot, I got to validate this approach within the product engineering design, basically everything that has to do with the creation of products. I got to validate this at scale. I got to see- did this work for 200 people? Did it work for 1, 000 people? Did it work for 2, 000 customers? Did it work for 15,000 customers? And I got to validate and see that it did work and it did produce the results that we thought it would produce, which were in our opinion, superior to traditional results. Then at Drift, what we're building is basically what you said, which is we are building the way that every company in the world can operate this way. So it's not only the product itself, but it is the way that we work and our philosophy behind building companies and building products.

Speaker 1: Yeah, so that was good, man. That was good. You should do this more often.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I might have a career in this.

Speaker 1: So that's, that's what Drift is, and at its core. So without the whole drift mission involved, at its core, Drift is a communication tool, right?

Speaker 2: Yep.

Speaker 1: It's a messaging app.

Speaker 2: Mhmm.

Speaker 1: The way we talk about it a lot internally is if you use Slack to run your business, Drift is the thing that you're going to use to grow your business.

Speaker 2: Absolutely.

Speaker 1: Okay. Here is my entrepreneurial question for you.

Speaker 2: Hit Me.

Speaker 1: Why would you get in a market that is so crowded? This is something that we get all the time is," How are you different than this competitor? How are you different than that competitor?" Just do a search for messaging apps and there are more things that you can list, but still you get so fired up about this market.

Speaker 2: So I think one of the things that I've learned throughout my life has been to really focus on the customer and to focus on the market and the team. Those are the three legs of the stool. The market, the customer, and the team, and missing from that stool are our competitors. There are competitors in the market. One, I kind of have this unorthodox view, which is I actually like markets that have a fair number of competitors in it because it means there's a market. It means therefore there is a market go.

Speaker 1: We will have to do a whole separate podcast on this topic, but this is something that you hammer over and over again, which is most people freak out when people ask about the competition. But in reality it means that you're actually onto something.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. And so there are competitors in our world, but I think most of them are very small and most of them are different than what we're trying to do. But I'd say our hope is not that there are those number of competitors in the market. We expect that there will be every major company in the world, software company in the world, that sort of touches our world. Whether it's sales, marketing, or customer success, if they make software for that audience, and that's everyone from Salesforce to Oracle, to SAP, to everyone that you can think of, they will get into this market. And what we're trying to do is be in this market and be the lead in this market by the time that those players come in. And the reason that we think this is the very reason that we created Drift beyond our mission is that we think the market is changing, right? And we feel that market change, right? We saw firsthand the markets starting to shift towards more and more towards messaging and more and more to this connection with the customer while we were at HubSpot and Performable. There are examples on one end from messaging apps, new wave messaging apps, starting to emerge on the consumer side. Whether that's Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Periscope, Meerkat, all of these different things are different new ways of communication that we saw not millions of people in the U. S., Not tens of millions, but now at this point, billions of people adopting at lightning speed. At a speed that we have never seen before in history, right? And so what that means for us is that billions, at least hundreds of millions let's say, of people are being taught these new patterns and these new expectations for messaging that will have to make their way back to every piece of software that we touch as businesses. So we saw that shift happening. Then we saw the shift that is continues to happen with companies like Kickstarter, Indiegogo. Where all of a sudden we had hardware companies starting to create products out in the open, where that never existed before, with the customer as part of our process. Customers paying for that product long before the product ever existed and being part of the community and part of that journey of creating the product. This is the customer driven way that we always talk about. We see this happening out there all the way to now we see this in this year, Tesla launching the Tesla 3, selling billions of dollars in cars. The Tesla three does not exist yet. People have paid for that car, right? They've built that car and they are part of that community. They've committed to buy that car because they want to be part of the process of building the company. Now, those are examples of what we've been talking about, which is every company needs to shift to be able to have the customer at the center like in those examples and be able to build products and services that serve those customers together. No longer is the customer and afterthought that," Oh, okay." How do we sell this thing now that we built it? Now, look at all the examples that we're living through in the last three to five years of the customer being part of the process, even back towards the product not even existing yet, right? In our case, it's easier to imagine because we're software and we can build software pretty quickly, but this is happening not only for software, it's happening for hardware products., It's happening for physical products. It's happening for something as complex as a car, right? This has never happened before. This is why we think every company needs to have the customer at the center and the common thing with all those customers that we see is that they expect to be able to communicate with those companies through some form of messaging. And we want to be the company that empowers that message.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So it's not a competing with who, it's billions of people out there that are already communicating with each other on messaging. That's the problem that gets you excited.

Speaker 2: Absolutely.

Speaker 1: Is how do we change, how do we bring this behavior? We all are on Slack all day talking to our teammates we're on iMessage talking to friends and family, but then we have to pick up a phone, fill out a form, or do some other stuff in order to talk to a business.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. So this tidal wave is coming, the tsunami is coming, and we want to help power that. And so you look at that every day in the way that we all work, just like you said. Whatever tools you use, you see and feel the shift. We all know this is happening. We want to be there for that and that's what we think about in terms of building a company. That's the big market shift. That's the big market opportunity. Who's a competitor today doesn't matter, right? We're not fighting for the small market that some number of competitors might have today. What we're trying to do is fight for that big billions of users type of market. When we started Drift before, long before we even had the first version of a product, long before we had even a beta out there, we had an internal audacious goal, which was insane. Which we wanted, and what we said was we want to get, we want to build Drift. We will know we're onto something. When a billion people, B, B- I- L- L- I- O- N, a billion people have communicated to businesses using Drift. That is what we're after. That's the magnitude of what we're after. Wooh! Come on. Let's do it.

Speaker 1: I don't know if... We have to end there. Okay. So I mean, that lasts... that is why you're working on Drift is it's obviously a problem that you are passionate about.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. This is why I wake up every day.

Speaker 1: And it's big enough.

Speaker 2: This is why I wake up every day fired up. I don't think about competitors, I think about the customer, I think about our team, and I think about the market opportunity. I've never been this excited about a company. I'm all in 1000% to build this company. That's why, because this shift is happening. We feel it every day. I see it every day. Not only myself and also within the team. I see it happening for my daughter who's 11 years old, right? I see it with my son. I see the way that they're interacting with brands, businesses, people, groups, whatever you want to call it, they're indifferent. They don't make a distinction between," Oh, that's a brand. Oh, that one's a company. Oh, that's a person. Oh, this one's a group." They just think about communicating to people and that's why I'm fired up.

Speaker 1: I love it.

Speaker 2: Let's go join the army, come join the Drift army. Let's do this. We can do it together.

Speaker 1: Yean, if we want to reach a billion people we need an army of people with us.

Speaker 2: I want one of those old school McDonald's signs that says," A billion people served." Right? A billion people delighted.

Speaker 1: Okay, quick story to wrap this up. We always ask for ratings and reviews, right? Here's something that I love, is that every time somebody writes a new rating or review, DC( David Cancel) forwards it to me. It's amazing. So if you don't think that he...

Speaker 2: I read every one.

Speaker 1: If you don't think that we see every one of these from... It's 99% love, but every now and then there's a hater, which is okay.

Speaker 2: Mm-hmm(affirmative). I see you, I know you're there.

Speaker 1: ...unsubscribe.

Speaker 2: Yeah, unsubscribe.

Speaker 1: Ha ha, yeah. So keep those ratings and reviews up.

Speaker 2: I read everyone, I share them with the team. Come give us some love, so I can share with the team, so we can get through those days.

Speaker 1: Yeah. All right, we're out of here.

Speaker 2: Later.


If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- David tells us why he made the decision to start Drift. We thought we'd rewind back this week to tell the backstory on Drift and the connect between all of David's previous companies. PS. In a few weeks we’re launching our first book -- and just like all of our content at Drift, it’s going to be 100% free. If you’re on our email list at Drift, you’ll be the first to read it (all about the customer-driven revolution and why it’s the only way to build a business today). Be the first to know right here: go.drift.com/newsletter Come hang out with us at seekingwisdom.io and on Twitter @seekingwisdomio. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. drift.com