Today I got to interview Wade Foster from Zapier. I hope you enjoy it!
Ari: Today we’re talking with Wade Foster of Zapier. Hi, Wade. Wade: Hi, Ari. How are you? Ari: Good. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. First of all, tell everybody what Zapier is. Wade: Yeah. So, Zapier is a really easy to way to automate a lot of your busy work. Think things like [0:22] form submissions, sales force, or create a to-do list in your project management tool via email; just a lot of things. You can automate these common problems that you might have in the day to day of running a business. Ari: Right. So, we obviously love automations at Less Doing and anybody who follows my blog or the podcast is going to know how big a fan I have been of ISTCC but I see Zapier as kind of like ISTCC on steroids. Do you think that’s accurate? Wade: Yeah, there's certainly a lot that you can do with Zapier to kind of push the limits of automation. Ari: Well, it’s just funny because I find that there's often times there's something that I want to do and ISTCC sort of gets halfway there but then there's not that detail that you go into and what's amazing with Zapier. I can see how it might be a little overwhelming for some people but it gives you so much ability to automate things. I'm using it to automate things having to do with Gmail and a bunch of stuff that has to do with Evernote. The level of granularity you’ve achieved is really amazing. One of the things that I wanted to ask you about is what are some of the most popular things that people are using it to automate, for instance, that you're seeing? Wade: Yeah. You actually hit on some of the popular things; saving specific Gmail emails to Evernote or creating text files in Dropbox but there's an interesting dynamic where the most popular things tend to be around tools that are more consumer oriented – they're free. but there's a lot of valuable things that people miss out on that may not be quite as popular, but still popular, around things like lead generation, saving email marketing, building an email marketing list; things like that that drive a lot of value if you run a business. Ari: One of the things that I really love about a service like Zapier, and I'm actually working on a blog post about this right now so everybody watch out for that. It allows you, in some situations, to almost instantly create effectively a really viable product that you can test things out. If you want to create a service or something, a web service that has these certain functionalities and potentially test it using Zapier, have you seen that because I've used it for that? Wade: Yeah, we actually have. In fact, one of the very earliest things we did was we created kind of a gag startup around that exact concept. We created a woohoo form that was basically mad-lib style. You filled out this quick woohoo form and it automatically sends an email to post to a Posterous blog – back when Posterous was still working – and we called the PR reps. So, it automatically created like these automated press releases sort of deal. They were kind of joking and funny but it took us 5 minutes to build something like that which before would have taken a couple of hours, maybe a day or so. Ari: Right. For instance, one of the things that I have used it for in that regard is there's all sorts of services that will help you unsubscribe from lots of mailing lists whether it’s Swizzle or Unroll me. They're good, some of them, but it is another service and I like to streamline things. I actually have a zap set up where if I put a Gmail message into an unsubscribe folder which not only can I do that quickly for one but I can sort of go down the list and select several and just stick them in an unsubscribe label in Gmail. Then, that sends an email to my 50 assistants and asks them to unsubscribe me from the service manually. So, it’s really cool and as far as I know that could be a service in itself – testing its functionality. It’s really cool. Wade: Yeah, that’s a great use case; I haven’t heard of that. That’s a perfect example. Ari: Yeah, that’s what I specialize in. I kind of dream about how I can use things like Zapier to do my biddings. The other thing that is interesting about it is you are really empowering, and I mean this. You are really empowering like one-person companies to act as if they're hundred-person companies because they can automate invoicing and social media and accounting and all sorts of community building stuff that one person simply wouldn’t have the bandwidth to manage. It’s really an amazing offering in that regard. Wade: Yeah, for sure. We have people who have upwards of several 100, even pushing 1000, zaps running that are basically powering their entire businesses and they're 1, 2, 3 person shops who have better things to do than import and export lists and copy and paste things from here to there, stuff like that. We kind of believe that computers should certain things and humans should do others so we want to automate the ones that computers should do. Ari: Yeah, well, I certainly appreciate you personally getting on this call and doing this interview instead of doing text to voice or something. Wade: Um-hmm. Ari: Is there a zap that you use like a 1000 times or a set of zaps that you are using in your life or Zapier business? Wade: Yeah, I actually have… My day to day is a lot of email and I'm sending out reports and things like that are kind of routine on a weekly or monthly basis trying to update the team on things we’re doing or updating faster things we are going on; stuff like that. One of the things I use to send these routine emails is every month, for instance, let’s use our investor update emails as an example. I use an email that’s kind of template to all of our investors. So, I have a zap setup that creates a draft in my Gmail inbox and fills it with that whole template, bcc and all the appropriate people, every like that. What used to be a several hour task to compile this email, I just have to come in and plug a few numbers in and then click send. So, it automates email, a really big task down to just a few minutes. I do that with a lot of emails where there are kind of these routine things that I need to send out but they're more simplified or kind of routine to just eat up hours that I would have been spending composing it from scratch. So, that’s one great thing that I love to use it for. I also use it for simpler stuff like, for instance, all our teams hang out in campfire. So I take all of our team’s blogs and when everyone writes something I just send it to campfire and say, Hey, Brian wrote this post. If you like it you should share it. It’s just like a nice way to encourage everyone on the team to kind of get involved with what other people are doing online. So, from really fun – that’s kind of more fun in these cases – all the way to serious stuff. You can kind of use your imagination to build whatever automation you want. Ari: Yeah, it really is sort of limited by your own imagination because you certainly have, I think you have over 200 services, right, that you can plug in with? Wade: Yeah. Ari: Yeah, so it really is kind of limited to your own imagination and you're adding, I see on the blog that you're adding, new services all the time. Is most of that coming from user requests or you're just thinking…? Wade: So, a lot of it actually comes, one of the cool things about Zapier is you can build your own triggers and actions yourself, as a person. A lot of times vendors will come in or even customers and they’ll want to have triggers and actions for a certain service and they’ll just do it themselves. It even enables them even further. If it’s something that we don’t support, you can actually get hat functionality yourself anyway by making it happen. Ari: Does that require some real technical knowledge or how easy is that? Wade: Umm, usually there is like a bit of… like you have to have an understanding of API’s and things like that but we have freelancers, if you have a little bit of money, they can help out with it. Or if it’s popular enough like if it’s a big name service and it’s something we were going to do it anyway, we’ll just let you know like Hey, this is coming down the pipeline so just hold on for a few minutes. Ari: Okay. Now, can you think of one of the more bizarre zaps that you have come across? Wade: Say that again. Ari: Have you seen any kind of bizarre zaps? Wade: Yeah. Ari: Okay, go ahead.Wade: I have, we actually have a case study coming soon. I don’t know if anybody is familiar with Rube Goldberg machines; things that kind of chain off each other and trigger a whole bunch of sets of different stuff. We actually had a gentlemen build such a thing for kind of like the web automation projects. He runs a like a web design consultancy; all the consultancy is they start the same way and they finish the same way. You set up this incredible Rube Goldberg machine and involve maybe a half a dozen zaps; it started with gravity forms. Someone would send out a form and that would send them to PayPal. When they made their PayPal purchase to get the review that would add them to a mail temp list. When someone got added to a mail temp list it would send an email to the team to let them know they had a new customer coming in. the mail temp list or the email and Gmail created a new folder in Gmail and it created a new folder in drive and it created a client inside a free agent, which was their accounting software, and a board inside [10:01], which is their project management tool. So, it basically setup a canvas for this entire project. Then, the last thing it did was buffered a tweet to say like Hey, thanks for being a customer. Set off this whole scheme of stuff that, when doing manually, takes about 30 minutes each time to do something like that. So, for every new lead they’ve got, they’ve basically automated this 30 minute task with a half of dozen zaps. This is a pretty good example of how you can chain and build these Rube Goldberg style machines via multiple zaps. Ari: That’s really awesome. In fact, I think I saw a YouTube video of that exact process that you just described; it was amazing. Anyways, 14 different things happened and they broke off in different chains, which was really cool. The last question that I always want to ask people on this podcast because I talk with so many people on a productivity basis, what are the top three personal productivity tips that you live by? That make you better every day? Wade: Yeah. One common thing, I'm not sure where I picked this up but, usually the night before, sometimes, at first thing in the morning, I’ll just build a short list of two or three things that I want to get done that day. That way if I finish those things I can feel happy about the day even if other things don’t go right. So, it’s kind of just a little mind hack to make sure that I am satisfied with overall progress. Another thing that I do, I'm actually married so you kind of have kind of a work/life balance to manage, I have setup Saturdays as my ‘no working day’. I make sure I have dinner with my wife all the time. So, it’s like this nice way to make sure that I chomp off times of my day for specific things. Probably the last thing that I do, since my job is so diverse, I setup days in themes. So, Monday is my day for outreach to reach out to bloggers and the greater community. Tuesday I’ll work on products. Wednesday, I’ll be writing. That way, if for whatever reason, if I don’t have something going on that day I can just default to doing those types of tasks. Of course, may need to work on things that I might not be as excited about because I have a day chomped off for it. Ari: Well, I think those are really wonderful distinct tips, especially coming from somebody who helps people automate 1000s of things in their lives every day. Thank you for sharing those. For everybody who not wants to but absolutely has to try out Zapier, please check out Zapier.com. Wade, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today. Wade: Yeah, thanks for having me, Ari.