5 Entrepreneurs Who Inspire Strategy at Zapier

Wade Foster
Wade Foster
Oct. 26, 2011

Learning is a big part of entrepreneurship. At Zapier we do our best to learn lessons from the giants who have come before us. 

Many times entrepreneurs learn lessons the hard way. We don't want to do that.

Here are five entrepreneurs who inspire specific things we are doing at Zapier.

Patrick McKenzie & Long Tail Keywords

Patrick McKenzie, of BingoCardCreator.com fame, is the inspiration behind the Zapier Zapbook

Patrick built his entire business around long-tail organic keywords. His strategy to create a templated landing page then customize it for as many long-tail keywords as possible is wildly successful. If you search for any keyword like "history," "math," or "bridal shower" in combination with "bingo," Patrick's Bingo Card site will be there. 

One of our main hypotheses is we can do the same around web apps. Any time someone searches for any combination of web apps we want to have a custom landing page that ranks for that term.

Dan Martell & Finding Paying Customers

Dan Martell, a lean startup practitioner and co-founder of the recently acquired Flowtown, taught us the value of charging customers from day one. 

Anytime Dan is trying to validate an idea he quizzes friends and potential customers. A great quote from his blog on validating ideas:

If you’re sharing a product idea with a friend and they say “That’s awesome, I would totally use it”, reply with “Great, it cost $20 bucks, you in?”. Watch their facial expression change.

The beauty of this approach is you quickly find out if the idea is really worth pursuing or if you're friends are just humoring you. 

At Zapier, we'll be asking for money from day 1. Anyone that wants in on our beta program will pay a small one time fee and get access to everything we have including our time, email addresses, cell phone numbers, the whole nine yards. 

If in the future they decide Zapier isn't for them we will give them their money back, but the point is we need our customers to tell us they are willing to pay something or else we might find out six months later no one will ever pay. 

Eric Ries & Steve Blank On Lean Startups & Customer Development

Eric and Steve are grouped together because they preach similar things. Eric is the best selling author of The Lean Startup and a blogger at Startup Lessons Learned. Steve is the author of Four Steps to the Epiphany and coined the term Customer Development. 

Eric and Steve have long been fighting the startup mentality "if you build it, they will come." The biggest problem startups face isn't technology; it's a lack of customers. 

In order to find your customers you need to get out the proverbial building and start talking to customers on the phone or in person. Ask them about their problems, hear the suffering in their voice, and find out what problems are real. 

We are deathly afraid of spending lots of time building a product no one wants. That's why we are trying to talk to one potentially new customer each day. We aren't trying to sell them anything, we just want to know how they are using web apps and why/if syncing data sucks for them. 

Ash Maurya & How to do Lean

Ash is to teaching customer development as Eric and Steve are to preaching customer development. If you've read Eric or Steve for any amount of time you'll be convinced you should go lean, but you may not know how. 

Ash is currenlt building bootstrapped, lean, software-as-a-service startups and blogs about his experiences applying customer development with his businesses.

Some of my favorite posts are From Minimal Viable Product to Landing Pages and How I am Measuring Product/Market Fit.

37Signals & The Value of Simplicity

Alright, so 37Signals isn't an entrepreneur. They are a company. But as a company they do a ton of teaching on how to build software. 

One of our favorite things we love of about 37Signals is their attention to detail especially with copywriting. Copywriting is Interface Design is one of our favorite chapters out of Getting Real. 

A big part of Zapier is taking this strange, technical API concept and presenting it in a way that non-technical users just get. 

Who Inspires You?

There are many more entrepreneurs that inspire us, but these five have taught us specific lessons we can put to good use at Zapier. 

Who are your favorite entrepreneurs and what have they taught you?

About the Author

Wade Foster is a Co-founder and CEO at Zapier. He likes to write about process, productivity, startups and how to do awesome work.

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