Zapier: How did the automation king with a valuation of 5 billion gain more than 600,000 users in 3 years?

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Preface

 

A while ago, I talked about 2B companies such as NVIDIA and Scale AI. This week, I will change my taste and share a software company that is involved in the productivity track. What is interesting is that this company itself does not provide productivity tools, but helps you use the tools at hand. Connected "process services"!
In this era where everyone has powerful tools at their fingertips, various AI and productivity tools are scrambling to help us save more time. However, each tool has different usage scenarios and advantages, and it often takes a lot of time to integrate software with different properties into the workflow. The emergence of Zapier is to solve this problem that will inevitably arise as the division of labor becomes more and more detailed and the types of tools become more and more diverse.

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This article will introduce Zapier’s founding background, keys to success, main products, customers and markets it faces. Let’s read on to explore the world of “process automation”!

3 Takeaways if you only have 1 minute

 

1. AI and Automation

Zapier's success reflects the growing demand for AI and automation tools. As AI advances, more and more tools can be operated directly through natural language. Not only does it reduce users’ learning costs, it also spreads to more users with non-technical backgrounds, improving overall work efficiency. Zapier captures the rising trend of AI & tools, making automation possible through simple instructions and intuitive interfaces.

2. Integration capabilities of automation products

The core of Zapier's product lies in its powerful integration capabilities. Currently, it can be connected to more than 6,000 applications, which not only meets users' needs for diverse tool integration, but also allows them to achieve a smooth workflow. Whether you are a small start-up or a large multinational company, you can find a suitable solution in Zapier. This is one of the reasons why Zapier has attracted more than 600,000 users in just three years.

3. Entrepreneurship and persistence

Behind Zapier's success lies the founder's keen intuition and persistence in the market. Start with a simple question: “Why can’t we automate all of these processes?”
Relying on such a simple idea that directly points to the pain point, a killer app that can solve practical problems was developed.
Entrepreneurship and product development must ultimately return to the users themselves and solve painful problems.

About Zapier: What products and services do they offer?

To explain in one sentence: Zapier can establish workflows between multiple applications to automatically complete repetitive tasks. It is like a digital cross-sea bridge, connecting different software, allowing information and tasks between them to flow smoothly.

For example, when you receive a new email in Gmail, Zapier can automatically send a notification to a specific channel in Slack so that your team or partners can also receive real-time information.

You can set the trigger that triggers the automated process (such as receiving a letter containing specific information), and the action after receiving the trigger (such as forwarding to the Slack channel to let the team know). This kind of automated workflow is the core product of Zapier "Zaps"!

So what is the operating principle behind this "automated process wizard"?

The key is that Zapier will connect the APIs of the two applications (API in one sentence: an application programming interface that allows different software to communicate with each other and share data or functions)

After Zapier helps write the code for communication and connection between the two APIs, users can realize no-code application automation through simple commands!

After a brief understanding of who Zapier is, let’s talk about their founding story:



Zapier’s Story: Founding Background

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On September 8, 2011, Zapier founder Bryan Helmig and his friend and co-founder Wade Foster were having technical discussions as usual, but Bryan suddenly had an idea to develop a solution to handle the problems between various applications. Collaboration issues.

But this novel idea did not fall from the sky. I believe that the founders, or you in front of the screen, are already tired of the tedious and repetitive manual operations in daily work.

All great ideas start with this simple question: "Why can't we automate all of these processes?"


After asking this question, Bryan and Wade decided to start turning the idea of "the API of all APIs" into reality step by step at various Startup Weekends.

Initially, Bryan and Wade developed Zapier on weekends and nights while they had day jobs.
After many iterations and improvements, it was selected into Y Combinator (one of the world's largest startup accelerators) in 2012 and successfully launched on the market.

From the initial integration of dozens of applications to now being able to connect more than 3,000 applications, Zapier has grown at an astonishing rate. After multiple rounds of financing, it will reach a valuation of US$5 billion in 2021, becoming a rising star in the field of automation.

So what are the key success factors behind Zapier’s beautiful report card?

There are two main reasons: the right time, and the founders’ keen intuition and persistence in the market.

The right time: The rise of public APIs

*What is a public API?

Public Web API is a web interface available to developers. To put it simply, it is like a shared toolbox that allows developers to use the functions of their applications without having to develop them themselves. For example, you can use the Google Maps API to add map functions to your application, and use the Twitter (X) API to allow your application to read and publish tweets.

And why is Zapier seizing the right moment?

From 2006 to 2011, the number of public Web APIs increased from 299 to 3,422. Companies with large data APIs, such as Salesforce, eBay, Facebook, Flickr, Amazon, and Twilio, have established platforms and are developing rapidly. They look forward to working with third-party partners to expand functionality and promote a more valuable ecosystem.

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The reason for Zapier's success is that it meets the need for "the aggregation of long-tail API connection requirements."

Simply put, it helps users easily connect various niche and mainstream applications to realize automated tasks.

But catching trends is not enough. Developers who truly understand users are also needed to implement products that truly meet user needs.

Zapier’s core competency: true Product Market Fit

The following summarizes 3 key factors that allow Zapier to achieve Product Market Fit:

  • Simple and easy to use

One of Zapier’s competitive advantages is its easy-to-use, no-code nature. Users only need simple and intuitive operations to easily set up their own Zaps. This makes Zapier not only suitable for users with technical backgrounds, but also attracts a large number of users with non-technical backgrounds, thereby expanding the market scope. (Similar to Notion!)

  • Strong integration capabilities

Zapier supports more than 6,000 connected applications and can integrate almost all tools commonly used by modern people. Whether you are a small start-up or a large multinational company, you can find your own automated process.


  • Accurately hit "the problem that really should be solved"

Compared to a technology company that Wade worked for in the past, it had good engineers and a strong marketing team, but the final product was still ignored. Wade found that the most serious problem was: What do users care about?

Zapier happened to solve the annoying process switching problem. Although the product had many operational obstacles when it was initially raising funds in 2011, the core of the product was what customers most desired. By grasping trends and starting from the perspective of users, new innovations more often need to solve the right problems.

The spread of artificial intelligence and the future of automated processes

 

Nowadays, more and more AI tools do not require users to have any technical background at all, and only need to express their needs in natural language. The same is true for the use of Zapier. Only simple instructions are needed to connect and set how to automate different usage scenarios.

But it is worth mentioning that early users of Zapier are usually more familiar with the logical thinking of connecting software, and can easily convert the processes they want to automate into Zap steps.

In the future, users will inevitably need to have some such logical thinking when interacting with AI.

But Zapier is trying to lower the barriers to use through AI so that anyone can easily use this tool.
In the future, building automated processes will become a conversation with AI. It is conceivable that in the future, a ChatGPT that is proficient in process automation will talk to you and help you establish various processes through natural language.



3 Takeaways

 

1. AI and Automation

Zapier's success reflects the growing demand for AI and automation tools. As AI advances, more and more tools can be operated directly through natural language. Not only does it reduce users’ learning costs, it also spreads to more users with non-technical backgrounds, improving overall work efficiency. Zapier captures the rising trend of AI & tools, making automation possible through simple instructions and intuitive interfaces.

2. Integration capabilities of automation products

The core of Zapier's product lies in its powerful integration capabilities. Currently, it can be connected to more than 6,000 applications, which not only meets users' needs for diverse tool integration, but also allows them to achieve a smooth workflow. Whether you are a small start-up or a large multinational company, you can find a suitable solution in Zapier. This is one of the reasons why Zapier has attracted more than 600,000 users in just three years.

3. Entrepreneurship and persistence

Behind Zapier's success lies the founder's keen intuition and persistence in the market. Start with a simple question: “Why can’t we automate all of these processes?”
Relying on such a simple idea that directly points to the pain point, a killer app that can solve practical problems was developed.
Entrepreneurship and product development must ultimately return to the users themselves and solve painful problems.

 

Conclusion

 

Zapier’s success reflects a future of more and more apps and tools.

In addition to helping us free ourselves from repetitive tasks and focus on more important things, it also allows different APIs to contact each other's users during the connection process, and also stimulates the possibility of integrating more different applications.
With a valuation of 5 billion in 10 years, 600,000 users worldwide, and more than 6,000 applications, all greatness starts from a simple question: "Why can't everything be automated?"






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