Sid was one of the first hires at Teachable (which recently sold for ~$250m) and the VP of Product there.
Sid started Circle in October last year with two other co-founders, both ex-Teachable. Circle is the modern community platform for creators, and is used by Makerpad (!). Other creator communities on Circle include Pat Flynn, Tiago Forte, David Perell, and Anne-Laure Le Cunff.
In this conversation, Ben and Sid discuss...
Sid Yadav - Circle
Wed, 8/5 10:20AM • 48:12
circle, people, community, slack, product, teachable, creators, build, code, facebook groups, tool, customer, audience, engagement, users, super, waitlist, pad, maker, aspect
Sid Yadav, Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell 00:02
Oh, it's very sad, who's the co founder and CEO of circle show? Thanks for having me on Ben echoes. How would you describe what circle is in 30? seconds? Yeah, so circles and modern community platform for creators to white label. And by creators, what I mean, is basically community of builders, podcasters bloggers, youtubers course readers, really anyone with an audience. And awfully we've also started to find that a lot of startups and products in general have very similar needs. So we started to branch out. Awesome. So have some people who don't know the origins of circle or like you're supposed to just give us a brief, a brief walkthrough of life where you were before this and how our circle came to life. Yeah, so I made two time immigrants so moved once when I was 10. from Indiana. Nice
Sid Yadav 01:00
Zealand and then moved from New Zealand to the US when I was 20. So I got into tech super early, I started coding at the age of 14, building iOS apps had one of the first sort of journaling apps for iOS. Way back in the day, I was actually created by Apple, got my CS degree in, in New Zealand. And then I was essentially visiting New York as a tourist, visiting my cousin and happened to land a job at a New York startup. So I asked my boss, you know, I was here for like three weeks, he introduced me to start up, he was interning there, and they're like, Hey, can you can you just come over from from New Zealand. So one of those super happy accidents. I moved here for a year on a j one visa. And that was my first startup experience was the first hire there too. So very early re seed stage startup never grew being on four employees, but you know, gotten me in the door and to New York, and so About a year after that, I joined a company called teachable, which is really where I've spent the bulk of my career. So spent about five years there, started as a first designer, sort of front end engineer hire back when they were I think there's three dudes that we work in earlier. And teachable for those who don't know is basically a white label course platform similar to circle but more in the online course space. Um, you know, analogy would be there like something like Udemy as opposed to Facebook groups or circle. Yeah, I spent five years there left back in May, last year, company was about 100 employees by then 25 million arr. just leaving the product team as managing PMS and designers, and really got to see that whole company evolve and that whole market evolve from like nothing to you know what it is today. So that was an extremely interesting threads. One thing that really got to If I didn't that experience was I just loved the creator space. So, you know, having interacted with hundreds of creators, I teachable, it just seemed to me like if I was going to build a start up, these are the perfect users to build for. So it's not quite enterprise. These aren't like the big companies where you have to do you know, multi year contracts, and it's not quite consumer. So you don't need like, billions of users to have a good business you can just do without, you know, with a few thousand, if not 10s of thousands. And then I ended up joining gumroad a few months as a contractor, just I was super kind after I left teachable, basically told me, You know, I can just come on, do some design to some engineering. gumroad is a very open remote culture. And I told him, I'm just figuring out my next thing, it's most likely going to be startup so you know, not looking for something permanent. And that really enabled me to spend like, you know, two to three days a week contract. gumroad while me and my two co founders, who happened to be ex teachable, two of my best friends, were exploring ideas in the creator space. So we tried like, or we explored four different ideas. The one that really stuck was the community one, for a couple of reasons. One, you know, we had calls with, let's say, 10s of creators, almost everyone we knew, and we would talk to them about their pain points, opportunities, you know, their day to day workflows, community was a thing that just kept coming up over and over again, as like, you know, this important to me is vital. It's very key to my course, or to my podcast or blog. And then we would ask them, What do you use or like, what's your stack, and no one was satisfied with their stock. So anyone using Facebook groups like yeah, I use Facebook groups but doesn't really work for me so I'm looking to move off it or there are people using slack and the gammon slacks free plan, but now that we have 100 plus members, if we just Kind of outgrown the plan, and we can't afford to pay for all these members. And I'm sure you can relate to that. From maker pads perspective,
Sid Yadav 05:09
And so yeah, we knew that this was the area to explore. So we started building an MVP back in October last year, spent a couple months doing that got our first user in January. And ever since then, we've just been through heads down building the product right closely with our customers, maker pad being one of them. And we're about to launch in the next few weeks. So we're about to open it up to everyone to sign up.
Ben Tossell 05:34
Oh, awesome. So yeah, it's really close to the real in quotes, lots of spokes. Yes, if you think they would write down in that, which is funny, you were talking about creators initially. And I was like, Yeah, that sounds like gumroad where they creators and teachables the same thing is there just like How did you come across the heel? And how did you get into the government stuff of like, when you're trying to figure out something a product to build? It seems like a great fit to say, Okay, I'll look at gumroad that's, that's a good game for me for two days a week, close to all these other creators to was I'm also building something for them. Yeah, it's funny, actually, I've known cyld. Since we were both, I think, maybe 16. So we're the same age. This is way before gumroad. You know, he was building apps, I was building apps as building them from New Zealand. And, you know, he will he used to be like one of my first 10 users or anything, I vote and meet with him.
Sid Yadav 06:38
exchanged emails exchange feedback that way. And it's just funny that you know, so one thing that tried to happen that almost happened was, you know, when I first moved to the US sale, offered to hire me at gumroad before I joined, teachable, but it just happened that you know, I was actually about to live in New York, about to move to New York, so it's okay, I can't do SF So that didn't pan out then right. But I was just had it in the back of my mind that this is a cool dude, it'd be cool to work with him at some point, we have a lot of values in common. And then after teachable, you know, had a call with him, and just trading a bunch of ideas. And the thing that most naturally came up was just the idea of, you know, contracting for programmer. And at first, I didn't believe that such an opportunity even existed because like, initially, I was like, you know, contractor contracting freelancing means like, you don't you don't know where your next dollars in income from right, you just need to plan out. You build up a client base and sort of do few things here and there and really spread yourselves out. Right? Where he was he was basically telling me that, hey, you just do whatever you want, like ship code, ship some cool features like two to three days a week, you know, it's a good hourly rate. And then you can spend the rest of your time building your own thing, right and most likely invest. So that was like, holy shit. Like, there's no such thing existed but this sounds awesome. And it panned out exactly. You know,
Ben Tossell 08:07
the way he had pitched it to me Yes, it wasn't too good to be true just what was true as well as being really good to do
that yeah, I mean
Ben Tossell 08:20
that's just this is not comprehensive to have that level of freedom and stuff and and the way you work with them and you have answered here on the podcast talking about how they work and stuff I think people always don't quite believe it or don't quite believe how it so no returns asynchronous and all this sort of stuff. What did you see from the inside as content the new thought was really good and you've maybe done that or you find out some version of that now in
Sid Yadav 08:48
Yeah, so I'm fortunate enough to have worked for two great founders right so encore was the CEO of teachable was also a great boss. Very different from from siloed say with, let's say Talking about encore before I get to sile encore was a lot more sort of, I learned sort of how to motivate a team and be very sort of, you know, passionate about something and just to get a whole lot of people behind you to build a movement, which is what I think teachable is done best, right? With silos a lot more of the logistical stuff. Like how exactly do you run a remote company that's almost like automated, like the work is just happening. That's very simple for the scale at which it is at, like, it's actually insane that I think gumroad has something like 10 contractors and I think they're closing in on like 10 million arr. Right. So that kind of scale and leverage is insane. So a lot of our a lot of my lessons from sile was about sort of automating every part of your business and keeping you know, aspects of your business simple enough such that whenever a customer is being on boarded whenever an employee is being on boarded like they don't have to figure too much out Because it's not complex to begin with, right? And I think it's a balance of two approaches. Like if you go too much into the passion, movement direction, what you could end up with is complexity that you then have to manage at that scale, which I think has been super mindful of. And so that was, I guess, my number one takeaway.
Ben Tossell 10:20
Yeah, I think I spoke to him about building products, because we obviously ship or used to ship stuff really quickly, which I just have an idea for I build it, and then I'll be like, we ship stuff. It's like the pro Nick on de novo stuff, which is you can do that, but maybe you shouldn't beat it.
Sid Yadav 10:43
I was told Yeah. If there's two key lessons there, actually, which is interesting, because it's both a product design lesson. And it's a operational lesson, right, which is when you get a request from a customer, right? It's very easy to actually build it and to ship the code. But that's not the thing that gets you super far or even if it gets you there, you might be building up a lot of tech debt in the process. So a better approach, which cyl must have mentioned to you in the podcast, which I know I've talked to him about is just to go, you know, many levels deeper and just to really examine what a request or what opportunities about and to think through all the the aspect systematically before you say, Okay, this is what we're doing. And it doesn't mean that all work has to stop, like you can keep iterating and keep doing mock ups, you can actually explore that idea, making have many different explorations, right? But before you commit, you have to be sure that it's the right thing for the core of your business. And that really comes from like, you know, why did you start the business like what made you actually decide to do this? And as long as you're doing that in a very disciplined way, I think we end up with a product that feels very cohesive. Whereas if you just have you know, even he was A founder shipping code like after a certain point I don't think founders should be doing that too much but it's a byproduct if you're doing that as like you know your team members kind of pick up that habit from you right so you as a founder probably know your customer because you talk to them a lot but other engineers in your team may not be as exposed to all the different perspectives right? So if you just give them sort of you know full freedom to be like Hey, just ship whatever and as fast as possible, they may not be shipping the right stuff and then over time you accumulate all this debt that then is then hard to build
on top of Yeah, I think that's Yeah,
Ben Tossell 12:38
that's what he was saying to me, which was when you try to build any feature, I don't like that suddenly on tempting which is easy. Go back to the stump and think how does are we helping the one user who starts at the very beginning get all the way through to the end of this and this This photo is whenever we do have an like, does not have to live in the same We're not the same way of delivering stuff. Which yet we're trying to do a bunch of this stuff now and think about it a lot more before we start shipping stuff. But this one,
Sid Yadav 13:14
yeah, practice and balance, right? Because I would say like day one, you should just be shipping stuff. Because you're you don't know what you're building. And the most important thing at that point is this momentum, right? Like you getting up every day and being excited about an idea is the most important thing, like early on, right? And then over time, as you start to validate some of those ideas, and you prove some of them and you start to build up users, then they have expectations. And, you know, if you're lucky enough, you have like, I'd say, we're pretty fortunate that most users want most least similar things from a modern white label community platform. Right? So we were not in the we don't have to balance like re deviating views of the product. But where it gets tricky is like you know, with the specifics, so you Have a large community, as you may be finding with like maker pad, you know, running into sort of edge cases or things that are not ideal for your scale, right. And there's a lot of work that we have to do there to make it ideal. But a lot of that stuff may not actually be applicable to someone who's just starting a community. And so it's on us as a product to say, Okay, these are the users we're focused on. So we're not, for example, in circles case, if someone's just starting the first community, we actually tell them, you know, we're probably not the best fit for you. Like, you might want to do that elsewhere, like Slack, Facebook groups, whatever, build up your audience, but every community will be the right fit for you when you're ready to actually take that a step up and say, Okay, this is my, you know, membership or this is my sort of premium paid exclusive community or this is my mastermind, like, I know what this is, I know who the initial members will be. And then I want to build a business on top of circle around Want to build a long lasting community on top of circle, but if you're just validating, you know, we don't actually help you with discovery. So you're just better off perhaps using sort of lower friction tools until you get to the point that you're actually ready for circle.
Ben Tossell 15:16
Once you think that works in the community pieces, such a big issue with people and I know that like, as a product or service, but maybe there's so many people in that discovery phase still, of not knowing because so many people asked me about how to build communities and I just sometimes it naturally just happens sometimes refund what to do. And then you also within your community symptoms and waves of that going through something like community. Yes. It is a full time. big piece of what your why not people are trying to build. And it is funny when you saying, Oh yeah, well, we have discord or we have slack and then freebet were most of these things were built for the thing that someone's trying to do. So what can you say? Why do you think someone hadn't built that yet? And the closest thing is any other forum software, which is always clunky, and not quite like, no code enough. Wasn't separate enough from a product perspective.
Yeah, why do you think I've touched on?
Sid Yadav 16:17
Yeah, this actually something we were surprised by? Because I would say like, we literally explored every single idea in the creator space. Before we got to this, right. We explored every like, you know, how can we help creators was the question that we entered with, and then, you know, we try to hold on to ideas. And this is the one where our initial assumption was like this had been done, like in other products, like, let's say, this course, that had been around for years, right. And the thing that was shocking goes like when we were when we actually use the product, we were like, Oh, I see I see what they've done. Like, they haven't actually gone back to first principles and thought through a what are the use cases in 2020? Like, who are the users we're serving in 2020 Like creators, maybe the word creator didn't even exist, you know, back in 2014 2013. And even if it did, it just meant something else, right? So now there's all these groups with a real need. And these people have used other products. So you may have used slack Facebook groups, you know, you may have built an audience and email list and all of that stuff, right. So the idea of just, you know, slapping a forum to all your other properties didn't quite make sense to us. And when we used a lot of these products, it just it just felt like it's basically something rehashed. Right. And so when we entered into it, it was like, okay, it seems like the thing that needs to be done here, going back to the point I was making that, you know, I learned from cyl which is just go back to first principles like why are we doing this? You know, what's the larger thing we're trying to solve? Because if the goal is to just build another forum product in 2020, like that's not very exciting, right. So We saw opportunities like you know, I think white labeling integrations, embeds all of this stuff. Now makes a lot more sense because you have no code platforms like web flow, which you know maker pad uses. So it means that plugging in a circle space or a topic into your website is much easier. Zapier exists. So you can pretty much hook up any event from, you know, most popular apps into circle using Zapier. Right? SSO. So most popular membership platforms now have off as an SSO option, which means they can plug that into circle, which means you don't need to use circle for payments or memberships. You know, we don't even support it yet. And you can just you know, you can have your CRM your member somewhere else, plug that into the product and then more towards the engagement side, you know, to engagement is actually our number one priority as a company and it's likely to be that for quite some time. Because I think the the tricky part there is if we're calling people to move from, let's say Facebook groups or Slack, right, and if they've built up some engagement there, and especially because those apps themselves have built up, you know, a ton of consumer momentum, we have to make up for that. So with circle, the thing was, okay, well, what are the unique things we can add to the engagement piece that are actually not possible with, you know, Facebook groups and slack and some of the non white label products. So just the very fact that you can embed it into your website, you know, happens to be one. You know, things like integrating video is something we're working on within the product that I think will be very exciting because you look at some of the providers now like Bailey CO, which is essentially a stripe for adding live video to your product. Right? That stuff is now possible. I just don't think it's been stitched together very well. So another thing is weekly digest so Beautiful custom, you know, white label weekly digest, that's not something Facebook groups or slack can do. So going back to the first principles and really trying to figure out, you know, as a creator entering into circle, you know, what are my core needs? Okay, well, I want it to be white label, I wanted to, at the very least, like not lose the engagement that I've built up on other platforms, but if not, actually, you know, add to that and make it such that this is now more engaging community that I have than I did before. Right, that sort of sort of ultimate goal.
Ben Tossell 20:37
Yeah. And obviously, it's in your best interest that people that they aren't and if they do want to smoke mutations do come on to serve and will they continue to stay on and that means he actually the successful of this obviously, was just saying where community engagement levels go up and down for the biggest communities the days of the week to less or less We'd be able, there's like, June and July might be less because people are on holidays or something like that. So
I wonder, yeah, how?
Ben Tossell 21:09
How big of a thought process systems? How do we make sure there's more engagement in the right places to the right people in the right formats? It just about to make sure we cover off all of that so that we creators can use them as they wish, or is it more, we'll help you with a smaller nuance, like, this is how you should do my video stuff this. Link these things together?
Sid Yadav 21:34
Yeah, what we tell creators is, you know, engagement is a two sided thing. So on their end, it's about like, taking you make a pad as a customer circle, right? You built up this audience, you have enthusiasm, no code enthusiasts, who like to showcase their stuff, right? You You have great unique attributes your audience a built up, and that makes for an engaging community. Right? And that's your work to do. And that's something you're Figuring, on our end, it's about the tool and the product. So, first thing like the tool, and the product should never be limiting to the engagement side of your business like you should never be like, Well, I have this amazing audience, but the tool just doesn't support all the things I want to do with it. Right. So that's like, number one. Number two, where we can add to that is we like to say that we're abstracting out all the best lessons that we see applied across all the communities that you circle. And we make that available, you know, to all circle customers at large and this is very similar to let's say, what Shopify did with e commerce or what teachable has done with online courses, which is, you know, they have access to a lot of behavioral patterns, like at teachable we saw all kinds of courses take off all kinds of price points. We saw what worked, what didn't. So to take video as an example, like we know that most of our success successful community Have some kind of a video aspect to it. So it may be as simple as a creator that you know, likes to record, right intimate videos where they're just talking to their audience to their community members and post them to circle and they would like their audience to be able to respond back almost the kind of thing that happens in YouTube. But you can productize it in a better way. Right. So that's one thing that works. Another as we see a lot of our communities do, you know, weekly q&a sessions, monthly q&a sessions, some kind of a synchronous piece to supplement all the asynchronous activity that goes on into the community. So if you look at it as a timeline, like if I'm a member on maker pad, it's like a synchronous most of the time, but then there might be a weekly or monthly thing that pops up or everyone's there, right, like everyone's watching the video call, or everyone's interacting with each other. There's some kind of a synchronous aspect of the engagement and then it's back asynchronous, and maybe the recording is posted, you know, back into this space. And that itself lives on for, you know, new community members that join later that may have missed the event. Right. So all of these are sort of lessons, we're picking up from the communities that that use us and are doing workarounds. And it's our job to then abstract the right lessons. And to make that easily accessible to all the communities in a way that they can actually leverage storage. So if some other community nails engagement on circle, we can look at what they did. We can make that feature available to you as maker pad, you could maybe try that it might not work. Work may work, right. But everyone gets to benefit
Ben Tossell 24:39
in this regard. Yeah. What about like, what we were thought or we went back, we did the same thing. Once I was making had we had a slack group. And then we said, right, we're not doing slack anymore. Here's a forum whose discourse forum everyone got on there. And then it was like, This is Quite a few people are hanging out here anymore. So then we had SAP again and then we said, Okay, back to circle, not doing slack again. And it was similar, but there was also people who came out of the woodwork of like, Oh, I hate slink. I would like to use TensorFlow now I'm doing it and then some people since then, you've released things I've done in messaging and stuff like that, which helps a lot of things. And now settling I've gone full into circle now, the thing that I keep on battling with slack is I'm always open. And people are in the professional world, such as always open, and people who love Facebook, which isn't me, I have Facebook open the whole time. Like how much how much of the battle is something that's like, always over someone. And you gotta, I mean, it's, it's almost not your job to help communities, get that behavior and someone's in a huge Are you in their communities hands, but almost it almost sort of is like, if you can come up with a problem of helping circle button be the thing that I'm open, because this is all my own communities that like, let's say that you help people as friends.
Sid Yadav 26:15
Yeah, for sure. I think that that all of that makes sense. And one thing to keep in mind is I also don't look at it fully zero sum. So for example, if you start a community in Slack, Well, one thing is like all your members are actually used to slack. Right. So any movement from slack will naturally have some friction, and that depends on how early you move away from slack. Yeah, right. So that's, that's one aspect there. The other is, we pitch circle right now. And this may change in the future, but right now as being a better fit for sort of asynchronous content driven communities. So let's say one thing, slack isn't good for us. You may have a ton of channels, you know, you have instant messaging across those channels. Right. But when someone's showcasing the work, To take micropowder as an example, it's just not the best to be like, like, you know, five paragraphs slack message, right? images, images, images, and that just clutters up the feed for everyone else. You know, some people may add a threaded comment, some people may just reply directly in line and that aspect gets super messy, whereas with circle, you can have a showcase face, you know, you could have them laid out and cards or lists or whatever. And it just feels a lot more native and much better. So I think right now, one of our value props is you know, you could keep slack for sort of the direct instant access to the community members. And you could supplement that with something that's a little more, you know, long form asynchronous. I think video will make that interesting. So the idea of, you know, doing live sessions, having the recordings be automatically posted into this space. Users being able to respond with a recorded video endless Like all that stuff starts to make starts to add a different kind of engagement that then I think slack would give you.
Yeah, I think what we,
Ben Tossell 28:11
what we currently have is the best of both worlds. Cable slack is almost your feed of notifications. So everything we use from servo. And there's certain people asking questions, how do I do this? Or how do I build this thing or hfma project? It's through some fear, change some of those things, but people still been will they'll comment and stuff, or they can go there. Oh, yes. That's interesting to me. I'll go on to that on circle. So and then suddenly, it's like, if you look into Slack, that's fine. You don't miss out on the circle stuff. If you don't be in a circle. B circle. That's fine. Yep.
Sid Yadav 28:50
Yeah, yeah. And I'd say over time, it's just I think we're starting we're going to differentiate a lot more. So it's not just messages being exchanged. As I said, it's, it's more of the contract. being posted on different types of content. You know, at some point, we may do group chat. But if and when we were to tackle that, we will have to, again, go back to the drawing board and say, well, we don't just want to replicate slack. How is group chat interesting to circle like one example in which we get that request is, as I said, some of our best communities do these, you know, weekly calls or monthly calls, right. And so once they're eight, when they're having the call, they would love for a synchronous chat stream. That's not zoom, where the chat is actually stored. So that's a very interesting use case there and then be after the call, you know, they might want to do continue the breakout rooms, right. And so these are things more unique to circle and it's not just, we're just going to slap some group messaging functionality onto the concept of channels because we kind of looked like slack. Right. It's just about it's just all about going back to the drawing board. Thinking about what the users find value in right now and how we can supplement that in the best way.
Ben Tossell 30:05
Yeah, that makes sense. And I was gonna say, the breakout rooms. I think that is something it sounds like. There's not just having 20 people in a chat is something. Okay, this is the person who owns the community hosting, like a mastermind. And then you can do certain split off groups and come around and do things. That would be really interesting. What do you think? Yeah, how does the creative space changed? Or how is it changing up, if at all, because without the whole novoed movement chip, like, coming to fruition, people now have no clue as a thing. I don't know if circle really calls itself a novo tool. But we obviously always say that you don't need to be another tool to be part of the no code solution. And we will always class as part of a stack integration, something else you can do multiple things with it. So causing a bug? Yeah.
Sid Yadav 31:02
Yeah, it's funny, I guess it depends on how you look at the word no code, because if you look at it literally, you know, we are no code. But I think it means something else right now, which is something closer to, you know, well, you can do very complex things with a product like webflow without writing code, but using a lot of the same ideas or the same structure behind what code can do for you. Right. I in terms of creator space, I would say, you know, one big change for the past few years is you know, it has a label and people know about what it is I think Patreon has helped a lot. Um, you know, the consumerization of Patreon and sort of YouTube creators, you know, starting memberships on Patreon has really brought that word to the masses, I think, teachable, has done similarly with sort of the online course creators. So you know, people just know a lot more about what it is to be a creator and that that's actually looked upon as like a Something desirable as like, you know, I want to be creator, I want to own my destiny, I want a passive income business or, you know, I want to do this full time so that that aspect has changed, I think, with no go no code specifically, I don't know, too much has changed technically, like, you know, when we launched teachable in 2014. You know, it's pretty no code like you can, you could set up your online course, you could customize brand colors, you could even, you know, add custom CSS edit templates. You know, I wouldn't say there's like a no code version of teachable for example, like there's pretty no code to begin with. And so but but maybe what's interesting is, you know, with things like web flow, it's made it so that creators can have a, a way to have a very custom re, you know, personalized, let's say website with web flow, and they don't have to have all their stuff pointing back To one tool, whether that's teachable or substack, right, they can have a default presence. And then that homepage can link out to other aspects of their, their business or product offerings. Yeah,
Ben Tossell 33:14
I think that's what I like to believe is going to have more of a sudden can be obviously, individual as a studio type model where so this is my
it could be
Ben Tossell 33:27
make pad, it could be depends site. And then here's my newsletter piece. This is like the apps I make around the audience I'm creating and here's my community. And it's like all these different tools that are all together as, as you can build those things like oh, a new idea for a product. It still has, like the interests that I have that fits into my brand and my thing and put that together to see more of that which I'd like to see learning. That's what I heard. Yeah,
Sid Yadav 33:59
I think things They're already headed there. And it's an interesting to consider, which is like, is this? Is this space? Or is this opportunity going to be modular? Or is it going to be integrated? So we very much believe in the modular approach. Hence we integrate with all the different products. You know, we've done partnerships with member stack member space. And we believe in working with everyone, right, we're talking to webflow we have a partnership with teachable so that's the the model that we believe in, there are some products that say, Hey, we just want to do it all. Like we're your one stop shop for community payments, courses, bla bla, bla bla bla, right. And I personally don't believe in that model from what I've seen, because what I find is that if you just pick one of those things, like if you pick community online horses,
like one aspect,
Sid Yadav 34:48
just one aspect alone, it's like very hard to nail for like one product. And that in itself is actually a massive opportunity. All right.
Sid Yadav 34:57
if someone tries to do it all Can't imagine a version where they're not half assing certain aspects. And if they're half assing, certain aspects, then the question becomes, well, what's the advantage of the integrated approach? Right? Like, is it bringing something to me that we modular would not bring to me and I just don't find too much value in that because you have tools like, like Zapier, and you have integrations that actually tend to make all of it work well. Pretty well together, where I would say the complexity is on the creator side where creators have to be a little more technical, to stitch things together. But what we're finding recently is like, you know, we see all kinds of non technical creators using Zapier webflow. SSO integrations are embed like, in a way, we're actually introducing them to code while they're stitching all of this together. So something that's been surprising to me is there hasn't been too much friction and Use with the people that we work with there. But I imagine it could be a lot more easier when it comes to, you know, having tutorials, videos and just making it much easier for people to know what what what the components are and how they can stitch it together.
Ben Tossell 36:14
Yeah, and obviously, that's a huge piece of what we're trying to the villages should be any level of technical competence. Do these things naturally, yeah, you're bothering stitching these things together that could then start touching code if you want to do any glue down that way. I think. I mean, I definitely believe the modular approach you don't think
even things like, um,
Ben Tossell 36:42
where there's a net like there's notes, there's docks, there's like database stuff. It's just like, this is your one stop shop tool. And I don't believe there's ever that for any things. You just see. Even if within an organization you've got salespeople, the marketing components Engineers, all of which like using different tools, most likely, certain things, everyone on Slack, but maybe the directors like speaking to the sales director with emails, and then it's time to think about how you integrate, obviously, but actually with no code happening more, you could actually say, Well, okay, if you've been an email and you've been in Slack, that's not the thing that stops the process. You can get a slack message. And you can link those together. But I think the other thing is you have, there's always going to be a different tool, there's a different way to do some things. There's just different people, different tastes, how what how it works for them,
Sid Yadav 37:42
is visually, the one product that's surprised me in this regard, that's more towards the integrated side of things is actually notion. So you know, I'm used to using multiple tools like from teachable and gumroad we use like seven different products. main products in the company. Yeah, like a product management tool and email, CRM, customer support tool, blah, blah, blah, right? We've been using notion for pretty much everything. And that works at our scale. So I would say like, maybe the factor here is scale where, you know, up to 20 to 50 ish people, I think you can actually build a whole business just using notion for for most things, obviously, you're not gonna use it for like, you know, customer support, but you could use it for a knowledge base. We use it for all our internal documentation, our product management, all of that stuff works pretty well. But where I imagine it might start to break down is really what scale.
Ben Tossell 38:38
Yeah, I mean, we use notion. We use our table too. So that's a There's our database CRM stuff, because we need automations to happen when do things or things happen? And that can happen with notions? Yep. As it sees our API that knows. Yeah, I think he's just like, I like things being documented. But I'm terrible at documenting things. So it looks to me like, I'd love this to be like, done properly. But even myself, I can't do it properly myself. So. So what about like I said before we jumped on something called inner circle, it looked like from your tweets. It was January 30% of you said, Okay, I'm starting to see thing after going around. Stages See that? This was seven months since then. It seems like everyone's talking about circle, everyone's using circle, like, I recommend it. I don't know how many times a week or get people asking me to introduce him to you and do skip the waitlist and all this sort of stuff. So hello, how's it felt being behind that and behind this product that people are really, really latching on to?
Sid Yadav 39:55
Yeah, I mean, first I just say that I think maker pad is one One of the largest drivers behind that, you know, we get a lot of customers from the no code community and from us specifically. So that's been super helpful. Yeah, I would say, it's, we didn't we didn't plan a lot of this stuff. So like when I was tweeting in January and saying, Hey, I'm building this company, I was actually tweeting my like, leaving gumroad back then. But that tweet, thanks to Stiles retweet actually got a bunch of attention and led to, I'd say close to 1000 at least 1000 weightless signups. Right, so it's like instant momentum. And we got, we started seeing inbounds like, Hey, I'm interested in what you're building, but we didn't even have a product out when I tweeted that. I think we were just in the process of getting our first user. Yeah, and one thing has led to another and something that's really helped with our strategies, you know, one we're weightless driven. So we've we've basically collected thousands of leads since January, right? Up to we also To make it kind of easy to bypass the waitlist, I shouldn't be saying this on a podcast but if someone reaches out and says, Hey, I you know, I'm watching community in the next two weeks, four weeks, whatever, I think that's a tool for me like we just let them in. Right? I have a co founder Andrew is also the VP of growth at teachable, who I think in the past has done up to like 50 demos a week. That number is thankfully down now that we have a self serve flow. But, uh, you know, just to give you a sense of sort of how we're thinking about our strategy was first it wasn't planned. So as I said, this is waitlist. Okay, cool. weightless is building up. That's awesome. We're getting customers. And then as we started to get a bunch of communities on board like maker pad, founder summit and Laura Tiago forte at Wipro, Pat Flynn. All of these guys have audiences and
one they're likely to, you know,
Sid Yadav 41:54
a portion of their audience is likely to be added into the circle community. portion of their audience is likely to be technical enough to want a community for themselves. So that's led to a very natural organic momentum or, you know, one their audience, there's a lot of alignment in the audience, right? And to when they tweet, something, people looking for a tool like circle may be interested in that. So that's just kicked off a loop, I think over the past few months. And then we're now at the stage where, like, we don't have to launch we just keep doing the waitlist thing. For the next few months. I think our growth has been pretty rock solid, but we feel inclined. And we almost take it as a challenge to be like, Well, what does it look like to open up circle to the world like, you know, we feel like the product, you know, is ready enough. And if we just keep pushing it off, you know, there's a very tempting view that we can have pretty show low key lifestyles, not that many support tickets, but it's more fun and exciting to be okay. Like, we're ready like Let's go. Let's bring on customers. Let's rip off the band aid. And let's learn from all the feedback in a very short time span. So for us internally, it's been about preparing the team and say, okay, for the past six months, we've been shipping a lot like a ton. I think that may not be the case, like in the few weeks before and after launch, or our focus is likely to be more on like stability, addressing immediate customer issues, customer feedback, but we've kind of planned our roadmap around it, at least to the degree that it's possible to plan a roadmap and set expectations. And the whole goal is, you know, going back to what I learned from Sahil, like, let's try and automate as much of this as possible. So let's build all the macros. Let's write all the KB articles, let's fix all the UX issues. Let's make the surf self serve onboarding. It's just awesome. And then, you know, let's say in September, we can go back to the fast iterative shipping, a ton of features. Having to knock on wood. That's my hope, famous last words without being super, you know, bogged down by the scale. So that's kind of, you know, our strategy right now. Awesome. So
Ben Tossell 44:12
when I was on boarded a couple months ago, it was the like, also the superhuman, superhuman approach him off Shabbat, a call for for this. This is awesome. Yeah, hidden protocol. It's only up to this time now. Are you moving away from that indefinitely? Is that like, was that just to get feedback on stuff? Or was it? Was that part of the strategy too?
Sid Yadav 44:37
Yeah. So it's not zero sum. So what we realized is we just hit and we've been mostly my co founder, Andrew right now, hit a cap in terms of the demos you can do without, you know, while actually getting other work done, right. And so at that point, there's two things you can do. You can go the superhuman route. I think in their case, they started hiring more onboarding specialists. Right, going back to just our fundamental sort of values of the company, our goal, even when we raise Iran back in January was to get profitable as soon as possible, ideally this year, right? So that's just not an approach that we want to take based on those values. So our thinking has been, well, we're not going to stop doing demos. Like I think Andrew is going to be adding three or four group demos a week, in addition to the one on one demos, but it's just a cap. It's just a hard cap, right? So we'll, what we're working on instead is to actually build a full sort of self serve funnel such that, you know, you get qualified as a lead, you may get offered the one on one demo, you may get offered the group demo, everyone has the option just to do the self serve demo, which is basically a pre recorded video, you know, 2030 minutes, that gives you all the information that you would get from a demo. And then if you need help, you can write it and I think that's the way to scale. With our values in mind, which is, you know, leverage. You don't want a marketing team of 20 people and an engineering team of 10, let's say. So we're just going in the opposite other direction. And we're going to see how it works out. So we may need to balance it a little more. So maybe a flaw in our thinking could be that we're going too much in the self serve direction. So maybe we need to do more one on one demos and onboarding sessions. While we're figuring out self serve, so we'll have to see based on the feedback,
Ben Tossell 46:30
yeah, it says, So superhuman is still something that it says themselves they have they can they can choose that. Yeah, just right now, and yeah, this has been awesome. And we are really proud to be super customer. Really happy that a circle are made from partner. We can't wait to do more stuff together, show off more content, do more cool workshops and things like that. Shell float all the cool things we do and All the stuff that you come up with Will you tell folks where they can find you and where they find surfboard? Maybe by the time this focus is out there will be live and open to sign up.
Sid Yadav 47:13
Yeah, you can find circle on circle.so we can get the.com Don't ask me about it that circle a lot so, and my Twitter handle is Cydia daps. It's si D, ya da ve. And I'll just say that Ben the few feeling's mutual. We did not expect maker Pat as a customer in March or April. But that was just one of the happy accidents and it's just led to so much goodwill being generated from the local community. You know, it's been very cool to see you guys use the product and really evolve your community approach with that. And then, you know, for us, we're also learning from you and we want to build a better product for you. And then as I said, whenever we do that, you know The whole community of communities benefits from that. So, you know, we're super, super grateful.
Appreciate that. Thanks so much for coming on. soon. Thanks. Thanks for having me on.