Silicon Prairie News

Columbia, Mo.-born Zapier launches from its new home at Y Combinator

June 20, 2012 by Danny Schreiber Only 17 days until Big Omaha. Get your tickets before they sell out!

Zapier co-founders Wade Foster, Bryan Helmig and Mike Knoop made the move to Mountain View, Calif. in a moment's notice, just after learning they'd been accepted to Y Combinator.

Zapier, the winner of Startup Weekend Columbia in October, launched today, just weeks after moving to Silicon Valley to join Y Combinator, a program and seed fund for startups.

"(It's an) easy way for non-developers to get integrations between all their SaaS applications," co-founder Wade Foster said on Monday. In other words, Zapier syncs apps, allowing them to perform actions that otherwise would require programming – development work Foster said could run more than $2,000.

With Zapier, it takes five minutes to sync two apps, Foster said. Email marketing software Campaign Monitor, for example, told its users today that they could now receive email or SMS alerts each time someone subscribed to their newsletter. A notification made possible by Zapier.

Other popular uses of Zapier include notifications in a company's chatrooms when that company's name is mentioned on Twitter (left) or a creation of a support ticket when a company receives an email from a customer.

Services like If That Then This have popped up in recent years to offer automation for consumer apps – if you take a photo on Instagram, it will automatically save it in your Dropbox folder – but Zapier aims to connect the tools that companies use to run their business. Foster said the idea spun out of use of Yahoo! Pipes, which he said offers syncing like Zapier but that's it "very difficult to use."

As of today, it supports more than 60 apps, and with a move to Silicon Valley in May the team of three feels they're positioned to pursue their big vision – "become the clearing house for data by bringing APIs to the masses."

"We drive down the street and every application we integrate with is just like listed right in a row," co-founder Mike Knoop said. "That's really powerful. If we ever had a problem we'd go find a connection or go bang on their door and figure it out."

Banging out their own problems and building their product has been a work of the past eight months. In November, less than two months after building a prototype at Startup Weekend Columbia, they released a private beta. In December, Foster quit his job and went full-time. In April, co-founder Bryan Helmig followed suit, and in May, Knoop quit his job. The startup quietly launched a public beta in May, as well.

For the next two and a half months, the three co-founders will be nestled in a two-bedroom apartment in Mountain View, Calif. participating in Y Combinator's weekly office hours and dinners. In August, they'll be on stage at Demo Day, joining the program's 80 or so other startups at the bi-annual event.

Outside of the funding Zapier's receiving from Y Combinator – a venture fund that invests less than $20,000 (rarely more) in exchange for a 2-10 percent stake in the company – it's been bootstrapped.

Following Demo Day, Foster and Helmig will remain in Mountain View and Knoop will return to Columbia for one year as his girlfriend finishes law school. Beyond that year, plans are for Knoop to join the team in California, but, he said, a future Zapier office in Columbia is still on their minds.

"I have a strong feeling that Columbia might be a very good place to source talent since it's kind of hard to do that out here," Knoop said.

And it's that talent and the Columbia startup community that gave Zapier it's start. A history they don't take for granted.

"The Columbia community is awesome," Foster said, sporting a "Mizzou" T-shirt the day of the interview. "Some of our earliest users are people from Columbia who basically use the site and told us what things were wrong. I mean in fact Steve Powell who runs Delta Systems still gets on our site every month or so and breaks things. He's like, 'Guys, this is still broken, why is this not fixed yet?' The people from Columbia have been amazing in terms of support and helping us kind of get off the ground."

He added: "From a personal standpoint it was hard, but from a business standpoint it was the right thing to do."

Zapier launched today with a list 8,000 emails collected since it launched its website in October. And before today, the app already had 1,000 active users.

 

Credits: Photo courtesy of Zapier. Image from zapier.com.

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