Typeform is on a mission to make data collection a little more human and conversational. They just raised $35 Million in a series B round led by General Atlantic.
ARTRPRNR had the privilege of chatting with one of the co-founders, David Okuniev, to learned more about him and his company.
How did Typeform get started?
Originally, I was running a design agency and we got a project from a toilet company in Barcelona that wanted us to build a webform into one of their showrooms.
Our initial inspiration came form the movie War Games, with Matthew Broderick. In the movie he speaks with the NSA’s mainframe computer to set off a nuclear war. The interface in the movie is very conversational.
We then created our first prototype and realized the way to collect data is to go one question at a time.
We were not planning on becoming a tech startup, but the more excited we got about the idea, we thought, ‘let’s do this and release it to everyone’.
How long did it take to pivot into being a tech startup?
What were the biggest challenges going from a design agency to becoming a fast growing tech startup?
We started from being a team of 10 people and within 2 years we were 170 people. With that there are a lot of growing pains that, as first time founders, had no idea what it would entail.
Everything you think works in a small company is a lot different then. Making decisions, getting alignment, pushing projects through.
What should we look forward to for typeform in the future?
Until now we created a more human conversational way to collect data.
Our next step is to enhance that by bringing the question and responder closer together. One of the ways we are doing that is with a recommendation engine that detects language that is less friendly and will suggest friendlier language for your form questions.
We are integrating Typeform with more products and will be releasing a bunch of API’s that will help developers create forms and collect data as well as expanding outside of the web and mobile browsers and going into different channels like slack and Facebook. It’ll also be at the forefront of VR and AR.
If you were to start over again, what would you do differently?
I’d like to see how far can I take a startup with the smallest amount of people.
According to Dunbar’s theory, when you are below 150 people, everyone has each other’s backs. When you have beyond 150 the fabric of trust starts breaking down. Essentially, you just don’t have the amount of time to have enough personal interactions with enough people, so you really need to work hard align people.
You are no longer a company, but an organization.
How do you maintain that trust with your team of more than 150?
For us, it helped to create a strong set of values that people can follow.
What are these values?
Values are based on creating human cohesion in the company.
We have several: practicing empathy, allowing honesty to move things forward and seeking to innovate and leave space for fun.
What has been the biggest challenge in your personal life?
Biggest personal life challenge was raising kids. It makes running a company seem easy.
What was the best lesson you learned from a mistake?
If I would have known what it would be like to scale a company, me and my co-founder could have prepared a little more beforehand.
We made a bunch of mistakes along the way. For example, how do we deal with letting people go in the company.
Not everyone you hire is gonna work out. Letting go of people is not something we were trained or had to do before.
Name a book that had the greatest impact on your life?
I’m not a big reader but a book I read recently was The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.
It’s a good philosophy to relax in life. Is all that shit really so important?
We can worry about a million things, but we need to chose about what we care about very carefully otherwise you can spread yourself to thin.
Look for the things that make you most happy and focus on them.
What do you consider your biggest strength as an entrepreneur?
It’s hard for me to compliment myself but I’d say I am very empathetic, a good listener, pretty open and also adventurous. This started as kind of an accident and evolved.
How about your biggest weakness?
I’d say my biggest strengths can sometimes be my biggest weaknesses.
We create a good human experience. Not just of collecting data but also for our team within our company.
Some companies are just about making sure everything amazing for our customers. Instead, we try to balance that with making things amazing for our team as well.
How do you balance giving employees an amazing experience while creating a sense of urgency?
How do you define success?
For me, success is not just about ‘me’, it has to be tied to the people on my team. I wouldn’t want to have a unicorn company where people were not entirely happy.
It’s about creating an environment where people can grow and become more of who they are and not less of who they are.