Talking with Founder/CEO of Commande Tom Uebel on having a customer led company

June 12, 2020
To listen to the full episode, click here

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us. Hey everyone. I am thrilled to have Tom. You will, with me the co founder and CEO of command E uh, we are huge users of command D over at cloud app. Uh, and I was one of the windows users that wasn't able to use the full product, like all my friends, uh, on Mac, but recently this week, Tom and his company released, uh, Mac or sorry, windows and expanded some of the features set of command D also at a nice fundraise. So I'm really excited to see the company growing and a really great product that can help you quickly search for anything that you want to find and increase your productivity. So we're excited to have Tom today, uh, especially during this week when it's been wild and he carved out some time for us. So thanks for joining Tom.

Tom: (01:07)
Yeah, thanks for having us. Um, it's been great. Uh, caught up was really one of the companies that I was a user of before commanded was a thing I think, and then a thought up it's one of the first companies that community really started spreading within. So become good friends over email over the past few months. Um, so we were with you this morning.

Joe: (01:28)
Awesome. So give me a little bit of background on Command. Kind of where the idea started. Um, tell me a little bit about yourself and what kind of led to this.

Tom: (01:37)
Yeah, definitely. So you have to go back probably a four years or so ago. My co founder, Ben and I were on the engineering team at an early stage VC fund. And we kind of saw two things and this was really kind of been putting the pieces together. One thing was we are engineers kind of flying around our hundreds of files and our code editors with no problem. And then some of our closest friends were spending their days between Salesforce and Gmail and just kind of tearing their hair out at the friction of moving between some of these systems. And these were some of our best friends, really, really smart people. So you kind of knew like the problem isn't the people, the tooling glued together super nicely. Um, and so that kind of got Ben's head spinning as to, you know, how could we make their day look a little more like ours for all these touch points in the day where you kind of know exactly what you want to do next it's Hey, I want to go to this Salesforce record.

Tom: (02:33)
I want to go to this email thread, you know, instantly what you need to do next. Right. And so what we really want to do is just take that from the moment where, you know, what you want to do to you're actually there and executing on that task. Just take that, um, reduce the friction down, look to as little as possible. And the other things we saw on the team of 12, that we were a part of, we counted them up one day and there were 20 different cloud systems being used on that team. She just have data everywhere. And I think that's pretty common. You can survey most teams. I think they'll tell you, yeah. You know, the stuff I need to get my job done, let's across so many different systems. And so we've realized that you kind of needed this layer to pull them all together. And some of the technology underlying community advanced in the past few years to make it possible in a way that really wasn't available before now.

Joe: (03:28)
That's really cool. Yeah. I mean, it's, it's pretty common kind of backstory, right? You like find a problem and you kind of hustle a little bit on the side to figure out how you can fix that problem, find the product market fit, and then you're off to the races. That's really cool. Yeah.

Tom: (03:47)
We definitely kind of took a lot of time in the garage to get it right. I think with productivity tools, especially there's a pretty high bar these days and you want to make sure that when you kind of let something loose that you're giving people something really polished, really quality that kind of instantly they get it and it just makes life easier.

Joe: (04:06)
Awesome. Um, yeah, we're, we're kind of living in the age of like productivity apps and making things smoother, reducing friction, like you said, how do you kind of cut through the noise of that space as a brand and as a product, um, and really find a way to connect with customers and, um, lead with kind of that in mind.

Tom: (04:32)
Yeah. I think both caught up and command. You really were somewhat fortunate that it's very easy to describe what we do, right? It's Hey, all these touch points in the day where you feel like it takes too long to get to your next thing, you just hit command you type what you want and you're there, um, and caught up it's Hey, I need to record this like piece of content and I want it to be just really good. How do I do this as kind of a lay man? And so I think you need just like a very clear explanation of what it is. Um, my cofounder Ben has talked about it as like being very atomized bubble. Like you can just very clearly say what something is. Somebody gets it right away and they can very easily say, Oh yeah, I would love to use something like Mandy to get to my Salesforce contact records, just the use cases really apparent. And then I think the other piece is just the out of the box experience has to be really good. People have so much going on right now that, you know, if they can't figure out how to pull this tool into their kind of workflow and we try to keep it under five minutes, um, if you can get up and running in under 15, um, I think it's going to be a really hard slog.

Joe: (05:46)
Yeah, I would agree. Especially, you know, you mentioned during these, these kinds of current times, um, there's, there's even more noise where, uh, you have to break not only the noise of other companies competing for, for time of, uh, products competing for time of a company, but also budget. So, you know, you have to immediately sneak in and show immediate value and become a, you know, a core piece of that group. Have you been able to kind of spread, you know, like a land and expand type deal? Is it, are you kind of seeing typical like organic word of mouth growth or what else have you guys been able to do?

Tom: (06:29)
Yeah, so we're still pretty early on and we kind of just started with a wait list that we built up while we were in private beta. Um, and since we kind of took the covers off earlier this week, we've seen that kind of land and expand continue. It is the kind of thing where we see in a lot of, you know, people are on zooms all day long now, and you're sharing your screen, you use command D to get to something, and it just has this immediately, this immediate effect of Whoa, how did you get to that thing in less than a second that, you know, I know it takes me 30 seconds to track down. Um, and so once you kind of see it in action, it's kind of thing you just kind of immediately want.

Joe: (07:08)
So you, you mentioned a few times, you know, you're a big user of cloud app. Um, and we, we have a great connection because cause we both love each other's products, which is great. How, how have you found that visuals and video, um, from cloud app has been helpful, uh, you know, communicating asynchronously, uh, making, making your emails less big, how those really helped create an experience both within your company and to customers?  

Tom: (07:39)
Yes.So I've had a couple of different use cases. One is we kind of first started sharing what we were doing. I think it was back in early October and we put out a post called, you know, meet command that kind of said, Hey, here's this problem that we saw and how we're thinking about it. And like I said, a second ago, the easiest way to explain it this, to just show somebody, right. Here's 20 seconds of me getting to five different things that I need to accomplish this task. And I was able to very easily make that video, um, in cloud app and distributed, I am an engineer, I have very little design sense or a visual sense myself. Um, and it's just, it's one of those products that just works right away and lets you produce something that makes you give the impression that you know, what you're doing when I actually have no idea in that realm. Um, so yeah, that's the biggest thing I think for us. And then also just, I spend a lot of my day in email, uh, very little in the code anymore and a lot of it is kind of showing users, Hey, here's how you do this thing in our product. Um, and it is just so much nicer to send a quick Jeff or something like that rather than, you know, typing out three paragraphs.

Joe: (08:49)
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I, I found, you know, we're, we're getting on the app soap box here, but I found something similar, you know, as at Adobe, I'm leading a global team and it was just a way to communicate and not have to be on, you know, an early morning or late night call that nobody really wants to be a part of. Uh, you can just communicate asynchronously and it's really helpful. Um, you guys are just coming out of beta, you know, you're getting a lot of feedback. You're doing probably a lot of user tests and really understanding how people are using it, developing, building out the use case profile. What is the way that you have kind of collected feedback, um, to really try and create a customer experience as you're really kind of just launching?  

Tom: (09:35)
Yeah. I mean, so we did a couple of things. I think the first thing is you just have to show people that you care and that you actually do want the feedback. So, you know, if you go into our app, we kind of have three main calls to action. The upper right. One is you can invite coworkers. Another is send us feedback. Um, then the last is just providing some customization so that you can make mandate. If it doesn't quite work out of the box, exactly how you want it, you can kind of make it, do what you want. Um, and so just asking for feedback, I think in the first place, and then second, I try to have a very quick SLA with our users. If you send us feedback, we try to get back to you really quickly. Um, just to again, reinforce that we care and we're going to incorporate what you, uh, tell us. Um, and then the best is just circling back after the fact. So once somebody tells you, Hey, I'd love this thing, closing the loop when you actually ship it, hopefully as quickly as possible.

Joe: (10:33)
I think that's, you know, one of the, the last thing you said is probably the, maybe one of the most important and maybe the one that doesn't always happen is like, you gotta close that loop so that you build that trust. And people are like, Hey, you know, I made this suggestion like six months ago and they actually did it like, that's pretty cool. You know, you create some loyalty that way.

Tom: (10:59)
Definitely. And we've, we've been lucky. I think there's all these companies that kind of survey the landscape and you come to admire the way some of them, um, just conduct their business both in terms of how they build product, but also how they communicate with their users. And superhuman is a company that's really been an inspiration to us in that regard. They, you know, it is that kind of thing where it can be six months ago where you might've even forgotten that you asked them for something and they always close the loop and say, Hey, here's that thing you were looking for.

Joe: (11:31)
Yeah, that's really cool. It's really helpful. I'm sure to, to kind of build a community and loyalty, um, you know, it's a definitely unique time going on right now. Um, what are some things that you've been able to do, uh, as a leader, um, to really stay connected with your team? You know, you went through a fundraise, you launched a major product. How did you, I kind of just want to dig in and understand how you kind of made that happen. Uh, you know, under the circumstances.

Tom: (12:05)
Yeah. It's been a fun few months. Um, yeah, it's interesting. We, I think honestly, a lot of it is just making sure you have the right people around the table. I'm fortunate to have had to, I've worked with my cofounder for a few years before this. So, you know, we been through, you know, major life events before, um, and the team we built, um, we made sure we got people that care about what we're doing. So that under tough times, you're still kind of still committed to that core mission. Uh, but also just making sure that you take care of your people in this time. I think like we were pretty early, I think, well, before people started closing offices and people realized this was all going to be a thing, um, we'd kind of been monitoring it and told people like, Hey, here's something we did was very early. We said, here's a hundred dollars. Like please stockpile a couple of weeks of groceries. It might get a little gnarly, um, making sure that people, we have to be pushing pretty hard obviously, but making sure that they take care of themselves also. And that will kind of go too hard at this point.

Joe: (13:14)
Yeah. Let's see. I think that's a big key piece, you know, at cloud app we've been kind of monitoring usage mainly because like I come from a data analyst background, so I'm like just super interested by consumer behavior and like understanding what's been going on and as like a key work tool, uh, we've seen usage go up close to three X, like during the early morning commute time, what it used to be. And then also after hours and my kind of hypothesis with that is like, um, I mean, I, I have three kids, so like I'm trying to help home school and my wife has stuff she has to get done. And so I'm like taking breaks to like go play with the kids or like help with school. And so my work is like eight to nine and then I have to take a break and then it's like 11 to three and then I have to take another break. And then it's like, you know, eight to nine at night versus like nine to five and then, you know, a little bit at night. So it's been pretty interesting to see, uh, how people have broken up kind of this day, uh, their Workday, uh, you know, an actual data, which is really cool.

Tom: (14:28)
Yeah. It's going to be really interesting. I think, I feel like most people have kind of adjusted to this new normal, um, might not be ideal obviously, but have kind of settled in to a certain extent. I think as we kind of get to this next phase where probably things don't look the same as they did before this, but, um, what exactly it will look like? What kind of remains from this period? Well, it looks different. I'm still not sure and interest to see how it all shakes out. If you know, six months down the line, how people work,

Joe: (15:04)
You mentioned, you know, you mentioned a kind of talking about experience and kind of building experiences with feedback. Um, I want to hear you Tom, as a consumer, uh, you mentioned superhuman, but let's, let's, uh, you know, maybe get another example as well. What's a recent experience you had, uh, as a customer that really made you more loyal and maybe some ideas that you pulled from that experience to help build command,

Tom: (15:33)
Trying to think, honestly,

Joe: (15:35)
It could be retail, it could be travel, could be SAS, whatever.

Tom: (15:40)
Yeah. I think a lot of it, that's a very good question. I think when stands out, one thing I've noticed is, you know, there are some brands that you're starting to see this kind of like COVID messaging creep into everything. And at some point it almost becomes a little much. And I think just the way I think different brands have handled it in different ways and some brands, like I know there was one email that stood out. I think it was from, uh, somebody at HubSpot and they just framed everything the right way, which like right off the bat was like, Hey, totally understand. This might not be top priority right now if that's the case, let's connect in a few months. Um, so I think just like retaining that human element and kind of really handling things the right way right now is kind of the main thing I'm looking for as a consumer. Awesome. Yeah. I, I was

Joe: (16:39)
Yeah, fascinated for the first couple of weeks at just like how quickly things mobilized and innovated on, on more of the outside the digital realm. So like gross, my local grocery store was, you know, putting up massive guards and like had tape for like the six feet within like the first week. And then, you know, local restaurants are like figuring out how to do curbside and like try and make it a good experience for people, even though that's not their core business. And it was just, it's been pretty cool to kind of see a different innovation come from all of this.

Tom: (17:16)
Yeah. There is just the amount of ingenuity around it is really impressive. It does give you a lot of faith that, you know, we're going to get through this definitely going to be all right.

Joe: (17:30)
So I think this has been a fun conversation, Tom. I'm really glad I could get you on today, especially, you know, during this week of craziness for you, which is really exciting. Uh, I want you to look inside the crystal ball and kind of help me understand what you think the modern workplace looks like and the future of experienced business.

Tom: (17:52)
Yeah, I think it's just very highly personalized is kind of the main thing. Um, it's one thing I am interested to see as you're starting to see more and more companies announced that, you know, Hey, you can work from home the rest of your career here, if you want. Um, it's going to be interesting to see, you know, obviously people are going to have a little more customization of their workspace, but you know, what else, you know, how much more demanding does the average consumer get when they kind of like are in more control of their day, if you think of how much time you spend at work, um, as more of that, I think becomes more to your own, uh, your left more to your own devices and able to take a little more control. It'll be interesting to see how that all shakes out.

Joe: (18:40)
Yeah, it's kind of like, um, I was reading something this morning about, uh, schools having like hybrid models and maybe more, uh, you might have like more year round type school systems where they have to spread it out to have smaller class sizes. And I mean, work could certainly be that way as well. Um, you know, I, I think I said this kind of when Twitter made their announcement, um, I think that's great that they're saying, Hey, work from home, probably, you know, the stipulations are probably current employees, uh, not necessarily hiring remotely. And then also I think the next thing to drop is kind of building on your thought is, um, hiring remote senior leaders. So I think once you see the Googles Facebooks, uh, Adobe is one as well, Microsoft hiring EVP, or even a C level that is not at headquarters. Uh, I think that's when it's like, okay, now we've reached an actual remote work versus like, yeah, we'll hire, you know, middle managers and they can be in Florida and we're in the Bay area. That's fine, whatever, but you know, I need to have my direct reports now I need to have them here in HQ. So I think that'll be interesting to see if that, if that starts to develop as well.

Tom: (20:06)
Yeah. That's a really good point. We'll be very interesting to follow over the next year or so.

Joe: (20:11)
Awesome. Well, thanks, Tom. This has been really fun. I appreciate your time. And uh, everyone go check out command E it's such a great product. Um, I had a lot of community envy, uh, and I'm excited to get it the full app on windows. Uh, so thanks again, Tom. And I look forward to talking again soon.

Tom: (20:46)

Definitely. Thanks Joe.

Joe: (20:55)

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