Talkingheadz with Justin Mitchell of Yac

by Dave Michels

Remember that scene in Breaking Bad when Heisenberg (Walter White) demands that the drug dealer “say my name”? It was a dramatic conversation that just wouldn’t work over text. That’s because the human voice says a lot (you can quote me on that). And, a lot gets lost in textual conversations. But, the various forms of recording the human voice, such as a voicemail, are not conversational. It’s a quandary, and Justin Mitchell has a solution: Yac.


Dave Michels 0:12
Welcome to talking here today, Evan and I will be talking with Justin Mitchell of Yak. But before that, Evan, you’re on the road. You know, I was on the road last week, events are happening again. Where are you now?

Evan Kirstel 0:24
I’m at the big health conference here in Boston. So not too far. It’s a short commute, but an in person event, very strange, very bizarre, lots of COVID testing, and vaccine checking going on. But one of the big topics here at health is reinventing the kind of patient experience, what we call customer experience in healthcare. I mean, how many bad IVRS? Have you gotten onto for health benefits or doctors or hospital related issues? It’s pretty bad out there. Dave, what do you think

Dave Michels 0:59
it was terribly bad. And, you know, I think one of the things, one of the bright sides of the pandemic has been, healthcare is finally discovered telehealth, which I assume is a big topic there. But one of my pet peeves is whenever I call one of these places, they always say if this is an emergency, hang up, and dial 911. And it doesn’t work. If you hang up, like put the receiver down on the phone, you can’t dial 911 Yet, they should say hang up, pick it back up again, wait for dial tone, and then dial 911 I wish I’d be more clear because it’s not clear.

Evan Kirstel 1:31
What should explain what dial tone is to every listen. That’s the other

Dave Michels 1:35
issue. What if you’re on a landline that did this? I don’t hang up, push the end. But I mean, it’s just too confusing.

Evan Kirstel 1:41
What I did that once I hung up a dog 911. But it was about a pizza order. And they really didn’t appreciate that. But what do you think? Do you think healthcare or banking has a worst consumer experience? When it comes to customers care customer service? What What’s your perspective?

Dave Michels 1:58
Well, it’s very, very interesting question because neither one of them want to talk to you. And so they healthcare provider providers hide behind their phones, and they put up, they use it as a wall. And the banks, they want to talk to you. They’re happy to talk to you. But they want to talk to you on their terms, which could be next Tuesday.

Evan Kirstel 2:18
Well, on that bright note, we do have an individual who’s reinventing communications in a kind of interesting way. Yeah, let’s get into it.

god 2:27
All right. Talking Heads is a semi monthly podcast with interviews of the top movers and shakers and enterprise communications and collaboration, your host, Dave Michaels, and Evan Kersal, both of which offer extraordinary services, including research, analysis, and social media marketing. You can find them on Twitter, LinkedIn, or at talking That’s points with a Z and incur That’s KR STL.

Evan Kirstel 2:57
And on this Talking Heads episode, Dave, and I will be speaking with Justin Mitchell, founder and CEO of Yak communications. Justin, how are you?

Justin Mitchell 3:07
I’m doing good. Glad to be here, guys.

Evan Kirstel 3:09
Yeah, good to chat. Good to Yak, as it were. So tell us we’ve chatted before. But you’re new to the talking head podcast. And I’m just doing some due diligence as we speak on your LinkedIn profile. It says you’re building zoom for a synchronous meetings. So what does that mean? Exactly?

Justin Mitchell 3:29
So for us, we’re really thinking about what it means to do a meeting, what is a meeting, and I think for years and years and years, that’s meant, basically this what we’re doing right now, a scheduled time, we all hop on, and we stare at each other over video cams and your captive for that hour, or however long it takes to stare at each other. And mostly one person talks, a lot of the other people listen, and no productivity is done, no one’s working, you’re just staring at each other for an hour, and it’s on a calendar. And it’s really important, and everybody shows up. And so for us, we’re kind of challenging the idea that that’s the way that meetings need to get done. When you go fully remote, you have a hybrid or remote team, you have to do things a little bit differently. And one of those big things that you change in your company structure is asynchronous versus sync that real time versus that it can wait mentality. And a lot of times that’s easy to do with a lot of other tools like chat based tools or email tools or productivity and task management systems. But for some reason meetings never got brought over to that world of asynchronous, even in a company that’s claimed that they are fully asynchronous. They still do real time video calls as the way that they communicate. So we’re challenging that status quo. And we’re building an asynchronous version of zoom.

Dave Michels 4:43
So could you clarify what you mean by that? Because a lot of the messaging apps will say that they can eliminate meetings through messaging. You’re saying you’re actually doing the meetings via via messaging, or what is the difference here? What’s going on?

Justin Mitchell 4:59
Yeah, the biggest thing is really that mentality shift of that FOMO effect. So apps like Slack will say, sure we’re saving you a meeting well, does it really matter if they’re saving you a meeting if for that hour that you’re supposed to be in a meeting, you’re sitting there waiting and watching little typing indicators pop up, and you’re looking at everybody’s green status bubbles inside of the application, you’re still sitting there not doing anything, you’re not working? You’re you’re chatting. And so for us, it’s not about just saying, Hey, we save you the meeting, it’s we save you that hour. It’s no longer you sitting there being unproductive for that amount of time. And the time savings is absurd. We recently had a team that told us that they, they shifted one of their meetings to asynchronous and they said we’re doing it on Yak now. And that’s like four of us. And that’s great. And we’re loving, like the 30 minutes that we save and when, okay, okay, let’s kind of like small numbers. That’s neat. He said, Yeah, well, next week, we’re going to shift a meeting with 32 people on it, that lasts an hour to an asynchronous meeting. And what does that mean? It means 32 hours are saved in one meeting, that’s 32 hours of productivity lost in your company, by having that many people sit there for an hour doing nothing. You know, a lot of these apps will claim that they they save you a meeting, but really all they do is monopolize your time in a different way. We’re cutting down the time to five minutes,

Dave Michels 6:13
I got to get you to clarify here because our audience understands asynchronous communications, but they don’t understand as yet. And so what is specifically the difference between say your app yak and say something like a Slack or a team’s or something different like that?

Justin Mitchell 6:29
Yeah, so there’s two things One would be expectation, and the other would be format, right? So in Yak, you’re recording voice messages back and forth to your teammates, whether that’s in a group or in a one on one conversation, you’re having a discussion that’s fully asynchronous, pre recorded messages. So I record a two to three minute message on my end, I send that over to you. You listen, as soon as you have the availability to listen, and you can record back when you have time. That’s very different than a chat based application that’s rapid back and forth all real time.

Dave Michels 6:57
Alright, so you bury the lede. There, you’re you’re actually doing audio instead of just text. Right? So so we might want to start off with that next time. And so you’re saying that audio is a more expressive form and eliminates meetings more effectively than text? Why is that?

Justin Mitchell 7:11
There’s a lot of things that that voice gets you you get tone and emotion, which is super important. Oh, you don’t? That’s that, right? There shows you do. So yeah, you get tone and emotion. It’s a great for relationship building, it’s great for just understanding that someone’s not mad at you, and they disagree. Or when they give you hard feedback.

Evan Kirstel 7:29
Dave is always mad at me whether we’re agreeing or disagree. So I’m not sure how that works. But sorry, please continue out.

Justin Mitchell 7:35
Yeah, I mean it so you get that you can understand your teammates a little bit better. In the remote world, it’s really hard to build relationships, and you’ll see each other in the office every day. And so that tone, that emotion, just hearing that person’s voice is a way to kind of build a relationship with them. But you also get higher bandwidth so you can understand somebody’s thoughts and ideas, it kind of a larger scale, with text based communication, a lot of times we get lazy, we write k. And instead of, alright, I understand what you’re communicating, right? You write k. And that comes across as kind of harsh. It might bury the lede a little bit a little confusing as to why exactly you said it that way. So it actually happens on both end right for the speaker. And for the listener, you get more information out, and you could hear yourself, think out loud, we call it the rubber duck duck effect, we actually kind of talking to yourself for a moment and you hear your own words, from a third party perspective, it’s great for kind of like one on one debugging with yourself. And the receiver side gets to hear the words between the lines, they get to hear exactly the raw thoughts from your brain, instead of that filtered version that you would have typed out.

Dave Michels 8:41
I think you could make your meetings even shorter, if you changed it to sort of Yak, yada, yada, yada. You know, I’ve called this meeting so we can discuss yada, yada, yada, we’re done. I think that would work. That’d be really efficient.

Justin Mitchell 8:52
Yeah. So you know, we’re working on a big update right now. And part of it will actually be that everyone’s required to have a voice agenda. So before you can even call a meeting, you need to record a quick, one two minute note that says, here’s why we’re having this asynchronous meeting. Everybody has to listen to that to even be able to hop into the meeting and give their thoughts. Can you clarify what yak stands for? Yak actually started out as yelling across cubicles. I wanted a name that kind of conveyed this idea of what yak would be like in a real life office situation,

Dave Michels 9:22
which is really a pandemic name that would be yelling across communities

Justin Mitchell 9:26
or yelling across countries. There’s there’s a lot that it gets us in the remote world for sure.

Evan Kirstel 9:31
So tell us just in the UK is clearly a tool. But is it another complementary app? Or is it an app plus a different way of working? How would you describe what you’ve created?

Justin Mitchell 9:43
It is definitely a different way of working. And I would say for most people, it’s very weird. It’s a strange way of working. I think, especially in our generation today. There’s an expectation of instant gratification and when you’re forced to wait for an answer, or forced to wait for someone to give you their time. It changes The way you operate, and at times it can be uncomfortable. So we’re definitely a different way of working. Does that mean that you can’t use us alongside your traditional SAS apps like Slack and others? No, we expect that you will have some form of real time communication, you will still have real time meetings, but we’re trying to get you to eliminate a lot of them, right? Don’t make it the expectation. Don’t make it the default. The default should always be a sink. Sink should be an exception. It should be those things use for first time meetings, complex discussions, disputes, things like that. You always go async first, though,

Dave Michels 10:34
I’m a big fan of async. I think a lot. I think everything should be a single marriage, weddings, you know, you name it. So do you think Yak is is a Slack killer? And that’s kind of a loaded question, because I know that the slack fund actually invested in Yak. So why would they invest in Yak? If it’s a Slack killer? So?

Justin Mitchell 10:53
Well, you know, I will, I will tell you this, they did invest in us. And as of last week, they even released a lot of our features. So they have definitely seen that what we’re doing is the future of work and the future of workplace communication. So they know that we’re on the right path. Are we a Slack killer? No. Are we an alternative to a Slack message? Absolutely, we can test to it ourselves. Our own slack is just 90% Quieter these days, because we have shifted over to an async first mentality. And that doesn’t mean we got rid of slack completely. But it certainly eliminates long walls of text, and vicious back and forth and spur of the moment text explosions inside of our slack. Do

Dave Michels 11:34
you and your development, assume they have slack or another tool like that

Justin Mitchell 11:40
we do we even have an integration with Slack, we definitely assume that most teams are using something like that, whether that team is teams or slack.

Evan Kirstel 11:47
Interesting. So tell us about the genesis of Yak. Where did you start? And how did you start? And how did you grow into selling solutions or distributed knowledge workers?

Justin Mitchell 12:00
Yeah, so we started as a design agency called so friendly, been around for a number of years just building things for other companies, whether that was mobile apps, or websites or SAS products for another startup that was raising, and we love doing that we were good at it. We even did some crazy, you know, on site installs at local theme parks here in Orlando. So it’s a smattering of different types of work that we were doing. But it wasn’t for us as for other companies, and we’d always had a remote first async first mentality, a big part of our company has been this output based idea instead of input based. So we don’t really care how much you work. As long as you get your work done. If you can get all your work done for the day, in four hours, great. Spend the rest of the day hanging out and relaxing. So we’re not tracking your time and making sure that you’re hitting your eight hours every day. And with that came a different level of expectation around communication. What we saw with a lot of our customers was that communication typically was a fearful thing inside of an organization. Meetings were brought out of a fear that people were not on the same page. They weren’t on the same level, there was something missing, somebody wasn’t communicating something. So oh, let’s have a meeting. This is the way to fix it. It makes me feel more comfortable. Let’s do a sync up, right. Like we got to sync up, make sure everybody’s on the same page. And so we realized that that fear of we’re not on the same page that leads to these endless back and forth meetings was really just because org organizations weren’t talking enough. There’s weren’t communicating enough. It had nothing to do with scheduled meetings. It was more that they just weren’t happy. They didn’t have that flow of communication throughout the day. And so we started building a solution for our own team to use to kind of fix that problem. We wanted to use it with our own customers inside of our own company to eliminate meetings, just so that we would have more crisp, high bandwidth communication. Just throughout the workday. We had an opportunity to build a product for a hackathon online hackathon. And we put it together over Thanksgiving weekend. And we won the hackathon. And it was received too much fanfare, we had downloads from huge companies like CVS, pharmacy, ABC Television, network, barstool, sports, Google, envision just all kinds of different companies a smattering of different industries as well. And we looked at that kind of reaction and said, Oh, well, maybe this is not just for us, maybe this is something that a lot of other people could use. And we start working on a little bit more and post that we actually had an opportunity to get VC funding all because of a tweet out of nowhere. I got mentioned on Twitter, and boom, someone’s in my DM saying, I really like what you’ve built. Can I give you some money to make it a real thing? And we didn’t have a company a legal structure at that time. We didn’t have a pitch deck, we have a bank account. This was all done underneath our agency. So we very quickly had to have an internal discussion of what are we going to do here? Is this a product that we’re going to spin out or should we you know, keep going along on the successful agency that we love and enjoy That was kind of the genesis for this becoming a full blown startup.

Evan Kirstel 15:03
That’s great story. Wow. Such a fun story. Yeah. So what kind of organizations today fast forwarding are best fits for YAC.

Justin Mitchell 15:14
This was all pre pandemic, right? So, pre pandemic, we thought we were targeting like Basecamp. And envision and all these very hip, young startup remote work first type of companies. And then people were downloading it from Roche healthcare, like a very high end enterprise level healthcare company. And so, you know, our expectations were a little bit shattered there, we did not think that these bigger companies who were not running around championing the future of remote work, we’re going to use a tool for remote teams. And then we started to actually dive in and find out what, why, why were they using it. And we discovered that really, basically, at some point in time, at every level of scale, every company becomes remote, whether that’s you open up a satellite office, or you get a private office and go away from an open floor plan, or you get a new building down the street from your existing building, at some point, you are physically separated from the rest of your team. And as soon as that happens, you need a way to communicate with them. And the way that that was being done was either just endless slack messages back and forth, or scheduled eight hours of video calls. And so all of these companies are saying no, no, we love your product, because I work in a different building from the rest of my team, and I need to communicate with them. And this is the best most convenient way to communicate without a scheduled call that we all both have to hop on and stop whatever we’re doing just to talk. So you know, I think we started with, Hey, this is for remote teams is for founders, it’s for startups, it’s for freelancers, it’s for agencies. And we’ve quickly discovered that it’s really for anyone that has kind of a separation from their team. And obviously, in a post pandemic world, more and more teams are going remote. And so that changes a lot of who this applies to. But I will say that early on, we were pleasantly surprised that our horizons had really broadened from scrappy startups to Customer Success teams or product development teams. So we do have a sweet spot with like design, development, marketing, a lot of agencies tend to like us as well, because time is your biggest limiter as an agency or freelancer. And if you can free up your time, by cutting out meetings, boom, you’re more profitable, you can take on more customers. That’s definitely where our sweet spot is.

Dave Michels 17:24
So along the lines of sweet spot, so are you finding that there’s a certain size organization or a certain size team that that works well with Yak?

Justin Mitchell 17:34
Yeah, you know, the way that we built Yak was very specifically around this idea that you would always be able to have multiple teams, multiple organizations and sort of one on one relationships just as you as an individual as well. So what we typically see is a small team around like 1015 people that are that gets spun up, and they get everybody on board. And then you’ll have another team that’s maybe adjacent to that, let’s say a design team get started with it. And there’s a project manager who happens to also work on the marketing team. Well, now that marketing team gets spun up. And now you’ve got some cross team communication happening. So you don’t typically see one person talking to 50 people, right, but you do see two teams of 15 to 20. People all talking to each other, with each individual person working with five to 10 people every day, they’ll just kind of like small pockets of productivity groups inside of a company that that really find success here.

Dave Michels 18:25
Everyone has small pockets. You mentioned different kinds of organizations there are between organizations. So you don’t all have to be within one company to be in a group or a team.

Justin Mitchell 18:36
Now, we actually found that a good chunk, at least 30% of everyone’s days are spent communicating with people outside of their own org, whether that’s contractors or vendors, or customers or clients, we actually were surprised at our own usage, as well as teams that we spoke with. But how much of your day is actually with people that don’t even work for your company? To

Dave Michels 19:00
use yet? You have to hear it right? You have to really hear it. And so can you use it in a quiet environment? Can I use it at the library? Obviously, there’s headphones, but do you have any kind of transcription capability.

Justin Mitchell 19:11
So all of your messages are transcribed. They’re all searchable as well, because they’re transcribed. So we did our best to take voice which we’ve gone back and forth on this. A lot of times we say hey, we’re voice messaging for teams. And then we go look at voice messaging out in the world, we go, oh my god, it’s all bad. Like it’s all really bad voice messaging in other apps is awful. And so when we tell people Yeah, it’s voice messaging, we have to go but it’s like, it’s good. We transcribe it and, and you can speed it up and you can slow it down and you can share it and you can forward it. You can search it all these things that are like really awful, and all these other voice messaging experiences. So we do transcribe it. You can read the transcription, you can copy the transcription out. We even do smart mentions. So if you mentioned somebody’s name using your voice, we actually highlight an atom. So it looks similar to like what you would see in a client like a Slack client with with mentioning And all that’s done automatically through transcription.

Dave Michels 20:03
I bet Evans yak messages say the word duck a lot.

Evan Kirstel 20:08
Inside joke, but um, yeah, this brings back memories from the 90s when I basically lived in voice messaging apps, you know, and they were all terrible. But clearly you’ve reinvented that. And I see you launched at a makers festival. That’s not the typical, go to market for enterprise software apps. Justin,

Justin Mitchell 20:29
we have a makers background, that’s been kind of our go to persona. We talk about this a lot in terms of just like how we found our success, and a lot of it just came from being true to ourselves. And we’d always been very involved in the Product Hunt community, I was actually chosen as one of the product mentors when they launched a mentoring program. I hunt products for people all the time, I have an online form that people fill out consistently just for me to hunt their products for them. And, you know, being involved in that community, it gave us a platform to launch from that was very cheap, I’d have to pay anything I had an audience that I could tap into winning the makers festival, resulted in a blog post on their medium, it resulted in tweets and Facebook posts and newsletter mentions and profiles on their website and placement on the homepage. And all that free marketing for us was something that I didn’t have to put cash into. But I still got access to exactly who my target market was, you know, founders and startups. So for us, it was not only just a great platform to, you know, push through, but it was really about staying true to who we were, we’ve always been building these little fun side projects as a marketing funnel for our agency. And that’s how react started it was It started as this is a cool, scratch your own itch moment, let’s build something that we think we would use. And hopefully, people see it and they go, Oh, well, let’s have so friendly, build some of our apps because it’s clear, they know how to build stuff, let’s go hire them. It didn’t work out that way. Turned out that the product eclipsed the agency very largely, and that’s great. And we’ve we’ve really enjoyed that. But we always thought, hey, if we’re gonna put money into something, I don’t want to just fund Facebook’s back pocket, I don’t want to just pump money into Google’s ad system. I would rather put $500 $1,000 $1,500 into a developer to work for a couple days and build a cool fun side project and launch that for free, give it out to people and provide value to you know, the marketplace. So we’ve always been really big on this idea of how can we provide value to other people, whether that’s just through free mentoring and consulting or if it’s through a nice little fun tool that we give out?

Evan Kirstel 22:40
I love it. Well, Guerilla Marketing at its best. I’m looking through your body you want said building remote work culture is not just throwing together the right tools and telling everyone to work from home. But why not? That seems to be what we’ve been doing over the last few years.

Justin Mitchell 22:58
Yeah, you know, and I think that’s sort of what I said at the top of this recording here is just that it’s not necessarily an easy thing to do. It’s an uncomfortable shift in perspective to tell your team that they need to wait for an answer or that they need to go async first, or they should not call somebody when they have a question that they should record something and let that person answer when they feel that they have availability to answer. So you know, simply just putting a stack of tools in front of a team and not first training them on a way to change their expectations and change their default behavior. It’s just not going to be successful. And what you’re going to see is frustration, okay, well, in this case, you also see, you know, burnout, you’ll see zoom fatigue, because what we see is that people don’t know how to properly work, they work because they believe that they have to it all comes out of this like fear of I gotta get my eight hours. And it doesn’t matter. If I got my stuff done, I have to show up for this meeting. Because someone asked me to there’s an expectation, if I don’t show up, that’s rude. And you know, one of the biggest things that I’ve been training myself on just cancelling meetings, like I just have been telling myself just to say no to people. And we’re working on some tools that will allow you to, you know, help schedule, more asynchronous moments in your life and some stuff that we’re going to be putting out in the marketplace to help kind of ease that transition into asynchronous first mentality. But you have to teach yourself to do that. And your team has to teach each other how to shift that mentality. And that’s kind of managers responsibility is to get everyone out of that mindset of this kind of like butts and seat mentality. Are you standing in front of your desk? Are you showing up for these meetings, okay, that means you’re working, that means you’re being productive, but it doesn’t typically what we see in companies is people start work at like, 8pm at night, because nine to five, they’re in meetings, and they finally get some downtime for deep work around 8pm. And so we’re trying to get people to shift out of that. And it’s not just about the tools that you’re using. It’s about the processes that you have and the way that you’ve taught your team to work.

Dave Michels 24:53
You’ve mentioned several web services that you’re using. You’ve mentioned Twitter several times, and a few others. I also understand you Reddit quite a bit. You know, I’ve never I never figured out Reddit, haven’t you use Reddit very much?

Evan Kirstel 25:04
Yeah, I love Reddit. I mean, there are subreddits that are basically their own social media communities on certain topics and millions of participants. So Reddit, it rocks. Like, like everything else today, if you’re about 10 years behind the time to catch up.

Dave Michels 25:20
I get to read every once in a while through a Google search. But I noticed that Justin’s using Reddit as a recruiting platform, can you explain that one?

Justin Mitchell 25:28
Yeah, I have a very specific hiring and recruiting system. And it involves not touching any hiring and recruiting systems. I’ve never hired off indeed or monster we’ve never put a job posting on a website before. We exclusively hire from Reddit and Twitter, Reddit, by far and large, the biggest one. And, you know, there’s there’s a lot of reasons why one of the biggest ones

Dave Michels 25:51
like never hired me now I understand. That’s true.

Justin Mitchell 25:55
Yeah, there’s a lot of people that specifically there fall in or out of this bucket. And a big part of it has to do with kind of a personality around passion. If you look at Reddit as a community, and I think Evan knows this, as he brings up just these these small communities, micro communities are almost their own social networks. And it really just has to do with the people running them and involved with them are very passionate about whatever that topic is where that subject matter is. So I found that Redditors love hobbies, they love things that they can do and work on together. And so when I hire from Reddit, I find that the people that I get from there, just genuinely love coding, like, it’s not that they code because it pays their bills, they just they love development, they love building things. And so I find someone who’s passionate and they have fun at work. And so I want to find that type of person, because it means they’re, they’re curious, they’re they’re always learning, they’re getting better all the time in their spare time. And the best employees because they don’t show up to work, upset that they have a job that they have to go to, they show up to work because they’re, they’re frickin enjoying it, they love what they do, and they’re excited to learn new things every day, I hire a lot of junior devs, I am not a stickler for resume and experience, I love hiring junior devs because we can mold them into the best version of themselves, because we know how to put them in front of tasks that will teach them and get them into a proper productivity flow as well as like tools that they should learn how to use. And we don’t mind them being a little bit slower at the beginning, because a it saves us money, and B it gives us an opportunity to onboard them. And so we love hiring junior devs I find a lot of junior devs on Reddit on Twitter. And they’re really some of the best teammates that we’ve ever hired, I got both of my designers from college internships. So hire them straight out of college internships, both of our developers are off Reddit, we have two more developers that are junior devs that are hired off Twitter, we’ve always gone a different route when hiring people. And I have a very specific process when I hire them as well. I never look at a resume, I always ask for a personal portfolio. So if it’s a designer, I’m expecting like a website, or Behance, or dribble if it’s a developer just linked me your GitHub and I specifically asked like, show me some hobby projects that you’ve worked on something you done your own time, that’s not a school project. It’s not a work project or something you’re doing for fun. That’s kind of like my first leading question is I really want to see that. And then from there, the rest of the interview, quote, unquote, 100% async. I rarely even hop on a live call with these people, maybe just to hash out billing details. But most of the time, I’m just asking questions and getting responses. What do you do for fun? Where do you live? What do you like? What do you not like? And all this stuff isn’t really about the answers. It’s really about the communication, they respond quickly to the respond clearly, they respond in a way that doesn’t sound uncomfortable. It sounds like they’d be a good culture fit, because they’re just fun, light hearted and you know, interested in talking. And that’s really how I determine if somebody is a good fit for our team.

Evan Kirstel 28:52
Fantastic. Well, Dave, I’ll hook you up with some barbecue subreddits I’m sure you’ll get a lot of value there. Good. Let’s get to brass tacks. How do you price yak

Justin Mitchell 29:02
pricing will change for sure. And it’ll evolve as new teams come in and tell us what they want to pay for a solution that didn’t previously exist. Like I said, we’re inventing something here. Right now. It’s priced at $5 a month per user. It’s just similar to like any other team style product like Slack, we came right underneath slacks pricing on an annual plan, because we do assume that you’re still using something like Slack. And so we don’t want to be priced out by another SAS product. We want to use us alongside your existing real time communication stack.

Dave Michels 29:34
Would you say your integrator does slack? Does that mean that you’re posting voice messages in Slack channels?

Justin Mitchell 29:39
Yeah, so we have two way communication. So you can invoke yak from slack and post a voice message into a channel or a DM. You can also get notified of new Yaks inside of a channel or a DM if you’re using the application. We allow you to actually post messages into Slack and they actually unfurl that’s what slack calls It means you can play them in line inside of slack. And we put the transcript in there as well, so that it’s searchable. Really the goal there is not to interface with the application from inside of another app. But really, it’s, you’ll want all your information in one place. And we know that people don’t want multiple places of seeing, you know, single truth, they want to be able to have a single source of truth. And so we allow you to put all of your yak messages into your slack so that you can search all your messaging all at once all your Yaks and all your slacks.

Dave Michels 30:29
And I understand you have a freemium model too. So is our most users paying or most users free.

Justin Mitchell 30:35
So individual users typically on that free like a personal user, like a freelancer or a consultant, or a VC who’s just using it to connect one on one with individuals, when you have a team of like 10 plus people, they’re on a paid plan.

Evan Kirstel 30:48

Dave Michels 30:49
I read that, that you said somewhere that emails are literally making us dumber, I guess Evan reads a lot of emails. But what can you clarify your thoughts on that?

Evan Kirstel 30:59
How dare you?

Justin Mitchell 31:00
There’s a lot of studies being done just around kind of the loss of productivity throughout your day. And there was a study that I think it was Hewlett Packard did that basically tested people’s acuity before and after reading a bunch of emails. And they found that the people that just spent all day reading tons and tons of emails scored lower on intelligence tests than the people who were sitting there not in an inbox overload situation. And I think that applies to everything, not just email, Slack messages fall underneath that that umbrella as well. When you’re spending most of your time in an unproductive environment, you know, working through a series of messages, and it’s work a lot of times you know that we hear that this thing called Inbox Zero a lot. I think a lot of people don’t understand how much work it takes to get zero. It is it is it’s it’s something that I’ve never worked towards, I use my my inbox like a task list. So if it’s up in my in my inbox, I know that I still have to work on it. And I snooze a lot email, right. It’s how get to that later. I’m not going to break my focus right now, to get to inbox zero. That’s something that we’re harping on is the impact of notification overload.

Evan Kirstel 32:11
With all your users. What did you learn from them and their usage patterns? Are they using it all the time? Desktop laptop mobile devices? What are you seeing it Yak?

Justin Mitchell 32:21
Yeah, mobile was much more surprising than we thought it would be. We released desktop and one of our flagship features, there was screen sharing, asynchronous screen sharing very similar to like, what maybe loom offers. And we thought that was gonna be a huge boon, massive feature, tons of people were going to shift over to that, we found that at the end of the day, is that actually just the base audio messaging was the experience that most people gravitated towards. And the mobile app was so easy to use that a lot of founders, especially the upper management, folks who were mobile a lot, and you know, going coffee shop at a coffee shop or traveling, we’re all just hopping onto that mobile app experience. So that was something that I think we we underestimated was how much how high the the mobile app usage would be. One thing that I will say that has been the most surprising to us is, as we talk to these customers, the numbers that they’re giving us are just ludicrous. You know, we find that people are shifting their existing synchronous meetings out of a zoom and into an asynchronous yak meeting. And they’re doing that, you know, a couple times a week, a couple times a month, they’ll pick a meeting and say, Hey, this one, we’re going to shift over to be asynchronous. So from a usage perspective, you know, you’re seeing it being used like every other day inside of an organization. And obviously, we hope to see that increase somewhat. We are a little bit of a dichotomy in that we want you to use the app, get out and then stop using it, right. This is one of those scenarios where the less time you’re in our app, the happier we are, because it means that you’re working right. What we’ve actually seen from these user interviews is just staggering numbers behind meetings, we have folks that are doing 13 hours of meetings a day, 15 hours of meetings a day, we had someone who said that when they switched to Yak, that a 70% increase in productivity, they gained 70% back of their time. And that’s just an absurd statistic. So you know, what we really found by you know, talking to our customers is just just the state of meeting fatigue and loss of productivity inside of an organization is so much worse than we even thought it was.

Dave Michels 34:21
So Justin, I gotta say, I’m really impressed. I’m impressed with you. You’re articulate, impressively, your product is innovative. Just got one big, glaring warning sign here that tells me you have no clue what you’re doing, which is a startup, a tech startup in Florida. Can you explain or defend that

Justin Mitchell 34:37
one? You know, we actually we actually had a term sheet pulled from us because I refuse to move to the valley and hire Silicon Valley engineers. So you’re you’re not the first to say something like that. We’ve always been a remote first asynchronous org. And that is as much about our communication habits as it about our location. My lead back end developer. He’s in a different country every week. yak does a story this morning about a 14 hour taxi ride through landslides through the military escort outside of Pakistan. That’s how he showed up for work this morning, he took a 14 hour taxi ride,

Evan Kirstel 35:13
that sounds like Dave’s drive out in Boulder. Oh, I

Justin Mitchell 35:15
know it’s not. You can’t have an organization and hire that person, if the whole organization isn’t on board with that type of that style of living and hiring and working. And so for us, it’s not really about where we work or when we work. It’s just how we work. And that infects everything and infects culture. It infects hiring and affects who is hired. And for us staying in Florida was a decision around cost family comfortability, I have a 4300 square foot home, I wouldn’t be able to touch half of that in in California. And I’m able to foster two kids because we have the space. And we have the opportunity to do it here in Florida. And so we were very bullish on this idea that we’re not going to move to the valley, we’re not going to pay a quarter of a million dollars per developer just to hire someone who happens to live in California where I can get the exact same talent, and I can enable somebody’s lifestyle. You know, Derek wants to move around, he wants to have that flexibility. And so I want to be that company that people come to and say, you know, my previous employer wouldn’t let me work from anywhere. Will you say? Yes, absolutely. come on board. Right. So we have designers in Mississippi, we have developers in Barcelona and Pakistan and the Ukraine, we have developers in all kinds of different third world countries that have moved to different third world countries just for the fun of it, right. And that’s something we feel really strongly about is kind of having this globally diverse team, where you can work from anywhere work any time. And really the biggest unlock there is obviously asynchronous, because I can’t ask Derek to show up at a 9am meeting, or a 4pm meeting when he’s supposed to be sleeping, right. And that’s just something that we’ve worked hard to build as a culture. And I think it affects our balance book. You know, we we did our, our Series A raise, and nearly every investor looked at just a desktop app, Android, iOS, mobile web admin panel, a third party API, like all this stuff that we built, and they were like, how did you do all that with $500,000? Like, dude, I just, I know how to hire talent. And we don’t work out of Silicon Valley. I’m in Florida.

Dave Michels 37:27
So you mentioned the $5,000. You mentioned the term sheet earlier. So obviously, you’ve raised some money. Can you share with us how much you’ve raised and what and what you’re planning to do? Are you going to do an IPO? What’s your plan?

Justin Mitchell 37:39
Yes, we’ve raised a little bit over $10 million. Today, I do love to tell the story of a farm town boy, with two college interns who he built a small agency out of Orlando, Florida with raising $10 million going full series A without ever touching the valley. It is inspiring, not only for us, but I hope for other companies who think that they can’t do it just because they’re not in California. But yeah, right now, you know, we’ll be looking at a series B, at some point, I’m sure. We We’ve definitely, you know, decided to go the VC route and not the bootstrapped route. But I will say that we should probably run our VC backed company like a bootstrapped company, because we like being price conscious.

Dave Michels 38:20
So you’re telling us a series B is likely to come out for the series A is what you’re

Evan Kirstel 38:24
That is correct. Yes. And as a privately held company, and any other metrics you can share with us growth or users or, yeah, I mean, revenue,

Justin Mitchell 38:33
you know, the pandemic was was a huge boon for us, obviously, I mean, we saw 200% increase just inside of a few months of users. So just massive amounts of companies onboarding. At launch, we had around 10,000 users registered, which was really impressive for a company who spent $0 on marketing. So we’re excited to just continue to increase those numbers. You know, now that we’ve got some backing and some funding to do some really fun things. Wonderful.

Evan Kirstel 38:58
Well, I’m excited for you. What do you think, Dave? Do you want to switch to yak and you can yell at me and Yak versus yelling me on email or text?

Dave Michels 39:05
I’m open to omni channel ways of yelling at you. And so I think it’d be great. So we should definitely download it and give it a shot. Let’s see. See how it goes. All right.

Evan Kirstel 39:15
All right, Justin. Well, thanks so much for joining us and all the insight inspiration you shared and I look forward to grabbing beers with you when Orlando at some point, always on the agenda down in Orlando for personal or absolute professional reasons. So thanks so much come by any time take care? Well, Justin was really a great guest talk about an entrepreneur who’s really living the world of remote work. I would say he’s well spoken. He was well spoken and it’s great to see some innovation not in the usual places like Orlando, Florida for text. So well done to him

Dave Michels 39:53
with a Mickey Mouse startup library.

Evan Kirstel 39:57
Who’s next we have Mickey Mouse coming up and one of the

Dave Michels 40:00
No no Mickey was booked but we have Phillip pebble wig He’s the president of cognitive EEG which is really good timing because the IDC marketscape worldwide general purpose conversational AI platforms just came out and cardiology is like in the best position in the leader square there

Evan Kirstel 40:19
so considering I don’t know who that is I’m excited that’s fantastic. Be

Dave Michels 40:23
back here same channel same channel same time

Evan Kirstel 40:26
all right, let’s do it.

Unknown Speaker 40:29
You Oh man I gotta get out the phone No no, no, it’s me.

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