In this episode, Andrew interviews Zack Onisko, CEO of Dribbble. They discuss scaling teams and products as well as the benefits of hiring remote talent. As your business grows, how do you approach maintaining culture while building effective remote teams at the same time?
Andrew Verboncouer: You're listening to the Seaworthy podcast, episode 16, scaling remote work. Seaworthy is a podcast about building successful software. Today we're talking about scaling teams and product at the world's largest design community with Zack Onisko of Dribbble. I'm excited to have Zack Onisko on the show with me today. Zack is CEO of everyone's favorite design network dribbble. Welcome to Seaworthy Zack thanks for coming on the show. How are you doing?
Zack Onisko: Good, Andrew. How are you doing?
Andrew Verboncouer: Good. I'm doing good as well. How was your holiday break? We're just after the holidays here.
Zack Onisko: It was good. It wasn't long enough. I think we had a weird, weird schedule of days. Where, Christmas and New Year kind of fell midweek and so I felt like we've been away forever. So So now I'm back relearning everything about our business. It's been so long. But yeah, it was good. We got we got a puppy for Christmas, which is a fun new addition to the family.
Andrew Verboncouer: For the kids, or your wife's decision?
Zack Onisko: It's It's - Yeah, it's for the kids. And you know, I was very excited as well.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. That's good. Good. So yeah, before we jump in, tell us a little bit about your background and how you started in design. And I think the more interesting side is just more product and growth and just the experience you've had over the years in helping companies not only solidify their offering, but grow that and grow the teams. So tell us more about how you got into startups, design and product kind of together taking us back maybe to I don't know, maybe starting at high school.
Zack Onisko: Yeah, I mean, in high school, I you know, I think like, like a lot of designers, we start out, you know, playing music or we're in bands and our friends are in bands and we're making flyers and posters and T shirts and stickers. And that's kind of how I first started dabbling in graphic design. You know, a little bit after high school, a couple of my friends moved to San Diego, and pitched me on the the idea of living on the beach with them. And I was like, Okay, that sounds like a, like a good plan. So I, I moved down there and was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Another buddy of ours, you know, was was working remote and as a web designer, and asked to crash in our couch for a couple of days. And, you know, he's working on a client project, and was like, you know, stuff was moving across the screen. And this is like early days of flash, right?
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah.
Zack Onisko: And I was like, Oh my God, that's amazing. I've never seen anything like this. This is, you know, back then it was it was pretty cutting edge. And so he like sat me down and kind of taught me you know the basics of kind of motion design and flash and, and from there I was kind of hooked and then I started, you know, fast forward a few years started, you know doing projects for mom and pops and, and paying rent right and making you know, it was I still had a full time job I worked for as a tech support guy at a software company down there in San Diego. But then on the nights and weekends, I was I was making websites for small businesses and and just got hooked and decided to go back to school and came back up to San Francisco and earned a BA and in graphic design basically. And then, you know, the first job out of college was a design gig on a big marketing team for a startup it was a very fast growing startup, they won like the Webby Award that year for fastest growing startup. And I was kind of thrown in this marketing team, which was kind of a new world for me where, you know, the stuff that I had built and created along the way is just really, you know, built for aesthetics. And, you know, a lot of just, I just wanted things to look really good. And then on the marketing team, I had these guys who were, you know, throwing printouts of, of spreadsheet tables in front of me, and showing me, you know, what was working, what was performing what was not working, you know, not performing. And, you know, that got me really excited. Well, one I was, I was, you know, they kind of sold me on this idea that I was, and this is back in the day when a lot of the advertisement were big, flashy. You know, I was making flash ads, right? So...
Andrew Verboncouer: flash banners
Zack Onisko: flash banners and this sort of thing, but we had cool, we had cool clients and we're doing stuff you know, on our platform as a big publisher site. And then we also, you know, advertise our own products on other platforms. And so it was a lot of fun, you know, creating this, this, this artwork, these creatives, but what really got me excited was the performance and like reaching millions of people and getting to, you know, what, what I learned later was like, statistical significance between, you know, this one over the other thing and kind of understand the user psychology of, Okay, this is why this one was more alluring or appealing, versus this other unit, right. And so that was kind of my first foray into like, into data and AV testing. I was really kind of I started to pull in that direction as just something that was there just made sense to me it was very logical and it kind of, you know, a marriage left brain right brain type of thing. Fast forward, I moved off the marketing team at this company and started to do more product design type of work for various teams in the company, the company was acquired by monster.com. And then we we kind of carved out into kind of a studio business where there was a bunch of different businesses that are running internally. And what I saw at the time was that, you know, design was really, you know, features functionality, the product was really been invented and engineering. And then by the time you got to design design is really just about making it look pretty.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah.
Zack Onisko: And I was really interested in like moving the numbers like how do we actually make a more effective product that is solving user problems and back then the way that I saw to actually make to be involved at that step in the process was to move into product management. And so I kind of moved out of design. And then, you know, kind of officially took on one of these business units as a pm. And, and did that, you know, there was you know, and there's kind of pm slash project management right there was those like the the creating the tasks and that sort of it, you know, managing the various functions in our team. But what I really loved was like kind of post launch and optimization, and just kind of learning how users were, were using a particular feature or functionality. And so when we fast forward, you know, that kind of became this this new moniker that I don't know what when that popped up, but this kind of, you know, Product Management with more of a data slant kind of became growth, right, optimization and fine tuning of a product, you know, to basically make products better and perform better. And so, you know, went left that company, the actually the co founder of that company. After the acquisition, he retired at like 33 or whatever, travelled the world for a year came back. We used to play Texas Hold'em at the office.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah.
Zack Onisko: And we were like the last few people at the table at like 11 o'clock at night. And he's like, you know what, I get an itch again, let's let's go start a company. I'm like, yeah, I'm in. So I gave gave notice and, you know, started a company with him. And that, you know, spent the next five years multiple pivots. Eventually, we created a product called branch out was which was basically LinkedIn on the Facebook platform, and kind of the wild wild west of the Facebook API days and, and then, you know, kind of carved off, hung up my pm duties and really focused in on growth of that particular product. And it took off, we ended up you know, the user base grew to like, you know, 25 million users in 30 days or like 90 days, three months, raised a bunch of money like, you know, raise $50 million from from top VCs and. And that's, you know, that was that was an incredible kind of, like, just thrown to the fire, just tons of growth. We went from, you know, six guys in an office space that was what didn't have level floors, to moving into, you know, 30,000 square foot office space where the the mayor of San Francisco was doing, you know, fundraising in our office and this craziness so. But yeah, I mean, that from there, you know, was with the company five years left and joined a small yc company called creative market, which was formerly color lovers. They went into yc as color lovers, which was a color palette community if remember that. And then coming out of yc they were creative market. So they wanted to take a new spin on stock assets, give designers more of, you know, wanting to give them the comp, the the majority of the compensation model, the App Store model, the the 70-30 model, where a lot of the other stock sites were, you know, giving 10 you know, 15% to the creators. And worked there for the next few years, ended up being acquired by Autodesk joined Autodesk for a few years. Left Autodesk worked at hired. Hired.com - down on 11th and market in San Francisco. And and then, and then, about three years ago, joined, joined dribble, so, that that's kind of the the path
Andrew Verboncouer: sounds like a fun ride. And where's hometown for you again?
Zack Onisko: I'm in Walnut Creek. I'm in the East Bay, just outside of San Francisco.
Andrew Verboncouer: You're born and raised down in Southern Cal?
Zack Onisko: No, I'm an East Bay boy, I'm from a, born and raised in the Bay Area
Andrew Verboncouer: So Bay area and then went down to San Diego area
Zack Onisko: Yea San Diego was a stint after high school. You know, MTV did their home set thing called like the spring break?
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, spring break San Diego
Zack Onisko: Yea, right there in front of our house. But yeah, that was a couple years down there hightailed it back to San Francisco.
Andrew Verboncouer: Well, it sounds like yeah, a lot of good experience going in from design to, to product. And I think that's a opportunity. A lot of designers don't get that when they're trying, you know, the design industry. You know, we always talk about getting a place at the table and getting closer to the metrics and I think that's where that's like the perfect intersection when you can put away your preferences. For what's actually working and put down the ego of this is what I designed to, like, this is the result it brings not only the people we're serving, but the business so that we can continue to do this.
Zack Onisko: Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, as designers, we're very, we're just naturally detailed oriented people, right, we're very, very focused on particular features and very, like, you know, certain parts of, of a product. And one of the, you know, one of the things that that really pushed me towards kind of the business side was having more of a holistic view of a business, what are all the different aspects of, of a product and an ecosystem and, you know, what are all the different bells and whistles and levers and all the different functions in the business too, right from from not only the engineering and, you know, the folks responsible for the product itself, but sales and marketing and customer service, and all these various important functions to, to run a business. So yeah, I think if there was one thing, one piece of advice, you know, for for designers who are coming up and looking to expand their their skill set, just, you know, learning more about the different functions in a business finance, right finance seems really scary. But if you ever want to run your own business, you have to like, you know, eat sleep and breathe,
Andrew Verboncouer: especially sales finance.
Zack Onisko: Yea, your p&l. Yeah, yeah, you know, you have to just understand how to how to keep a balanced book, you know, and make sure that your employees are being paid and make sure that your, your business is growing right and healthy. So, yeah.
Andrew Verboncouer: yeah. So that kind of brought you into you know, you had kind of an evolution from designer to product to growth and now ultimately, into you know, into this role at dribble three years ago, where you said, you mentioned it was eight, a team of eight at the time, or can you kind of take us back to when you were hired? What type of environment dribble was at that time?
Zack Onisko: Yeah. So I from creative market days I, you know, we knew Dan and rich really well, we we ran marketing and so we were sponsors of the meetups globally, and we did some parties stopped by Southwest together for for a few years in a row. So I had a good relationship with those guys. Andrew and Chris, who ended up buying a stake of Dan Rich's shares in the company. I knew those guys for a long time, too. And so there was it was kind of an easy landing, just having those relationships already. But the team was small, right? So the team was eight people, was a fully remote team. You know, and it was kind of like, Well what do we do? You know, and I remember you know, at that time thinking like, okay, should we go get a we work in in Oakland? Or should we start looking for office space and start to build out the team, you know, here in the Bay Area and, you know, I, I have a young family and my last gig I was commuting, you know, an hour each way into San Francisco and I was basically leaving leaving for work before they wake up and coming home after they're in bed just not seeing my family during the week and so selfishly, I was like, well, the teams are remote. So let's just make let's just invest in doing this this thing remotely. You know, I knew the guys from from envision automatic and I'm seeing how they successfully have grown to hundreds or I think maybe even the thousands of employees at this point, you know, fully remote. So kind of felt safe. Like if they could do it, we could probably do it too. It's just a you know, obviously a much smaller scale. So yeah, so, you know, we, you know, I'm in my home office now in Walnut Creek and the team is distributed today all over northern Northern America. We have an entity in Canada, some payroll, in Canada and US. And people are literally spread out, you know, kind of all over. And it's and it's worked great. where, you know, just under 40 people now. Yeah.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. Sounds like a good kind of not not really forced into but you had the option early on. I think a lot of companies you know, they start local and it's harder to make the decision it's almost that sunk cost fallacy of should we go remote like we know there's benefits to it?
Zack Onisko: You know, I think I think this whole dribbble experience has been a big lesson for me in you know, the the Silicon Valley wisdom of what you're supposed to do. You know, as a startup is not, it's not always the right way forward for every company and you know, and then, you know, when you're kind of given the keys to a company as CEO, it's basically well, you you're kind of running the you're steering the ship at this point. So yeah, which directions what what decisions do you want to make? And so, you know, Silicon Valley wisdom is like, you go raise millions of dollars so that you have a cushion in the bank. We didn't do that. So we're, we we had to stay profitable and very, you know, again, like, you know, understanding a p&l and understanding the, your, your, your finances are super important. The other wisdom is like with that money you raise, you go get expensive, you know, office space in San Francisco, or one of these hubs, New York or wherever, where there's a sea of talent, right? The reality is that office space is super expensive. At my last company, our rent was $225,000 a month, we shared the same building with Uber and square. And, you know, every week, probably half my team would hit me up to work remote work from coffee shop or work from their house because, you know, in that open office format, it's just the sea of noise and everyone's wearing noise cancelling headphones just to get any work done. And so, you know, it's like, well, that's an expense. We don't have to you know, if we if we want to mind our expenses, let's let's not sign a three or five or seven year office space lease,
Andrew Verboncouer: especially when you see upwards of a quarter of a million per month.
Zack Onisko: Yeah, I mean, that's that's a whole other scale. Yeah, they raised hundreds of millions of dollars, whatever. But uh, but yeah, I mean, it's, it's, it is expensive, you know, even a small office is expensive in the Bay Area. And then in terms of talent, you know, what we've seen is that you know, there's just not a whole lot of - tenure's really short right? Because in San Francisco you can you go take a job at a company you work there for six nine months, you get you add their logo to your resume and you just walk across the street and you demand a 10% raise and and so there's just not a whole lot of loyalty and there's there's expense and training and and recruiting and hiring and trying to you know, build a team and building relationships within the team and and what we've seen with a remote team is that it's it's one people stay a lot longer. It gives the team a lot more freedom and flexibility to kind of build their perfect day if they need to run and you know, run errands or we had a developer on the team who coached his kids soccer team would leave at three - no problem comes back, throws in a couple more hours to finish up the day at night. So we try to make a flexible, you know, environment. And also you don't have to, you know, sit in the sit in an hour of traffic or ride a train that's packed like sardines, right, you know, to get to that office space to put on your noise cancelling headphones. So yeah, I mean, it was really an experiment that we ran, you know, and I think at the time, like, let's give it six months. Let's see if we can make this work. And it's it's really just blossomed and has become a pretty big foundation to our culture at this point.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. Yeah. There's a lot of companies that are finally you know, like you mentioned, automatic. I forget the other one you mentioned, envision is fully remote. We're, we're kind of in this weird spot where we have, we're hybrid, right? We have like, we're in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We have about half of our team here about 16-17 people, the other half is remote. That has proven to be really challenging. To make sure that you're building a culture that's intentional, and that the people that are remote, aren't feeling left out of the things that,
Zack Onisko: Yeah.
Andrew Verboncouer: you know what I mean? You just get certain, people get together after work or, you know, certain things happen for lunch. And that's a challenge we're trying to get over right now. And, and just make sure that everyone feels a part of that process.
Zack Onisko: See, I mean, I experienced that at, you know our last company was hybrid as well, and, but also globally, so we had offices in 17 cities around the world. But San Francisco was headquarters, and there were a lot of decisions that were being made in headquarters, and it just wasn't being communicated,
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah.
Zack Onisko: Outside of that office. And so that was kind of a lesson with with going fully remote is it kind of forced us to over communicate and over document a lot of the happenings with the company, and things do slip through the cracks, right? So different teams, there's like silos and you have to constantly work to tear down the silos and over communicate. But yeah, I mean, that was, that was one thing. And I think just, you know, nothing really beats actual face time and seeing people, you know, in person. So twice a year we try to get together in person. You know, and we do kind of a week of like laptops down, just hanging out, we go to museums, we go, you know, go out to dinner and have events. And that helps to kind of connect everybody. And then we're kind of good for the next six months until we do it again.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, I think it's similar model to what we have we have 4 for weeks a year, but only, you know, one of those is is actually for between Christmas and New Year. So really the break the holiday break, we just came from otherwise we have kind of three weeks and that if we didn't if we didn't do that, I think it'd be really hard to build camaraderie on the team and have you know, really build that trust that you need to be successful together on any team. Yeah, so so you went from eight to now, I forget if you mentioned just over 40 or just around 40.
Zack Onisko: Yeah, yeah, I think...
Andrew Verboncouer: How has the org changed?
Zack Onisko: Say 37, 38, if I was to guess. No, I mean, the org, the org is constantly evolving, right. And I think that's, you know, we've run some experiments with certain functions, you know, do we need, you know, this size of a sales team, do we scale back the sales team a bit at this point. We've, but, you know, it's, it's, I think it's a typical org, right, we have a support group, we have product design, front end engineering. We have one guy who runs data science. So that that was a new function. He's actually been fantastic. We hired him as a data analyst intern. And, and he's just kind of been teaching himself data science and and he's, you know, really helped to just mature a lot of our foundations of the platform with the work that he's doing. We have a content team. So content slash community team. And then and yeah, like sales is is, you know, three or four people and then operations slash finance - yeah.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. So you mentioned obviously, you know, you're the CEO dribble you you've come from a design background, a product background and growth background. As CEO, you know, kind of making sure everything's integrated together running smoothly. The team's on the same page, you're building the culture you're helping recruit, what is the day to day look like for you in in as far as involvement in the product and in kind of the growth efforts that you have?
Zack Onisko: Yeah, so I've been, as you can imagine it, it's evolved right as we've scaled up the team, I've, you know, when we're smaller, I took on a lot of that responsibility to try to you know, to a fault where I was, I was the bottleneck, right? Nothing could get done without my approval. And as we built a team, I've just been handing off a lot of that responsibility to, you know, stakeholders, you know, on the team. And so, you know, Michael, who were talking about before the call who we acquired his business crew, he runs product now and so he's he's making a lot of the product decisions, but one on one, we meet weekly, and kind of run through everything that he's thinking and I kind of get feedback at that level. And then he goes and kind of takes that back to the the fuller team - versus, you know, me going in and like stepping on toes and I don't want to be interference at this point.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, but just providing that background knowledge and maybe insight from from your career like, hey, that sounds great. But here's maybe one thing. Here's one gotcha, you should watch out for maybe something else to consider.
Zack Onisko: Yeah, so I mean, I think my day to day is I have direct reports who are the leaders at each functional group. And you know, each one of those comes with a whole set of responsibilities and conversations and but I think the one area that I do gravitate the more the most towards is the product side. So I spent a lot of time there and you know, just brainstorming and you know, coming up with new ideas with the team and then the big one is is you know, once you have that list, we just had the whole product team out to San Rafael, which is in red county in north of San Francisco. We rented this sweet Airbnb on the water and there's like a boat and like all this cool stuff. Anyway, we hung out there and just like, you know, just threw everything against the wall. Like what are all the ideas that we can come up with?
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah.
Zack Onisko: And and we're not short on cool ideas, right? There's so many cool things we can do. But There's only so many hours in the day. And so the next kind of step was to take that list and we kind of ran through of like, Okay, what do you think we can actually get done next year? automatically that list is kind of like, cut in half, and then you go through another like, round of kind of prioritization, you go through that, like, Okay, what of this list? What do you think is, is, you know, the most important stuff, the most impactful stuff to to the community in the platform, and you know, that, then the list kind of like gets cut in third again, yeah, you know, so they kind of left with, okay, here's the roadmap for at least the next two quarters. But I enjoy that kind of stuff. You know, I enjoy the data I enjoy, you know, the finance side of the business, you know, and, you know, I tend to just naturally kind of pool in those directions. So that's where I spend a lot of my time. But what people don't tell you about the the CEO role is kind of the people side and so I also sped a lot of time with HR and, you know, this person said this or this this is happening or there's like, you know there's we have a three month maternity leave and sometimes people forget to tell us they're leaving until just just before they're about to leave for three months and so yeah, so there's there's, you know, hiring and you know, the whole HR side of the business is something I spend a lot of time on, even though it's probably not my favorite part. Yeah.
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Andrew Verboncouer: So you mentioned a little bit about like prioritization and coming up with ideas - Are there any, any frameworks that you know that you use or any any ways of prioritizing, you know sprints, tools, things that you use to really to, you know, gear towards business, you know, achieving those business goals.
Zack Onisko: So I - you know, we've we've done them all, right? There's, there's no, there's no perfect framework or methodology, right. I think for every different stage in a business, you need to have a different framework and methodology for how you get work done.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah.
Zack Onisko: You know, in terms of toolset, right, I've probably used a dozen different project management tools. There's always pros and cons of each of them. I started you know, 20 years ago with JIRA, and now we've come back and we use JIRA at dribbble. And I, I have like PTSD. I just refuse to login. I heard it's a lot better. I'm just I just don't get in the weeds at this point. But in terms of process internally, you know, something we did this year as we you know, we grew the size of the team. And so we had to we had to mature our you know, our product process and we've, you know, evolved our deployment process, we've evolved our the way that we do sprints, so we were doing weekly sprints, we've evolved to like two week sprints, we've changed the way that we kind of tackle projects where it I mean, you know, no fault to Dan Rich, but back then it was very, there was no roadmap, you know, it's kind of like, hey, what should we build this week? And some guys like, Okay, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go build this because somebody tweeted something and I'm gonna, you know, go go fix this for them. Or add this feature. And so now we you know, we have more of a, you know, strategy in place and more of a direction of where we want to go. And so we don't have a Gantt chart per se, but we do have kind of a, you know, kind of a master list of epics viewer, and then from there that gets kind of broken out on the on the various product teams and pods to, to break into tasks. We've moved from, you know, product managers, you know, writing scope to, you know, engineering front end, whoever to write the scope, depending on, you know, is the project more of that function, you know. So it's a work in progress, man, I don't think we'll ever be done ever find like the perfect, you know, way to get work done. I think from my perspective as CEO, I've - my job is to just try to keep pushing efficiencies into into workflows. So we mentioned like working remote like one row rule, not, you know, official rule, but we, we tend to only hire within North America because we're timezone sensitive. We ran some experiments working with some folks in Europe and it's just really hard to wait like a 24 hour cycle to get somebody unblocked. And so, you know, now we work in this, like three hour gap, and you know, ask East Coast people, can you please, you know, if you can, you know, based on your family needs, whatever, but if you can start later, and West Coast or if you can start earlier, well, then we're gonna maximize the, you know, the coverage that we have across the team. And so if somebody's blog has a question, you can instantly answer that, you know, in slack or, or what have you. You know, we try to do no meeting Thursday and Fridays, at least the IC's right, so that they're free to cancel meetings in those days to just really go heads down and focus on my work uninterrupted free to close slack. You know, you throw your phone number in your, you know, somebody could text you if it's an emergency. But kind of gives people just time to go heads down. We try to keep a lot of internal meetings towards the front of the week. And then, you know, some of the the leadership folks, we we book our outside meetings on those days that IC's are heads down. I don't know. I mean, we don't have like a hard pressed like 40 hour work week role, but we want to try to keep, you know, everyone with a very healthy work life balance. We see that that provides just better output of work than people grinding and we don't want people working nights and weekends on stuff because that's when, you know, bugs are released and just just bad product. One of our core values is not pushing anything we're not proud of and so that's when that's when we start pushing things we're not proud of, is when we're grinding. So Yeah, I mean, we do a lot of things to like we have we because the teams divided between the US and Canada, we celebrate both countries holidays, a bunch of extra holidays, just give people more time off to like, unwind and be with their friends and family. And then and I think that just it helps people's mental health and just to be able to take a break, and then come back and plug back into a project. You're just doing better work in the long term.
Andrew Verboncouer: For sure. Yeah, I mean, I guess kind of what I'm getting out of that. And what we've discovered, just out of the process changing is that there's no right process for everyone, even for your company as it grows, your challenges are different. The team dynamics are different, what you need out of each other and the ways you communicate is different. So I think it's when founders and teams and even like corporate innovation teams, you get into using a software and you never challenge that. I think part of that just comes with like that growth mindset of like this could be better and and let's always be thinking of that and saying like, hey, this really isn't working. And it's not on anyone for picking the tool that didn't work. It's like, Hey, we're going to try stuff, we're going to have an attitude of that experimentation and continue to improve the way we work together. I think that's really important in healthy teams.
Zack Onisko: Yeah. And I think also, just like the tooling, too, is like, there's no perfect tool, right? And so sometimes you just have to use what you've got. And, you know, we were in this client one time where we had like six different project management tools that different teams were using, where it's like, hold on timeout, let's just let's just pick one. And we'll all use it. And I know somebody's gonna gripe and groan about it, but look, it's gonna capture the task. We'll know where to find it. At least there's like a central repository. You can assign it to somebody done and done. You know, let's, let's move on. You know.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. So, um, any other advice you have for people looking to start their own remote teams. I think a lot of you talked about with tooling and principles and stuff like that has been helpful. But anything else?
Zack Onisko: I think I think just do it. Right. Yeah. So I think I think we're starting to see a wave happening right now there's a big sea change that's coming in a lot of people, you know, pushing back on conventional wisdom with with running a company. The fact of the matter is, it's just easier to hire great talent globally than it is in a single city or region, or the costs involved of needing to, you know, move somebody's entire family from across the country, you know, to where your office is, or somebody has to commute. So I think, I think we're going to see a lot more remote companies. I think the other thing, the wave that's happening right now, you know, you kind of saw the break with the we-work, you know, IPO and now we're starting to see a lot of the, you know, oh, we need to really focus on profitability and a lot of the wisdom of just like, grow we'll figure out, you know, how to actually make money down the road. I think those days are numbered. And so, you know, I think we'll see a lot of companies, you know, started in, you know, and actually sustain working from home offices like, like, you know, I have for the last three years and then the rest of team has, and grow and build a thriving business, Matt Mullenweg, from WordPress, from automatic rather, he has a quote, I'm paraphrasing, but he says it's not going to be the Facebook's or the Googles, who will be fuller and more remote organizations, but the companies who replace them will be. Which is just an interesting thing to think about. And it's starting to come true like a couple years back, I went and did a dog and pony show down on Sand Hill Road to, you know, talk to a bunch of investors and see if you know, we wanted to raise money. And really we're just getting a lot of inbound. Which is very unusual for me because I'm used to needing to, you know, go knock on their doors, and they were all knocking on our door. And so I went down and there was one investor in particular who was ready to send us a term sheet. Like he was like, we love dribble, we love what you guys are doing, like, let's, you know, let's do this thing. And then, and then we had a conversation. I'm like, well, we're, you know, we're like, 45 people at the time. We're fully remote. And we have no plans to ever, you know, build a hub in Silicon Valley. And that was I saw that I saw the look, the expression on his face just change immediately. He's like, okay, yeah. And he just completely lost lost interest after that. And like the it was done.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. Yeah.
Zack Onisko: But you know, and it's funny, and, you know, and then you see, like, companies, like, Github, you know, massive success, you know, there's a whole bunch of Elastic Search, elastic. There's a bunch of, you know, built very successful businesses fully remote. And I think we're going to see more and more companies -and investors won't be afraid to invest in those companies because they don't you know, I think it's like if will Google or Facebook or Apple will they buy companies if they're not already located in the in the Bay Area? So I think they'll get over that fear.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, I mean, we see a lot of people even in Green Bay, you know, you find going to meetups and all the meetups we host where you have people working for Elastic Search for Etsy for GitHub, you know remote that you wouldn't expect in your backyard. And, you know, people, I think it's easy for people to think like, Oh, well, you know, if you don't see a butt in a seat, like they're not working, but I think the thing you need to understand is, when you're in this industry, and you're good at what you do you really care about the craft. And I think that's part of that trust that's built remotely is no one's no one's trying to take advantage of it. And if you are like, it's going to be very easy to tell.
Zack Onisko: Yeah, no, I mean, it's that's right. I mean, that's 100% too, you know, and there's, it's it's almost instant when you see somebody who's just like, unplugged and not, you know, contributing. Yeah. Oh, I was gonna say that, you know, it's it's funny because we're all tech workers. And yet, you know, we're still going to these Metro hubs to work where, you know, we're all connected all over the world via the internet, you should be able to work anywhere just by the nature of the technology. Yet, you know, culture pushes you to the cities where rents really expensive, you know, everything's expensive food is expensive. So yeah, I think we'll see a sea change here in the next few years.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, absolutely. So what's next for dribbble?
Zack Onisko: Yeah, so um, you know, at a very high level, you know, our mission is to make designer successful. We're we're making a ton of improvements around just the core platform. And the the growth that dribbles had over the few years is pretty remarkable. Our community has forex in the last three years. It took us eight years to get our first million users. And it took us just a little over two years to reach 3 million users. And so there's just a lot of amazing creatives on the platform now who are sharing that work and and so it's becoming dire important for us to invest in, in technology that will help bring these designers exposure on the platform. And, you know, whether you have, you know, 400,000 followers or 400 followers, you know, if you're if you're creating great work that people like, we want to bring exposure to that work and help help people discover it. So that's kind of, you know, at the core that there's a lot of work happening around that then involve search and involves, you know, obviously, algorithms and sorts and things that we're working on that side. We're also looking at like curation. You know, whether it's curated by our team or, you know, we bring in, you know, you could come on and curate some some work that's inspiring you, and maybe we throw that on the homepage. So, yeah, I mean, it's, there's a, there's some big things happening in January, we'll have the first kind of visual refresh of the platform and the last 10 years looking forward, so that that's coming. Hopefully it's nice colors It's the goal is actually locked. We want the we want the work to shine. And so you know, dribbles kind of always taken a very minimal approach to to our interface. And what we're doing now is actually taking a more step backwards to really help the work, you know, be the center point of the experience. So that's coming very soon there's, there's a lot of awesome work that Ryan Johnson and Roger gang have been working on for last like, you know, six, nine months or whatever. And then, you know, in terms of, you know, core functionality where, you know, you you mentioned earlier, we launched pro business. We've released a lot of different products as kind of MVPs and experiments over the years. And we're starting to take all these disparate offerings are kind of scattered across the experience and you know, based on your user conditions, You might not ever find it right, or, you know, so we're starting to bring those together and consolidate them. And so, you know, teams was a product that functionality wise was very similar to Pro. We've now kind of combined that. And now teams is a feature of pro business. And so the goal there is that there's, if you're a designer or creative, there's one kind of product offering for you to upgrade into that it's dribble, still free to use. It's still invite only. So it is still invite only. That's another big, you know, internal debate that we're having internally. We've, you know, invite only was great during the early years to you know, it kept quality really high. It kept it to a very controlled, trusted network. But at this stage, it's it's probably hurting us more than helping us. You know, when I joined there, were about Have 350,000 prospects who are like designers who didn't have an invite who are like waiting in the queue waiting to get in. And so we saw that as like, that's just, you know, our ambition is to move from this kind of exclusive community to an inclusive community.
Andrew Verboncouer: Right.
Zack Onisko: So whether, again, whether you've been at it, you're a 20 year veteran designer, or you're a kid straight out of design school, if you're talented, and you're doing cool stuff, we want to, you know, provide eyeballs to your work, you know, we have, you know, we've grown our traffic is has grown to x or user base grown five x or all of our KPIs up to the right, 5 million people a month are coming to dribble to, you know, browses this, this work, and...
Andrew Verboncouer: And only three, 3 million members - is that what you said? Earlier I mean? It could be a little bit more than that, but.
Zack Onisko: Yeah, I mean, it's a little over 3 million, but we only started two to focus on on registration, just you know, a couple years ago, so that that wasn't really something that was used to be like purely invite only right? So we're starting to open up the gates and try to make it a more of an inclusive experience, not only for designers, but also for you know, what we call spectator. So people who are coming to, you know, almost have like a Pinterest like experience building mood boards and inspiration collections. And, so we'll be investing in that. But I think the big the big thing that I think people will get really excited about is part of the redesign as we're also rethinking the profile itself, which, you know, hasn't really it was I'll be honest, was modeled off the off of a very early Twitter profile, you know, layout from from, you know, 2010 it hasn't really changed much since we really want to evolve. evolve that the look and feel of that page and again, just really help designers work pop, allow them to showcase their best work. And ultimately, you know, build community build, build a network with other designers. And, and, and the real secret sauce that the really cool thing about dribble. And why we won't invest in the profile is that everyone, every designer has their their portfolio on their domain somewhere. And they may update it maybe once a year, maybe two years when they're in between work but people are constantly updating and adding you know, different, you know, things that we're working on or whether the finished product or work in progress to the dribble profile. So it's much more up to date. But there's also this network effect built in. So you have this inherent audience built into your work and so the more active you are in dribble, the more likely that you'll you'll build an audience and build a following for your work which is just much harder to do, you know, with with your, your personal site, right? It's for a client to find your personal site you have to like, email them your URL.
Andrew Verboncouer: Right or try to rank or do things that are very time consuming to build.
Zack Onisko: Yeah, I mean it's it's Yeah, it's an it's not just not a whole lot of designers can go on that side of you know of the table. It's kind of you know, you set up your Squarespace your your Wix subscription, and it just runs indefinitely forever and you touch it when when it's like the the break at the end of December, I already have a couple weeks and nothing to do like, oh, maybe I'll update my portfolio.
Andrew Verboncouer: Well, looking forward to the changes and all the new things coming. Where can people find and follow you to stay up to date?
Zack Onisko: I'm Zack with a "k" - 415 on all the things so Twitter, Instagram, that sort of thing. But yeah, I'm not a big blogger or anything like that, so nothing really to pitch.
Andrew Verboncouer: Sounds good. Well, thanks for coming on Zack. I appreciate it.
Zack Onisko: Thanks for having me. Good to see you again.
Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, you too. Thanks for listening to Seaworthy. Connect with us and ask questions on Twitter @seaworthyfm. Make sure you subscribe and if you enjoyed it, leave a review on iTunes. Sail forth and make waves.
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