Entrepreneur Success Stories: Zapier

Success leaves clues.

Zapier is a software company founded in 2011 by Wade Foster, Bryan Helmig and Mike Knoop. Zapier provides a service that helps end users automate the integration of online applications. Let’s take a look at how this software integration company has taken the industry by storm.


Before becoming a company valued at over $5 billion, Wade Foster (CEO) and Bryan Helming (CTO) were members of a jazz quartet, playing gigs together in their hometown of Columbia, Missouri. In addition to their love for music, they discovered that they both had a passion for creating web applications and began working on projects together.

In September 2011, they came up with an idea that would change the course of their lives. They decided to start a company that helped end users integrate two different software applications. To help get their idea off the ground, they enlisted a third co-founder, Mike Knoop (CPO), and went to work.

They created the first iteration of their software application (known then as API Mixer) and entered a local start-up competition. Their idea won, and they knew they were onto something.

They continued to develop their idea and submitted it to Y Combinator, where they were initially rejected. However, Foster, Helmig and Knoop refused to take no for an answer and continued submitting their application to Y Combinator until they were finally accepted in 2012. At that time, the project included integrations with 34 applications. Today, that number is over 3,000 integrations, and they have more than 300 application partners.

During their early stage, they were able to secure $1.3 million in Series A funding from investors, and within two years, they reached profitability. This was the only venture capital funding that they’ve accepted thus far, though they have received numerous offers. Zapier went on to be named the #1 company in the early-stage category as evaluated by top venture funds in the industry.


Building a $5 billion company within a decade is no easy feat. Zapier’s success can be attributed to many of the decisions that the founders have made along the way.

Building Relationships with the Zapier User Base

Zapier believed that building relationships was crucial to helping cultivate their user base. Foster, Helmig and Knoop started by visiting online forums of larger software applications such as Dropbox and Basecamp, seeking users who were frustrated with their inability to use the functionality of one application along with another, often having to repeat the same tasks across applications. The Zapier team would reach out to these users and offer to help them resolve their issues. In the early stages of the company, this was how they generated their first customers. Customer service continues to be a foundational part of Zapier as a company.

Customer-Centric Values

As an employee of Zapier, each team member participates in the customer support function. Whether an employee is in HR or IT, the founders believe that hearing first-hand about how customers are experiencing the product and understanding their frustrations will help create a better product and experience.

Teamwork is Key

Zapier has been a remote company since its founding. With employees across the globe, it is important for them to be able to communicate with one another so that each team member is on the same page. They do this by sharing information across multiple channels and at multiple times to ensure that important ideas are communicated. Transparency is one of their keys to success.

Tell the Customer’s Story

Zapier has been very deliberate in how they reach out to current and potential customers. One part of their marketing efforts is sharing the success stories of their clients through their blog. Zapier interviews customers, identifies pain points that have been resolved through the application and uses this as a guide to assist other customers who might be experiencing the same issue.

Zapier’s attention to detail in addressing customer concerns has helped the company grow from its first customers in 2012 to its current user base of over 600,000. Their success demonstrates how dedicated client focus can have a huge impact on the bottom line.

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