Episode 0059 · July 25, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.


[Unedited Transcript]


Paul Ford: So rich.

Rich Ziade: Paul, it’s good to see you.

Paul Ford: It’s good to see you, too. People don’t know this. We went to summer schedule because you were out for a couple weeks in Lebanon Doing some work and also on vacation. I took a couple days off. So summer is over, baby. It’s July, but

Rich Ziade: We’re not Europe,

Paul Ford: it’s hot startup

Rich Ziade: Fun is over.

Paul Ford: No more fun. I want to pitch you a whole theme and concept for the rest of our lives.

Rich Ziade: I thought I told you not to come up with any ideas while I was away. What have you been doing?

Paul Ford: here we go.

Rich Ziade: Wait, so this is an idea, a theme for the rest of our lives. Alright.

Paul Ford: Wait, so first we gotta take a step back. We are launching a product, and it is gonna [00:01:00] be out relatively soon. It’s out in limited beta right now. You know, we told people, if you DM us, uh, we’ll get you in on the beta. That’s actually true. If you’re a Ziotti Ford listener, we’ll march you right to the front of the line.

So, so go ahead, DM away. I’m glad to hear from you. The product is called a board and a board. We have three verbs that we’re using with a board, um, collect, collaborate, organize, actually, I got them out of order, collect, organize, collaborate. Sorry, sorry, everybody for that order. So the, what it lets you do is bring in lots of data, not just data from the web and it tries to make it really smart and clean it up,

Rich Ziade: When you say data from the web, you just mean a link.

Paul Ford: bookmarks, you know, visual and easy to use and so on.

And then, but you can also add your own, you can make your own

Rich Ziade: You can type your own.

Paul Ford: when people see that, when people see it look pretty, they’re like, Ah, it’s like Pinterest for everything. And I’m like, no, cause you can, it’s also like Google Docs for everything. So, all right. And then you can talk and chat and comment, like you can work collaboratively.

You can also [00:02:00] publish out to the world. And so, and everything can be nicely organized and tagged. And so it’s very visual. We’re very proud of it. So here we go. And there’s a funny thing that happens when you’re launching software. And I, I’ve thought about this with some of the work we’ve done before and the way that we organize the agency.

You kind of need a theme and I don’t mean You might tie this up into brand equity. You might tie this up into mission and so on I’m, just going to call it theme

Rich Ziade: You mean like a vision?

Paul Ford: not even just let’s stick with theme for a minute Okay, because themes tend to be like first of all, there’s the theme of i’m going to make a lot of money and change the world That’s the classic startup narrative.

We’re going to blow up the world and we’re going to get a lot of money Yeah. Um, regardless, I, you know, we like to make money, but I don’t, that is not what we walk in in the morning and do. We walk in the morning, we go, how’s the product? Right. We don’t,

Rich Ziade: Yeah, as an end goal, money, we’ve, I mean, and this was the case even at the agency. [00:03:00] Uh, that we ran when you’re only aiming for money, it tends to like misalign a lot of the things that you should be focused

Paul Ford: I mean, it really does, like you can’t, you can’t just do that every day. Even if you,

Rich Ziade: a great product that people love.

Paul Ford: if you’re a bank, you have to have like a good experience or people just go to another

Rich Ziade: Yeah. You can say, I need your money. Yeah. That’s not going to

Paul Ford: Give me your money. So anyway, um, okay. So, so there’s like the classic startup theme.

I’m going to blow up the world. I’m going to change everything.

Rich Ziade: to change the

Paul Ford: Change everything. Everybody’s going to see, and I think a lot of that is always like, everybody’s going to see how smart I am. I’m going to show them how, they’re going to, whoo, look out, here I come.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Look, I mean, I do respect the sort of naked ambition of a, of a startup founder, right?

Paul Ford: I have felt that ambition in different times in my

Rich Ziade: It’s cool. I mean, it’s ridiculous and it’s very risky and it’s, I, I, I, I embrace it and I, I, I applaud people who try to do it.

Paul Ford: It is although I will say when you’re outside of it [00:04:00] talking to someone who has the vision they are They sound bananas, right? So it’s just

Rich Ziade: Some lose the script, right? I, I’ve, I’ve had interactions with, with founders of fast growing startups. They’re like, so what, what is your plan? And they’ll say, I’m gonna make a billion dollar company,

Paul Ford: that there’s also I’m good people in the future are going to use this instead of Google and it’ll be like a smart shoe Right, you’ll be like Okay, I’m not quite sure how that’s gonna

Rich Ziade: look, I think thinking big is okay. I think when you think big money, it gets, it gets complicated, right?

Paul Ford: humans get confused. So there’s that narrative and there’s a growth narrative. Grow, grow, grow, grow, grow. And, um, and also we’re in a space where there are a lot of competitors. We’re not alone in wanting to organize the world’s data on the internet in a collaborative

Rich Ziade: In fact, I think a trend of sorts seems to be taking hold. There’s a few others that are trying to double down on the web and give people great tools to collect stuff [00:05:00] off the web, which is cool to see, by the way. I think it’s very validating for

Paul Ford: That’s the thing in the past, I think we would have looked at them and be like, they’re garbage to hell with them. But

Rich Ziade: it’s good for us. It’s good for us. We’re gonna crush them all that’s a separate

Paul Ford: when I see that people have been able to gather attention and create utility that isn’t that good right and like okay, if we can where are we gonna live inside of all of that and um What’s been on my mind a lot and I was thinking, I was thinking, cuz you and I went and I went to Asbury Park, New Jersey, big trips, sat in the ocean for a minute and thought, and I’m like, what

Rich Ziade: a boat

Paul Ford: No on a, on the, on the sand. Oh. And um, and I thought for a minute and I was like, you know what, what is this thing? What is the narrative? What is the theme? What do we talk about? And you know what we talk about a lot resilience. We talk about how Lebanon has been through it. And how quickly and how, how complicated it is to respond to stressful economic [00:06:00] situations and how, like, and we talk about our own lives and how they’ve had some real ups and downs, especially in the early days.

Rich Ziade: mean if you’re 50 you’ve had ups and downs.

Paul Ford: What do you do most mornings before you come in or many mornings before you come in right before work?

Rich Ziade: I Have some breakfast and I work out

Paul Ford: Um, do you work out because you’re going to be the most handsome man in the world and the most powerful?

Rich Ziade: Um, I already checked the handsome man box, so no, that’s not my goal. Um, it, uh, I, you know, for me, working out is very much mental as much as it is physical. Um, it’s also like I need that ugly piece of resistance in the morning that I have to climb over just to get going for my day. That’s my own brain.

Other people work out for different reasons, but yeah, it’s very meaningful to me. I also make my bed. I make my bed every day.

Paul Ford: Interesting, I didn’t know this about you actually. It’s the first time I’ve ever learned this after

Rich Ziade: I like, it [00:07:00] brings a little order to my day. I’m not the neatest guy in the world or anything like that, but I do make my bed before I leave the

Paul Ford: I get this. And then you come home and the bet is made.

Rich Ziade: That’s a good outcome.

Paul Ford: you know, when I look at why you work out, you’re not actually, you’re, you’re normal amount of vain. Like you’re not extremely vain in

Rich Ziade: No, no, also, it’s a diminishing

Paul Ford: Well, and you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re no longer as young as you used to be, right? And so like when you talk about it, you talk about it in terms of resilience.

You want to be strong and flexible and to be able to age in a more gradual, controlled way.

Rich Ziade: It’s control. It’s great, like, not being active, you start to feel, as you age, in less and less control, yes. And, and, and, and also, you’re fighting time. You literally, I mean, this has been documented. You could see, see it in writings and documentaries that it slows down the aging process. But that’s not my goal.

It just makes me mentally a lot, it just lines me up.

Paul Ford: look, the miracle of semi [00:08:00] glutide showed up in my life. I’ve lost about 50 pounds. I have plenty more to lose, but I have, I’ve been on my bike a lot lately. I’ve been doing more lately and it’s nice. People say like, Hey, you’re looking good. You know, good for you.

Rich Ziade: good.

Paul Ford: It does. But the real deal is that I was in no way like.

Health events and life events could really knock me off the track when I was at my biggest. And I couldn’t quite get control of it and it really sucked. And what I feel is not this like, I’m gonna look great, I’m gonna have some before and after photos that get everybody all hot and bothered. I could give a shit.

But what I love is that I’m gonna be more able to respond to the world around me instead of having to like kind of retract from it.

Rich Ziade: Control and adaptability.

Paul Ford: And so what I’m realizing is that as people who are starting a company in mid life, like we are middle aged men, flat out by definition, we are,

Rich Ziade: we are.

Paul Ford: we are thinking not about taking over the world.

And we’re also [00:09:00] not thinking about everybody saying what good boys are we. Reality and success in this is that we actually disappear. It’s nice we’re on this podcast, but people, if this thing succeeds, no one will be saying, Boy, Rich and Paul.

Rich Ziade: No, our heads are not going to be in the logo.

Paul Ford: But also just like, the founders disappear with successful products.

Nobody knows who Sergey Brin is who isn’t us, right? Nobody, you know, Elon Musk is unusual in that he wants to be this relentless voice. But most, most people just focus on the products they use. That’s right. Right. And so like, that’s success. This success in a funny way, to me is true life success is I’m able to react, I’m healthy.

Um, I work with a few people that I like, not a million. And I have, uh, and frankly, I don’t need credit for the things that I put into the world. I would like to see other people do things

Rich Ziade: Mm hmm.

Paul Ford: the, the, the things that I put in the world. And then I looked at. Um, and this is where I’m going to finish pitching and then I want you to give me [00:10:00] feedback.

Um, and for listeners like this is an actual like, Rich and I briefly talked about this before, but I’m actually throwing this out to see what, what he makes of it to see if this theme is going to line up because the theme will influence the copy we write and the story we tell. And it actually turns out the story is not quite as important, but almost as important as the software when you’re building

Rich Ziade: hugely important.

Paul Ford: So, um, when I look at a board, what I see is there. Is When you look at social media and you look at the other tools that get built, they’re built for all kinds of environments. And actually what I’m realizing is a lot of them have a very, very strong opinion about trust. And let me explain that for one second.

So the problem with Twitter right now is you can’t trust anybody on it. You can’t put anything out. If you put anything out there, you can be attacked at any moment. And people are kind of at [00:11:00] war. And actually one of the things that’s fun about Elon Musk is because he’s such a bad leader for it, he’s just turned it into an absolute cage match of, of human misery.

Rich Ziade: It’s a form of entertainment.

Paul Ford: now, I mean, it’s, it’s in its true form, right? Like it used to be at least people would pretend to be nurturing on there. And now it’s just like, you don’t believe in my kind of socialism. I’m coming at you for the next six

Rich Ziade: lost their minds.

Paul Ford: Just amazing, right? So very low trust environment is how I would put it.

And you can’t even trust that like your DMs are going to remain private. Anymore.

Rich Ziade: There’s a lot of threats. Right? Like, as, as Twitter… as, I mean, if we’re going to focus on Twitter for a second, imagine when we use these platforms, right? We tend to pour a lot of ourselves into them. Like our, our information is there. Our family photos are there. Our identity is very much shaped by these

Paul Ford: You can log into other things with them.

Rich Ziade: [00:12:00] Yes. And, and what ends up happening most of the time is that the platforms themselves actually, There’s a pact. It’s like an unwritten pact that like I’m gonna do you right because I am going to observe your behavior and probably sell it and put ads in front of you, but I’m gonna do you right. And I think what’s happening with Twitter, which is interesting, is that he’s essentially saying I am in God mode. I didn’t make that deal, right? And so, it’s a lot of implicit threats. It’s, it’s almost corny. Like, it’s, it’s such a goofy style of aggression. Like, it’s just the corniest. It’s like the Steven Seagal of, like, technology. It’s like a lot of flexing, but the person’s not actually a Kung Fu expert. He’s just an actor, right?

It’s a lot of that. Which would I would watch I’m not gonna lie. Look it’s entertaining from a like just a social observation perspective[00:13:00]

Paul Ford: Like technology. It’s like a lot of

Rich Ziade: But but what you’re talking about is is is is you’re touching on something really important Which is I don’t think people appreciate how fragile it all is, you know when they appreciate it when like Google Photos goes down.

That’s when they appreciate it,

Paul Ford: let me go the other direction environments in which, okay, we admit that no one can trust anyone else. And like, everything is needs to be structured. Now we go the other way to enterprise software, Salesforce is an ERP tools. If you want to accomplish or do anything in those tools, you have to be given all sorts of rights and permissions that are set into the database.

Rich Ziade: It’s inversed.

Paul Ford: zero trust in a funny way really I don’t I can trust the platform, but the platform doesn’t trust me, right?

Rich Ziade: Have you ever seen Microsoft’s Policy Manager?

Paul Ford: yeah. No, no, it’s It’s endless and I’ve been thinking about I’ve been thinking as I’ve been thinking about all this stuff and think about my friends I have a friend Pete listen to this podcast.

Hi Pete. I’ll tell you what if there was a bad [00:14:00] flood I kind of expect Pete to show up in a canoe. Like, you know, I have that relationship with you too. Like, it’s just like, and people have that relationship with me. Like, I better show up. It’s the, it’s the deal we made, right? And what I realized, what I really want to build, and what I want a board to be, is resilient software for building communities like that, for, for that kind of trust.

And if you look at the decisions we made in the product, I’m not coming out of left field with this. It’s a very trusting product. You only get to bring a few people in. Like, we haven’t set a cap, but let’s say eight, right?

Rich Ziade: hmm. Mm hmm. Smaller circles of

Paul Ford: because the people who come in can move the cards around and change the

Rich Ziade: have power, right out of the

Paul Ford: We are giving people power with the assumption that it’s not for 50, 000 people. We thought about that. We thought about, you know, because Slack will do that. Slack will get you to 30, 000 people. They can talk in all the open channels, etc. That’s not a board. A board is about getting the thing done, organizing it, and the people who get, [00:15:00] the people who come in.

As an admin, as a creator, you have certain powers, like you can publish the board. Not anyone can say, I want to make this all public. You know, there’s, you can kick people out over time. And we can figure, we’re figuring all that stuff out. But the reality is we are creating this very constrained, trust driven environment for high levels of collaboration.

And when I think about. Resilience because the world is messy right now and needs more resilience like just that’s one of the big climate words I think a lot about how we’ve architected this product because it is actually built with a very strong point of view about What that means and I don’t we’ve never said this out loud, right?

But it’s just like I think we have built a resilient software product where people on Mobile phones can coordinate and work together to achieve certain goals. So that goals might be like let’s pick a movie

Rich Ziade: hmm. Mm

Paul Ford: You know the goal might be like I want to buy a fancy car like that’s life, but it might also be like hey Boy [00:16:00] could really use someone to pick me up because a little trouble coordinating babysitting today You know it can be it can be stuff like that and

Rich Ziade: People do that. I mean, I want, I want to, we’re doing this in real time. We’ve never rehearsed this. You’re pitching me on it. What’s different. What what’s different about a board versus WhatsApp where I can talk to my friends about a babysitter.

Paul Ford: is a great Coordination tool because it’s incredibly easy right like just like I’m in there

Rich Ziade: It’s talking.

Paul Ford: and I’m talking, but it is A big part of trust is accountability and a board has a lot of accountability built in and I don’t mean like workflow We can do that We have kanban boards and you can do all that stuff with the board But what we what we have instead is is the data there’s a memory built into it


Rich Ziade: have reached a point where we just assume that there is no power to create permanence with anything on the internet. So we keep tabs open, we email ourselves, ourselves. [00:17:00] There’s a, there’s a browser add on that has like a million downloads. All it does, it’s called SendIt, I think, or

Paul Ford: I think, to send to you.

Rich Ziade: All it does is email you the link you’re looking

Paul Ford: But, but if you

Rich Ziade: to your account.

Paul Ford: that is everybody understands that system.

Those are easy to filter. Like it does. That’s a lot of what’s good. Yeah. Right.

Rich Ziade: Are there, uh, resilient is a fascinating word. You’re saying you can trust the platform. Is that what you mean by resilient?

Paul Ford: Partly the platform needs to be up and needs to be operating, but it’s for creating resilience. So let me let, the example would be more like, so how do you get to resilience in a.

Messy climate, chaotic world where politics are no longer as stable as they used to

Rich Ziade: Mm hmm.

Paul Ford: You can go on Twitter and you can get really upset in public and not a lot changes as a result, but you get affiliated with certain classes of screamer. [00:18:00] And you can go attack the Capitol. I mean, there’s all this

Rich Ziade: But you’re not solving anything.

Paul Ford: where, where all change that and sort of safety comes from, this is where Lebanon’s in my head a lot. It’s that small unit. In Lebanon, it’s the family. You know, but it’s like that small group of people who are like, you know what? We gotta, I got these bags of rice and I need to get them to hungry people in the neighborhood.

What’s the tool I’m going to use? I have to get 500 bags of rice distributed.

Rich Ziade: Yes, you’re saying that the narrower groups and the tools given allow for more resilience because

Paul Ford: You’re going to create, yes, you’re going to create a more resilient group if there’s high trust and there are goals and there are, there is clarity.

Rich Ziade: whereas large groups, mass media, social media is mass media, by the way, and everyone Wants to be heard, right? They love it when they get the hearts, or they get the retweets, or whatever it’s called now. Um, [00:19:00] but nothing’s getting done. You’re getting nothing done. You’re getting maybe social acknowledgement.


Paul Ford: The number one tool that I see in your life that you use to build resilience into your family is WhatsApp. You’re on, you’re on, you’re talking to people in Lebanon, you’re talking to people, you’re moving money around.

Rich Ziade: WhatsApp groups.

Paul Ford: and you’re moving money around, you’re, you’re, and by moving money around, I don’t mean like banking, I mean like you’re saying, hey, we’re going to go to dinner here, or like, hey, I’m going to get you a hundred bucks, or just like, there’s a lot of

Rich Ziade: a smaller trusting group.

Paul Ford: but it has no memory, it’s just an infinite scroll,

Rich Ziade: I think that’s, that’s the rub. Which is, it’s very near term. It’s very transient. And I

Paul Ford: what are we doing today, who’s bringing what to the barbecue, right,

Rich Ziade: I can’t address climate change in WhatsApp. I can talk about it and share a link about it. But if I really, like, let’s say I had a business that is like, [00:20:00] yeah.

Paul Ford: I can talk I really, like,

Rich Ziade: that’s what you’re talking about here,

Paul Ford: For my wife and I to get solar in Brooklyn because of various like regulations was a 12 month process was a disaster and now our electric bills 20 bucks a month. Hey, you know pretty cool But but like yeah, the conversation and the structure around that was just kind of ongoing and it fell to my wife

Rich Ziade: Let me, let me take it full circle here for a second, you know, our tagline, which was, you know, mocked by a good friend of ours who we trust, collect, organize, collaborate, um, is like things you can do with the thing, which isn’t very good as a tagline. It’s very descriptive. It’s my tie. I came up with it.

It’s not

Paul Ford: We’re wrestling with all that. You go to Notion and it’s just like, It’s Wiki, it’s a document manager. They’re about like, Hey, we smooshed it all together.

Rich Ziade: What you’re saying here is that chat, um, And open tabs doesn’t scale up to bigger things that you’re [00:21:00] trying to get done and that the platform here allows you to create structure to create mechanisms of accountability so that you can do bigger things like yes, you can use chat to decide on pizza for tonight, but that’s transient.

It’s gonna move on and you’ll never think about it again. You don’t need that log, right? You just you all coordinated

Paul Ford: can use chat to eat the pizza and then it’s done.

Rich Ziade: exactly. But here’s where it breaks where it breaks down is. Let’s pick something not as ambitious as climate a wedding like the the the level of orchestration and collaboration and frankly Knowledge gathering which probably happens in some insane way in like I guess your browser or use heart stuff and you

Paul Ford: It does or you use the not or whatever, but there’s always this responsibility what happens in the wedding is there’s always one party usually the bride who does all the work. And then kind of informs the husband. I don’t think we’re going to change that dynamic necessarily but at least the husband would have [00:22:00] less excuse to be uninformed.

Rich Ziade: think, I think the bride is relying on a bunch of other people, the husband and the, the, the, the bride and groom are relying on a bunch of other people, it’s a mess today, it’s a sloppy mess, these are dynamics that are, that you find when you hire an agency to do your branding, when you hire a, a personal trainer to, to help you achieve, train for a marathon, these are dynamics today that happen in production.

Straight up what are classic communication platforms, but there’s more to

Paul Ford: You know what would make me feel really good is when the bride says, This was really helpful for us. And actually, we skipped so many fights. Because you know what that marriage is now? It’s more resilient. They have a tool that they use to communicate. And that makes a better fundamental relationship between individuals.

And now they can do more in their marriage.

Rich Ziade: a board fix your marriage?

Paul Ford: Yes. That’s what I’m landing

Rich Ziade: This is the marketing I was looking

Paul Ford: That’s the new headline. Fix your marriage

Rich Ziade: a board. [00:23:00] Yeah. Um, I like this. I I

Paul Ford: let’s be real. Like it’s not, doesn’t mean that you’re going to go to a board. com and it’s going to say resilience.

Rich Ziade: No, yeah. No, I I look I think I think the world feels very chaotic. I don’t, and I think it’s always been chaotic. It’s just, we get to peer into it. Like now there’s like no anesthesia anymore.

Paul Ford: Oh, no. You,

Rich Ziade: guts everywhere.

Paul Ford: see the whole thing. It is wild.

Rich Ziade: and I think, you know, what we’re, we’re

Paul Ford: that

Rich Ziade: here and by the way, that could, we’re creating something that.

For calmer more productive places for people to interact and get things done and that could be a Company

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: a team inside of an organization could be a family planning a trip It doesn’t really matter and this is sounding pitchy But it’s genuinely where we’re

Paul Ford: this is the goal. The goal is to take anyone who, to, to increase resilience inside of organizations. That’s how I’m putting it forward. And like, we,

Rich Ziade: It could be you and your extended

Paul Ford: yeah. [00:24:00] And I mean, what does that mean?

It means we were, we trust each other more. We got a lot done. We felt that we were accountable to each other and we feel better about going into the next thing. Can software really do that? No, but it can get out of the way. So the humans can build those relationships themselves.

Rich Ziade: love to, I want to drive the next podcast we record and talk about software getting out of the way and how hard it is to make software that gets out of

Paul Ford: Boy, is it? Well, we should, we should record that podcast really soon.

Rich Ziade: we should. Who sponsored this podcast,

Paul Ford: Well, this is where it sounds intensely hypocritical, but a deeply resilient piece of software that will help you and your team become more resilient. It’s called a board, a board. com. Uh, DM if you’d like early access and we’ll get you in there.

Our board is for, um, collecting data, including or adding your own data. Organizing it. It is a hell of a platform. It is pretty and cool and we love it. We’re excited to get out in the world. It’s coming. It’s coming real soon now and [00:25:00] uh, Check it out and check us out on twitter at ziottiford and send us an email.

Hello at ziottiford. com We are your podcast advisors here to help and help you get more resilient anything else rich No,

Rich Ziade: No,

Paul Ford: all

Rich Ziade: let’s make the world more resilient.

Paul Ford: it. Let’s do it. All

Rich Ziade: Have a great

Paul Ford: Bye everybody

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