There are a lot of things out there that people would like to get done. But sometimes that initial burst of effort required is just a little overwhelming, making these things take a very long time.
In these kinds of situations, what you need is a catalyst to get things going. What Zapier has done is act as this catalyst for the connection of web apps. Founded out of a startup weekend in late 2011, Zapier uses an online web platform to integrate apps like Google Docs, Asana and Salesforce, to do whatever task or workflow you may want, saving time and energy
Zapier operates on a Freemium, business model. A limited version of the software is free, with the opportunity to upgrade to a variety of plans with monthly subscription fees. Freemium models usually have less than 10% paying customers, but a low additional cost per user allows paying users to subsidise free users, and a high-quality product often helps convert these free clients.
So how does Zapier work as a catalyst? What does it have in common with chemical catalysts and how they work?
Reactions with high activation energies are very, very slow. So slow in fact, that they might never happen. Catalysts are compounds which speed these reactions up and allow otherwise impossible reactions actually to occur. For example, there is a process in our body that would take 2.3 billion years without a catalyst. If we didn’t have that catalyst, we would be dead.
Now, I for one love all the nifty apps that are around, but my enthusiasm means the collection I use seems to be growing and growing. I’m forever thrusting a new one on our start-up team (sorry guys). You either have to access and update each one manually (boring and time-consuming), or pay a web developer to integrate your apps with code (expensive). Here Zapier comes in, automating the process and saving people masses of time.
To run successfully using the freemium model, users need to really like the product. Otherwise, they will never convert to paying customers or refer others. Did you know free users can be worth as much as 15-25% of a premium subscriber due to referrals alone? That means you need to impress everyone.
A catalyst works by providing a different route for a reaction to take, giving the same result. Just like how you can take multiple routes as you drive to work.
What Zapier offers is an alternative pathway for data sharing. Their alternative path is a “zap”, which integrates whatever app you would like, creating a trigger for a new action. This could be automatically sending welcome emails using MailChimp after the completion of a Google Form, or using a new customer in Salesforce, to trigger the creation of the same new customer in Zendesk and Harvest.
Reducing the activation energy
The energy needed for a reaction to occur is the activation energy. The lower this activation energy is, the less energy you need initially to kick the reaction off. A catalyst speeds up a reaction by forcing the alternative pathway with a lower activation energy.
In the same way, using Zapier to automate your app integration is easy, with a few simple steps. Users save themselves the overwhelming activation energy of mind-numbing manual labour or complex code development that would usually put them off, and require significant amounts of time and money.
What makes catalysts fantastic is that they aren’t used up. They can be reused again and again to make many reactions faster.
The Zapier software does the same, always being available to make that next new Zap, while linking seamlessly in the background. You can repeatedly connect anything. It is also easy to adjust the integration, add a new step to the Zap or pause it for a moment.
Turnover number and frequency
Unfortunately, catalysts cannot function optimally forever. The turnover number of a catalyst is the number of reactions it can catalyse before it loses effectiveness. Similarly, the turnover frequency is how fast you can recycle a catalyst.
It is these properties that allow Zapier to make money. By essentially limiting this turnover number and frequency at different plan levels, from between 5 zaps and 3000 tasks per month (free) and 125 zaps and 50,000 tasks per month ($125 per month), users are encouraged to upgrade. The small price increases between plans, makes the investment appear good value. The increasingly high-quality product, catalytic efficiency, and the enormous potential Zapier could have on a business attracts potential customers. Take for example Green Socks, they launched a prototype app within 24 hours, without even using a single line of code!
A marker of a company that will be successful is one that solves a problem. Zapier does this, making web app integrations easy for everyone, and saving immense amounts of time in the process. It catalyses action for businesses and individuals, which in turn catalyses the conversion of free subscribers into paying customers, leaving the ultimate product of a business reaction, revenue.