Building connections is crucial in every industry. That’s why Matt Achariam and Zach Hamed co-founded Clay. In the simplest terms, it’s a unique CRM platform designed to help people manager their ever-changing network. But in practice, it’s a groundbreaking way to remain thoughtfully connected with all of the people in their lives.
Our digital world seems to have a new way of doing almost anything. Not even baseball has remained immune to its effects. I’ve spent nearly three decades building a sports broadcasting career. There’s been more change in the past handful of seasons than there was in the entire twenty-five years prior.
It’s a sport that has so much to teach, and is one reason my corporate keynotes focus on lessons about teamwork and building connections. They are soft skills that are as necessary – and applicable – on the ball field as they are in the boardroom. But some of my favorite audiences have been filled with engineering and tech geniuses of the world.
There is such an interesting contrast between their technical expertise and interpersonal skills. Those who have mastered the arts of both aren’t just enhancing the game, they’re changing it completely.
SINGLE: The Power of Ties
Clay helps people stay in touch. After all, at the end of the day, it’s always other people who help us to succeed.
“Everybody has different ways of showing they care,” said Zach. And with that in mind, they created Clay with malleability in mind. It empowers users to mold it into what they specifically need it to be, just like its namesake.
It could be something as simple as saying, “hi!” What is important to building connections is intention. Whether your goal is to strengthen existing relationships or foster new ones, all ties have the power to make a difference in our lives.
DOUBLE: Culture Counts
Clay may be a tech company, but optimizing for productivity will never take priority over its people. Building connections within the team is central to its culture…and has been done so successfully, that it’s co-CEOs were able to launch the company while living on opposite coasts.
It’s not necessarily uncommon in our post-pandemic world, but it can be challenging if building connections isn’t prioritized in the daily routine. “There is no substitution for being together in person,” said Matt. “So we speak very seriously about company culture activities.”
Those interactions are what keep human qualities front and center in workplace relationships. And are the same types of interactions that Clay helps foster…digital or not.
TRIPLE: Uncommonly Common
Before creating the beta version of Clay, Matt and Zach took months to simply talk to people. They had conversations with people of all professional backgrounds, from broadcasters to doulas, veterinarians to politicians. On the surface, it was a very diverse cohort, save for one shared frustration: Each of them was having trouble keeping up with the people in their lives.
Some used smart devices, others used spreadsheets. A few even used notecards. ‘We knew we had something,” Matt said. “We were able to build a prototype and go from there.”
Clay didn’t just solve the problem of keeping up with contacts. It offered a solution that was both intuitive and customizable in a way that has never been done before. The result brings a unique ease of building meaningful relationships that isn’t just practical, it’s effective.
HOME RUN: Daily Connections
Individual networking styles are as unique as fingerprints. Matt and Zach believe your contact management system should be too.
They set out to create the gold standard of building connections in the digital age. It needed to be simple. And it needed to give users a way to show meaningful care, even when – especially when – they don’t see those people regularly.
“It doesn’t take a lot,” said Matt, “but it is something you have to do every day.”
Learn More About Building Connections from Joel
Book Joel Goldberg for your next corporate event. He draws on over 25 years of experience as a sports broadcaster. In addition, he brings unique perspectives and lessons learned from some of the world’s most successful organizations. Whatever your profession, Joel is the keynote speaker who can help your team achieve a championship state of mind.
Joel Goldberg 0:12
Hey everybody welcome into another edition of Rounding the Bases presented by Community America Credit Union: Believing in Unbelievable. As always a quick shout out to my friends at Chief of Staff Kansas City, you don’t need to be in Kansas City in the Midwest, wherever you are. They are a recruiting firm that really specializes. In listening, in people, in connectivity. Their tagline is Making Connections That Matter. They’re a great partner of this podcast. And so if you’re interested, if you’re looking to place someone, if you’re looking to be placed, or just looking for someone to talk to check them out at chiefofstaffkc.com. My my episode today is I think in part on innovation, and we’ll see where it goes. And I’ll preface this by saying that I found out about these guys from a friend, or really, the son of my broadcast partner, Jeff Montgomery, or Connor Montgomery. And I think the power of connections, the power of social media sometimes can bring you places good places. And I just happened to wake up one morning and see that Jeff Montgomery’s son, Connor Montgomery, who is a brilliant guy, not not someone that I keep in touch with a whole lot here and there with just my connection with his father, was at his wedding. But I saw him tweet one morning about about an app called Clay. And its intriguing. It intrigued me and I checked it out. And I really liked it. This is not, at least from my end, an advertisement. It’s not it isn’t an endorsement. It’s nothing like that, I pay for this service. And I love it. And I’m still learning about it. But what fascinates me about it is the minds of the two men that created it and where it’s going. And if you happen to like what they’re doing great. Maybe it’ll be of interest to you. But I think that there’s just a great innovative spirit here. And much more. So, business is as much about what you know as who you know, today’s guests on Rounding the Bases are a dynamic duo of computer engineers who are helping foster thoughtful relationships faster. Their names are Matt Achariam and Zack Hamad. And they’re the co-founders and co-CEOs of Clay, an innovative social network that has set a new standard for relationship management. It’s nuanced design is both intuitive and sophisticatedly simple, empowering you to once again, build authentic connections in our ever connected digital world. I really think actually a lot of the people now that it’s my job here to sell this, a lot of the people that listen to this podcast, may very well be interested in the services of this. And every day I see on my Clay feed that says so and so just joined Clay, someone within my network. And so I think the word is getting out there a little bit, they’ll explain this much better than me. And I don’t know how much I’ve already butchered it. But I want to bring in Zack and Matt at this point who are already making my life a lot easier. And I’m just scratching the surface because there’s a lot to digest here, gentlemen, how you doing?
Zach Hamed 3:30
Thank you for having us on.
Joel Goldberg 3:33
Okay, well, we’ll I’ll try to identify whose voices as you guys are, you know, to, to people in different places. Where are you guys? By? By the way, Matt? Where are you at right now?
Matt Acharium 3:44
Yeah, we’re definitely two peas in a pod. So sometimes we finish each other sentences. I am in sunny well, not too sunny San Francisco today. It’s kind of foggy, but, and Zach is in Connecticut.
Joel Goldberg 3:57
Alright, so we got one out east one out west. And and I think that there’s something there too, I want to get into because you know we are, so, in that period of time in the world post pandemic, if that’s the way to refer to it. Were working from opposite sides of the country, like you’re almost in the same office is becoming the norm. I want to get to that later. But I mean, let’s start. Before we even talk about the history and how you guys came up with this. I think, Zach, I’d like to just ask you what Clay is because it was interesting when I ended up meeting both of you. And then you were both gracious enough to do a little bit of a Zoom call a tutorial with me. I’m not even for this podcast, that I think you were kind of asking me how I was using it. And I don’t even I don’t know that everybody would describe this tool in this app. The exact same way because there’s so many different uses for it. So how would you describe what Clay is?
Zach Hamed 4:55
Yeah, I love that. And I think that was very intentional. All in the way we built it, we wanted it to appeal to a really broad set of people. And the way we describe it is that Clay is the most beautiful and powerful way to remember the people in your personal and professional lives, to keep in touch with them, to say hi. And to be thoughtful with them. And I do think that different, you know, for some people, that is, the thing that they’re coming from is a contacts app, right, the way that they do that is they take notes in their contacts, and they, you know, we’ll go through that at the holidays and maybe send holiday cards or something through that. For other people, it’s Facebook, for other people to LinkedIn, for you know, you, you have a huge Twitter following as well. So different people think about people differently, and their personal and professional lives encompass different sets of people. But to us what was, you know, the pain point that we saw was that, you know, there’s this thing called Dunbar’s number where all the psychological research shows that you can only really remember 150 people in your life. And that seems like a really big number for some people. I think when you like, start listing it out, you know, a lot of people have, know more people than that, and have met more people in that you meet 10s of 1000s of people over the course of your life. But at any given time, you can only remember 150. And to us, that was, that was a big missed opportunity. You know, I think we attribute a lot of the success in our lives to the people in our lives. And we thought that there should be something sort of a hybrid between a contacts app, a social network, a CRM, you know, something that fits in the middle of all those things, and just helps you be thoughtful with the people in your life. So that’s where we started. And we started really crafting it. And we wanted to, you know, everybody shows care differently to the people in their life. For you, it might be reaching out. For others, it might be gift giving, for others, it might be, you know, grabbing coffee, or doing a little dinner party or something like that. So everybody has different ways that they show care. And so we wanted to support all those different ways. And all of the different types of people who, you know, think about people as the livelihood and as the like, sort of lifeblood of what they do. And so we have everybody from veterinarians using Clay to broadcast announcers to influencers and creators, to just people that are starting their career college students, MBA students, high school students. And that test is really special, because that shows that we’re doing our jobs, right. And, and really, through design and the product and storytelling, making it a product that a wide array of people can use.
Joel Goldberg 7:51
No, I love all. Matt, you get to finish a sentence now.
Matt Acharium 7:55
Yeah, I mean, the only thing I missed to say is that the we didn’t think of all this when we first started, the personal pain really was from us, right? And so when we first started this, we were just like, why is there no software that helps with this? It was anything that existed was either like this basic contacts app or something that, you know, was for sales professionals. And we were like, we’re neither of those things. But you know, we want to keep in touch with people, and we have bad memories, and why doesn’t this thing exists. And so it really started from that. And then you know, questioning and pulling on that thread over and over again. And then we realized that everyone has this problem in some capacity. And people just talk about it differently, right? Like Zach mentioned, birthdays could be one aspect of it or remembering to follow up with someone. And so there’s such a wide gamut. And there’s so much rich interactions here that we were like, maybe software can actually help with the, you know, to bring back a bit more humanity, which is kind of paradoxical, but it’s how we were we found ourselves.
Joel Goldberg 8:54
Yeah, I mean, I, you know, I’m so excited about the fact that already in using this for the last half year or whatever it is eight months, that there’s so much more that I don’t know that, that I’m excited to go down that rabbit hole and I don’t mean that in a way of like you could start using it today and be totally good. It’s kind of like you know that some of the best tools that I use, for instance, I as a broadcaster, but one that had background and editing, and early when when I had to do everything myself early on. So I’ve stayed up with learning how to edit which will serve me well when we end up cut up a couple of clips from my marketing team on this I can cut up some clips from a speech on on I love editing, I use Final Cut Pro. I probably only know how to use 10% 15% 5%. I know how to use what I need to know but then anytime that I want to learn a little something new, there’s more growth, there’s more opportunity and I feel like that’s what Clay is. That I’m just scratching the surface there’s so much that it can do and we’ll explain some more of that. But I think the big question for the two of you is, one, how did you connect to me? I know you get that question a lot. And then how do you sit down and come up with this? You know, it’s one thing to say, Okay, this is what’s missing. But I’m curious. And we’ll start with with Zach and then go to Matt. We’ll start with that. First of all, we’ll flip the order and then go to Zack. I’m curious, of course, how you met? And then does it just keep well, maybe we can do this. Maybe we can do this. But I’m gonna think that that was like a never ending list of possibilities. Based on what the final was not even final. I’d probably never be final, but final based on what the product as we speak today is. Matt, am I getting that right? And then how did you guys meet?
Matt Acharium 10:48
Yeah. So maybe I’ll start reverse. Let’s start with how do we meet and then like, because I think it flows a little better that way. We, if you really wanted the real origin, or Genesis story of Clay is, it’s really Zach and I’s relationship. Our relationship, which goes back almost, I want to say 10 years now, in a good way. So was Zach and I were early on in our careers. And we were both working on separate startups. And they were both failing miserably. And the main cause of that failure was human relationships, or the lack of empathy and understanding in a high stress environment. And so Zachs startup and my startup, you know, the founder, we weren’t founders, but they were the founders of those startups were having issues with each other. And they basically imploded their startups. And so despite having a successful business, they sort of, you know, shut the company down and left a lot of people, me and Zach included, out of jobs. And so we sat down to talk to each other one day, and we sort of commiserated and said, like, hey, like, you know, it taught us a really powerful lesson in hindsight. And the lesson was, like, it’s always people, first, people always matter. It’s the heart of everything we do. And without that, like, nothing can get done. And nothing really matters, honestly, both personally and professionally. And so we said, we made a little pact ourselves and said, We were fast becoming friends and made a little pact with ourselves and said, if we were ever to do this, again, we will make sure to focus on people. And so it kind of became a prophecy that became true, because several years later, Zach went on. And he has a really fascinating background. But he went on to Goldman, which is, and sort of had a really fantastic career there. While I went on to work in another startup, and really focused in on this idea of like, relationships matter. So it was in the space of marketing analytics, which I didn’t care too much for. But the people were fantastic. They were like, really warm, wonderful human beings. And those, that experience really showed me like, wow, like, if you put the right people together, like anything is possible, and good work falls from working great people. And when we when it was time for us to both decide that we wanted to leave, we sort of talk to each other into like, hey, like, what’s next? And we had many, many, many nights of conversations. And we just kept coming back to this idea, this space. And we said, why hasn’t anyone done this? And I think that was that was the catalyst was just like, Why? Why is no one working on this, this feels super important. We have this issue. We have, we want to be better than relationships, we’re really busy. And we just need a tool that gets out the way and just helps us. And so that sort of became the seeds of Clay. But you know, the product today was not what we envisioned, you know, several years ago when we started working on it, and it sort of evolved. And I think the way the evolution sort of work was we just talked to people. And I think this is one of the things when it comes to bringing building great companies is that you got to always have this obsession with the customer. And I think, you know, that’s not original that’s probably credited to Jeff Bezos, and all these great companies that came before us. But you got to talk to people. And so Zach, and I just sat down. And for the first couple months, we just talked to people for a few months and all across many disciplines. Right, we talked to Zach mentioned doulas, veterinarians, politicians and just understood what they were talking about. And the commonality that came up between all those things is like, yeah, no, relationships aren’t an issue. But people express it in different ways. They either express it as if you’re a politician, you talk about your constituents, if you’re in finance, you talk about in the language of spreadsheets, and so but they’re all saying the same thing. Like yeah, it’s kind of hard to keep up with my relationships. And so we knew we had something there. And having both the design and technical background, we were able to build a prototype and go from there. And so that’s a little bit of the genesis of Clay. I don’t know if Zach wants to add in anything on that.
Zach Hamed 14:42
No, I think, you know, I think that sort of initial research phase was really important to us. We, you know, we Matt mentioned it was months, but it was, you know, 1000 people, you know, it was it was sitting down and taking notes and we had a feeling that Um, you know, there was something there. We, the politician we talked to literally had index cards that they worked with their chief of staff on. And that was the call lock. And they were saying, that’s how you win in the like a local election today is by knowing your constituents and getting out there and building your network from the ground up. And it’s manual, and it takes work. And it’s actually pencil and paper today. You know, the, the, the veterinarian who signed up wanted to remember pets names and like, literally, like, when you when somebody walks in, and you say like, How’s a little, little Winnie? You know, that’s like a really special feeling. And that’s how you like build, like, lifelong, sort of customers there. But it’s not just customers, right? We talked to people who they remember the feeling of having a Rolodex on your desk that you could flip through and see, you know, here are the people that I know, from every job previously. And when we reflected on our own careers as either first generation or immigrants, you know, I think we, we’ve had a lot of people open doors for us. And we believe that, you know, that feeling of paying it forward, that feeling of just putting out positivity, and just like being good to people, and like being a good person. And, you know, that that has gotten us jobs, it’s gotten this internship has gotten us friends, lifelong friends, it’s gotten us, you know, our, our sort of our partners in life. And so, that to us was, you know, we were like, how do we how do we think about what, how that process works. And when you when you talk to people and hear those stories, it’s a really special feeling. Everybody has a story like that, where it’s like, Oh, my God, I was, you know, walking one day, and I met this person, and they knew this other person. And then it’s, those are just really unique feelings. And so those really positive feelings, were always paired with a, just a negative story around anxiety, or forgetfulness, or around like, I was in the shower one day, and I was like, I forgot to text, you know, so and so for their birthday. And you feel just just like sagging sort of negative feeling about it. And so we were like, well, how do we just sort of minimize those feelings, while pairing it and optimizing? What we call serendipity. Sort of that feeling of meeting somebody new, of what talking to somebody that you already knew, but at the right time, or of just, you know, being a good person and being, you know, staying on top of your relationships. So that was, that was a lot of what, you know, that was the high level goals. And then it was a lot of talking to people and designing and prototyping and showing people things and saying, does this is this, you know, close to what you’re looking for, that resulted in the first version of Clay.
Joel Goldberg 17:41
I want to go back to the point that was made about immigrant first generation, because that that describes both of you. And I’m just curious, one, you know, give me a little bit of the family backgrounds, but two, if there was a bond there, with the two of you, if there was was something that that helps maybe even add to more cohesiveness? Or maybe you just hit it off, because you both had similar interest? I don’t know, Matt.
Matt Acharium 18:06
Yeah. Yeah, and this is, I’ve always struggled to talk a little bit about this, but but I’m happy to share. And I think it’s an important part of the story. And so when I first came here, one of the things that we realized was that, you know, it’s really hard to come in and start from scratch, my parents came over here. And they were, you know, well into their 60s. And it was a tough going. So we didn’t have much like, I think between all of this, we had maybe several $100, in our checking accounts combined. And so it was tough. And so we wouldn’t be I wouldn’t be in the place I am without a lot of help from other people. And whether it was, you know, all these various institutions, you know, scholarships, you know, teachers taking an extra interest in driving you home. And so, and I think that’s just not, that’s just not my experience. It’s an experience that a lot of immigrants go through where like, when you have nothing like what you rely on, you rely on community, and that bond, your word is your bond. And without that, you have nothing. And so that lesson was taught to me over and over again, that we have to paid for it, we have to be kind. And those values, sort of like form the bedrock of my belief system. And I think very similar to Zack, he was the first his parents came here and underwent a lot of the similar things. And you know, he worked really hard to get to where he was at, and I always admired that about him. And so, that sort of ethos around like, you know, when you strip away everything, like you just have to rely on this other human being. And so that to me, was a powerful lesson.
Joel Goldberg 19:44
Yeah, no, it is powerful. That your family came over from Malaysia, I believe, right.
Matt Acharium 19:49
Joel Goldberg 19:50
You were you were how old?
Matt Acharium 19:52
I was. I forget now, I was 15.
Joel Goldberg 19:57
And the fact that if the research is right, I think got, ended up in high school in New Jersey?
Matt Acharium 20:03
Joel Goldberg 20:04
And so I mean, I can only imagine how I think about this a lot, because I didn’t have that experience my grandparents did. And so, you know, I always get back to it. At some point, we were all immigrants. And my fear is that, you know, generation by generation, it goes away. And so my, you know, my kids now they don’t, they don’t have it. Like I do, at least because I remember my grandparents, none of them are alive anymore. But you know, I heard enough stories, I knew enough things I heard about coming over on the boat, from Russia on and on that type of stuff. Just throwing my two cents in. Zach, how about how about your family story?
Zach Hamed 20:39
Yeah, my, my mom was Greek came over with her family settled down in historic Queens, big Greek population there. And then my dad actually was one of five or six kids and had to support his mom, single mom. And so he was in they were in Egypt. And he basically went to Europe for a period of time, and then came here, got a master’s technical degree, worked basically, you know, 18 hours a day, every day. And they met in Hunter College. So in New York, they’re both my mom was a teacher, or studying to be a teacher. And my, my dad was studying accounting and computer programming, which sort of ended up being my interest. You know, we always had computers around, we always had, you know, a bunch of just computer parts laying around. And Matt actually has similar stories. And so that was how we got interested in programming websites and design and computers, was just having that around. But it wasn’t, you know, I think, looking at my parents and looking, looking at how we grew up, you know, it was, it was not easy for them. And it was also, you know, I think you have to, at least it was always imparted to me, like you all, you have to study two times harder, you have to be two times better, you have to, you have to know your stuff, because that’s how you prove yourself and stand out. And you have to sort of be a be a, a model, sort of citizen, and every one of those respects, going through school, going through college studying for exams, like it was always, you know, I, my dad was like, teaching the times tables, my multiplication tables in like second grade. And I was like, I remember knowing like, I shouldn’t know this at this point. But it was just like, you have to know this now. Because when you go into third grade, you need to be the one that knows that stuff. So I think Matt and I both similarly had, you know, pretty rigorous childhoods, but ones that allowed us to sort of, you know, later in life, be able to express the interests that we had.
Joel Goldberg 22:56
Right? That’s, I mean, that’s the survival, oftentimes, that is absolutely needed for an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. And, you know, I, I, I believe my work ethic came from that even though I didn’t live that life. I didn’t I It wasn’t being preached to me, I don’t think the way it was you but it had been preached to my parents the way it was preached to, you know, so it just, you know, and then you hope overtime that that doesn’t, erode. I was not doing the type of math or programming that you guys were doing at that age. My mom, though, she’s got that background, and she’s a great story in terms of learning computer programming late, it’s a sidebar, and I’ll move back on to where we’re at.
Matt Acharium 23:34
I’m just gonna, do you share that those values with your children? So how do you keep that alive? How do you respect that that heritage?
Joel Goldberg 23:40
You know, I think we probably do a pretty bad job of it in terms of being intentional on it. But I also think that, at least for me, my hope, and certainly you mentioned it, but my hope is that they, they don’t know any other way. This is what they see. You know, for me, it wasn’t even that it was preached so much. I think it was preparing my parents, but I watched them getting up at 530. Every single morning, I watched them going in and working nonstop every single day. And so I didn’t really know any other way. Like this is just what you do. You don’t lay around and wait for it. And so I think that you know, I think that’s part of it. Right? And and we’re a product of our environments, but I do think that that is the fear to connect those dots as the generations go on is difficult. But I also watched my mom was mentioning, she was told both my parents grew up in New Jersey, and she was told that going to college went to Montclair State in New Jersey that women this is in the 60s now can either be nurses or teachers and so that’s what the only choice she was really given. And, and after she had my brother and me. She stopped working. She stopped teaching she was a music teacher and she ended up going back to community college and studying computer programming and then started working in that industry and then started managing people and then started being an upper management, all the things that she was told she never could have done. And so I think that they’re just a lot of powerful lessons along a lot of ways that that were passed down to me and hopefully passed on to my kids. But that’s just a little bit of my brief history. I love among the many things about Clay. And you discussed it a little bit when I think about you said the politician knowing everybody’s name, it’s like straight out of Veep, or somebody’s whispering in their ear. People say to me all the time, how do you remember? I don’t, I’m terrible at this stuff. on the simplest level, that the hack for me is to go into my phone contacts and put in the spouse or put in the child or put in that and then you can remember, every athlete that I’ve ever covered, I have a running list in my notes page of said siblings or significant others and so that you can remember them because there are too many people, it’s well beyond the 125 that you recommended. The beauty to me of Clay is that I’ll give this example. And then just from my perspective, when we go and play next year, the San Francisco Giants, I the Kansas City Royals, I may or may not remember that Matt’s out in San Francisco. But if I type into Clay, San Francisco, his name is going to come up along with anybody else that is there right now, or maybe live there in the past. And it’ll trigger that for me. And I could say, Hey, I’d love to see, see if Matt is interested in some coffee. I’m not putting you on the spot right now. I would love that we’re playing the Yankees next year, I’ll put it in New York, probably even more names will pop up and Zach’s gonna pop up there, it is so intuitive and birthdays and reminders and cadence in terms of I want to reach out in six months or one year on and on and on. What did it take to get to this point, Zach, to be able to figure all of that out? And how much are your heads constantly going, saying, what else is there?
Zach Hamed 27:17
I love that. That’s a great question. You know, I think when we started, it might help to give a little bit of like a little historical anecdote, because we looked at, we knew people had been doing this for a while, right? Like people people do this manually today. And the story we started with the first version of the Clay website was a story about David Rockefeller. And what David Rockefeller did, he was the sort of younger brother of, of John Rockefeller, in many ways, sort of the black sheep of the family. You know, he was less gregarious, he was less, you know, he’s a little bit more introverted. And so what he did, what he began doing, as a kid was writing down on index cards, the name of a person, and facts about them. And that was it. And just like you were doing in your Contacts app, you know, that’s, that’s where he started. And by the time he passed away, his estate had basically 100,000 index cards. And that included people, heads of state, you know, people that he had met, and the facts were in just, you know, here’s, you know, a spouse’s name, or a kid’s name, it was also what did they have for dinner when they came over? Because maybe they had an allergy, or they didn’t like the food, or they didn’t like, you know, they didn’t like the person they were sitting next to. And so he credited that to being the way that he could, he could, you know, people, people would talk about him and say that they could just talk to him, and it was as if he, you just pick up where you left off. And that’s a really special feeling. And to us that wasn’t, you know, to do that in a way that’s not transactional, where where people, you know, people care about that stuff, right. It’s, you know, I think, I think it’s increasingly common to feel like, our memories are sort of blurry, right? Like, that’s happening during COVID. That’s happening, you know, just because of, you know, how much we offload to our digital lives is, you know, it’s not, you know, we know more people, there are more things to know about them. We’re increasingly, you know, scrolling on feeds and bombarded with information. And so the things we actually want to remember, it ends up we can’t and so, to us, we said, you know, what are the things that people want to remember about other people? And how do we make every one of those things easier. And so that’s sort of where we, where we began, and that was, you know, a year or two of really hard work of building it ourselves, and then bringing on a team where we could build the product that would help people be more thoughtful at scale and that meant, you know, for many different types of people across many different networks and ways and ways of caring for people. And so on a very tangible level, that means that you sign up for Clay, you add your contacts, your Facebook, your LinkedIn, Twitter, email, calendar, whatever, wherever people live today, we will bring in all those people, we will tell you the things that you were, you know, you had to write down manually the like, you know, where are they now? Like, you know, what if what cities are they in, so I can say hi, things like, you know, where they went to school and things like that pulled from pulled from, you know, the public, you know, profiles that they have on other social networks, but that way, you can focus on the things that you actually want to remember. And so it’s things like, you know, those those kids names? What are they looking to do, you know, next year? You know, when’s their birthday? And how can I reach out? And what do I give them, you know, for their birthday last year, so that I can give something even better this year, all those things that today is just totally scattershot across many different, you know, if you do it at all, and so, what we were trying to achieve with our team was say, we want to build that as a really human product, and do it in a way that is entirely non transactional. So we do not email people on your behalf, we do not, you know, we privacy is a core value of ours. And that is staying, you know, as much information as we can stays local on your device. And so we were, you know, we’re sort of in this middle ground between these like social networks, where there’s, you know, a ton of really valuable information and data. And, you know, you learn things when you’re scrolling on Facebook, for sure. But at the same time, we heard all these things, you know, there’s all the downsides of social media as well. And same with software, right, like building something that helps you remember, you know, the people in your life, especially when people have different love languages, right. Some people, it’s gifts for some people, it’s, you know, spending time together in person. And so that’s what we, you know, that first two years was even just getting a full picture of who you know, and then allowing you to express care over time. And so we have a long way to go in that in the sort of the vision, which, you know, I think Matt can also talk about of where we want to get to, but you know, even the even the things you were describing around who do I know, in the city? Who should I be chatting with this week? You know, searching, you know, you can do things like searching my, the people that I know, on Facebook, by, you know, by interest by who who loves baseball, who I’m friends with on Facebook, who Who do I know, in San Francisco, who I haven’t seen in a while, who, you know, works at this particular company? Those are things you just type out? It’s no, it’s not complicated, just like your contacts app. So that to us is we do a lot of engineering and product work to get to something really simple and beautiful and elegant for a lot of those things.
Joel Goldberg 32:59
It’s so smooth and so easy. Matt, what do you want to add to that?
Matt Acharium 33:02
No, that was that was a lot. And I think that describes Clay a lot in a nutshell. But I think one thing to sort of summarize it the way we think about it internally, we probably think about it as three phases, right? It’s who you know, how well you know them and how to be better. Those are the core pillars of like everything we do, and it sort of goes into those things. And it also follows that those stages, right? So when he first started, the technical challenge was like, man, like, all these relationships are fragmented across all these other things that Zach mentioned. Right? So it’s the who you know part. And so we said, this is a huge challenge. There’s billion dollar companies just devoted to this one thing, but we have to deliver on this in order to do the other thing. And so it’s like a level of unlock, that we unlock each time when we solve one problem. So we said, It’s okay, we’ll figure it out. And also, we’re going to figure it out in a way that respects your privacy, and makes you better at relationships. And so we kind of stack the deck against this. But now in hindsight, like, you know, while was a really tough technical challenge, we closed the only way we know how to bring all these relationships across all these different separate networks. And the benefit of that is you get then you get to the house, which is the second part of the second pillar that we focus on internally. And how you know them is so fluid, right? Like, we might chat over email, and then move to text messaging, and then like go to become Facebook, friends, and your relationship, especially your digital relationship is all over in different places. But now you have it holistically in one place. So we can then start doing things like Hey, who’s Joel most close to? And that before before Clay there’s, there was no way to do that. And you might have to do that mentally. Or like I know a lot of folks just go into their email and like when’s the last time I emailed them, but like that doesn’t represent anything in a very good way. And so now the last challenge, which we think is probably the infinite game that we’re going to be playing for the rest of our lives is how well like how to get people to be better at that. And Zach said like, we We draw a very hard line, we don’t want to take away the humanity from relationships, we want to do all the manual, the dirty work that so you don’t have to do any of that stuff. And so you can just focus in on being better. And so what is being better being better is like remembering, right? Like, that’s the first pillar of it. But then let’s go beyond that, let’s start anticipating things, right. So like, if I know Joel is coming to San Francisco, and we’re both connected on Clay, I can give Zach a heads up like two weeks beforehand that he’s coming. And so like this anticipation, now you start getting these very interesting things. And I mean, the next part of Clay, which, you know, I’m sharing a little bit of yours, like, you know, we’re very focused on AI, and all the things all the all the good things that you can bring in the context of relationships. And so that’s the future bit. Were moving from just deepening these relationships to like, seeing like, what am I what am I missing? Like, what am I not looking at, that you’re not even thinking about? And how can Clay help you be better at that? And so that’s the holy grail for us. And we’re constantly working with that. And yeah, and, again, the high level vision or mission is like, you know, we want to help raise human conscientiousness, if we can even move that by 1%. We feel like our job is done. And it’s a really lofty goal. But like everyone on the team, and we jump out of beds in the morning, because we’re super energized by that idea of just helping people care about others, through software.
Joel Goldberg 36:20
You know, what I hear from both of you guys, it’s really refreshing to is, I could see it actually, as you know, we can see each other here, virtually, I could see it in your body language, I could hear it in your voices is just the passion for this, which makes sense. But that’s not the case for everybody, you know, and understandably, not everybody loves what they do. Not everybody, but I’ve got to think that it is such a fun, I know stressful. I know, there’s a lot going on you guys, you’re working absurdly hard. But it has to feel so good to be able to follow a passion one that’s evolved over time. And I’m curious what it has been like in this day and age where it’s very normal now to have two people running your company from opposite sides of the country. Yet I see so many companies struggling right now. With Office, hybrid home, the world’s changing, right. I mean, you guys are changing with it, you’re helping usher in some of that change. Just real quick, Zach, how have you guys managed this sort of post pandemic world?
Zach Hamed 37:31
Yeah, it’s a great question. I think, you know, we started out, we were in New York, Matt and I were, you know, we, we started out in coffee shops, just working together and in our own apartments, and then then moved to, we had an office and we began hiring people. And then basically three months into that we, we had to retool everything. And so, you know, I think we, the world has changed. We have an entirely remote team now. We have people in, in Texas, in South Carolina, in Oregon, and California, in Europe. And it takes a lot of, you know, I think it takes a lot of careful planning around team building, it takes a lot of careful planning around how do you bring people together, in a way, you know, when they’re not sitting, you know, right next to each other. And Matt and I were, you know, used to sitting next to each other, and I have a messy desk, and he has a very clean desk, so that it’s probably better that we’re not sitting next to each other. But, you know, I think we, you know, on the on the one hand, we miss that, that feeling of everybody having people in the office, but on the other hand, you know, we wouldn’t have been able to meet all of the team members we have, if we were, you know, trying to hire in New York, it would have been a very different experience. And we have a really a really, really terrific, amazing team. And so we brought them together for the first time since COVID, earlier this year, and that was a really unique feeling for all these people who, you know, some of whom we had only met digitally, to come together and spend time together. And it was as if it was as if we had met and have known each other for forever, like it was, you know, we walked in and it was like, you know, just picking up where we left off. And that was that was a really special feeling. So, you know, I think there there are ways to, you know, make it work and different companies will will choose differently depending on what they’re doing. I think, you know, it was the right choice for us. And we’re, we’re happy that we were able to, you know, make that transition. But it is certainly a very different, you know, having having done both for brief periods of time. They’re very different, you know, the skills you have to have as a leader are very different the, the ways the types of people, you hire a very different like, it’s all sort of building culture in that way, which I think Matt excels at, you know, I think he, he thinks very deeply about how to do Structure teams and communication and things like that. And so, you know, Matt, I don’t know if you want to add anything to that, I think it’s, yeah,
Matt Acharium 40:07
No, and to be honest, I think one of the thing is there’s no substitution for being together in person. I think if you start from that as a fundamental value, it becomes easy to understand what the holes are that you have to fill when you’re working with a remote team. And I think for us, we realize the benefits of just like doing a lot of culture. Like, you, one of the things that you miss when you go from digital remote is like, all these little interactions that happen in between work, right, like doing work is fine. Like, we have a million tools that will help us you know, be more productive output more stuff and collaborate. The thing that’s really missing from the from when you go offline online, is this sense of like, you know, some people call it the watercooler talk or like passing between hallways, and I think Pixar famously did this study where their whole office was designed around this idea of collisions, collisions of ideas of different departments. So like this open office, this idea of like, different teams talking different each other’s like, actually fostered innovation. And so in the absence of that, how do you do it. And so we think very seriously about company culture activities, where we spend, we make time every Friday, you know, to spend time with each other, where we’re expressedly, explicitly not talking about work. And then when we meet up in person, we take time to do a lot of fun things. And we encourage folks to, to be online to sort of like communicate their digital presence to like, you know, have, like have them express themselves like they would in the real world. And then we do a lot of like, it was hard because of the pandemic, but we’re ramping up in person time as well, just bringing folks together, and just letting people hang. And just, you know, it doesn’t take too much. It’s just the absence of that really damages some companies and I think, particularly in our field, in software engineering, like the emphasis is on the software, right. But a lot of these huge human qualities get lost in the mix, when you’re trying to, like, ever optimize for productivity. And to your point, I think that’s where a lot of tech companies fail.
Joel Goldberg 42:12
I couldn’t agree more. I mean, you know, some of my favorite groups to speak to, then I speak on culture, teamwork, team building leadership. connectivity, is engineers, tech world, I mean, so many of the brilliant people that maybe didn’t always have to worry about those soft skills. But boy, when you have those, it’s a game changer to write. And it’s that next level stuff, really everything that you’re doing with clay, to help people with their jobs, whatever they are. And so this becomes harder in this day and age where everybody’s spread apart. And by the way, I mean, I was thinking about this, as you’re both describing it. It seems like you have mastered it, or at least figured out what is working, and others have not. But it’s different for every single situation to there’s not one size fits all on it. But I think the key is to find that, that camaraderie, that connectivity, what goes into culture, right from from a distance. And it’s I think it’s one of the most fascinating aspects of the workplace right now. In the world, certainly here in the United States. And I’m sure everywhere else, too. And it’s one that I hear from more CEOs in terms of concerns in terms of anxiety in terms of confusion, really, and I just think it’s it’s it’s a fascinating development right now in the world as to where we’re going. And so you guys certainly are, are making it work and figuring that out. Last thing real quick, before we get to the baseball themed questions, either one of you can jump in. I know that you just had another launch. Another another big moment. Who wants to tell me about that?
Matt Acharium 44:01
Sure, yeah. We we have been in beta for a long time, as you can tell, because Clay is very complicated software. And we’re doing a lot of new things that other companies haven’t done. And so we wanted to make sure to get it right. So this past week, we got to basically get on the front page of a very popular tech site, which sort of like aggregates the best new products and technology, kind of like our top board type website, which was called product and so we made it as at the top, you know, the team was pretty excited. It was very galvanizing experience, and it sort of blew us away like we’ve gotten and we’re still sort of dealing with the fallout like you can tell. Zach and I, we’re very tired but very excited and brought on a ton of people and we’re sort of energized by the next phase of Clay. I don’t know. Zach, anything else to add to the, to the launch?
Zach Hamed 45:02
No, yeah, it was we brought on, we basically doubled how many people we had, you know, very quickly in several days. And so, you know, we we planned for this moment, and we’re very excited to keep it going. But the outpouring, you know, I think the thing that we love seeing in these moments, we did this, we won two Webby Awards earlier this year. That’s like, sort of the tech, like, I don’t even know if like, I’m not gonna say Oscars, but like, it’s like, it’s like a good award in tech. And then, and then we had this and in both cases, we had people, you know, who, you know, we didn’t even know we’re using Clay, they reach out and they say, this is the you know, they’re posting on Twitter, their Facebook, LinkedIn, emailing us directly, just saying, like, keep up the great work, this has changed my life. We have people who are telling us that they got new jobs from from updates they saw in Clay. And that’s like really special to us. And so that it’s always great to simultaneously see all the new people coming in. And then seeing the like, the real success stories and the positive stories of people who have had it changed their life. And that, you know, it’s it we it’s easy to forget, but it’s it’s, that’s what keeps us going to
Joel Goldberg 46:11
It is the Oscars version of your world or the Emmy version of my world. It’s the Webby Award Winner for Best Work and Productivity app, People’s Voice winner. So I mean, you guys are getting that recognition. I know there’s more to come, I want to hit you with three baseball themed questions. You can each take one or wherever you want to go. So let’s start with the home run. I think probably in terms of plan, and I guess you can go anywhere you want. What’s been the biggest home run for you guys?
Matt Acharium 46:46
Yeah, I think I was thinking about this question and knew it was coming. And honestly, for me, this is cliche to say, but it is quite and continues to be a homerun. It’s the most successful rewarding thing of that I’ve done in my personal life so far. And I get to work with Zack every day in our team, who’s just incredible. And yeah, and I think particularly because the stark contrast, all the other things I’ve done, which are, were either failures or learning opportunities, and having something that resonates with someone, and not only resonates with someone else, but also deeply mirrors the values that you share, is it feels especially like a home run. And I think Zach would agree with me on that one. So we probably have the same answer.
Joel Goldberg 47:39
The next one other than just for me to comment that it’s, it’s, it’s a beautiful thing when you find that that right? You know, partner that that right? Collaboration, and, you know, some people can go a lifetime without ever finding it. And you both found it at a point where you could do something with it, which is amazing. That how about a swing and a miss? There are a lot of swings to miss when you’re a startup and you’re an entrepreneur and you’re a programmer, I can only imagine what has not made it or what, what you tried and had to shake your head over. But what’s the biggest swing and miss? And what did you learn from it?
Zach Hamed 48:15
I haven’t I haven’t early any, we have a lot of professional ones, like a lot, a lot of professional ones. I have a very sort of impactful early career one for me. So you know, I like I said I was applying to I had a scholarship I was applying to. High school was very high pressure. I was I guess fourth or fifth grade. And so in New York, I go in this is like a nice, you know, very nice school, all the smart people go here, and there’s a lot of pressure on me. And I was very nervous. And so I go in and I meeting the admissions counselor. And you know, she’s sitting down to the final interview, my parents had just gone in and been interviewed to. So I was like, Okay, this is like, okay, they’re like good luck. So I’m sitting there, and she’s asked me a ton of questions. You know, what are you what are your favorite subjects. And, you know, here are your grades and tell me about a project you worked on. And this is like, it’s like a college interview, but like in high school, and so I was like, this is like, the most stressful thing that has ever happened to me. And so I’m like, I, you know, I’m not gonna say I was doing well, but I was doing well. You know, I was I was like, going great. You know, this is going this is going fantastic. And then I get to, you know, we’re like wrapping things up at the end. And she’s like, cool. So do you know, do you have any hobbies? And, and literally, she probably meant it as like a as like an easy sort of, you know, underhand question. For me. It was I was like, I just totally choked. I was just like, did not I couldn’t think of anything I had done and frankly I just like, you know, I like like boring like I was like I was a kid I watched TV board games reading I don’t know but like it’s not like I didn’t have like I wanted something that was like impressive. And so I like sat there I’m trying to make like a calculate like what what does she want to hear like what So the right answer for this, is there a right answer? Like, I was like, I was just like birdwatching. And she was like, okay, in Queens? And I was like, Oh, shoot. So like Queens is known for a lot of things. It’s known for like good food and like proximity to subways, and you know, Citi Field, maybe, but it’s not known for birdwatching. So I was like, Oh, God, so I’m like, pigeons, sparrows like, got a lot you don’t know. And so she looks at me and I look at her. And we’re just like, we’re just as like, the standoff because she knows that I’m like, I’m, you were definitely. Yeah, I was definitely that I was just like, I do that I knew, like, I don’t know anything about. So literally, I leave and I’m like, I bombed this, like, I that was, that was like the worst possible thing. I’m never doing this again. And so I’m, like, close to crying. And then I end up getting in, and I go, and I taught and like, literally, I’m like, I need to, like, I need to say something like, this is like, like, embarrassing. And so I go in, and she was like, the entire office was cracking up. This was amazing. You know, don’t worry about like, it’s just like, hilarious. And so that taught me two things, just from a from a swing. And Miss perspective. Number one was, you know, you don’t have to prove anything to anybody, don’t be someone you’re not. And number two, you know, maybe two months later, I had totally forgotten about that story. Literally, I had to like, I was like talking, I went back to my high school. I’ve remembered it by being there. But I had totally forgotten about. And so I think for me, like, I have a terrible memory. And it’s actually an asset in a lot of ways. And so things like that, like the swings and a miss mad. And I joke that like, you know, things will happen every day in business. And I just like, it’s like, it’s like a scab, you know, like I forget about it. It’s like it says if it didn’t happen, and I think that that’s resilience, I think that’s just sort of being able to get through things and move on from them. So that you can keep, you know, keep going. So that’s my, that’s my,
Joel Goldberg 52:00
I love it. It’s a great story. You’re you’re swing and amiss and you’re lost and not stay with you as of the current and having habitants of the Citi field. Will won’t forget they’re there recently.
Zach Hamed 52:14
Joel Goldberg 52:16
Shot at the Mets. Doesn’t really matter. I do think, you know, my broadcast partner, Jeff Montgomery 304 career saves. And what I always hear is he in his role as a closer, but I think it’s truly in his former role as a closer but any closer baseball or any of us for that matter in life is you have to have a short memory, because you got to move on to the next thing. So I think there’s a great lesson there. Final baseball theme question as we wrap it up, small ball. Matt, what is small ball? What are the little things that add up to the big results?
Matt Acharium 52:46
Yeah, and I think for us this, I really liked this question, because it is, I strongly believe that the little things matter, there’s little details. And for us and Clay, in particular, just to take it back to work as this element of craft, right. And so while a lot of our customers in our members and who use Clay, appreciate us for like good design, and like, you know, like usability and like the app is actually great. The thing that we sweat a lot over are like, you know, the the edges of the buttons, and you know, sort of like the back of the back of the cabinet type work where like no one ever sees it. But we know it’s there. And we want to spend time on it. And so everyone in the team is aligned the same way. And it just takes a lot of effort, right? Like we could take shortcuts we could do. We could do the easy thing. But we would know we did the easy thing. And that doesn’t sit right with us. So whether it comes to doing right by our customers from like a customer service perspective, or whether it comes from like, you know, the way we engineer things, and the way we treat people, like the little details, and the craft and attention to detail is super important. And I think to me, there’s like a lot of different expressions of care and love. And giving your time to something or to someone is the highest expression of that. And it doesn’t take a lot. But it is it is something you have to do every day day in and day out and spend time on it. And it’s not hard. And so I really respect folks who do that in any field. And it’s clearly evident that you do and you care a lot about what you do, and which is why we love being here. And we love talking to you. So just to close it.
Joel Goldberg 54:27
It’s great. And it’s funny as as you were talking about that I was thinking okay, when’s the first time that I talked with you, Matt, I met you first and then said okay, and we this is a little bit too another answer that you said but you know about people and you know, you guys made an impression you reached out to me said hey, we’d love your feedback. And it was like I said, it’s audiences all the time. You know, we all want more than anything, is we just want to be heard. And we want our opinions valued. And so you know And you reached out to that, to me on that it was it was great to be able to do that. And then, so Okay, who’s the other guy that you know we were talking with that was on that call. And it took me like three seconds to figure that out just by going into Clay. And now I can go and see that that Wes was on that call. And he’s in Chicago, and he’s from Cincinnati, and he’s a Reds fan. That’s just notes that I added in. And now I can go back and look at it. So it’s just a way of me tying this all up and saying that, that you guys are making people’s lives easier. You’re doing it with care. And it’s really an amazing thing. I’ve got four quick bonus questions for you on YouTube. So hang tight, but I want to let everybody know, if you’re interested in this. I recommend it just from a personal standpoint, from my experience, just go to clay.earth, and and check it out, go down a really fun rabbit hole. Zach, Matt, thank you guys both very much. I need to make sure now that I have Hamad and Achariam in my notes for each of us so that I always know how to pronounce the last name. So don’t screw that up in the future until it becomes repetition in my head. Clay could help with that one as well. But congratulations, guys on the awards, on the success, on the hard work and all of what is to come. Appreciate you both joining me on Rounding the Bases.
Matt Acharium 56:14
Thank you so much.
Yeah, it’s an honor to be here.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai