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How Zeb Evans Constructed ClickUp from Life-Threatening Moments


Foundr Journal publishes in-depth interviews with the world’s biggest entrepreneurs. Our articles spotlight key takeaways from every month’s cowl function. We talked with Zeb Evans, cofounder of ClickUp, about disrupting the undertaking administration trade. Learn excerpts from that in-depth dialog under. To learn extra, subscribe to the journal.

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The 17-year-old’s hand shook as he raised the gun to Zeb Evans’ brow. Adrenaline overwhelmed Evans’ physique because the steel rubbed towards his pores and skin. Then, in that second of maximum uncertainty, he gained readability.

His id didn’t have to be outlined by a diploma.

“I had that realization once I had the gun pointed to my head—that this isn’t what I need to do with my life,” Evans says.

Evans was an undergraduate pupil when he was a sufferer of a house invasion theft. Fortuitously, he wasn’t harmed, however his future had a brand new outlook.

“[I realized,] I don’t need to go work for another person. I don’t need to proceed studying enterprise, since you be taught enterprise by doing,” Evans says.

The subsequent day, Evans dropped out of faculty and began working as an entrepreneur. Twelve years after the house invasion, Evans is now CEO and co-founder of ClickUp, an all-in-one productiveness administration device valued at $4 billion.

The theft wasn’t the one near-death incident that formed Evans’ journey. Since that fateful day, Evans has skilled numerous life-changing moments which have knowledgeable his entrepreneurial path and contributed to his present work: disrupting the undertaking administration trade with ClickUp.

The Resolution That Turned ClickUp

ClickUp began as a way to an finish. Evans needed to create a competitor to Craigslist by making purchaser and vendor communications safer. However earlier than tackling his subsequent startup undertaking, Evans needed to resolve a productiveness downside that had bothered him since his first enterprise.

“It was simply this clusterf**ok of productiveness instruments. And so they have been speculated to make you extra productive, however I couldn’t assist however suppose that we have been much less productive by utilizing all of those totally different instruments.”

He began learning heavy-hitter productiveness platforms like Asana and Trello to see if there have been methods to unify their options. As he and his workforce started constructing their customized device, they found they weren’t the one ones annoyed with the pricey and sophisticated tech stack mandatory for a lot of companies to stand up and working.

“We thought it was simply going to be an inner device at first, aimed toward saving ourselves time. After which we shifted that to saving the world time as soon as we realized that there’s an enormous want for this.”

In 2017, Evans stopped battling Craigslist and began constructing an all-in-one answer for productiveness, ClickUp. He arrange the enterprise in signature Silicon Valley trend: a two-story home the place the small workforce labored on the primary ground and slept on the second.

Evans nonetheless misses the velocity at which the workforce labored on their product in these early days. In the event that they selected a function to construct on Monday, they’d ship it by Sunday.

“It’s all in regards to the product within the early days,” Evans says. “We have been 100% community-led, 100% community-driven, and I used to be the product individual—the one product individual.”

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The primary model of ClickUp was in-built six months utilizing $2.5 million from the sale of Evans’s earlier enterprise. To compete with the productiveness trade institution, the workforce used an natural search engine optimization technique by concentrating on search phrases related to Trello, Asana, and productiveness software program.

Evans attributes ClickUp’s quick progress to the group of customers and their energetic involvement within the product’s improvement.

“You need to use your customers,” Evans says. “You may’t take motion on the whole lot, however you’ll be able to take motion on the traits, the frequent patterns that individuals constantly carry up.”

Scaling to Billions

ClickUp proved profitable proper out of the gate, and the workforce shortly outgrew its authentic home/workplace house. In 2020, ClickUp was named the greatest undertaking administration product by Proddys, the gold commonplace award for the product administration group.

That’s when Evans began reaching out to traders for the primary time. Buyers have been shocked that ClickUp wasn’t burning cash and much more stunned that the corporate was worthwhile.

“In the event you can create a worthwhile enterprise at first, you recognize you’ve got a enterprise,” Evans says.

“Too many corporations go and get funded, they usually don’t have an actual enterprise.”

ClickUp raised capital by way of a high-net retention mannequin—which means they anticipated to develop their buyer base, after which these clients would pay again tenfold.

“Once you elevate a whole lot of capital, it’s OK to develop inefficiently. However it’s important to perceive learn how to [move] towards effectivity,” Evans says.

Zeb evans foundr cover
Zeb Evans on the duvet of Foundr Journal problem 112

With a worthwhile mannequin, traders, and energetic customers, ClickUp has exploded in progress over the previous two years and now has places of work in San Diego, Salt Lake Metropolis, and Dublin.

Evans says the principle problem of ClickUp’s swift rise has been managing tradition. The workforce is 40 p.c distant, however Evans says distant communication can solely go to date in constructing a cultural connection. That’s why the corporate brings the workforce collectively in individual a number of instances a yr and encourages native staff to be within the workplace twice every week.

Evans’ different tradition preserver is utilizing the corporate’s core values to teach workers. “I feel, because the founder, you assume everybody sees the imaginative and prescient,” Evans says. “However the actuality is individuals have to be bolstered with these things very steadily.”

Evans says it’s additionally necessary for core values to evolve alongside the corporate.

“You’ve received to be OK with it being dynamic,” he says. For instance, considered one of ClickUp’s early values was “progress over perfection.” As the corporate scaled and its methods grew to become extra sturdy, the worth was tailored to “progress towards perfection.”

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