Founder Q&A: Seven Years of Dialpad

Earlier this year, Dialpad celebrated seven years in business. To commemorate this milestone we asked each of our founders-- Craig Walker, Brian Peterson and John Rector-- to reflect on their journey together and what the the last seven years have meant to them. Here's what they had to say...

What were the early days of Dialpad like?

CW: Believe it or not our culture was pretty much the same as it is today. The biggest difference was our office and product. Back then we were working with 2,500 square feet in downtown Pleasanton and a confusing, visually funky v1 of UberConference that required a unique PIN for everybody we couldn't identify by Caller ID.  

BP: I remember we were releasing updates like crazy and always experimenting with different UX/UI and feature changes.

JR: We were super scrappy. Craig moves fast so we'd always have a hundred balls in the air and always be powering ahead.

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What’s been the most challenging part of growing the business to where it is today?

CW: It turns out telecom is very complicated, particularly worldwide.  Bringing on larger and larger customers with broader global needs was tricky at first..but thankfully we had some experience from Google Voice and were able to do it well.  

BP: For me it was the people management. When you start getting bigger your priority shifts from strictly building products to also building people and careers.

JR: Also figuring out the best way to communicate with each other. Craig standing up and saying, "Hey I think we need to do some Google Maps integration!" stopped scaling very quickly.

What's been your proudest moment?

CW: Winning TechCrunch Disrupt for UberConference was a major early achievement. Outside of that, we're extremely proud to offer enterprise quality voice services worldwide.

BP: Seriously. Building a full fledged business cloud phone system with all the bells and whistles that's reliable worldwide, in as little time as we did, is practically unheard of. It's so technically difficult to do. 

JR: I'd also add landing our first big customer, Motorola. Getting a real business to believe in us was incredible validation and motivation. 

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Is there anything you'd have done differently?

CW: We definitely wouldn't have spent as much time working on some of our other early projects. 

BP: Agreed.

JR: And I'd have brought on all our great former co-workers sooner.

What have you learned from the last seven years?

CW: I've learned success is often out of your control. Starting Dialpad was a huge gamble. We essentially bet everything on the belief that most companies would start adopting cloud for services like business communications. Had we been wrong, it would have materially changed our entire business.

BP: I've learned the importance of personality-fit when building a team. Anyone can look good on paper but if they're just here for the perks they aren't going to be happy. Good engineers are passion-driven. They live and breathe the engineering mindset, regardless of free laundry or unlimited PTO.

JR: I've learned that no two customers will ever use our product the same way.

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What's your best piece of advice for other startup founders and entrepreneurs?

CW: Get ready for the grind! We're seven years into the Dialpad story and it's amazing but it's truly a full time, day-in and day-out grind, particularly when you're successful.

BP: You need to have a really good team from the start. It's fine to be a sole founder but don't expect to get too far on an MBA and a good idea alone. You need engineers and designers to execute.

JR: And don't ever underestimate the value of building your professional network across business functions. Like Brian said, it'll pay off hugely when it's time to build out your company.

What do you look forward to in the next seven years?

CW: More and more companies using our products!

BP: Definitely looking forward to becoming a household name. It’s just a matter of time. 

JR: Honestly, I can't wait for the next seven years of engineering challenges.

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Dialpad is the phone system designed for the way you work