Q&A: Bret Taylor on his Journey from Google and Facebook to the Rise of Quip

- Leadership - Oct 17, 2014

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Quip was founded in September 2012 by Bret Taylor and Kevin Gibbs, who worked together at Google and have been influential in a number of heavyweight products and brands including Google Maps, Google App Engine and Facebook.

Today, thousands of companies across a wide range of industries have adopted their new venture, Quip to make communication and collaboration more efficient.

We asked Bret Taylor, CEO of Quip and former Chief Technology Officer at Facebook, on his journey into starting the new enterprise and where he thinks the sector is headed.

BRE: What is Quip?

BT: Quip is a beautiful mobile productivity suite that enables you to collaborate on any device. Quip combines chat, documents, spreadsheets, checklists, and more in a simple and elegant interface that makes collaboration easy. With Quip, you work with people, not files.

Who uses it? 

Since Quip's launch, the product has grown from a new product used by a handful of early adopters to a mature collaboration suite used by hundreds of thousands of people and over 10,000 companies across the world.

Outside of the US, our biggest territories are the UK, China and Italy — where we've had a great response from users using the product both for personal and business purposes. All of our existing customers have started trying Quip out personally and then brought it to their teams at work.

Our customers range from Fortune 500 companies to small start-ups; from marketing teams to engineering teams; from headquarters staff to field reps. We hear of people using Quip for joint grocery lists, writing their applications to university, and planning family holidays.

At work, we get feedback all the time from companies and teams using it to communicate across continents and get work done.

How can you convince those sceptical about cloud and online security?

Data from Quip Documents are stored in the cloud to enable syncing across all your devices. Quip uses the industry standard best practices for cloud services, including requiring HTTPS connections to our servers for security, firewalls protecting our database servers, off-site backups for user data, and the security provided by our hosting provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Why did you quit Facebook to form this new start-up?

I loved working at Facebook but it also gave me a front row seat to how big the shift to mobile really was. I realized it was a once in a lifetime change — as big as the introduction of the personal computer — and shifts like this create opportunities for start-ups in a different way.

I love building companies so I knew it was important to leave and start something on my own.

In your opinion, how long do you think it will be before app-based services are preferred to using traditional licensed software? 

When I left Facebook two years ago to start Quip, I was dismayed by the state of 'enterprise' software.

The software I used outside of work, like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter, was simple, elegant, and convenient — and, most importantly, integrated with my phone, so I could communicate whether or not I was near a computer. The software I was forced to use at work was just the opposite.

Most of the software I used at work, whether it was to submit an expense report or share a document, was tethered to the PC on my desk, a relic of an era when the state of the art was a Nokia flip phone.

The user interfaces were barely functional and almost completely devoid of emotion. More often than not, it felt as if I was interacting with a database rather than the other human beings on my team.

Quip, along with a number of other promising young start-ups, is trying to reverse this trend, and we're making progress. People's expectations for software have fundamentally changed in the age of devices like the iPhone.

If the software you use at work doesn't work well, you'll just download a different app from the App Store and use something else. For the first time, a great product matters a lot more than a great sales team.

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