Alex Zaccaria

In this episode, we talk with Alex Zaccaria, founder and CEO of Linktree. Alex and Chris discuss Linktree’s remarkable growth and how they gain around 20,000 new sign ups every day, without spending much on customer acquisition.

Problem Solving and Product Design
Problem Solving and Product Design

Problem Solving and Product Design

Ep
85
Jun
01
With
Alex Zaccaria
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Problem solving with product design

Alex Zaccaria is the founder and CEO of Linktree. You might recognize that name from the millions of Instagram profiles that use their product. If you don’t know what Linktree is, go look it up. It is quite the handy social media tool.

In this episode, Alex and Chris talk about Linktree’s remarkable growth and how they gain around 20,000 new sign ups every day, without spending much on customer acquisition. Sounds crazy right? Not if you build a great solution to a common problem.

It’s not often we get to talk shop with the founder of a tech company. Alex and his team have built something undeniably unique that even the Royal Family uses.

Prior to creating Linktree, Alex was part of a digital agency that specialized in music and entertainment, working with some of the biggest record labels, artists, and music festivals in the country.

He mainly worked on paid, go-to-market strategy for the agency. But a major pain point he experienced was sharing links specifically on Instagram. With the music industry, there are different links for merchandise, tickets, the artist’s website, and so on.

In a sense, Linktree is the result of Alex scratching his own itch. He quickly realized how difficult (and annoying) it was to share links in the bios of social media profiles. Copying and pasting links over and over again was the only way to share more information with audiences.

Rather than continue to put up with the repetitive, tedious task, Alex devised a simple, yet highly effective solution. And that’s one of the things that makes a product like Linktree so easily adoptable.

If you’re curious about what goes into launching a product, or want to hear how Alex led the product vision for Linktree, we hope you tune in o this insightful conversation.

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Episode Transcript

Alex:
That first prototype was actually built in about six hours. We kind of just, I got to NVP real quick, we started looking at branding and names and got it out to market and gave it to our clients, and then obviously after we started seeing a fair few people signing up we spent a lot more time on it and completely rebuilt it and fixed it.

Greg:
Hey there and welcome to The Futur Podcast, I'm your producer Greg Gunn and I hope you are having a wonderful day, thanks for sharing part of it with us.
Today's guest is the founder and CEO of Linktree, and you might recognize that name and probably the URL from the millions of Instagram profiles that use it. And if you don't, then go look it up, because it is quite the handy social media tool.
In this episode, Alex and Chris talk about Linktree's remarkable growth and how they gain about 20,000 new signups every day without spending much on customer acquisition. Sounds crazy, right? Well, maybe not if you build a great solution to an annoying problem.
It's not often we get to talk shop with the founder of a tech company. Alex and his team have built something undeniably unique that even the royal family uses. That's a true story. But I won't spoil anything else for you. Please enjoy our insightful conversation with Linktree founder Alex Zaccaria.

Chris:
So, I'm excited to talk to you, mostly because I don't get many opportunities to talk to founders of tech companies and this is kind of really interesting, and I'm also familiar with your company, Linktree, right? So, I read a little bit about it, so for people who don't know who you are or what you do, can you give us the introduction, please?

Alex:
Yeah, sure. Nice to be here, thanks for having me. So yeah, Linktree is a tool that helps you connect your entire online ecosystem to just one link. So it was originally four, five years ago, we built it really just to solve a really simple problem for ourselves, we were running a digital agency at the time and couldn't link out of Instagram properly for our clients, and yeah really just built it to solve a pretty simple problem, and turned out a lot more people had that problem. And fast forward a few years, now it is no longer just a tool for Instagram. It works really well on Instagram, but it's really a platform agnostic tool that helps you unify all your content and all your most recent and relevant content across your entire online ecosystem and not just online as well, just wherever your audience lives, really. We're seeing users put it on their business cards and their email signature and their resume, and then across all their social networks.

Chris:
Okay, I have so many questions. So, as you're telling me this and the little that I was able to dig up on you, it sounded to me like you scratched your own itch. Like, you thought, because you're managing people and you're like, "God, that pasting 'in bio' into your bio on Instagram is just a pain in the butt" and then the algorithm now is not chronological anymore, it's a pain, and so, you found a problem, you solved your own problem and what happens next is kind of like a wonderful, amazing thing that all people who start tech companies, start-ups, dream of having, which is this super organic growth and I see that you spend little to no money marketing. So, how did this come about? Give us a little backstory, please.

Alex:
Yeah, that's exactly right. You know, it was this simple problem from a management point of view, being able to link out of Instagram, it was definitely the algorithm problem as well, changing from chronological to algorithmic, which made the, you know you might end up seeing a post with three or four days ago, and that link in bio is no longer relevant.

Chris:
Right.

Alex:
And so, we built this tool here really for ourselves, but it was I guess an experiment for us, an exciting way to actually build it into a product, because we kind of really wanted to do that ourselves as well, rather than just build it as an internal tool. And seeing people sign up, and watching that grow was really exciting, and you know early days we just let people have it for free, really just kind of learnt from them, learnt, got feedback and just starting to get that feedback kind of really started to give us that itch. We were like, "Tell us more, what else can we do?" You know, continued to build it from there.
That first prototype was actually built in about six hours. We kind of just, I got to NVP real quick, we started looking at branding and names and got it out to market and gave it to our clients, and then obviously after we started seeing a fair few people signing up we spent a lot more time on it and completely rebuilt it and fixed it.
But it was really just a rapid prototype to see if this was a thing that would help us. And then from there, we had a lot of organic growth which is amazing through late 2016 and early 2017, there was just a lot of people just discovering the problem and obviously it's a self-referring tool, right? People will share the link and therefore people will discover the link and continue to use it in that way. We had a lot of UGC, a lot of user generated content, through 2017, just heaps and heaps of amazing coaches and people with online audiences, creating long-form videos or creating Instagram posts about how to use this great new Instagram hack or this great new tool.
We made some very conscious decisions early on to not interfere with that, to really allow our users to tell the story for themselves, rather than us kind of get in the way with our own content.

Chris:
Right.

Alex:
And really allow that content to grow. The other thing we did was make sure that the product is just exactly what people want. You know, if people love the product, promoting advocacy rather than referral, we deliberately didn't put a referral program in place. We wanted to just make the product something that people would actively share themselves because they love it and it suits their needs, it solves their problem and therefore they will use is, and I think that continued even once we did monetize and put a PRO version on. Our philosophy's always been 'add value to the PRO, never take value away from the free'.
You know, we see freemium products where you just completely restrict the functionality of the free version, you get to a point where it's not really that valuable to you, and for us, we wanted to make sure that free version was just as amazing to use. You know, a huge amount of users still see huge value in it and therefore they'll use it, and they'll share it, and more and more people will discover it and that's how we've gotten to the point of such huge organic growth still continuing with really not spending any money, or barely any money on paid acquisition.

Chris:
I know what Linktree is, and if you're on Instagram, there is good chance you already know, but there's going to be a bunch of people who are like, not that sophisticated, still doing the copy paste and link into the bio. In a nutshell, what is Linktree?

Alex:
You can really think about Linktree as your contents page of the internet. It's a link and when you land in it, it gives you a very specific list of links and it helps you share your most recent and relevant content on that page. So it really helps you connect all of your online ecosystem with just one link. So, we see our users you know, to completely unify all of your social platforms.
Last year in the US alone, there was 8.9 social media accounts per internet user.

Chris:
Wow.

Alex:
That said, we're obviously solving a problem being able to link out of Instagram really easily, really effectively in a conversion-driven platform. It's really frictionless. And we can talk a lot more about the design for that, but in terms for the unification, we're seeing, can you go use it on your Twitter, put it in your Twitter bio, put it in your Twitter post, or your Facebook and your LinkedIn, on your business card, in your Pinterest, on your TikTok, talk about it in your Snapchat, on your Instagram, and then you've just got one link that's really easily up-dateable and it's got your most recent and relevant content and it's really important to be able to do this in a really frictionless way.
Whatever you're talking about on your socials, you want to make as discoverable, accessible as possible for your audience or for your visitors, rather than consistently sending them into a funnel, or sending them on to a brand-immersive website where there isn't instant access to that specific piece of content you're talking about or sharing on your socials, you risk them not actually viewing that content or getting to it quickly enough.

Chris:
Right, okay so for people who are just like, "What the heck are these two guys talking about?" I'm going to do my best to explain this in layman terms, okay?
Let's just focus mostly on Instagram although the applications are widespread, you could use Linktree for just about anything. Now, Instagram restricts you from putting one URL inside your bio and that's it. You can't externally link anything on any of your posts, right? At least, that's the way it is of right now. So, it becomes a pain in the butt if you have a YouTube channel, if you want somebody to buy a product, or maybe read a post that you posted somewhere else, it becomes a butt. And the way that we used to do it, is copy paste from a clipboard or something like that, into here and just be constantly changing and updating it, but it's very problematic. It's a pain in the butt.
So you guys have solved this problem by creating a simplified, integrated interface to be able to connect all the different outbound links that you want in one easy place, and then you can use this on Instagram, on LinkedIn, and everywhere else, so you just have one URL to manage and it makes the whole process super easy and streamlined.
Okay, did I get that right?

Alex:
Perfect. You can explain it far better than I can. I love hearing other people talk about it and explain it.

Chris:
It's your own baby, so I get it.

Alex:
Simple, exactly, simplified.

Chris:
Okay, so when you say you were running a digital agency, is this like a web, app-base design and development company?

Alex:
Yes, it was digital strategy agency that specialized in music and events and entertainment, so working with record labels and artists and some of the biggest festivals in the country, doing mainly paid, digital, go-to-market strategy as well as websites and logo design and all that kind of thing. So, Linktree was definitely born out of that specific pain point of Instagram that within that kind of industry, that vertical of music, which has a very clear need and use case for it even still today, where it is such a fragmented industry, and you've got your streaming on one domain, and you've got your ticketing on another domain, and you've got your merch on another domain, so for you to be able to actually connect to all that content is really important, and it still is, and that's so applicable for so many other industries as well.
So yeah, that was really kind of where it was born out of, but that agency still runs today. Still, 55 staff now and it's looking after lots of, outside of music as well, lots of events around the world.

Chris:
Okay so, it was the frustration point, and did you do a quick search, because my older brother is in software development. Every time I think I have a brilliant idea, he just searches and he's like, "Okay, here's 45 versions of your idea already." And it's back to the drawing board. And it's never happened where I'm like, "Here's an idea, I think this is really good." Where he comes back to me, whether it's either a good idea, or it's already been done. So, it fails usually there. Did you do that search and what happened?

Alex:
Stupidly, I didn't. Either stupidly or, yeah I guess it's just that itch, get up and go, and fortunately, we had a team to be able to help put this together. I was the kind of person that always had these ideas, like yourself,[inaudible 00:12:21] and actually getting it done is the harder part, so through the agency, my goal was the to get an engineer, a developer, that could be in-house, they would just sit next to me that I could just talk to and tell my idea rather than try to write up all these technical documentations, so that kind of happened. I woke up one morning, we had the idea and we spoke through it and he kind of ended up building it and we spent a bunch of more time on the design and the branding and then we put it up and then we literally had this moment like, "We should probably check if this exists."
I couldn't see if this exists. So we had a bit of a Google, and luckily there was nothing else at all like it, so I guess for us it didn't really matter at the time, we were still just really solving it for ourselves and it was a fun project to try.

Chris:
Okay, so that was a couple of years ago. Now, catch us up to 2020. Where's Linktree at today, what's the revenue look like, what does the userbase look like? Let's take it from there.

Alex:
Yeah so, 2020. We had a really strong last couple of months as well, so we're about 20,000 sign ups a day at the moment. Over 5 million users, and it's really incredible, about 150, 160 unique visits a month across profiles at the moment, and it's really incredible to see, like I said, we kind of started with this music idea in mind, but it's just kind of scaled into every vertical industry imaginable. There's over 250 unique verticals listed on the platform, there isn't one single industry that makes up more than 4% of the userbase. Chefs and actors and comedians, the Royal Family signed up, through to some part of the adult industry, and then children's books and stay-at-home mums and dads selling candles on Etsy and emerging artists and emerging podcasts and it just goes on and on. Some of the biggest brands in the world and emerging brands, so it's just fascinating to see how each individual vertical uses it in a different way and we deliberately made it that way that it's versatile, that you can do what you need to do with it, and we rely on just educating our best practice.
Into the specific use cases, like I explained the music one earlier, we've got publishers like the Guardian and Vice and these amazing publishers using it and very specifically for them, it's because their social media editor doesn't have control over what's on the homepage. So they can share something on socials, the home page editor might take that story down, and if they'd send to the homepage, it's no longer there.
So for them, it's a really easy tool to make sure that whatever they're talking about most recently on their socials, is actively in their links. Whereas for chefs, it's talking about their recipes, and the list goes on and on. So, it's really been amazing to see and then the other part for us is the digital comprehension of our users, we've got the entire spectrum. From expert marketers working at some of the biggest brands in the world, all the way to the complete opposite of that, and for us to really think about that from a design perspective and from a product perspective and how we build to make sure it's incredible simple and easily used by those who are on the low end of the digital comprehension spectrum and still powerful and valuable for expert marketers and expert technologists.

Chris:
There's a couple of questions I want to ask you here. I want to circle back to this about these super stars that you got to use the platform, but before I do that, I know that Instagram is sometimes quite fickle about, this is a term that people use a lot, like 'shadow banning', when you use third-party apps to do certain things. If you comment too quickly, it shuts you down for a little bit. Was that a concern for you that by using Linktree in your bio, that Instagram were like, "Hey this is not cool. This is not what we intended it for, we're going to shut it down." Was that a concern at all?

Alex:
Look, to be completely transparent, in the very early days, maybe a little bit. It was, again, just a tool for ourselves, and was not a big deal. We don't see that it's a concern now, for the last few years, ever since we really started to build on Linktree and monetize it and build it into the platform that it is today. It's not a concern for us. We actually have quite a healthy relationship with Instagram and Facebook and we know that themselves use Linktree for certain part of their business. I don't think, from a banning perspective, there's nothing that allows them to do that, or gives them a reason for doing that. There was actually a 15 minute period in early 2018 where the domain got banned for a little bit, it was completely a false positive on their scam protection. And they reached out to us and apologized and unblocked everyone and saw it as a huge mistake on their part, which was incredible for them to, for us to work together with them on that and all our users commenting saying thank you so much to Linktree for working on this so quickly and that was a very specific problem and it's never ever been an issue since then.
In terms of having Linktree in your bio affecting your actual reach or engagement on Instagram, we've never seen any kind of evidence of that. So really, you're linking out of Instagram regardless. Where you link to for them I don't believe is a problem and to be able to really optimize that and make sure you're getting the best out of that is actually in their best interest.

Chris:
Right, okay. You mentioned monetization and the PRO version. What is the key difference between the free version and the PRO version?

Alex:
So, PRO version allows you to, mainly customization. Customization is a big one, so background images, background videos, fonts and colors and change your profile picture, all these kinds of things and then scheduling links and a whole bunch of link functionality that we call, so scheduling links there's also called a leap link which is again, thinking about musicians and content creators that would have what we call a 'hype moment' in mind. So if you were releasing an album, you could select your Spotify link for that to be your leap link and so whenever a visitor clicks on your Linktree, they'll go directly to that piece of content, rather than loading your Linktree, and you set that link for a certain amount of time. So, rather than having to go to your bio to put your Spotify link in, or put whatever specific link in that you want them to go directly to, you can just leave your Linktree in, you can select this link, from within your Linktree, really simply, really easily and it will go directly to there.
And the benefit of that is we still track is as a click, we still drop all your re-marketing pixels all of that, we make all that side of marketing really, really simple, so you're still able to report on it, you're still able to re-market even though you're going directly to a platform but you might not be able to put your re-marketing pixels on and those kinds of things. You can priority link, which allows you to make one link flash or wobble or animate in some particular way. And when we're talking about these and thinking about these, is for a priority link, for example, where it will animate and draw attention to itself. We're very particular to not allow, we only allow that to be on one link. We're really driving our user to select one link that you want to draw attention to and not allow every link to be shaking and doing all this crazy stuff and end up making it look like a Myspace. It's about really making sure that you have, there isn't much you can do that will make your Linktree not convert well and that's the goal.
So, the free product is still really valuable, it doesn't limit your links. You can choose from a bunch of themes, you can get up and going in under 20 seconds and have your own little place in the internet, really quickly, really easily, make it look good and start sharing it around. And then PRO version is that next level up where you really want to take your content seriously and your online marketing seriously and gives you a whole bunch of tools to be able to do that. Integrates your Facebook, integrates your Mailchimp and all kinds of things.

Chris:
The PRO version, does it include analytics in terms of bounce rates and conversions, et cetera. It does?

Alex:
Thank you, I completely forgot about that part. So, the free version tells you how many clicks in total on the link. The PRO version tells you clicks by day per link, total clicks, clickthrough rates, page views and actually recently we launched an entirely new analytics suite so it also shows you clicks by country and clickthrough rates by country and where your traffic is coming from, and whole bunch of interesting insights like that. So, it's really important data to be able to see for marketers, not just looking inside Instagram or inside individual platforms, but to really understand quickly, your entire online ecosystem in one quick place and understand more insights about your audience.

Chris:
Can we talk a little bit about the numbers? What kind of revenue did you guys pull last year, how big is the team, whatever else, so we can get a sense of this product, this company you've built.

Alex:
Yeah, sure. So, we don't talk about revenues because we're a private company and we're not funded. We're completed bootstrapped. We did announce late last year we surpassed three million AOR and we're growing quite significantly since then, so gives you a bit of an idea, I guess.
We're actually quite a small team, so about 17, but we're scaling quite rapidly at the moment, we're hiring a lot. We hired five people last week, so we're expecting to be at about 40 people or so by the end of the year, potentially more, which is really exciting, definitely growing our team outside of Australia, mainly in the US. Over 90% of our revenue is from the US. Over 99% of our revenue is from outside of Australia. So it's be an interesting journey to grow such a global product from little old Melbourne.

Chris:
And what's the make up of the team? If you, at the end of year say you'll grow to 40 people, help me understand how the team is broken up in terms of job functions or roles.

Alex:
Yeah, so at the moment it's mainly engineering. It's 10 engineers to 17. We'll still probably likely be about half engineers and then the rest design product and marketing and operations and all the rest of it sales and growth. It's a very self-referring product, so haven't had to have big sales teams and that kind of thing, we're very, very product led and very engineering led, delivering the best product we can, but that will change. We are rolling out agency versions and enterprise versions later this year, so we'll have sales teams around the world as well.

Chris:
Okay now, the thing I wanted to circle back to was that you got some really big names in the music industry to use the platform. Share with us what the process was like to get them, in terms of the collaboration and working together.

Alex:
Yeah so, Alicia Keys was the first major celebrity or influential user to sign up. That was in 2017 and was completely organic. We actually had a Slack integration at the time where it literally showed us every single sign up. It just came through, and it had a little bell every time there was a sign up and it was only maybe 40 or 50 a day at that time. Alicia Keys signed up, actually, the week before we'd been put on [inaudible 00:24:42] by someone in the United States and it was the night before my sister's wedding actually, about 2 or 3AM, so US time popped up and I'm staying on there for hours trying to answer comments and a few days later, Alicia Keys signed up and it just started skyrocketing from there. We had to turn that Slack integration off because it got pretty annoying. Obviously a good problem to have.
That was organic and we reached out, we firstly made sure it was real, then realized it was a legitimate email address and we reached out and we said, "Hey, happy to have you, we can give you free access to PRO, we can build a custom profile for you. You know, let us know how we can help." And turns out it was the digital agency at her label that signed up, they also represented a whole heap of other artists, other incredible, influential artists, so we worked closely with them, and that's kind of really built that strategy that we still do today, which is when we see big artists or influential user like this sign up, we reach out, we offer a big of a bit of a white glove service in order for them to sign up the rest of their roster, in gaining the rest of their talent, so that's what happened with them.
They signed up I believe Eminem and Pearl Jam and The Killers and Tupac, and so that was awesome and that really just started to get our foothold in that side of the market and it continues to be organic, so we don't do a whole bunch of cold outreach. We've started to do it a little bit more lately when we're specifically trying to reach a vertical, so sports in the US is something they're really excited about right now. But [inaudible 00:26:32], Jamie Oliver signed up organically and L'Oreal and Qantas signed up organically, and it continues. Gary Vee, Tony Robbins in the business space, and just so you know it's fascinating to watch when an influential user in one category signs up and then the following of users around the world in that category. So Jamie Oliver signed up and then we had chefs all over the world flown in the next week signing up really rapidly. So we can see that influence and it's really interesting to watch.
But for us, we get asked this a lot and there's no marketing trick or hack or approach that we took other than being product led, making sure that it's a product that solves their problem, solves their problem easily, adds value to their lives and more importantly saves them time. It makes it able to get the value in their marketing goals without spending too much time on it and they'll sign up and start to use the product because it helps them in that way. So, that's what starts it and we just make sure we follow on and get the rest of their roster and make sure they continue using it.

Greg:
We'll be right back with more Alex Zaccaria.

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Greg:
Welcome back to our conversation with Alex Zaccaria.

Chris:
Okay, take me through this moment, because one day I'm going to have this moment and I kind of want to be able to compare it to what you went through where your notifications on Slack is like bing bing bing and then you saw this name Alicia Keys, I mean just paint the picture for me take me through the feeling that you had. I know you did all the right things in terms of let's verify, let's give her the white glove service, get her on board, but just take me back there for a second, how you felt.

Alex:
Yeah, I remember sitting at my desk and just always excitedly looking at this channel and watching this channel and scrolling through. We were in a co-working office at the time, so it was actually co-working space that we were running for music industry only, because it was a bunch of managers and agents and that kind of industry in the office. We had about 10 people in our team at the time across the agency and yeah, scrolling through and I saw that name and I was like, "That can't be real."
Clicked on it and saw that it was all legitimate links, went into the backend of the platform and looked at the email address, like, "I think this is real, guys." And we actually, yeah, we did a bit of a happy dance, I remember jumping up and kind of having a bit of a happy dance, jumping around, and the rest of the people in the office are looking at us like, "What are you doing?" Looking very confused and a bit annoyed that we were distracting them. But I think it was worth it, for sure.
So yeah, that was incredibly exciting and I think especially given it was in music. Obviously any user that to us is incredibly important no matter what their digital influence or follower base or anything like that, but for Alicia Keys, who is such an influential musician and us I guess coming out of music and building Linktree with music in mind, that was a huge validation for us.

Chris:
Yeah. You must've been through the moon.
Who's the first person you told once you suspected this could actually be real. Was it your brother or somebody else?

Alex:
Yeah, it was my brother and my other co-founder Nick, our creative director and then I think all the other team shared it in their other Slack channels and made sure everyone knew and were all excited and I'm sure it was my brother and my other brother and the rest of my family and my girlfriend, and the list goes on. I'm sure we shared it somewhere.

Chris:
I think you mentioned, and I'm not sure if I heard it correctly, that Tupac uses Linktree? But Tupac's dead, how could Tupac be doing this? Something's up.

Alex:
Yeah, that was our first dead user. So, I guess their estate, they're still selling records, it's a digital agency of the record company still managing that presence online. So, it was definitely strange working on that when we designed it. [inaudible 00:32:12] customized profile and did all that kind of thing for it. Yeah, turns out there's still very much an online presence for Tupac, very, very healthy traffic.

Chris:
So Tupac is still influencing us from the grave? I just wanted to make sure I did not hear it incorrectly, it was Tupac, okay. Excellent.
All right, now here's the question. Inevitably when you're early to market, you find a pain point that a lot of people are feeling and there's no easily solution, you guys build this, you're the right people with the expertise and the background in music and it just all connects. Inevitably what happens is you become successful enough that other people take notice and then what I find is the attack of the clones, where Me Too companies are getting into it. Are you seeing this and how do you stay ahead of the competition?

Alex:
Yeah, we're seeing a lot of this. It's an interesting world. Through 2018 it definitely started popping up and there was quite a few that, actually there was one that was literally like, there's quite a few actually that are literally our copy, our artwork, copied, everything, and it's a straight rip. And there was one that literally had our Australian company number in the terms and conditions, like to the point of just complete...

Chris:
Oh my god. That's just called laziness.

Alex:
Exactly, like come on, you can do better than that. There's still plenty of them, there's even like frameworks on theme websites where you can download and like make your own Linktree kind of thing and it happens I guess a little bit because from the outside, it seems so simple. It looks like such a simple app and for us, it is not simple. Under the hood for Linktree it is so incredibly complex and the way we think about it and the innovation we put into it and the functionality and the features, very, very, very well researched and thought out for specific reasons and that is what we know these people aren't doing.
They're just following what we do and the way we look at it, to be honest, and they're popping up all the time, I would be more worried when they stop copying us. I think that would mean we've stopping innovating and they stop caring about what we're doing and they would be more of a concern for us. I think, we don't go and put crazy amounts of resources into legally fighting them, we just stick to ourselves, build the best product we possibly can and maintain and grow our audience. Having said that, there's a couple that pop up and do think about things and do slightly innovate themselves and I think that's great, that keeps us on our toes.

Chris:
Well, you have a great attitude about that, I love it. Because you could spend all your time and energy worrying about it and getting angry, but it's not really productive, so your solution sounds like you just out-innovate, just be 20 steps ahead and it's actually a good sign that there are enough people interested in this because you're still relevant and they're going to keep pushing you and pushing the industry forward, right?

Alex:
Exactly, yeah competitiveship is really healthy in that way. When we do really mind about is when they are confusing our users, like we've seen some pop up around the world where they'll still try and put Linktree in the domain or call it Linktree in some kind of way and that's obviously...

Chris:
I see. That's a trademark issue, right?

Alex:
Exactly, that's a trademark and that gives us legal rights to do it, but it's not even a legal thing for us, it's very much, we'll get users contact us and they're confused and that's because they're not actually using our product and that's when it's really problematic, when we work so hard to make sure that our tool is so easy to use and so powerful for users and when they're confusing us or others, it's a problem and that's when we'll definitely do something about it. But outside of that, just really, really focused on the product to make sure we're building the best product we can.

Chris:
Little while ago you mentioned something about user generated content, that there seemed to be a lot of love or at least interest in people creating content without your permission, acknowledgement or any money exchanging hands here to the tune of something like 45,000 videos being made. What an incredible marketing asset that you've created without having even to pay or make any of that. Why are people sharing Linktree like the way they are and making content for you?

Alex:
Yeah, it was early days when it first started popping up and started seeing articles and then we started seeing a lot of YouTube videos. It was very, a specific type of person that was like Instagram coaches, marketing coaches, influencers and really talking about it as a tool that they had discovered and wanted to share with their audience. So putting it into their hands, give it to them as something that they discovered to show their audience, a reason for people to follow them because they're so ahead of the curb and [inaudible 00:37:17] finding the tools that's going to help their audience.
And that was the reason we specifically chose not to get in the way and really reach these people directly, kind of almost like an influencer strategy in that way where we just let people continue to tell that story and the more and more where it popped up every single day, talking about 'this Instagram hack' or 'this linking hack' or 'online marketing hack' and it obviously evolved from there and the most we did really there was we reached out to them because we had recently launched the PRO version and gave them free access to PRO if they were to do a similar video about the PRO features.
So, then we started to showcase that because for the most part, this was on the free features, really just showing the product itself, and to be totally honest, it was something that popped up without us specifically doing, but then the decisions that we made from there to make sure that we harnessed it and encouraged it and continued its growth. I think there are definitely things that can end up happening that you squash it or get too involved and it kind of grows, so eventually that petered off, but there's still, yeah I think there's over 100,000 videos on YouTube now and tens of thousands of articles floating around.
I think what was most interesting about it, is it's not just videos. There's like hour long videos of people just spending so much time explaining the product in absolute detail, and it's obviously really, really humbling for us to see and also influenced a lot of the product. We watch these videos and saw first hand how people were talking about it and thinking about it and using it, it's like, you can't ask for this kind of user research. [inaudible 00:39:01] users and screen record and watch them, instead we just watch these power users who obviously understand how to use it, and sometimes often not so much, and kind of like see how they basically navigate, in almost every video they navigate around the app in a different way. I'm like, "Okay, that's interesting." I mean, really, really held that influence, our next design and features and functionality.

Chris:
I guess in a way that either you're decision conscious, or unconscious decision to market the product or not to market it made it kind of like this resource that people wanted to discover for themselves and tell others about it. This doesn't happen that often, it's like that little hole in the wall restaurant kind of off the main street, the people who know tell other people who know and it's that kind of thing. So they start creating this content because I'm sure there are companies who are going to be listening to this like "What is the secret marketing plan here where you get free marketing and free user research?" Like, how does that happen? So I think, as you make something that people desperately need or want or have a big pain point around and then the rest starts to kind of fall into place, right?

Alex:
Exactly and I think there's a lot to be said here for not overthinking it, right? We don't know what would've happened, but if we didn't, at the time, weren't incredibly busy with the agency, the agency was scaling at the time, hiring employees like every week, and Linktree was also starting to grow, but it was kind of like this side hustle for us, and that probably meant that we didn't spend that much overthinking about it, overthinking it and putting heaps of time into it early on, but we were like had this whole other thing that we were having to worry about and if we think back now, discussing this the other day, if we were solely focused on Linktree we probably would've been coming up with all these crazy marketing plans and hacks and ideas and kind of really overthinking it and don't know that would've ended up in the same position.
So I think there is a lot to be said to just allow it to take its course, watch what happens, learn from it, build from there and not rely on kind of specific hacks or ideas or really just trying everything you can to gain users, I think it really can begin to grow organically and if you can start to pick up on what is making it grow organically, then you can continue to harness that.

Chris:
Now, I understand you're the co-founder of Linktree. Are you connected to the service company, agency, anymore? Or not at all?

Alex:
Yes, I'm still a shareholder in that company, I don't work in it at all, so I'm full time on Linktree and so is Nick, our creative director who also is shareholder in the agency that Linktree is doing its thing right now and we're really focused on Linktree. And Anthony, my brother and co-founder in both the agency and Linktree, he looks after the agency.

Chris:
I see. Oh, that's good. Okay, so at what point do you feel like this is good to leave the service world behind and go full into this and make that commitment?

Alex:
Yeah, I mean for me it started, I had that itch for a while. I loved working in the agency, we worked in an industry that was so passionate, mad about music and worked with all these amazing clients [inaudible 00:42:24] and artists and labels, you know it was really exciting all the time. You obviously get to that point where you're like, "We've got this amazing product that I just love working on and signs up users in our sleep" compared to this grind to sign clients and make clients happy, so you've obviously got that itch at the back of your head and it's definitely a completely different way of [inaudible 00:42:49] in a different type of business. It was quite a while where Linktree was definitely big enough for me to go full time into it, but so was the agency and we didn't quite have the resources in the agency for me to completely jump out.
Finally, really just made a decision, late 2018, for us to go, "Okay we just need to make this happen", started spending 50% of my time on Linktree, 70% of my time, 90% of my time and just started [crosstalk 00:43:21] we were hiring, hiring in to replace my roles at the agency. I'll still jump in and help with major decisions, help my brother Anthony with major decisions or have meetings once a month or so just to, it's kind of become interesting actually where we've almost got that outsider view on both businesses now that you would normally get from an outside advisor. So, I can look at the agency and go, "Anthony, what are you doing, mate?" You know, see the products' Linktrees and go "That's a good decision/a bad decision" and he can do that on Linktree, so it's quite nice to be able to have that.
So, we're excited about that agency still running, it's still growing, it's doing its thing. It also can give us quite a few insights into what's happening in the world of digital that can also assist Linktree and vice versa, so myself I'm really excited that I'm focused on a product right now, it's definitely what is exciting me the most at the moment, I'm really passionate about...
But yeah, that agency thing is still floating around and it's doing its thing.

Chris:
Yeah. Do you see a time somewhere in the future where you're so successful, "Anthony, stop doing what you're doing, this is where we got to put our energy, let's just forget about that, sell the company, close it down, this is where we need to be". Do you see that happening? Or will these continue to be separate entities that will kind of sustain themselves?

Alex:
Yeah, look I think there's potentially a world where that can happen. I don't see it right now. Anthony loves it there and I think there's so much that agency can still achieve in its goals and what it's trying to do in the market in Australia and across the world in making sure that festivals and artists can still continue to sell tickets efficiently and do all those things, so I think it's still an important mission for that agency to achieve.
You know, as long as both companies have got the best, absolute best opportunity, the best shot and the right team to make them happen, so at this stage I'm really focused and it's a bit, for me there isn't really a part of the day I'm not thinking about Linktree and really focused on it. So, to answer your question, I think there's a world where that could happen, but it hasn't really been actively thought about.

Chris:
And have you been contemplating possibly moving to America where most of your money comes from? At least for the time zone thing, it's a little easier for you to do this, or you just love it where you're at?

Alex:
Yeah, no more early morning podcasts...

Chris:
Yeah, 6AM calls.

Alex:
Yeah, look I think it's definitely a possibility. I love living in Australia and I love growing a company in Australia and being really proudly Australian. I think there is absolutely no reason in this economy, in this day and age why we can't have a global company from Australia. Definitely have a great presence in the US, I'll definitely spend some time over there, lots of time over there, growing great teams, but we're really excited about maintaining an Australian headquarters.

Chris:
Okay, so what's next for you? What's the next couple of years look like? I know it's like you don't need investment money, it's been a bootstrap thing, but I think I read somewhere where you would consider for the right strategic partner, because it's not a money play because you have what you need. So what do you see in the future? Where do you go from here?

Alex:
Yeah, we're really incredibly excited about the future of some of the things we're working on right now. Yeah, really exciting. You're right, we're bootstrapped, there's a few people we're talking to at the moment about potentially raising definitely in the world of strategic investors and bringing the right people on board to help us achieve our vision. Right now we're looking to grow out the product in terms of agency, access and enterprise access and growing in that way. There's lots of agencies we work with that are already directly on the current product and we're excited to make that a much more valuable product for agencies in the way it works.
And then recently we launched a link-type called Video Links when you land in your Linktree and you click on a link specifically for YouTube at the moment, rather than link it off to YouTube, you can choose for it to embed, so the link transitions into a video. It's kind of what we're calling 'link types' and there's heaps more of them to come. So it's really transitioning the product and evolving into a tool that is just absolutely necessary to do business online. If you are doing business online, you will need a Linktree and that's what we're growing.
And even more importantly than that, anyone who wants to do business online can. Our mission right now and what we're really excited about is democratizing the internet and democratizing more specifically, I guess, your online presence. There's so many value, because like they've said that [inaudible 00:48:40] technical sophistication and also emerging markets coming online and not really necessarily being able to transact easily or share their content easily or have their little plays in the internet and that's something we're really excited to continue making easy for people and continue driving conversion.
So lots to be done, lots to happen and it's all happening at the moment, and I think over the next few years, we'll definitely have a much bigger presence around the globe, offices around the world and really just making sure that we are the go-to place when you know you want to find the most recent and relevant links about someone and a tool that just makes doing business online so super simple and so easy.

Chris:
Yeah, so I think before I talked to you, I was thinking "Well, what is there left to do?" I mean you make links easy and accessible, but all the things that you talked about, the features you already have in the PRO version, as well as the way you're thinking about this, I can see that you're really passionate about this and your mind is just really very creative about what is next, what else can we do to make this experience even better.
And so, if you're a person who, I mean I don't know who wouldn't, if you're a person who is living off the internet and needs to build easily accessible, easily organized links for whatever it is that you're doing, products or services or even videos that you want to promote, it makes a lot of sense to use something like Linktree.
Alex, thank you very much for jumping on the podcast with me.

Alex:
Thanks very much for your time, thanks for having me.
My name is Alex Zaccaria and you're listening to The Futur.

Greg:
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