“I actually downloaded the software and used it for the first time just 15 minutes before my interview with Akshay (Kothari), but ended up joining the support team to start with,” David tells me. “I don’t know of many companies that are being built the way Notion is being built,” Akshay tells me in this podcast. Ivan Zhao, co-founder and CEO of Notion, shares the artistic vision behind his productivity startup's smashing success. I wrote about the company’s partnership with some of tech’s top accelerators and venture capital firms last month. Notion COO Akshay Kothari (Photo: Notion). That was the pivot to focusing on notes, wikis and tasks, because that’s actually something that every team needs. One of Notion’s biggest strengths is also one of its biggest challenges, which is that it’s an incredibly flexible product. Listen to this episode with Akshay to learn more about operating challenges at Notion, pricing the product and an inside view of everything that makes and runs Notion. Personal computing has been around for nearly half a century and the software of today isn’t a lot different from the 70s. The entire team would not be far though, just shy of a mile away sitting at Barzotto and eating Extra-Long Noodles pasta over a glass of sparkling white wine. Notion had previously been valued at $800 million. W hen you talk to Ivan Zhao, he’ll make one thing abundantly clear: product designers should stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. I think Slack is one of those enterprise tools that people at companies actually like. The app blends everyday work apps into one. Over the next few years, Camille followed Notion’s journey closely before finally joining the company. Akshay Kothari: [Notion co-founders Ivan Zhao and Simon Last] started Notion six years ago and that’s when I invested. And then last year we launched databases and that was the 2.0 version, which kind of seemed like an inflection point, where now you could not only have your notes and your wiki, but also manage your tasks, manage your projects, manage candidates and recruiting, all in a single tool. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Everything else is actually on Notion, like our application tracking system for recruiting inside Notion, our sales CRM is in Notion, our wiki obviously is, our project management as well — no, we don’t use Jira. They built a general purpose database that you can link and do other things with. So let’s say Excel or Google Sheets is something that you want to use, you can just embed that inside Notion. “People don’t care about everybody building their own tools. “It’s like if you studied physics in high school and college and you didn’t know who Newton is. More in Internet and Social. In this podcast he shares some of the most amazing used cases for Notion that make Notion what it is. A designer by training, Ivan founded the company in 2016 to make it possible for everyone in the world to create the tools they need without knowing how to code. In fact, COO Akshay Kothari says the startup has “never felt like if we had more money we could grow faster.”. But the notion still lingered. As you will learn from conversations below, Notion’s users are quite diverse, and are solving many everyday problems using the product. But as founders and investors themselves would agree, startups cannot scale or even exist without team members who believe in the mission and nourish the journeys with their amazing skills and passion. David Tibbitts below shares an amazing case study of a lady who used Notion to share her Tunasian recipes to train her mother. Notion started as a personal project for Ivan Zhao in the final year of his college, and went on to become a product, then a company today. This is how the notion was pitched. With 30 people, we pretty much run the entire company, except for using Slack for internal communication and Intercom for external communication like talking to customers. “Lot of Notion in the early days got modeled based on Smalltalk from Xerox Parc…end users could modify the tools as they used it. Hi, I am Ivan Zhao, cofounder/designer of Notion – a unified tool for docs, wikis, and tasks.We just launched the 1.0 a couple weeks ago, which you can play with the web/Mac app at notion.so (and we are hiring!. Notion has intended to make the personal plan free since last year, said Ivan Zhao, Notion’s CEO. And that’s where Notion breaks away from the existing “productivity tools” including Evernote and others. Ivan Zhao, co-founder of Notion, found himself in this exact position in 2015. Are those needs universal for big and small teams? Add some soft serve gelato to that. We have many more decades to work on it.”, Before I did this series of conversations to learn more about Notion, I thought the product users are mostly engineering teams or corporates who have complex use cases. Listen to this conversation with Ivan to learn more about why Notion exists, what are the First Principles shaping its future, and Ivan’s own learnings in transforming from a designer-coder to an entrepreneur. When you talk to Ivan Zhao, he’ll make one thing abundantly clear: product designers should stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. But much of what Ivan Allen College is today was unimaginable in the late 1980s when President John Crecine proposed a controversial notion: raising the profile of liberal arts at an engineering school and creating a college devoted solely to such work. “Notion became a tool for them to stay connected and document all the places she grew up in.”. Camille Ricketts combines great storytelling with marketing and user experience like a rare few. When you get to hundreds of people what tends to happens is that some person or some team tends to have a preference for a specific tool. Notion is for notes, tasks, wikis, and databases. The app can be accessed via most web browsers. We were kind of in research mode for many years trying to uncover what the market needs were. Ivan Zhao learned to code as a kid trying to model video games He studied programming in elementary school. Since you joined do you think the idea has shifted at all? “We’ve been so amazed by the number of students who are not only using Notion, but building their own tools that we could have never imagined,” Notion co-founder and CEO Ivan Zhao … RED Academy User Experience Design Certificate JAN 2017 - APR 2017. Additional listening: How Zoho works and How Angellist works, Outliers S05 E05 Ivan Zhao: How Notion Works, Outliers S05 E06 Akshay Kothari: How Notion Works, Outliers S05 E07 Camille Ricketts: How Notion Works, Outliers S05 E08 David Tibbitts: How Notion Works. “It’s like if you studied physics in high school and college … I wanted to build a software that gave people more than just a document or a web page,” he tells me. Notion is a note-taking and collaboration application for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases. So there are about 10 people that are building the product, and 10 people on community and support teams, something that we’ve invested very heavily in. Why Notion exists: Ivan Zhao For Ivan, who studied cognitive science in college with a minor in fine arts, Notion started as a personal project and it’s something he’s been at over the past decade. In its own words, Notion was built to bring together many of the tools/functionality we use at work to one place, reducing the number of … You can embed things easily. 1,502 Followers, 1,039 Following, 170 Posts - See Instagram photos and videos from Ivan Zhao (@ivanhzhao) Dr. Bryan Norton is a Professor of Philosophy in the School of Public Policy. “Engineers at Notion only built the building blocks; they didn’t try to build a wiki, a project management software. Ivan Zhao is Co-founder and CEO of Notion, the all-in-one workspace for notes, documents, wikis, projects, and collaboration. For sub-100 businesses, you actually don’t need another tool. Akshay Kothari: [Notion co-founders Ivan Zhao and Simon Last] started Notion six years ago and that’s when I invested. What are the barriers for satisfying the customers with 100+ employees. He … She now leads a team of 7 marketers at Notion, which has around 50 employees. For a lot of these other tools, we just have to use it, not because we love it but because that that’s what exists. “A lot of companies offer user incentives, from cash rewards to Amazon gift cards, but we are really lucky to have users who keep telling us what they want next in the product,” he says. The company, centered around an app that helps non-developers build collaboration tools, has more than one million users and has scaled its product quickly despite having a team of just 27. If you somehow navigate the mysterious path to reach the Notion HQ at 1:00 PM PST on a Friday, you would find an empty office with two golden poodles and a mutt running around. On Slack, you can’t actually collaborate on a project… Notion has become a place where you can actually do a lot of your work alongside the synchronous communication. In terms of the original idea, we were thinking about how people who didn’t know how to code could build things like tools and software that were really useful. Ivan has 2 jobs listed on their profile. Notion a singular tool that handles all your work outside email and Slack. He had evaluated the landscape of collaborative productivity tools at that time, and made an educated guess about what the future had in store. Not in the near term. It serves as an all-in-one workspace for note-taking, task management, and project management. He received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1970, specializing in the philosophy of science and conceptual change in, and across, scientific disciplines. We launched about two years ago; 1.0 was just notes that you could take and a wiki so that you could collaborate with people. Camille, a former journalist with WSJ and Venturebeat, worked as a communications manager at Tesla among other assignments before joining First Round Capital to set up its amazing storytelling platform, The Review. I’m the only one among them who can code. I had sold my previous company and I had this newfound money that I didn’t know what to do with. Work tools startup Notion, which recently reached a reported $800 million valuation, isn’t on the verge of a big SoftBank round. Fast forward to my first couple years in college and I was determined to change myself from high school. The fund-raising was completed in 36 hours last week after the virus pushed Ivan Zhao, Notion’s founder and chief executive, and Akshay Kothari, Notion’s chief operating officer, to rethink their previous position of … -Ivan Zhao. Work collaboration startup Notion cozies up to Silicon Valley’s top accelerators. Give me a snapshot of where the team is now. Notion challenges this status quo by giving everyone the building blocks of productivity — notes, docs, tasks, databases — and the flexibility to combine them in new, creative ways. The idea of Notion isn’t just to offer a tool that users can apply to solve their problems, but to allow them to build their own versions of Notion and keep solving their existing and future problems. For Ivan, who studied cognitive science in college with a minor in fine arts, Notion started as a personal project and it’s something he’s been at over the past decade. In those situations, Notion plays well with other tools. But that wasn’t enough for Notion to become a product that users love, and pay for. “A lot of my friends are artists. Notion was founded by Ivan Zhao. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of Ivan Zhao. Notion was founded by Ivan Zhao. I invested in Notion, so that’s my connection. More in Windows. I guess the only realization has been that not everyone wakes up wanting to build software, but everyone wakes to solve problems. Shape By Alexa von Tobel , Founder and … Zhao returns to the Sam Nunn School, where he obtained his PhD, to discuss motives and perceptions regarding the ongoing offense defense competition between the U.S. and China. People are very curious about this small company and how it is run, so here’s more from my recent interview with COO Akshay Kothari in which we discussed the hyped startup’s philosophy of staying small and some of the challenges it may have ahead with this brand of thinking as competitors are raising massive sums. Startups that do well (or perhaps even don’t do so well) are mostly analysed through the lens of their founders and investors. Listen to this conversation with David to learn more about how Notion listens to its users and engages with the communities to keep evolving the future of its product. Ontario College of Art and Design University User Experience Design and Development, UX Design Certificate SEP 2020. Its founders, Ivan Zhao and Simon Last, had built their app on a suboptimal tech stack, and it crashed constantly.Their angel investment money dwindling, they faced a brutal choice: Fire their fledgling team of 4 and start over, or run out of cash. “Imagine one product that you can mould into any tool you like. The event in the Student Success Center is free and open to the public. Become a better person, a better friend, and a better student. When she joined Notion last year, the team had only 10 members. So Notion becomes this kind of central nervous system for all of the work that people are doing. Philip Schmidt – 2018-2019 Irene López – 2018-2019 Pietro Crovari – 2018-2018 Min-Young Chang – 2018-2018 Robin Quillivic, Ecole Centrale De Lille – October 2017-April 2018 Kaya De Barbaro – 2015-2017 Junyu Chen – July 2012-September 2012 Thomas Ploetz – 2011-2012 Jong Choi – 2010-2011 Agata Rozga – 2010-present Tom Robertson – 2006-2009 Rosa Arriaga – 2006-present Lamar Gardere – June 2005-January 2006 Annie Jacobs – January 2001-September 2002 Thomas O’Connell – May 200… Listen to this conversation with Camille to learn more about Notion’s content marketing playbook, managing perception, engaging with the communities, and so on. Can you disguise this new creation you have into a better version of Evernote or Trello?”. Having launched a no-code tool, Zhao was confident his vision of the future was the one that would come to pass. In 2015, productivity tool Notion nearly died. I had sold my previous company and I … That all rounds up to about 27 which is where we are now. “A lot of my friends are artists. For the first 100 people you can actually do a lot with Notion. The company claims to be an all-in-one workspace for note-taking, knowledge and data management, project and task management. And that’s the secret sauce at Notion–the tech team continues to focus on the building blocks whereas the marketing team focuses on packaging to provide value to the end users,” he adds. But Notion’s users help the company navigate all that really well. At college, he majored in cognitive science, minored in … Notion started in 2012 as Canopy Technologies. How to Listen to Spotify Offline on Mobile and Windows 10 3 Ways How Google Photos Will Count Against Google Drive Storage So, no interest in building a chat or video chat product? In fact, Akshay even tried hiring Ivan during 2013 while he was still building Pulse, the startup acquired by LinkedIn. Building on that, one of the things we haven’t done is we don’t do synchronous communication so we’ve stayed away from that because I feel like people like using Slack. Over the last year and a half, the company has grown extremely fast. A lot of users suffer from “the white canvas syndrome.”. We have 2 people in marketing and 2 people in sales. I’m the only one among them who can code. View Ivan Zhao’s profile on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional community. Ivan, the founder of Notion, talks about computing visionary Alan Kay and the Xerox Parc Lab as the source of inspiration for building Notion. Founded by Chris Prucha, Ivan Zhao, Jessica Lam, and Simon Last in 2016, Notion is backed by investors that include Elad Gil, Felicis Ventures, First Round Capital, Sequoia Capital, and Thibaud Elziere and is headquartered in San Francisco, California. I joined about a year ago, there were about 10 people at the beginning of this year and now we’re close to 30. 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