💡 Founder Spotlight: Raphael Allstadt
This week is Cloudflare's Founder Spotlight on Cloudflare TV, featuring dozens entrepreneurs from across the tech industry and beyond!
This session features Raphael Allstadt, co-founder and CEO of tl;dv. In love with the power of async video to connect remote teams, tl;dv got founded shortly before the pandemic to build a time machine for meetings, and erase ""Zoom Fatigue"" from our dictionaries.
Visit the Founder Spotlight hub to find the rest of these featured conversations — and tune in all week for more!
Hello, everyone, and welcome to Founder Spotlight. Today, I'm here with a guest, a very special guest.
But first of all, let me just do a quick introduction. Meaning if you're watching this live and you have questions, please email us at livestudio at Cloudflare.com.
Or you can also call in if my colleagues will put the number up. Also, if you have questions and you're on Twitter watching us, do tweet us at at Cloudflare TV and someone will pick up your question and put it in here for us to answer.
If you're a founder, if you're starting to think to, you know, start something, if you're a startup that already has some muscles, and if you have questions, or you just want to have fun watching someone else get grilled, you know, join us, come watch.
My name is Val, I'm leading the community management here at Cloudflare.
And I'm very happy to be here today with Raphael Allstadt. We just talked about his name, last name being in German and exactly what it means.
But I'll let him introduce himself.
And, you know, tell us about you a bit. And you have the mic.
Thanks for having me, Val. Yeah, exactly. We discovered we have similar German roots.
I am I am from Germany, born and raised. And my founder journey is maybe a little bit unusual.
I grew up in the university town in Aachen, where there was a lot of mechanical engineers.
And, and I always wanted to become kind of a scientist when I grew up.
So for me, it was natural to study science, I studied geophysics, was very happy about the hard problems that I could solve and potential outlook on innovation I could do.
But, you know, it really hit me that the real outlet I was looking for was actually startups when we started having first ideas with my now co-founder Carlo.
And, you know, we got very passionate about asynchronous communication, and especially video communication.
And that's been, you know, following me for the past five years, I did next to that, fund the first few iterations, a gig at Burger King in EMEA, where I took care of home delivery and digital across Europe.
And built that a little bit from scratch with my former boss was also called Rafa.
Fun, fun fact. And yeah, yeah, how would you differentiate between the two?
Like, how would people call you? Rafa one, Rafa two? Yeah, exactly.
And funny enough, there was another Rafa that was actually like overseeing the European division.
So that's the story for another time. But yeah, essentially, like jumped on board of founding TLDB shortly before the pandemic, with really the vision in mind to decentralize not only how we work remote or in person, but also when we tune in and access information.
And yeah, ever since the co-founder and CEO of TLDB.
Awesome. So for those watching, and maybe not knowing and not being aware, I think we do have a Cloudflare TV blog post somewhere on the blog that actually explains how we do these shows.
But essentially, the both of us, you from Germany, me from Romania, we are now in a Zoom call that's being lively streamed on Cloudflare.tv.
So if this call of ours would be an actual just, you know, a friendly or a business call, how would your product sort of come into this story?
Because I know your product is specifically geared towards these meetings, right?
So walk us through the like, what was the what was the pain? And then how did you fix it?
Yeah, I think I think the pain for me, like, started actually in my first university position, like we had meetings and everybody needed to be there.
And this was in person actually at the uni. And it was like 12-13 people.
And you know, when you looked around, you saw two engaged people and like a lot of people that were just kind of like listening in and had no escape, you know, and this continued, you know, at my job in corporate, like, the average like 16 hours a week in meetings, and that that's just insane.
And so you know, for us, it was very clear that asynchronous communication and access to to async information is a very powerful tool.
So you know, the general idea behind TLDV is now everything is virtual, right?
And we don't have like, in real life, meeting nodes is the only device you usually have, you're not going around with a camera and filming everything, right?
That would be weird. But but now it's virtual. So we can capture everything that is shown on the screen, we can capture the emotions.
And TLDV essentially records your meetings on zoom on Google Meet on video, it transcribes them in almost any language.
And you can mark important moments during the call and share that we so we kill the bullet points, we replace it with the moment it happens, so that anyone from your team, and even entire organization can jump to what is interesting to them just a few seconds, and get the full picture and always stay in the know.
And so yeah, we help you catch up on on meetings in minutes.
And by that, really, you join only meetings when you want to contribute, but you never miss out on any meeting from your organization, async.
So let's let's assume again, going back to this call, we are now in a call, how does exactly happen?
Like what exactly needs to be happen? Is this available on desktop only?
Is it available on mobiles as well? Do you have an app? Do you need an app? Do you need an extension?
Like, you know, just walk us through like, let's say this is a tutorial, right?
So how do you do it? A short tutorial, we're not going to go through all the details.
Yeah, exactly. No, so it's very easy. We are a Chrome extension that you can download, and then you can add it to any Google Meet.
And soon also Zoom, we're launching in Q1, any Google Meet conversation, you don't need any administration approval, you can just use, it just works, right?
And it joins the call as a participant.
For those familiar with Gong as sales recording software, we have the same technology in the back, but we're bottom up and much more, much more tailored to your async collaboration tools as well.
So you just add it the Chrome extension to any Google Meet meeting you have.
And it records and transcribes, you have a little interface appearing to add highlights.
And then, you know, with one click, copy it into your Notion, your Slack, and share it with whoever needs to see it.
It's immediately accessible after the meeting. So like the moment you exit, you have the video and transcript accessible.
So it's really powerful for organizers to never forget anything, become super, super human Superman and share the recording with everyone.
So the transcripts are, I assume, available also to export as text only.
So you can search through them like for specific keywords or something like that.
Or you can have them translated and then maybe added to like, you know, tutorials, internal meetings.
If someone presents a product internally in a team or in a project, and then they want to have other members of the team who are not there, or maybe from different time zones, like we're not actually in different time zones right now.
But our colleague who just left the call was from a different time zone.
So if she would want to see this call later, and just have the notes, she would be able to do that using your product.
Right. So the translation not yet. So we don't translate text into other languages yet.
But there's other extensions that do that really well. And you know, it's as simple as just adding an extension for that.
And it's working on top of TLDB in the browser.
So we don't own that. But we power in multiple languages, Spanish, Portuguese, English, German, French, a lot.
And yeah, exactly. You can search through the transcript.
And at any moment that you're interested, how was this exactly said, or what was shown, you just click on the word, you're in the video at that moment.
So that's very powerful. And you have full access to the entire bandwidth of information.
Awesome. When did you start? When was the first, you know, beta or whatever alpha available?
Do you have customers? Is there like a tired, like, what's the pricing?
Do you have plans? They have free users premium?
Like, what's the what's the business like in that in that area? Sure. So not the numbers.
We don't care about the actual income, you know, now, but like, how does it work?
Yeah, we started the company in the winter 19 2020. So like January, early January, the first one in a way.
Yeah, I mean, like, you know, I wish I could say that we also this coming out like nobody wanted this to happen.
But it was for us definitely a catalyst with COVID that started in you know, like we raised our first round when the peak hit.
And by that time, we had, you know, like a very prototype ish product ready that a few users could enjoy and we could test the retention with.
But essentially, like, you know, shortly before COVID, I remember we had a slide, because we only had three months of capital to do this.
So it was very tight.
We had an investor site immediately ready. And we said, 3% of companies are remote.
And I remember this very distinctly. And then like, you know, three months later, it's like the whole world is remote.
And it's 93. Yeah, that definitely helped us.
So we raised our precede with seed camp, you know, at the same time when Hopin started, they also invested in Hopin.
So it was quite cool to learn how things are going and build a team really iterated on the product in a closed beta.
And we launched in July this year, actually. And yeah, like last month, we hit a cool milestone.
1 million meeting minutes saved with TLDV within one month of November.
So that's quite, quite nice. And congrats on the milestone. Yeah, yeah, it is.
We should have another episode at million two, which I think is going to be very, very soon.
Oh, yes. Actually, like, let's meet end of December. See, that's gonna be a very good present for, you know, crossing into the next year, that everyone talks about, you know, going back to, well, to something we don't know if it's normal or not, but to something else.
So you're based in Germany, is your team in Germany?
Do you have remote people working from other countries? Like how, what's the composition?
How do you find people to work for you right now? Yeah, no, we're fully remote.
And this was actually by, it just happened because our founders, Carlo, Alan, and myself, we already met remotely.
Carlo, Alan was actually in Canada at that time when we met.
And I was in Zurich and Carlo was in Barcelona.
So this is how we started collaborating. And so for us, remote was always part of the DNA, actually.
And so for example, for me, I'm living in my hometown.
So like I can see my mom every weekend and build a global business at the same time, I couldn't do that in a non -remote world.
So we were very big into that.
And also, you know, just building a cross-functional, cross-cultural team across the world is very, very cool for us.
And it's very eye-opening. So yeah, we were definitely very big on that and a proud remote-first organization.
And we have our first team trip coming up, which is very important.
Like we definitely hope it can happen because of the new developments in February, because, you know, being in person...
Where are you going? What country are you going to? So we're going to, like, likely to Spain, but it's like still a little bit, what we are, what we're figuring out.
So don't spoil it because maybe you don't want everyone to know yet.
So it's good. Oh, no, no, it's already internally. Okay, okay. After I asked, I thought about, oh, maybe I should have asked that.
I'm assuming everyone that is, you know, remote first, or I mean, today's when you say to somebody, like, if I had a conversation with my parents or my grandparents, not even to mention, and then you tell them, so what kind of work you do?
And then they say, I work from home.
If you say I work remote, maybe it doesn't really mean a lot. But if you say I work from home, then they would go like, that's not work.
What do you mean work?
So how hard is it to start a company with co-founders who you said you met online or, you know, you met remote?
And then what did you, did you feel that you have like a connection good enough or strong enough to have enough faith to actually start a business?
Like, how was that? You know, the vibe, let's say, it's very less said, but let's say the vibe.
It's interesting. So I think there's like a few variables that are coming together.
So it was for us, like the first few experiences as entrepreneurs.
So maybe some parts of my answer will actually be also more because it's the first time we're doing that and less influenced by the remote setting, you know, because at the beginning, like you need to find your strength.
And there are some points where hard conversations are due to happen. And every business needs these, you know.
So like, it's very hard for me to dissect what is because we are remote or not from the problems and successes we had.
But I do have to say that after a certain time when you are actually, you're now realizing like what you've achieved together, but without being in the same room, it's a very like, it's almost bringing you closer together because of the, hey, we trust each other so much.
Like we believe in this, what we're doing so much, like we don't need to lock ourselves in a room 24 seven to make it happen.
Like we can actually do this and actually enjoy life and, you know, walk the dog in the meantime and be very async first across the world together.
I think that's a very romantic way to look at an Internet organization, but that's definitely what we're living.
Very optimistic way. Yeah. And, but again, it's very important to meet in person, right?
And like this, like, and this is what really, I think people still miss to get the full picture of remote, including us.
It's like in the future, we can actually have quarterly, like everything we save on an office, let's pour it into amazing team trips that actually we can have stories from and, and really like live the best of both worlds, like working from your hometown, seeing your school friends, seeing your parents, and then going and meeting in San Francisco and have everyone together and, you know, build the next big wave of product updates together in the same room as well.
Spend a couple of weeks or so with the same people.
You just literally speak online only, and then, you know, build businesses with, were you at the time when you, the three of you met, were you, I'm assuming doing something else for like earning your money?
So this was, this, this started as a side project or like an interesting idea.
When, when did you feel that you have like a viable, you know, business proposition?
So it's no longer, oh, what would it be interesting?
Like we, we, we talked before the show, right?
This is a call. I want to make sure that I have my notes. I want to make sure that it's recorded.
I want to make sure that I don't miss anything. I'm sure these were in the back of your minds and maybe even the watch, you know, people watching now, they have this all the time.
Like, oh my God, I got to go to another meeting. What if I miss something?
What if, so we all have that in our minds, but none of us, except you and your team started actually doing something about it.
When was that decision making point?
When did you feel like, you know, what was the position after you guys started talking about it?
Yeah. It's very interesting because I was fortunate enough to take a job in Switzerland in the corporate that essentially, you know, like put me in the fortunate position to fund the first few kind of like steps of development for, for a little while.
And then Cardo was fortunate enough to, you know, have a lot of savings from, from his prior job as well.
So he could, he actually quit his job as the first one from us. And while I was still working, he was the first believer.
Yeah. Like, and, but you know, like the thing is for us, it was always like, oh yeah, you can raise friends and family when you don't have a prototype.
And I was like, that sounds so easy, but we had no network.
Like we had zero rich friends that could give us money. So like his friends and family, it seemed like a joke to us, you know, and, and yet the funds were too far away from where we are, where we were.
So we made this deal, like Carlo goes full time and really like, like operates.
And then we, I fund some first engineers from my salary that I have in Switzerland and I'm working on the weekends.
And this was like a crazy time. Like I was working on a very stressful job already.
And then at night and on the weekends we were funding the first product.
So yeah, it wasn't easy. It wasn't an easy road. It wasn't, you know, and like at one point then I heard something really cool.
It's like, you know, you need to get into a position where you need the startup to work as well, right?
Because if you, you always have this like safety net and your job and this as well, you like, no, have no sense of urgency.
And I think that was ultimately why I quit my job.
And when we went really under pressure, this is when we really made it work.
And this happened with TLDV. So in three months we went from the idea to actually like the first pre -seed investment, working prototype, some early users, and we were actually able to get something off the ground.
So I think it's always like, you need to put yourself into position where you also need things to work and have this pressure environment because otherwise you're kicking tires for too long and you can afford more mistakes, I would say.
Yeah. I'm trying to, so I don't have a startup on my own.
I was never a founder, but I did speak with a lot of founders, but I don't think I know.
It's just like when you're a parent and you hear somebody else talk about kids, but they don't have kids and they tell you how to parent.
And it's like, I have teens, like I know the moods and I know everything about that.
So don't explain me about how easy it is to be a parent, but I'm asking, so I'm not telling you, I'm asking what are some of the moments that you really felt the rewards or emotional about your business?
Like, I don't know, the first paying customer, the first bug that you fixed, the big bug that you fixed, or like some of the milestones that let's say they don't end up necessarily in the official milestone page of the website, but you feel them inside.
Like, this is my thing.
This is something that I feel that I have achieved. Can you share a few of those moments?
I really love that question actually. And ironically, I know there is a viral Twitter thread.
So anyone that like, there is a thread just about that and I'm trying to find it back.
So anyone in the audience has access to it, please send it to me.
No matter, I really love this question. And there is a lot of them, like the ones that you don't put on a pitch deck, because every investor would be like, yeah, that's the one of like, but to you, it feels like amazing, you know?
Yeah, we had a couple of these moments.
So the other day, my former, so when I quit my job in corporate to found a startup, it was a little bit like, they were very supportive.
They said like, go do it. But like the other day, my former boss was also called Rafa, he sent me a screenshot of TLDB in a meeting of them.
And he was like, holy shit, is that you?
And like, you know, and it was in Latin America. And he was like, well, and I was like, that's quite cool.
Because, you know, when I quit the job, I put myself into like a very uncertain situation, it could have just failed.
And I asked him, can I knock on the door in six months? And would you hire me back?
And he said, like, yeah, let's definitely let's talk about it in that moment, you know, but actually, so this was one of the micro success moments.
Even now, when you're talking about it, you are emotional, because I can feel that that is a big important moment in Yeah, yeah, it was for you as a person.
Yeah, it was. And it was like, coincidence, but also like a closure in a way, because like, we, it connects me back to this moment when I actually quit.
And there was a lot of these kind of moments as well, where, you know, you start realizing, okay, it's a thing.
And it's not only in your kind of serious now. Exactly. And that's the moment when that this was one of these, but there's a lot of them, you know, for example, registering a trademark, we have enough time, go on.
Your spotlight is not mine.
So I'm only here to sort of ask questions, but it's your show your story, please.
So don't don't hold back. Yeah, it's, you know, showing your mom, your website is also a cool one.
You know, there's, there's, there's a few of these moments, I would say, or like, when you, I mean, everybody says you shouldn't print swag or merch for your startup, you know, but when you have something tangible, like you underestimate that as well.
When you have like a mug that has your logo on it, you're like, Oh, it's actually quite real at this point.
And then you start seeing a little bit more about the real world implications that your idea has.
What, what, what is, what is the place or did it happen to you that you, you know, you went someplace now, I know you started through pandemic.
So maybe not some, not much traveling happening, but going to somewhere where you see either someone, like you said, your former boss and you a screenshot of them using your own product.
Any, any does, did it happen that you just went someplace and then you saw, oh, these, these, these people are using my product, or they talked about it, or you saw a tweet that sort of a, you know, appreciated what you guys are doing.
So do these things happen?
Like, how do you feel about them? Yeah. So I think the first moment where a startup recognized this isn't like these investor landscapes when they map like the market and then your logo appears there.
So this is the, but this is more common, but yeah, like scrolling LinkedIn, like randomly saw a screenshot of Google meet and like the TLDB extension.
So this happens more the other day.
I, I had a call with an investor and he was like, oh, you're using TLDB.
And I was like, I'm the founder of TLDB. This was also quite funny. You should put that on, on Twitter for sure.
I would, I would retweet that. Yeah. So yeah, it did.
It did happen. And that's, that's very rewarding because like you do, you know, put yourself into this position of like, there are doubts, like, like, are we doing the right thing?
And they will always be. So it's important to celebrate and feel proud and also show it about your milestones because in the end, like, you know, that's, that's part of why you're doing this.
Yeah. Cause I'm, I'm a person that I'm on social media, a lot working in social media.
I've been doing this for a lot of time.
Do you collect feedback on social media? How do you handle social media as a startup?
What advice you would have for someone maybe starting now, like how much reliance, how much, you know, time should they spend in crowdsourcing ideas, crowdsourcing feedback, you know, asking for please fight bugs, please test this thing.
Let us know how it works. Especially because, well, except using time, right.
You know, you don't really have to pay, especially if it's organic social media.
What was your relationship and how do you, how do you see social media and the community in, in, you know, in growing as a startup?
That's a very interesting question.
So we, in our prior company, we used to run a discord server where we had like a thousand beta testers in, and they actually, you know we, we, we purposely built a community that would, you know, spread the word.
And, you know, that would like, we, we made them like part of the product as a reward.
And we actually do it with TLDB as well.
Everyone that, you know, is contributing in some way, helping us fix a bug or shouting out here or doing something there.
We, we write down their names and we make them part of the product forever.
So we do take this very serious.
And there's actually like an Easter egg on TLDB. When you click on it, it has all the names.
And we updated with the next product hunt launch. And we did that back then on discord.
And it was like a lot of work, but also super rewarding because like every time we pushed something, we just pinged like a role, which was like developer.
And they would actually like, like test it, that would give feedback.
But on the other side, it puts you in a position where you need to manage a lot of opinions as well, which can be challenging.
And now on the more one-to-many social media, or like many-to-many with like Twitter, for example, we get tweets when like there's an, just now I replied to one with a, with a small bug we had, and it was an ad tweet.
So I would recommend to be very responsive there, but be responsive to any person that even on the help center reaches out, because that's very, very important.
Crowdsourcing ideas as well, like get in touch, like we love getting in touch with our users, and I am in touch with a lot of users.
We always proactively do that, but more in one-to-one conversations, because if it has too much of a stage, I think the pressure just increases in some way.
So we do try to, you know, talk more in one-on-one settings with the users, and on social media, kind of keep it to like a general brand representation.
Yeah. So the roadmap of developing the product would maybe be like, let's say, more internal and owned by the startup or the company, and yes, do get feedback from outside in the community, but maybe also run with whatever you want as stages of the development, right?
But it's also important to, to get bugs.
And I think, and that's, that's a very good point that you made here, because many times when someone, I, I'm using, you know, you're using, I am using other products online.
And many times I find myself on Twitter, just at whatever the company name is and saying, you know, thank you so much for implementing this X feature, which I know that I live chatted about with their support.
And then it happened, you know, in a month or three months or six months, whatever in the product cycle, and they actually released it.
So incorporating, like you said, comments and feedback from community into your own product in a way makes it be my product, although I'm paying, you know, I'm not like, I don't own it, but it still makes me feel much more invested in a way, even if not financially.
Yeah. And that's very important. Like the users are the first investors, because like when the product breaks and it's early, like, like sometimes there's a better one out there already, and they're choosing yours because they believe in you as a founder, maybe, or in like the, like small little subtle difference that you might get in the future.
And so they're like the first investors.
And that's exactly, that's really important to reward and, and inform.
So we do run a public change log and we have Kenny, that you can vote on features like Kenny.io is part of our product.
So you can go and vote. But I do believe that vote like deciding on features by popularity is a bad decision.
So we definitely look at like, try to give the user justice and essentially, could we help them even better?
Is there something that we see that in this feature request could actually be solved and packaged and solve actually much more than just this feature request.
So that's why we always take it with a grain of salt and try to match it and find the good midway.
Yeah. You mentioned Kenny, and I'm sure there's loads of other tools that's, you know, entrepreneurs, when they start, they should use, or maybe already using, do you find yourself in a position where using any automation or any helping tools like that did help you a lot, you know, maybe saving time, saving money, energy, and doing something else, I don't know, getting live chat bots to respond to FAQ questions and so on.
How should, from your perspective, a founder relate to these possible helping tools?
Yeah. Very, very good.
So I think in general, automations are great help when they make sense. I think it's easy to over-invest in them.
But, you know, just the first early stack that we had was literally bare bones product.
And then tools that helped us were Typeform a lot, you know, like this is a big one where you can collect a lot of data.
And this still is like our tool to analyze and identify churn and why people churn.
So this is a very, very important one. And definitely I would recommend opening up a help center or like a direct wire ASAP and own it as a founder to a large extent because it gives you a direct wire to someone having a problem right now.
How many people are having the same problem? Then you see the volume. Exactly.
Yeah. Loom is really powerful in automating a lot of the one-on-one reach out and actually reach people still very personally.
So we're using that. And I can't fail to not mention TLDB because like for us, it's a game changer.
We record all our customer conversations, our user research, hiring.
So it's like, it's really making everything accessible within the full organization and really transparently.
So you can save a whole bunch of time using TLDB to hire the best candidates, upscale user feedback to the engineering team and so much more.
Yeah. So if anyone is not already using TLDB, they should start using today.
What is the website?
Where do people have to go and find you? So the website is tldb.io. And by the way, in case you're wondering, it stands for too long didn't view because usually the recordings are so long that nobody even clicks and watches.
Do you have a skip options?
We do. Yeah. I mean, we have the highlights. You can just jump fast and you can have double X speed, you know, all this magic.