Quip CEO Bret Taylor: I continue to be ‘awe-inspired’ by Mark Zuckerberg

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Bret Taylor, the CEO of collaborative document app Quip, says that Facebook’s continued aggressive pursuit of mobile is a “smart move” and that he continues to be “awe-inspired” by Mark Zuckerberg even after leaving the post of CTO in June 2012.

Taylor, who admitted that during his three year tenure Facebook’s transition to mobile had been “awkward”, explained why he thought tech companies who didn’t move to mobile would go the same way of firms who failed to invest in the Internet in the 1990s.

“I think for the incumbents, if you will, being able to embrace this new platform and not suffer the fate of so many technology companies in history as these platform transitions happen is a real existential issue,” he tells MarketingTech. “And I think that Mark understands that.”

He added: “He’s a very ambitious and aggressive businessman, and I really appreciate the assertiveness with which he’s pursuing this strategy. There’s very few transitions in technology that are this impactful.”

When one thinks of Facebook’s mobile strategy, thoughts instantly turn to Instagram and WhatsApp. As Taylor sees it, Zuckerberg’s acquisition of these companies was based on firms who were performing well in one of Facebook’s four ‘pillars’ – the newsfeed, profile page, messaging and photos.

“I think that those four parts of Facebook are the pillars of the experience,” he explains, “and Mark has seen applications in one of those four areas in mobile that are doing a very good job.

“I think that’s what motivating his pursuit of those companies. Through that lens, you can really understand the purchase of Instagram, the purchase of WhatsApp.”

Taylor’s latest bet, Quip, recently moved up to 2.0, moving in features including a publishing format, a full-text search option and the ability to export any Quip document to Microsoft Word. Even though Quip seems to be directly competing against Word, in the mobile space at least, this inclusivity has always been part of the company’s ethos – Quip was formed on the conscious basis to work on multiple operating systems and devices.

“In spirit we would like any document format to be able to import into Quip, and we would love to be able to export any document format as well,” says Taylor.

He adds: “One of the things we want to make Quip great at is getting things in and out of your phone really efficiently. What we wanted with this release was to make it easier for that first person to start using Quip, and to remove the barriers in place.”

Facebook is one of 5,000 companies using the product – a milestone which was another announcement alongside the 2.0 release. Yet you can use Quip for free with no restricted features or annoying paywalls – so long as you’re an individual rather than a team.

It’s a perfect idea for a collaboration app, therefore, although Taylor refuses to call Quip a freemium product.

“We’ve had pretty good adoption overall,” he says. “Our hope is the companies who have adopted it within an individual department – because the product is naturally engaging we hope that it will sort of spread over time throughout the whole company.”

Take LHM, a Utah-based firm which does everything from automotive, to sports and retail. It’s not exactly a name you’d associate with being hugely tech-savvy, yet Taylor notes the first department to adopt Quip at LHM was IT.

“What we’ve found is the general strategy we have for our business – an individual starts to use it and typically it takes hold in a company because of a forward-leaning team,” he says.

This filters down into the nuts and bolts of the company’s foundations, even to the extent of sales strategy.

“Our sales approach is very different than most enterprise software companies because, rather than cold calling a company with a salesperson, we are generally reaching out to people who already use the product and just convincing them to deploy it more widely within their company,” Taylor says.

“It’s actually the first time I’ve sold software to people before,” he adds. “As with many startups, it was a learning experience for everyone on the team.”

With 5000 customers in the bag in nine months, it’s a learning experience which Quip appears to have passed with flying colours.

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