Episode: 475 |
Jennifer Smith:


Jennifer Smith


Show Notes

Jennifer Smith is the co-founder and CEO of Scribe, a Princeton and Harvard alum, and a former VC and McKinsey consultant turned accidental CEO. She interviewed more than 1,200 business leaders on a quest to understand everything there is to know about corporate processes, best practices, and productivity. In today’s episode, Jennifer talks about her startup Scribe, and how she’s empowering people to own their processes by building the world’s first operating system for know-how.

To sign up for a free account, visit scribehow.com/signup  

To try a free month of Pro, use promo code UNLEASHED

Key points include:

  • 00:49: An overview of the product
  • 06:09: Who uses Scribe and how it’s used
  • 09:57: Finding the right scribe for your needs
  • 12:00: Pricing model of the product

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:


  1. Jennifer Smith on Scribe


Will Bachman 00:00

ever again. Hello, and welcome to a special video episode of Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host will Bachman. And I’m here today with Jennifer Smith, who is the founder of scribe, scribe, and she’s gonna tell us all about it. It sounds like an awesome tool for independent professionals, and also something useful for our clients. Jennifer McKinsey alum, welcome to the show.


Jennifer Smith 00:29

Thanks so much great to be here.


Will Bachman 00:30

And you guys are taking off like a rocket ship, I know that you just got $30 million of funding to fund the growth. Before we get into the product, just tell us a little bit about your user base and, and an overview of, of the product. And then I think you’re going to give us a demo.


Jennifer Smith 00:49

Yeah. So Scribe is a we’re a software company based in the Bay Area. And we make it really easy for anyone to share how to do something. So the idea is, there are all these people in the world who have all of us really great knowledge around how to do specialized tasks, different kinds of digital workflows, how to use different tools, etc. And so scribes a really easy way to be able to capture and share that knowledge with your colleagues, clients, anyone. And so we have users around the world, we are in 10s of 1000s of organizations and over 100 countries, ranging from independent professionals, we’ve got a large user base of I call it kind of small consulting, it’s individuals or consulting firms, who have to share with our clients how to do something to folks who are scaling their own businesses and trying to capture and share internal operational knowledge to really large fortune 500 enterprises, who have to similarly communicate internally how to do something or communicate externally with clients and customers.


Will Bachman 01:46

Yeah, is such a common use case where you want to show someone how to do something. Now, we were chatting a little bit before I started recording here, you know, some tools that some people are currently using would be to record a video to to show someone how to do something and give it a voiceover, do a kind of a video of your screen that has some pros and cons. But your tool is a little bit different than that. So maybe the best way would be to demonstrate it. So let me make sure here, you can share your screen. And why don’t you share your screen and maybe give us a give us a demo.


Jennifer Smith 02:20

Yeah, so I’ll give a quick preview and then jump into showing you how to do it. So scribe. The way that it works is you do some kind of workflow. So I’ll do some sample workflow, and you just click the record button and you work like you normally would, when you’re done, you click stop record. And what it’ll generate is a step by step written guide with screenshots showing what you did. So let me share my screen here.


Will Bachman 02:44

So this is one where you don’t have to kind of give an audio narration, you just do what you would normally do. And the tool is going to observe you and kind of figure out what are the kind of the moments of truth as you go through it, and the most important things to try to capture.


Jennifer Smith 03:01

That’s exactly right. So we’re gonna go through and I just have Salesforce, because that’s a really common use case that we see. But you can imagine any kind of tool and we’re just going to record me doing something basic. So you have two ways to record we have both a browser extension as which works just in the browser, as well as a desktop application, which will record anything you have on your screen doesn’t matter what it is. Since we’re in the browser here, I’m just going to click the browser extension, I’m going to click start recording. And now we’re just going to pretend I’m doing something within Salesforce. So let’s pretend that I need to go and add a lead into Salesforce. That’s kind of a common one, right? So I’m going to navigate to sales console, I’m going to go to New. And, you know, maybe change my lead source here, change my lead status. And now click Save. You know, I skipped a few things. You can imagine that I just did a real process right when I’m done. I’m just gonna go ahead and click Stop Recording. Okay, and what you’re gonna see automatically appear here now is a scribe that shows exactly what I did, right? So we navigated here, I clicked here, I clicked on to sales console, went to New, click the fields, I selected this, etc, etc. Now, we did something very simple. It was just me kind of clicking around Salesforce for fun. But you could imagine if I was doing something more complicated, maybe I’m trying to import contacts from my HubSpot into my Salesforce as an example, I would just click that record button and then do the process as I normally would. And automatically what comes out is this documentation. There are a whole bunch of ways that I could go through and edit this and personalize this if I wanted to. That’s what this bar here on the right does. But but the point is I really don’t have to write all the info someone would need to be able to replicate this process is automatically contained in the scribe and again, you know, I was just clicking around but this grabbed took 26 seconds for me to create We see the average scribe takes about a minute for someone to do. And so it’s just designed to be really, really easy to capture something that you know how to do to communicate with someone else who’s asking you, hey, wait, how do I blink. And then if you want to share this, you’ve got a number of different options. The most common way is just to copy a link to it and share it. And it’s wiziwig. Right. So what you can see here is a link I could share with anyone, it’s exactly the content of the scribe we just had. It’s a persistent link. So if I make changes to the underlying scribe, someone will always have the latest version available. There, I can also embed this into a number of different tools, I can export this to PDF, markdown HTML. So there’s there’s kind of a number of different ways that I could share. And then of course, this is going to go ahead and also live in my repository where I can organize according to different teams and workspaces and kind of everything that you would expect.


Will Bachman 05:56

How are some examples of people? Are people using this in practice? What sorts of companies and clients are using it? And what sorts of processes would they use to document?


Jennifer Smith 06:09

Yeah, we see a broad range, I’ll put them into a few different buckets. A really common one is customer support, or client support. And this will be from everyone from, you know, independent consultants, or accountants or other kinds of professionals who say, hey, my clients are always asking me, How do I blank and right now I have to hop on a zoom with them, or I’m sending them an email, or I’m writing out a really long Google Doc with screenshots trying to explain how to do this. And so this is just a really easy way for me to be able to quickly show them how to do something and be certain that they can follow all the instructions and have it be really easy on their side to call it more internal operations. So a very common story is ham, I’m growing my team, right, my business is growing, we’re adding more people, maybe I’m trying to find ways to get more time back in my day. And so I need to offload some tasks to others. And so this is an easy way for me to capture what I know how to do are these common processes that my business is doing, and now give them to new colleagues or new contractors. So they can do that over time. To I’ll call it more internal education use cases, we just were maybe a slightly bigger company, and we just purchased this new tool, or we just generated this new process or this new way of working. And we’ve got to enable everyone on how to do it. So we see a lot of those education and enablement use cases. And that really runs the gamut from the solo entrepreneur all the way up to teams within fortune 500, fortune 100 companies, it’s pretty universal, this need to share how to think if you’re a knowledge worker, anywhere who’s sitting in front of a computer doing any kind of digital process, you’re probably asked multiple times within a day, hey, wait, how do I and having to respond? Again, either just in a conversation or an email or whatever it might be?


Will Bachman 08:01

Yeah. So this is it look like, you know, in those individual steps, it looks like there’s an opportunity to type in some additional text, if you wanted to, if you wanted to, you know, clarify something, you know, maybe sometimes there’s an A or B, you know, like, if it’s this, then you have to go this process, if it’s B have to do this process, I imagine your tools and ways to, you know, incorporate those those branching type of options.


Jennifer Smith 08:31

Yeah, that’s exactly right, you have a bunch of different options in terms of how you want to customize and edit. So you can go in and add more context, on any given step, hey, here’s why I’m doing this or make sure that you’re doing this or as you said, kind of branching logic. Similarly, a lot of times processes change, right? Either the UI for the workflow changes, or you find a different way of doing something. And so rather than having to go back and re record or create all new documentation, you can easily go to Step six, where maybe something has changed and just replace the screenshot in step six. And it’s as simple as just clicking that record button again, and going and doing whatever the new processes and it’ll auto update within the scribe. So it’s designed to just be really, really easy. Again, what we’re trying to do is reduce the friction, you’ve done the hard part, you know how to do something valuable and interesting. Let’s just make it very easy for you to be able to communicate that with someone else.


Will Bachman 09:27

One thing I’ve seen using a, using some more video based tools is you start accumulating this library of them, but it’s a little bit tricky to kind of keep it organized or to let someone know if you’re training a new employee and you have 30 or 50 of these. How do you kind of organize them I saw you could have a different folders. Is there kind of a way to help people find the right you know, the right scribe for their needs?


Jennifer Smith 09:57

Yeah, this is something we think about a lot because I think this is one of the Big challenges with kind of traditional content management or knowledge tools, it’s a there’s a number of them. One is that it usually takes a bunch of time just to create these things. And so you don’t see as much documentation as you might like, right? So we’ve thought a lot about how do we bring that down? Then there’s the question of like, how do you actually find the info that you need? And how do you make sure that it’s up to date? And how do you get it in the moment when you need that information? And so one of the problems with having something like video or even other kinds of documentation is that maybe when you do find it, it’s gone stale, right? Because it’s hard and difficult to update. And so that’s why we’ve thought a lot about again, how do you make it very easy to in that authoring experience, update what you need, in terms of finding it? Yes, it works, kind of like any other content management system where you’ve got folders, obviously, it’s got a very strong search show, you can use the search bar anytime, if, for example, I was trying to figure out how to add a lead in Salesforce, I could type in lead in Salesforce and the relevant scribe would appear. There are different ways to make it collaborative and social as well. So it can highlight the scribes that have been tagged as the best scribes for that particular use case. We are also going to release so I guess sneak peek here, the ability to surface relevant scribes as you are going through a process in the extension itself. So we’re thinking a lot about in the moment that you are doing that work, I’m on Salesforce, and I’m about to add a lead, how can we start this the scribe to you on that page in real time? So it’s contextually aware and relevant to the action you’re doing in that moment? So we think a lot of again about how do we help people get the info they need at the right time, because I think there’s nothing more disempowering than when you go to do something, and you can’t quite do it, you don’t have all the info you need. And so we think a lot about how do you just empower people to again, really quickly share what they know how to do and really quickly get the info, they need to be able to do that process and get on?


Will Bachman 11:57

What’s the pricing model for your product.


Jennifer Smith 12:00

So the good news is, we have a free tier. And you can do everything I just showed you is actually available in that free tier. For those who want to upgrade, we also have a pro model, which is a self serve swipe a credit card, that’s $29 per user per month. And that’ll include the ability to record on desktop, its custom branding, and some other kind of more enhanced features. And for those who are in much larger organizations, you can also talk to our sales team about custom deployments and configurations for that. But for folks who are interested to try out just the free version, you’re welcome to go to scribe Howe calm. And there’s a link to just sign up. We like we’ve like I said, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to make this as easy as possible. And so we’ve clocked this, it takes four minutes from the time someone lands on our page to the time when they create and share their first scribe. So it’s designed to really have no learning curve. It’s just very easy and very straightforward to use. And for listeners of this podcast will include a promo code for folks to get a free month of bro, if they want to try that as well.


Will Bachman 13:08

Fantastic. Well, we will include that in the show notes. Talk to me a bit about some of the research you did when you were developing this product, I think I saw that you interviewed a large number, maybe 1200, you know, executives, some large number of voices of customer type work. Talk to me about that process, you know where this idea came from and how you shaped the product. As you went through that process.


Jennifer Smith 13:36

I think there’s this famous Steve Jobs quote that your life really makes sense when you look backwards and you can connect the dots. And that’s certainly how I feel feels like scrubs been in progress for 15 years now. And I just didn’t know it at the time that they say the first kernel client came when I was at McKinsey, and I was doing a lot of operations and org work, which I know you’re familiar with literally going into ops centers and looking over the shoulders of agents for eight hours a day. And there we would often look at what agents were doing and find best practices and write that down. Right. And that would be a big part of our deliverable. And the name of the game sure is, you know, figure out who the best person in that office center is. And you sit next to them, and you just ask them, What are you doing differently? What do you know, that’s different? And they would tell me, you know, oh, I was trained to do this, but I found these 30 Shortcuts. And so I’ve always thought like, gosh, if that person had just had a way to share what they knew how to do, they could have had really big impact on their colleagues and that off center. And so fast forward a decade and I’m working on Sand Hill Road at a venture capital firm called Greylock partners on the enterprise software side, and I spend a lot of my time talking to buyers of enterprise software. If you notice, countered when I left I talked to over 1200 CIO, CTO, CTO type folks at large enterprises, just to try to understand you know, what are you buying, what do you wish existed? Where are you seeing gaps in the market? And the thing that really struck me was I kept hearing this again and again. I’ve all of this knowledge around how work is getting done in my company every day, and it walks out the door every day 5pm. And I got a hope that it comes back. And if I want to get at it right now, my only real option is to tell someone to stop doing their job and write down what they know how to do. And that has a bunch of challenges with it already, as it talks about. And so I said, Well, hey, what if there were a way that you could just watch someone do work and automatically capture what they know how to do? What if we just made this digital exhaust? Because it was crazy to me, you know, we’ve made so many advances in technology in the last 15 years, and yet something that’s so fun, and then also the way that we work every day really hadn’t changed. And that was crazy.


Will Bachman 15:42

Yeah. So and then, when did you decide, okay, I want to actually build this.


Jennifer Smith 15:49

Yeah, I, so I kind of watched the space for a while and said, This feels like this is a big problem, someone’s going to solve this right? Someone, surely this is a problem for someone else. I kept kind of looking at it. And the problem kept nagging at me, and no one was building it. And I kind of talked about being an accidental founder. I think that a lot of people out there knew that they wanted to run their own company from you know, the time that they were quite young. For me, I didn’t know that I wanted to run a company until well, after I was actually running it. And to me, it was because I just got really obsessed with this problem. I had a professor in business school who said, find the thing that you continue to apologize about for yourself, and go do that professionally find a way to get paid for it. And the thing that, you know, I do all the time, always trying to find the most efficient way to do things pretty much to a fault. If you were to ask my husband, what my biggest flaws, he would probably say that I’m just obsessed with efficiency. And so I just got really obsessed with this problem of everyone’s reinventing the wheel every day, everywhere on how to do something. What if we just made it really, really easy for people to share what they know how to do? Couldn’t we unlock so much time and so much brainpower of kind of a collective intelligence of the world if we could just almost open people’s brains up and pull out what they know how to do in a way that didn’t take any of their additional time?


Will Bachman 17:10

Yeah, no, this looks like a very, very powerful tool. How have you, you know, built awareness so far. And you know, you mentioned you’ve have, I think, you know, more than well over 10,000 users, how has you gotten the word to spread so far?


Jennifer Smith 17:27

Yeah, we we’ve done no marketing at all until a couple of quarters ago. So our announcement of our funding was the first time we talked publicly about ourselves and who we are before that you wouldn’t have known about scribe unless you happen to know one of our users and our users have really been the way that we spread the word. So we did a small lunch on Product Hunt, which is a marketplace where you know, new tools can kind of launch and share what they’re doing about two years ago. And from there, it kind of just, we found an early core group of people who are passionate, and they just started sharing it with their friends talking about it, writing blogs about it, sharing it in Slack, inviting people in the product. And so it just really kind of picked up and grew legs from there, which is exactly what you want to see. Right. And so that was really great and validating for us where we said, hey, we’re really on to something that this is something people are just organically sharing with their friends and colleagues.


Will Bachman 18:24

Fantastic. So incredibly useful tool, I’m going to be checking this out myself. And just for our internal use here, at Umbrex, it looks like a good way to you know, we’ve been trying to do the video approach. But this looks really helpful in terms of because of the video, you can see the people doing it, the narration, but then it’s, it’s not, it’s not you kind of have to listen to the whole thing the whole minute to get to the step you want. And then if it’s, you’re confused, you have to go backwards and forwards and so forth. So this is a bit more of an asynchronous where you can just see it all written out and go to the step that you are confused about. So that looks very powerful. So again, I want to share once once more the the website, and we will also include the link in the show notes.


Jennifer Smith 19:14

Yeah, that’s right. It’s www that scribe how.com. Subscribe at cri VHO w.com. And there’s a big old button right there that says Sign up for free. And just go ahead and click that. And as I said, it takes about four minutes on average from the time you click that button to the time you’ve shared your first scribe. So really, there’s no learning curve. It’s just designed to be very simple, very easy.


Will Bachman 19:38

Fantastic. And we’ll include that link in the show notes. Jennifer, thanks for joining today.



Thanks so much. Well appreciate it.

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