Interview with Max Williams (Pusher)
Pusher is a hosted API for quickly, easily and securely adding scalable realtime functionality to web and mobile apps.
I interviewed Max Williams, Pusher co-founder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the forty second in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Max for the interview!
How would you describe Pusher in under 50 words?
Pusher is a hosted service for quickly and easily adding realtime functionality (notifications, activity streams, games, collaboration etc) to web and mobile apps.
What made you decide to start working on Pusher?
Like many founders, Damien Tanner and I started our route into our product-focused startup after first spending many years building up a successful services business. This first company is called New Bamboo, and is one of the leading Ruby On Rails shops in the UK.
At the beginning of 2010, we had an opportunity of utilising our awesome team and spending some of our capital on developing products. This was an area we had always been interested in so we were eager to make the most of it.
Pusher wasn’t the first product we built, our main focus was on a couple of tools that we had built internally for managing our consultancy. We soon found a need to keep data synchronised between the users of these apps, and built a piece of standalone infrastructure that made use of the new WebSocket spec in HTML5. After implementing realtime updates in under an hour, we decided that this was probably a much bigger market opportunity than our management tools!
How did you come up with the name?
Personally, I love the subversiveness of our name. When wearing my Pusher tshirt in the US, a surprising number of people inform me that ‘Pusher’ means drug dealer. For fun, I often feign ignorance. The whole ‘pushing data’ thing provides plausible deniability though.
I think the original git repo was called “thingamagig”, and was obviously not a name that could stick around for long. We also went through a stage where people referred to us as “Pushr” (yuck).
Enforcing what you want people to call you is very difficult though. Our first domain was pusherapp.com, and we had the @pusherapp Twitter handle. This led a lot of people to call us PusherApp, which is a little frustrating. Finally getting the pusher.com domain name and Twitter handle has made a big difference though.
How different is the current version of Pusher compared to your initial launch?
Our first beta launch was a pretty flaky MVP in the tradition of the Lean Startup. I firmly believe that testing the market fit is incredibly important at the early stage, and putting anything you can that demonstrates fit is crucial.
Once we saw that demand, we were able to pump more time and energy into building the scalable and resilient platform we have now.
Do you have any new features in the pipeline?
We’ve recently launched webhooks as a feature, which we are really excited about. We also have an alpha feature called the ‘Pipe’ which allows some really interesting possibilities for people who are using NodeJS. We have a ton of ideas for things we’d like to build, the trick is in finding the time.
Has Pusher got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
I think our growth has probably exceeded our initial expectations by now. I’d say that the scope of your ambition widens as you continue down a successful avenue, so I am never satisfied with our growth, and always feel we could do more.
In terms of feedback, I’m always immensely proud when our users praise us publicly. They build such awesome applications, which continue to amaze and delight us.
Who is your biggest competitor?
I’m not giving them free PR! Suffice to say they exist, and we know all of them pretty well. We believe that the trend towards realtime applications is going to create a market that is big enough to sustain several players with different approaches and products. Things are still pretty friendly between the pioneers :)
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
People. Finding the right people to recruit is really hard.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
The realtime web in general is fantastically exciting. We believe that we’re on the cusp of a massive change in how applications are built and communicate with each other. The impact of WebSockets is yet to be fully felt, and we can’t wait until it becomes the standard for application development.
Can you convince the reader to start using Pusher in under 50 words?
I feel I should be better at this considering what our company is called! All I can say is that not many people who have tried our service want to break the habit…
Finished reading? Check out Pusher!