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The Inevitable Element In Building IFTTT: The Founder’s Streak of Luck


When people need to bring together all their Internet-based tools, they go to IFTTT. Even the brand name is an acronym to symbolize this all-inclusive synergy - ‘if this, then that’.

There’s a general belief that when starting a company, the most important things are investment capital and the employees.

Linden Tibbets, the founder of IFTTT, begs to differ.

In his story, luck has the biggest role for each success down the road - and his luck began to unravel in a small apartment in San Francisco. Keep reading to find out more!

The Basics

Linden Tibbets, the Founder of IFTTT, is a born and raised Texan, having spent his childhood just south of Dallas. But his goals were always more oriented towards the San Francisco Bay area, and he moved there as soon as he could - 20 years ago.

What’s his story? Well, he was a computer kid who liked playing video games, watching Star Wars, Pixar etc. He pursued his dream of going to an engineering college and getting a job in Electronic Arts, but then reality hit him - games and movies weren’t doing it for him anymore.

The design of the games? That was something else.

He transitioned from playing video games to developing his design skills through offline design projects, which quickly turned into creating Flash visualizations. This led to a job in a design firm called IDEO - and from that point on, things started to get interesting.

An Idea While Waiting in Line

One night, while waiting in line to order Indian food, an idea came to Linden’s mind.

The concept of event-driven programming. Sounds complicated? It really isn’t.

It’s the same raw cause-and-effect system behind programming code. When developers code, they know what code to write to get the results they want. The difference in Linden’s concept is that he wanted everyone to have the same abilities as developers to create their own creative solutions. He started thinking about the way people interact with an object’s functionality when it’s different from the primary one.

To simplify, it’s easy for us to be creative in the offline world. As Linden says, we can use a hip to open a door when our hands are busy. But we can’t do that in the online world unless we have the right skillset. This is the core principle of IFTTT - giving everyone the opportunity to create simpler, more creative daily routines - even without coding or design skills.

How Did The Product Develop?

The first mention of IFTTT appeared on the internet on December 14, 2010, when Linden published a blog post to announce his new project. The project would be developed by a team of three - Linden, his brother Alexander, who was unemployed at the time, and Jesse Tane - a designer who also helped with app building.

The prototype of IFTTT was developed in Tibbets’ living room, and it was based on raw inputs and outputs to maximize the use of Internet-based services. This is called a ‘recipe’ and users can create as many of them as they want for their own benefit.

The official launch of the project was almost a year after its announcement, on September 7th, 2011 - with yet another announcement in a blog post. At that point, it had been 9 exhausting months of beta testing, as Linden mentioned, but they felt confident enough to put the platform on the market.

Safe to say, people needed something like their idea, because, by 2012, IFTTT users had created more than 1 million tasks. In under 4 months.

The Financials Behind IFTTT

Of course, none of this would have happened if there were no business angels to invest and believe in the idea. The team collected more than $2 million in a seed round, which enabled them to move from a building in SOMA, a popular start-up area in San Francisco, to a fourth-floor office. At that moment, 13 people were working on IFTTT, but from then onward, it was smooth sailing for IFTTT.

In 2013, they raised $9 million in investments, and in 2015, Norwest Venture Partners invested $30 million into the start-up. By the end of 2016, the number of total investments went up to $40 million and there were 19 more people on the team.

In one interview, when asked about the great start as a new company, Linden said ‘luck and investor’s faith in the software’ were the main reasons for the investments.

Big Product Changes During The Years

IFTTT was initially built to connect two Internet-based devices, but it quickly grew out of its initial functions. In 2012, they integrated Belkin Wemo devices into the platform, which allow users to control home electronic devices remotely. In 2013, they released an iPhone app, and the next year they released one for Android devices.

In 2015, the company released three applications to simplify the use of the software platform even more. The three apps are ‘Do Camera’, ‘Do Button’, and ‘Do Note’ all of which revolve around the idea of building a more personalized profile that makes things even easier for the users.

What Does The Future Hold For IFTTT?

Although every start-up journey has many obstacles down the road, it seems that the Tibbets brothers got lucky. Linden even mentions in many of his interviews that he got lucky with everything leading up to IFTTT - and most of the success was down to luck too.

Luck? No.

Brilliant idea.

From the designer’s job in a well-respected company to the generous investments in his idea, success with this software was inevitable.

Today, IFTTT has more than 600 partners and services to connect with - Facebook, Dominos, Evernote are just some of them. It has more than 14 million registered users, most of them based in the USA market.

The total funding amount they’ve received is $62.5 million - not too shabby! Funding continues with the latest investors being big names such as IBM and The Chamberlain Group.

As far as the founders’ story, they’re still involved in the company - just not in the same roles as they used to. After 10 years at the helm, last year Linden Tibbets announced that he would be stepping down as CEO of IFTTT.

He was replaced by Chris Kibarian, the former CEO of Linden is still part of the team, but now as a chief design officer.

During this decade, Linden successfully managed to achieve a goal mentioned in his first public announcement of the project:

‘Start with a box, then think outside of it.’