We're excited to announce our investment in Dopt to help teams develop better onboarding and engagement flows.
Onboarding is crucial for driving user adoption, yet it’s one of the most challenging product and design problems to get right. Enter: Dopt, a visual flow builder and SKDs & APIs that help teams create better user onboarding and engagement flows. Between its co-founders Phil Vander Broek, Alon Bartur, and Joe McKenney, they have a trio of a designer, product manager, and engineer—builders building for builders—intent on helping teams design excellent self-serve product experiences.
We recently sat down with their Chief Product Officer Phil to learn more about Dopt (a riff off adoption), his career journey as a growth designer, and his advice for aspiring designer-entrepreneurs.
I have a technical background, having studied computer science and human-computer interaction, but I'm a designer at my core. My first job was joining a seed-stage company as their first designer, then I went into a career designing B2B data products—first at Splunk then at Trifacta. I then worked at Sutter Hill Ventures as a Designer in Residence, working with a lot of early stage companies.
After that, I joined Dropbox as a manager with the goal of doing something a bit different: more scale in terms of the business and users, along with stellar design practices and other design leaders to learn from. I intentionally chose to work on the growth team (a team of about 20 designers) because I was hungry to think more broadly about user journeys, get to work with cross-functional teams, and have full visibility into metrics. We were really aware about how the work we were doing as designers laddered up into business impact. It felt like my MBA moment.
If I were to design a curriculum on design, there would be a required growth design class. Every designer, at some point, should consider being a growth designer to learn about the business impact of design and how businesses work, more broadly. To put a pin in my story, being an entrepreneur and starting Dopt is the combination of all of these different pieces of my background.
Joe and I first worked together 10 years ago at Splunk, where he was an engineer and I was a designer. I met Alon at Trifacta and recruited Joe to work with us, spending about four and a half years there. We went our separate ways after that, but both Joe and Alon had become two of my best friends through all of this. In fact, Alon and I were roommates for a while and I’ve lived next-door to Joe twice. We’d always talked about starting a company throughout this whole time.
There’s conflicting advice on whether or not to start a company with friends, but I can confidently say that for us, it’s been the foundation of our working relationship. Startups are a team sport; there’s so much to do with so few people, so you end up doing all sorts of stuff you wouldn’t typically do. Having that trust has been paramount to navigating some of those challenges.
There’s conflicting advice on whether or not to start a company with friends, but I can confidently say that for us, it’s been the foundation of our working relationship.Phil Vander Broek, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Dopt
We took a discovery-first approach when first starting Dopt, talking with hundreds of people—primarily product managers, designers, and engineers—and asking them what their burning problems were. One of the recurring issues we heard was that driving activation with onboarding was much harder than people expected. Despite knowing that onboarding was one of the most important things to be working on in terms of business priority, they didn’t know what good looked like once they got into the details. They also didn’t know how to build it, nor did they have access to the customer data they needed to help target the experiences. This resonated with me given my experience working on these problems while leading Growth Design at Dropbox.
For B2B SaaS businesses, retention is the name of the game, and one of the most impactful ways to drive retention is through activation. The biggest lever for driving activation, in turn, is often a better onboarding experience. Existing tools in the market fall flat because they aren’t built with developers in mind and they don’t give teams full control over the user experience.
With Dopt, product, design, and engineering teams can easily create tailored onboarding and engagement experiences that target specific types of users using our visual flow builder, then use our SDKs and APIs to more easily build it—leveraging your own components and customer data. So the onboarding and engagement flows look and feel like your product, and you have full control over the user experience.
When practiced holistically, I think design can be a force multiplier across all parts of the business: from more traditional design initiatives like the brand identity and product design to other areas in the business like messaging and positioning. There’s a big opportunity to approach those problems as design problems (Who are our users? What do they care about? What will resonate with them?).
My role at Dopt is actually Chief Product Officer, so it’s been fun to be able to fully bring design into our product practices. We’ve been really focused on discovery and partnering with users to deeply understand their problems from day one. And Alex, our design engineer, creates really compelling prototypes to explore solutions and convey early concepts to our users. Prototyping has been especially important because in addition to typical UI surface areas, our product has SDKs and APIs, and prototyping enables us to approach those areas like design problems.
Our product also enables us to practice what we preach: Dopt enables teams to create amazingly designed experiences, which is one of the most exciting parts of building Dopt.
Helping reduce the time to value and 'aha' moment for customers is critical to the success of product-led growth, but most companies struggle to achieve this. Now developers can use Dopt to create better user experiences that would otherwise be too costly to make.Enrique Allen, Co-founder & Managing Director, Designer Fund
We knew we wanted to invest in brand early on because it has the ability to lay the foundation for so many other parts of the business and can be a unique differentiator. Our users care about quality because they’re builders, and most of the existing tools in our space don’t have the strongest brands.
We wanted something that embodied the principles we expect from modern tools—like simple, powerful, and composable—with a dash of charm and levity. Our logo, a playful word mark with digital retro vibes, is a good example of that. We were also deeply intentional about making sure that our brand can really shine in areas that are more functional, like the product and developer documentation.
Having a design background can be a major advantage as an entrepreneur. Designers are really good at discovering and solving problems, especially when there aren’t existing playbooks. My design background has been crucial because I naturally use design practices to solve all sorts of problems, like figuring out outbound emailing tactics to talk with people who don’t know anything about me—which can be considered a design problem. I’ve loved being able to take those design practices into broader business-related problems.
I’d advise designers considering becoming founders to work at an early stage company. You want to build a network of people who are interested in early stage companies and learn how to work in that environment. I spent four and a half years at Trifacta, seeing it go from 13 to about 150 people. Almost everyone we’ve hired at Dopt, we worked with at Trifacta.
Also, remain curious about other parts of the business. I’ve always been product-minded, and when I became a growth leader, I worked closely with our marketing and customer success teams. That was a really important foundation for me as a founder.
Having a design background can be a major advantage as an entrepreneur. Designers are really good at discovering and solving problems, especially when there aren’t existing playbooks.Phil Vander Broek