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👨‍🔧 Building Discord

How I Built This

Photo by Alexander Shatov / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Guy Raz
Guest: Jason Citron | Founder & CEO | Discord
Category: 👨‍🔧 Founder Stories

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[9:17] “One of the great things about Silicon Valley, I think, at least from my point of view, is that it's kind of really just about what you can do and not really about where you're from. […] If you're from a […] prestigious school, maybe you have the network that helps you, but at the end of the day the beauty of Silicon Valley is that if you have a great idea […] and you can actually bring it to life, you can convince total strangers to give you money, join your project. And so this notion that you have to go to a great school, it didn't end up being a thing for me at least. And lots of people that I know didn't go to great schools and they're super successful.”

[48:07] “Growing up, video games were the way that I spent time and hung out with my friends. […] Throughout my whole life, I just have so many amazing memories with my best friends, my wife, my brother playing video games. The video games themselves were not the point. […] And half the time, we'd be just talking about random stuff, talking about life. And fundamentally, what Discord was about was creating a place that you and your group of friends could come together to talk and hang out. So it really created almost the feeling of having your own private cafe, or dorm room, or living room that's just for you and your friends on your computer. And then very quickly […] in your pocket on your phone.”

[49:33] “Having an all in one experience was a big part of it. Because having to coordinate between all these different apps is kind of a pain in the butt. If you want to talk to your friends while you're playing a game, people would use one set of apps. And then if you weren't in the game, but you wanted to join, you'd be texting people on a different app. But they're playing the game, so are they checking their phone? […] And […] let's say someone drops out of the game, but they want to keep talking, if you're using the built in voice chat in the game, the person has to keep the game on their computer, they can't go browse the web. So there's all these little nuance behaviors that just made it kind of complicated to use. Whereas with Discord, the way that voice chat works is it's like an always on conference call, because you invite people into a group space and then create a voice channel. If you and I are talking, our friend can see that we're there and just click the button and hop right in without us having to get interrupted. And so it's just a magical experience. You can run into people online in a way that didn't happen in Skype.”

[53:52] “We were thinking about how do we get this thing to grow. And we had this idea to ask a friend of ours, who was sort of in the videogame community to make a post on Reddit, asking people what they thought about the app. And then maybe some folks will try it. […] And people were finding this post on Reddit, they clicked on the link, and then people would ask us questions, and they'd share their opinion and most folks thought it was really cool. And from that post, we got, I think, a couple hundred signups, maybe 50 people really started using it. And that was the day we say we launched, because people we never knew were now coming and inviting their friends.”

[55:09] “On Discord a server is what we call the space that you create for your community. And you can make it invite only, or you can make it open to anyone. But it's kind of the place that you go for your community or your friends. […] It's like a superpower group chat.”

[58:12] “The name Discord actually came from […] a set of criteria that we came up with for what we wanted the name to be. The original name that I had picked was bonfire. Because a bonfire is a place you gather with your friends, it's cozy, you're hanging out. But there were like 15 other communication apps called Bonfire, so we couldn't use it. So the criteria we came up with was basically, we had to be able to get the copyright, we had to be able to get the website, had to be able to get the app name on the App Store. And it had to be a word that you could read it and know how to say it. And if you hear it, you know how to spell it. I wanted it to be one or two syllables. So it was kind of short and snappy. It's something that had to do with talking to your friends. And so we ended up making a list of like […] 20 words. And Discord was the best one that fit all that criteria. […] We say Discord is the problem we're solving when you use our service, because you win more and you have more harmony with your friends.”

[1:00:12] “One of the key innovations we had was making Discord work in your web browser. In early 2015 this was a time when there was a new capability that was kind of just becoming mainstream in web browsers, something called WebRTC, which is basically video chat and voice chat embedded into a web browser. And so our thought was, people aren't going to download another app. But if we can make it just work in the browser, people will click a link. And that was a material driver of our growth, because people were willing to try it. And they could try it quite easily.”

[1:05:47] “One of our philosophies was small and mighty teams. I fundamentally believe that you can get a tremendous amount of work done with a small group of really talented people by making smart technology choices that give you a lot of leverage. And also by focusing really clearly and saying no to a lot of stuff. And by staying small and growing slowly, we were really able to lay the foundation and create a great place to work so that when it came time to grow faster, we had a lot of good stuff in place.“

[1:15:14] “[In 2019] we realized […] we've built a service that, because of how it works, really gives people the sense of belonging and togetherness. That's a pretty profound opportunity to improve the world. So we kind of expanded our mission, we went more fundamental, and said instead of bringing people together on games, we're going to help give people the power to create belonging in their lives. All the things we were doing for people who play games were still in our mission, around communications, but now we can welcome in all these other people. And so in early 2020, we […] did a small rebrand. And then COVID happened, and everyone just flocked to Discord.”

Rating: 🚀🚀🚀

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify | Google (Original Title: "Discord: Jason Citron")
🕰️ 1 hr 25 min | 🗓️ 03/07/2022
✅ Time saved: 1 hr 22 min