What's your background?
My name is Rousseau Kazi, and I am currently the co-founder and CEO of Threads. I started my career at a young age, having graduated early from UC Berkeley and transitioned from an intern, consultant, to full-time employee at Facebook at 21 years old.
A big part of who I am is my family. Being the son of Bangladeshi immigrants, and the little brother of two brilliant women who also work in business, I’ve seen firsthand just how much easier things have been for me in terms of professional outcomes. These experiences have played a big role in how I work towards the mission of “making work more inclusive” that we strive for at Threads.
What are you working on now?
After spending six years at Facebook, I realized that innovation is accelerated when diverse teams are empowered to influence business decisions. Current tools today force a tradeoff between inclusion and efficiency, eventually leading to smaller, less diverse groups of people making critical decisions.
Since 2017, my team and I have been working on Threads. Threads is an inclusive workplace communications tool that is designed to help teams inform, discuss, and make decisions at scale. At the end of the day, companies are full of people who have incredible ideas, but unfortunately, only a fraction of them get shared due to siloed conversations, buried information in disorganized chains, meetings that don’t facilitate idea sharing, and a number of other reasons. At Threads, we believe that better communication leads to better decisions, and the best communications happen by tapping into the collective wisdom of an entire team.
What's your advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Starting a company is scary. It's filled with ambiguous questions, doubt, and infinite paths forward. You're constantly questioning your business' value and your own capabilities. In the early days, all we're looking for is validation that we're on the right track and if this is worth the time, energy, and effort.
A common mistake I see in early-stage companies is that we let our fear see validation when it's not really there. We look at vanity metrics, read into slightly positive things, and more. In an effort to keep the train on its tracks we often start busying ourselves to feel more productive, when in reality we’re creating a bottleneck and slowing things down. It’s essential to be able to understand and distinguish the difference between being busy and making progress.
For us at Threads, our focus was on proving to ourselves that the product actually works. We then made sure that our product succeeded under harsh constraints by prolonging a beautiful redesign, charging our launch pricing from day one, and making sure that people we’ve never met before could live on our product.
In what ways are you able to stay authentic to your employees?
I think employees recognize authenticity the most when those in leadership positions actually implement what they are passionate about. Anyone can talk about what they think would make for a better workplace, but unless you walk the walk and make it happen, you won’t have a leg to stand on. I knew that I wanted inclusivity to be a big part of what Threads helped other businesses with, so it needed to start with us—from the ground up. We implemented a 50/50 gender cap in our first round of financing, which I feel all companies and founders should actively pursue in order to innovate and grow successfully.
Additionally, it’s important to share early and often. This includes sharing both the good and the bad, creating a proper communication channel with your team that helps to normalize the ups and downs of a startup. As a leader, if everything you share is well crafted and framed, people eventually find it difficult to know whether or not they’re seeing your authentic self or some sort of figurehead within the organization.
Authenticity is a two-way street. If people have to be “fake” at work, they’re going to assume you’re being fake as well. To allow everyone to be their authentic self, you need to create an environment where all types of people can bring their true selves to work agnostic of constraints. For example, as remote working continues to grow and evolve, we’ve seen other means of being authentic crop up, especially for the remote workforce. Providing employees with the ability to work remotely, whether it be for a day or permanently, allows employers to hire the best talent possible, regardless of location. This is no easy feat, but making sure employers have the proper internal systems, tools, and priorities in place is a great start. Being open, honest, and transparent when it comes to remote work empowers everyone to seek out the solution that will best fit their needs. In order to stay true to our mission of making work more inclusive, it means staying authentic on all fronts, which all boil down to open and honest communication.
As a leader, how do you interact with your team to get new ideas/foster growth?
The average cost of losing an employee is a staggering 33% of their annual salary. In order to retain the talent that you are working to bring onboard, employees want to feel comfortable where they work (whether they are WFH or not). If you say that every idea is welcome then there needs to be a system in place to facilitate the sharing of ideas.
At Threads, we utilize our platform to welcome feedback from everyone and take that feedback seriously. Everyone is able to have a voice, and if one person speaks, it never means someone else can’t. On top of this, it provides safe spaces for people to share out-of-the-box ideas, product feedback, and more. For example, something I like to do is purposely involve more junior or quieter folks into threads to get their feedback and thoughts on a discussion. Asking for their feedback encourages and empowers their unique voice, while also providing them with the time and focus to write out their thoughts. Threads is built in a way where no one can be interrupted and allows everyone to participate in a discussion on their own time. This then helps to facilitate a culture of openness, honesty, and inclusivity across the board.
Where can we go to learn more?