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Navigating the Maze of Product Building

Maze is focused on helping product builders create delightful user journeys. As such, it feels only right for our investment announcement to share the journey to our partnership. Like all good journeys, we learned a lot, leaned on some friends, met some terrific people along the way, and ended up in a different place than we’d expected when we set out.

A little over a year ago, my colleague Yaz El-Baba and I noticed the growing number of people with the “user research” title across Emergence’s portfolio companies. Intrigued, we started to chat with them about their role and the tools they use to do their job. We were surprised to learn that one-way mirrored focus rooms were still state of the art in many companies. Although some researchers had “graduated” to recorded user interactions, everyone we spoke with struggled with two things: 1) finding ways to speed up and scale research, and 2) finding ways to collaborate with the many people outside the research function that need user insights as they build.

The more we dug here, the bigger the problem revealed itself to be. Products are built and shipped with little to no user feedback, meaning countless engineering hours are being burned building the wrong stuff. In fact, more than half of companies don’t use testing tools (and, shockingly, 25% of them admit to doing no user testing at all!)

The problem reaches far beyond the user research function; it affects everyone involved in building product. As we talked to PMs, product marketers, designers, developers, and other builders, we kept hearing about the same company addressing it: Maze

Maze is a rapid remote testing platform allowing anyone that touches product development to quickly gather and collaborate on user feedback.

We asked our friend and Maze angel investor Pete Skomoroch to connect us with Maze’s CEO, Jo Widawski, which resulted in one of the most energizing first (and second and third…) conversations I’ve had. Jo’s vision for Maze aligns perfectly with the direction we see software headed more broadly, a thesis we’re calling Deep Collaboration. These products bring together productivity and collaboration software in one place focused on a specific “job to be done”. They are by definition cross-functional, allowing lots of personas to work together to create (vs standard persona-based software which promotes silos). 

In the same way Figma is democratizing design by bringing prototyping and collaboration together in one place and making both dead simple, Maze is democratizing product testing. It’s extremely easy to spin up a test to validate an idea, try out a flow, gather rapid feedback, and more. Give it a shot (it’s free). 

In short, Maze is the validation layer that sits between roadmapping (JIRA, etc) and building (InVision, Figma, etc). Here’s a quick video that beautifully illustrates this role. 

As excited as Yaz and I were about the product value proposition, we were even more jazzed (even bubbly) about Jo. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has spent time with Jo remarks on how magnetic he is. In chatting with Maze’s lead seed investor, Mike Dauber at Amplify (someone who tells it like it is), I learned how quickly Jo learns and iterates. We’re equally excited about his team; he and his co-founder Thomas Mary, have recruited some of the most experienced product-led growth talent to build and advise Maze as it scales. The roster includes experts like Jay Simons, Atlassian’s former president, and current and former leaders from Figma, New Relic, Slack, Facebook, SurveyMonkey, InVision, Typeform, GitLab, and Miro.

This talent is helping to scale Maze quickly. Here are some quick stats on the past 12 months:

Like any good journey, it took place in a setting of heightened emotional intensity. We finalized our partnership the day Biden’s election was confirmed. Here’s a picture of the moment, shortly after I’d returned from celebrating by banging pots in the streets.

We couldn’t be more excited about the journey ahead. It’s going to be a-Maze-ing :)

Maze Founders Jo Widawski & Thomas Mary with Emergence GP Jake Saper.
Maze Founders Jo Widawski & Thomas Mary with Emergence GP Jake Saper.

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