Zenefits’ Parker Conrad Talks Hyper Growth And How To Hang On To A Rocket Ship

Today at Disrupt SF 2015, Zenefits’ Parker Conrad joined our own Matthew Lynley on stage to dig into how the startup has managed to become one of the fastest-growing companies in the world.

Zenefits is notable here in the TechCrunch house as it first launched its product at Disrupt NY in 2013 when it was a finalist in our Startup Battlefield.

According to Conrad, Zenefits, now staffed by 1,600 people, has grown at a pace that he calls ‘consistent.’ How has the company managed that progress? He chalked it up to something simple: “[The] most important thing,” he said, “is to set really aggressive goals.”

According to the technology denizen, when the company set early revenue growth goals, its investors asked them why they were not aiming higher. In retrospect, given the company’s growth, the anecdote is contentedly ironic.

Growth, of course, is not always the easiest thing to manage for most companies. It becomes increasingly difficult when you expand as quickly as Zenefits. Conrad addressed the issue, saying that “the only thing worse than growing quickly,” he said, “is not growing quickly.”

Zenefits also announced that its product is now Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant. Given that the ACA, better known by the theoretical pejorative ‘Obamacare,’ requires a fair amount of compliance work, the feature matters. According to Conrad, “if you are a 75-person company, you don’t have someone whose job it is to spend 15 hours a month tracking this compliance [stuff].”

In a way, the ACA compliance news from Zenefits fits into its larger corporate push — make the work it takes to manage and care for your workers as simple as possible.

Lynley pressed the founder on how long-term its customers are, or will be. Will a firm that starts small and grows, age out of the Zenefits ecosystem? Conrad noted that most of its customers are between 50 and 1,000 employees, but that there is now a “fundamental break point” in its product at scale.

The interview touched on the topic of payroll, which Conrad called a “very important spoke.” ZenPayroll, a different company, recently rebranded as ‘Gusto’ and entered into Zenefits’ market space. Conrad declined to make news by announcing any new features.

What will be interesting to see is how Zenefits manages to keep growing, while not losing its hunger.

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