First week of interviews
It’s been a really exciting week hunting down the founders behind a handful of interesting online projects. They’ve provided some really great responses, insights and backgrounds. I wanted to put together a few of my favourite responses, full interview links are provided.
TinderBox is a web application that manages all aspects of business proposal creation within one straight-forward interface. Kristian Andersen’s response to, “What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?”,
“I think one of the largest hurdles that startups face, in general, is maintaining focus. It’s very tempting to pursue opportunities that are not core to your stated mission. It’s really easy to start adding features and creating lots of customised offerings in an attempt to close that one big sale or to broaden the perceived value of your product. What’s really hard is to stay focused and chip away, piece-by-piece, at the problem you set out to solve – even when it’s more expedient to not do so. But, I believe, great companies are built by focused teams, solving well defined problems.”
Diagram.ly is a free online diagram drawing web application that loads instantly without login or registration. David Benson’s response to, “Half of the Fortune 100 Companies use your JGraph software, were you excited about creating a free product for the public?”,
“Creating a free product should be a lot more fun than something that’s paid for, but the temptation is always to think that you can brush off problems by saying “oh well, it’s free”. We wanted to avoid this. We’ve used too many free, but useless products, there doesn’t seem much point creating another. We have a lot of experience of selling high price components, the quality requirements are strict. We’re applying exactly the same ideas to Diagramly.
The silly thing is, customers of our component, which is considerably more expensive, are generally a polite and reasonable bunch. Free users tend to be somewhat more polarized, the unhappy ones are often just plain rude. Fortunately, we’re not the sensitive types and we’ve purposefully detached ourselves from constant interaction with users for the time being.
That last sentence probably doesn’t sound like a friendly company approach, it needs explaining. I believe that the technology overview of charging users, managing accounts and providing support is a heavy overhead during the formation stages of such an application. With Diagramly, unless a diagram previously saved doesn’t load, there’s very little reason to contact us, the application should be simple enough to use alone.
What this means is that we can focus purely on adding new features. We certainly go out to users and get feedback when we want it, but when we have 6 months worth of feature requests, we hide back in our development cave and produce the next 2-3 months iteration. Then we go through a feedback stage again and repeat. Controlling the communications and not having the overhead of the pay-for elements gives us focused development time, we just create a lot more in that time.”
BloodPressure123 is an interesting new way to record and monitor blood pressure. Michael Golkowski’s response to, “What made you decide to start working on BloodPressure123?”,
“As a high blood pressure sufferer myself I wanted a fast and easy way of recording my blood pressure readings without having to turn on my PC each time I took a reading, or physically write down my readings on pen and paper.
The idea came to me to merge SMS and web technology together to solve this problem, and began working on BloodPressure123 to make my life that little bit easier, and hopefully help out others in the same situation.”
Mario Gomes Cavalcanti
Fatpaint is a free online graphic design software (desktop publishing) and webshop. Mario Gomes Cavalcanti’s response to, “What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?”,
“Besides the struggle developing Fatpaint’s Flash based editor, we also implemented a back-end system that is very scalable. We got inspired by Google’s distributed and scalable file system, and decided to implement one as well. We could probably spin that off into a Cloud storage project.
It has been really hard work developing Fatpaint. I will probably never do something this complex again in my life time, and I really don’t want to. Life is just too short for spending 6 years sitting in a small 2 bedrooms apartment living like a student and doing little else besides sitting in front of a computer and coding, I‘m 38 years old, and started programming at 12, so its been a long journey. But I still think I have a few smaller projects in me.
Biggest hurdle now is with the marketing of Fatpaint. Our growth in the number of visitors is just going to slow. So at some point, we would like to partner-up with an already established company like Adobe, Corel, Zazzle or Google.”
JobGizmo is a web based job search tool that helps job seekers by organising their job search. Avery Smith’s response to, “What made you decide to start working on JobGizmo?”,
“The idea of a job hunt organizer came to me back in 2005. I was in a continuing education program, trying to expand my web programming skills, in preparation of finding a new job. My instructor told us that a practical way of using our newly acquired skills was to create a database that housed our job search information for each opportunity. Simple stuff like the job title, contact info, job posting link, etc…
Being one to rarely back down from a challenge, I accepted his charge and built one. It was purely for personal reasons but the light bulb went off then–what if I could create a website that others could use? Although a great idea at the time, I just wasn’t that motivated.
After bouncing around for a few years more, dabbling in things from network marketing (of which I greatly regret), to stand-up comedy, to movie making, I needed to settle on a professional vehicle that maximized my skill-set (web software development).
During the summer of 2010 I was thinking about switching from my iPhone to a Blackberry Torch (I know, I know) and wanted to make sure that the apps that make my iPhone most useful were available for Blackberry. One app that I’ve used throughout the years is Mailchimp for iPhone (shout-out to Mailchimp). When I did a search for Mailchimp for Blackberry, I came across a mobile app called, “Minichimp”. It had a beautiful website, and although developed for Mailchimp, it was made by a 3rd party developer, a solo software developer named, Eric. On the bottom of the homepage was a link to the “Micropreneur Academy”, which is a program designed to foster solo-software entrepreneurship. So the combination of wanting to maximize my skill-set, coming across the Micropreneur Academy, and also being married created the perfect storm for me to pick up where I left off with my job search organizer idea.”
Getquantify is a design focused project management tool. Roman Leinwather’s response to, “Has Getquantify got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?”,
“I was pretty realistic when launching the application. I follow lots of young startups and watch great amount of screen-casts with the entrepreneurs from the industry so in that respective its pretty much going the way I expected. The feedback has been great so far and I really appreciate it.”
Lance, Connor & Alec
Moodalytics is a free once-a-day journal that helps you identify important patterns in your life. Lance’s response to, “You co-founded Moodalytics with your sons Alec (age 8) and Connor (age 11). What issues have you faced working with family? What does each co-founder bring to the operation?”,
“We’ve managed to navigate working together very well so far. It’s been a fantastic learning experience for all of us… for me with having to learn how to write PHP code again, and for them with deciding on how an application should function and look. Now, if the site ever earns any revenue, I’d better look out, as they’re quite the pair of young negotiators.”
Fileminx is a free web application for converting between a fairly comprehensive set of formats (document, music, video and image). Tom Hawkes’ response to, “How long did it take you to put together the first version of Fileminx and how long has it been open to the public?”,
“It was around 8-9 months development work to get the first version up which just did video and music format conversion. This version went public beta in September 2009. Image conversion followed shortly afterwards and documents were added in July 2010, at which point Fileminx came out of its testing phase and went officially “Live”.”
Recipefy is a web based social cookbook, you can share and store your recipes as well as follow other food-lovers and find recipes. Matteo Alessani’s response to, “Building a community isn’t easy, how are you getting people on board?”,
“We are trying to get some exposure on sites and food blogs. We also suggest users to share their recipes on social networks. I think social spread can work when the theme is food!”