Interview with Toby Hunt (ideapi)
ideapi is a online application that allows you to create briefs, proposals and documents quickly, then share them easily with your team and/or clients.
I interviewed Toby Hunt, ideapi co-founder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the seventeenth in a series of DoesWhat interviews. Big thank you to Toby for the interview! You can follow Toby on Twitter.
How would you describe ideapi in under 50 words?
Ideapi is a simple cloud-based tool that enables collaboration on briefs and generation of ideas — Ideapi enhances and simplifies the creative process.
How and when did you come up with ideapi?
The idea first came to us about 2 years ago. One of the co-founders has worked in the advertising industry for years and strongly believed that there was an opportunity to come up with a better way for creatives to come up with ideas in response to a brief.
The original idea revolved around crowdsourcing, but there were already a number of other applications trying this, with varied success – so we switched to SaaS and have not looked back.
Is your services company, pebble.it your primary concern, what percentage of your time do you dedicate to ideapi?
pebble.it has been around now for about 5 years – it started in infrastructure support, focused primarily on the creative industry (Mac specialists), and then later entering the software scene (Ruby on rails, iOS).
Creating software for clients has been great fun and it was always our aim to do enough client work to then be able to dedicate resource to our own products – ideapi is the first of these.
In answer to the question, I dedicate roughly 30% of my time to ideapi, with the other founders providing similar input. We are currently looking for partners to help us “get it out there”..!
How does ideapi fit into pebble.it?
It’s something that the whole team contributes to – from ideas, to development and testing. We use it in-house every day, so we’re constantly thinking of new features we’d like to add and ways to improve it.
It’s a product that everyone in pebble.it is proud of and passionate about.
Has your initial vision changed since launch?
Yes. We first started creating an application to allow brief collaboration and subsequent idea generation through crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing was a tricky one through, both morally and operationally.
Morally, because you asking people to do spec work with no guarantee of remuneration.
Operationally, because it is forever a chicken and egg scenario – to get clients, you need a big community – to get a big community, you need interesting work from clients.
So we shifted course to SaaS.
You have 14 employees at pebble.it, how many of those work on ideapi?
We dedicate 1 developer and 1 marketer. Community support, helpdesk support and server management is constantly monitored and maintained by the infrastructure support team. Everyone contributes in one way or another.
ideapi is currently free. Do you have a timescale for paid subscriptions?
ideapi will always have a free plan, but yes, we have plans to offer paid subscriptions for increased functionality before the end of 2011.
Has ideapi got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
We have had a steady signup rate since launch and this always spikes around marketing pushes… We would of course like it to be better! The more people that use it and the more feedback that we can get, the better we can make it.
ideapi has a broad target audience, including but not limited to designers, teachers, copywriters, estate agents and event planners. Are you seeing an influx of users from any profession in particular?
Our focus, and where we have seen the most take up, has been the creative industries, those that utilise the brief / idea dynamic. In-house HR has also received it well to manage their recruitment process.
There has also been a good uptake in the Education sector, which we hadn’t anticipated, but we’re always happy when a group finds a new way to use ideapi.
We hope that ideapi will be useful to a wide range of groups, and the feedback from the community will definitely influence our roadmap – the creative industries are our core demographic though, so their needs will drive new features and functionality.
Who is your biggest competitor?
Google Docs for collaborative document creation, but our USP is the brief/response dynamic that other services do not offer directly.
What gives ideapi a competitive advantage?
Simplicity. No bells and whistles, just simple collaboration.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Marketing. We are great at creating software but need to be better at getting it out there.
What advice would you give to your past-self 5 years ago?
Keep it simple and do not try to do too much. Business is always going to be a rollercoaster, otherwise it’s not fun, but keep it simple and focus on the one, two or three things that you are good at and you stand a much greater chance of success.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Ideapi is so close to the tipping point – if we can get it right, it really could be a success and then all the hard work from the team will be worth it.
pebble.it is also turning a corner at the moment and both infrastructure support and web/mobile development are going strong.
Can you convince the reader to use ideapi in under 60 words?
Ideapi changes the way you create and collaborate.
No need to email versions back and forth. No worries about change tracking in Microsoft Word. Forget about searching through folders on your desktop.
Create an ideapi document, add collaborators, and have everything you need in one place, online. Secure, accessible and easy-to-use.
Finished reading? Check out ideapi!