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Chris Cardell

Interview with Peter Severin (WireframeSketcher)

WireframeSketcher is a software tool that helps designers, developers and product managers quickly and easily create mockups/prototypes for desktop, web and mobile applications.

I interviewed Peter Severin, WireframeSketcher founder to find out more. This interview is the twenty ninth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Peter for the interview!

How would you describe WireframeSketcher in under 50 words?

WireframeSketcher is a software tool that helps product managers, designers and developers quickly create wireframes, mockups and prototypes for desktop, web and mobile applications. It’s standalone desktop software and a plug-in for any Eclipse IDE.

What made you decide to start working on WireframeSketcher?

I was looking for good wireframing tool and couldn’t find one. A few tools that I did find were too simplistic for my needs. At the same time I was also looking for an idea to spend my evenings on and a wireframing tool seemed an easy enough target.

What technologies have you used to build WireframeSketcher?

WireframeSketcher is written in Java and it’s based on Eclipse technology. Since I had a lot of experience with Eclipse I thought that it was a good choice. Eclipse started first as an IDE for Java but it evolved into a platform for solid, cross-platform applications. If I had to make a choice today I would choose the same technology. Eclipse has a very good momentum and gets better every day.

Would you recommend starting a one-person company?

It worked for me, but I think it’s not for everyone. A person choosing this way must be prepared to invest a lot of time but also have certain qualities. I like to compare it with running a marathon. One needs a lot of patience, endurance and will. I like how Haruki Murakami describes it in his memoir “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” where he draws parallels between running marathons and writing.

How different is the current version of WireframeSketcher compared to your initial launch?

It’s a much better product now. This is natural and this is how incremental development works. WireframeSketcher started as a minimum viable product and evolved by integrating user feedback into a better product.

How much time do you spend working on WireframeSketcher on an average day?

I avoid putting in long hours but I try to work on WireframeSketcher every day, even on weekends. To make this possible I went as far as to change my sleeping habits. I wake up early at 5am and do 2 hours of solid work when everybody is still asleep. I also try to stay fit, run and exercise regularly and eat healthy food. This allows me to keep my life balanced.

What techniques have been most successful in growing WireframeSketcher?

I tried different things but the one that worked best for me was to concentrate on what my users need. So I listened to user feedback, analysed it, came up with solutions and then implemented them. This is how I added screen linking, group editing and component overriding. Quite often problems were technically very challenging and I had to spend several weeks just to see what a good solution looks like, and then a few more to implement it. For example it took me one month of continuous work to implement component overriding – a feature that lets users to customize an instance of a component without breaking the link to its original source. This process is mentally very challenging and it’s a hard work to stay motivated and not to loose focus all this time. But there is also a feeling of great satisfaction when the problem is finally cracked.

You have some extemely impressive clients: Bank of Canada, eBay, IBM and Subaru to name a few. How difficult is it to make these big sales?

To me it’s like any other sale. I didn’t go after these clients, they came to me. This is the magic of internet. I just focus on making WireframeSketcher as good as I possible can. One nice thing about big clients is that they buy a lot of licenses and require little to no support. I like that.

Can you convince the reader to demo WireframeSketcher in under 50 words?

WireframeSketcher is a good, old desktop tool that’s fast and produces beautiful results. It has been in development since 2008 and is used by thousands of users worldwide. It comes with quick and responsive support. If you need a stable and solid wireframing tool in your toolbox, consider WireframeSketcher.

Finished reading? Check out WireframeSketcher!

Interview with Jaco van Wyk (SnapBill)

SnapBill is an online billing application that allows you to easily sell subscription services.

I interviewed Jaco van Wyk, SnapBill co-founder to find out more. This interview is the twenty eighth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Jaco for the interview!

How would you describe SnapBill in under 50 words?

SnapBill is an automated billing system that allows you to easily sell your products and services online.

What made you decide to start working on SnapBill?

We saw a need for a fully automated and comprehensive, enterprise grade, billing solution tailored to the needs and budgets of small to medium businesses.

SnapBill is also perfect for any startup and freelancer wishing to automate recurring/subscription billing.

Do you have a background in web applications?

Our co-founder Josh and myself have been involved in programming, design and web development since before we could talk. We previously created an online storage facility for pieces of information. It was aptly called SnapBits.

Congratulations on coming top 3 at the Tech4Africa conference. What is the startup scene like in South Africa?

The startup scene in South Africa is only now beginning to evolve. There is a definite change in mindset from young professionals to entrepreneurs. Cape Town is home to most of the startups in South Africa and it’s developing into a kind of, “African”, Silicon Valley.

How important is location? Would you ever consider moving out of South Africa?

I think location plays a less important role today than it did in the past. These days we’re just so much more connected and accessible, especially when viewed from an African context. Having developed a truly global billing solution, I feel the only disadvantage we face is supporting businesses across multiple timezones and in languages other than English.

If you have ever been to Cape Town or South Africa you would know that there is very little chance of ever leaving. Having spent time in Silicon Valley, I would still prefer to keep Cape Town as SnapBill HQ even if we expanded our physical presence globally.

What technologies have you used to build SnapBill?

Primarily PHP and MySQL. SnapBill runs on Amazon Web Services.

Has your initial vision changed since launch?

I believe we have remained true to our original vision. We wanted to bring an affordable enterprise grade billing solution to the small business market and we did that.

How long did it take to put together SnapBill?

We started development on SnapBill in early 2009. We launched as a South African only beta at the start of 2010 and opened SnapBill to the global market in the beginning of 2011.

Do you have any features in the pipeline?

There are many features currently in the pipeline aiming to improve and automate billing. Currently we are working on improving our powerful, fully customizable, signup forms. We are also looking to expand our billing capabilities across all mobile platforms.

What is your most effective method for finding new customers?

The most effective method for finding new customers, in my opinion, is to have them find you through search engines. Organic SEO is extremely important to any startup wanting to see results without having the marketing budget of an established business.

We also found it rewarding to target niche markets and presenting SnapBill to them in a way that clearly solved their specific problems.

Who is your biggest competitor?

I don’t think I can pick just one because there are so many. Luckily for us none of them do what we do, as well as we do it. Entering later into the game, we have managed to learn a great deal from our competitors which has definitely provided us with an advantage.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

Growing SnapBill in markets we have no experience in. It has proven extremely difficult to get traction on a global scale. We are currently looking for partners to assist us in taking SnapBill to the user. We found it extremely difficult doing this on a startup budget and with relatively little experience.

Who is your primary target audience?

SnapBill is primarily targeted at small to medium businesses. It is also perfect for startups and freelancers who wish to look more professional and add a level of billing automation previously only available to larger businesses on a big budget.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

At the moment I am quite excited about seeing how we can adapt SnapBill to solve African billing problems especially via mobile devices which typically lack the ability to run applications or connect to the Internet.

Can you convince the reader to signup to SnapBill in under 50 words?

Yes, but instead of trying to convince you with words, signup for a free account at signup.snapbill.com and try the system out for yourself.

Finished reading? Check out SnapBill!

Interview with Ivan Wong (PicYou)

PicYou is an online application, great for quickly and easily enhancing and sharing photos with friends and family.

I interviewed Ivan Wong, PicYou founder to find out more. This interview is the twenty seventh in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Ivan for the interview!

How would you describe PicYou in under 50 words?

PicYou is the perfect tool for instantly sharing your photos and daily life with friends, family, and the world.

What made you decide to start working on PicYou?

Our team has been been passionately building media related websites including ImageBam, a global top 500 site hosting over 100 million images, Flixya, a publishing platform for users to generate revenue from videos, photos and blogs via Google AdSense, VideoBam, a free and private video hosting provider, and Snapixel, a photo marketplace. PicYou was a natural fit for our network. We saw a huge interest generated by fun and easy to use photo sharing services such as Instagram and Twitpic, and wanted to combine the strongest ideas from them.

How did you come up with the name? Was the domain available?

It’s been hard to find available .com domains so we looked at aftermarket domains and were fortunate to find picyou.com – a combination of “Pic”, short for for picture, and “You”, a term which evokes self expression. We have also acquired vidyou.com and blogyou.com during our domain hunt.

How long did it take to put together PicYou?

It took the team roughly 4 months to put everything together from idea to live website. We have been building websites for quite some time hence the quick and efficient turn around.

How did you become involved in photography and development?

I was introduced to photography by a friend after finishing college and haven’t stopped shooting since. I particularly enjoy shooting action sports such as mountain biking and motocross. It’s always been my goal to give justice to size of the jumps or difficulty of the obstacles. Web development is similar as there is always a challenge to create something better.

How much time do you put into PicYou day-to-day? Does it essentially run itself?

PicYou has been pretty hands off since launch with the exception of bug fixes and the development of new features. The community has been great with minimal moderation or problems.

What’s your favourite photo on PicYou?

Great photos are uploaded daily and we also have some stunning pics showcased on the Popular page so it’s hard to pin point a single favorite photo. I tend to find a handful or two to “Like” everyday.

Has PicYou got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

We have received a fair amount of attention and blog write-ups since launch and usage has really sky rocketed since. Feedback for the site has been positive and the UI is definitely a stand-out feature. It’s off to a strong start.

Who do you see as your target audience?

Anyone who has a photo to share.

Who is your biggest competitor?

There are lots of solid competitors in the photo sharing space each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Instead of competing directly competing with sites such as Flickr or Photobucket we are offering more of a social photo sharing experience akin to mobile Apps such as Instagram combined with a really fun and user-friendly interface. With the huge growth in the niche there is definitely enough space in the photo sharing space to create a sustainable business model and compete with more established sites, especially considering the social aspects and ease of use PicYou has to offer.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

Growth and reaching “Critical Mass” will always be a goal we work towards. Naturally, it will take a combination of site appeal and mass adoption to get there.

What other projects are you working on?

They are top secret but we have one that we are currently writing patents for that will shake up the online advertising space. We also just acquired a very brandable “ad” related domain for the project.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

We have a number of new features and updates planned for PicYou which we are really excited about including an upcoming iPhone app as well as the adoption of a new advertising initiative through custom branded filters which allows brands and businesses to extend their reach through “branded” filters.

Finished reading? Check out PicYou!

Interview with Sergei Pochinok (ResumeBaking)

ResumeBaking is a free online resume building application with tips on professional resume writing and vacancy notifications from trustworthy job boards.

I interviewed Sergei Pochinok, ResumeBaking founder to find out more. This interview is the twenty sixth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Sergei for the interview!

How would you describe ResumeBaking in under 65 words?

ResumeBaking is a simple and easy-to-use resume writing service. It’s helpful as you can create a perfect resume for free. You don’t need to know all the details of resume writing, just follow the instructions in the tips section. This way you get an excellent online resume ready to be sent out to a HR manager, printed out and shared in social networks.

What made you decide to start working on ResumeBaking?

More than four years ago when I decided to change my job I started writing my own resume. On the Internet I found lots of services which seemed rather complicated and were not for free. Then, together with my best friend Ann, who is an experienced HR manager and a professional resume writer, decided to create a ResumeBaking service which would be free, user-friendly and fit a variety of employment situations.

How did you come up with the name?

I was thinking about the name for a long time trying to work out something interesting and memorable. One day in a café I watched a chef baking croissants and in this process I saw my service. I thought that the stove is my website and the croissants are resumes. This way it became ResumeBaking – hot and crispy resumes :)

The Resume Tips blog covers a lot of tips related to military resumes. Where has your knowledge on this area come from?

The whole team works for our project. We noticed that there isn’t much information about military resumes and so our copywriters decided to study the question from all sides and in their articles they gave some useful tips for military men.

How long did it take you to put together the first version of ResumeBaking and how much time has been spent on it since?

It took us about a year to put together the first version of ResumeBaking because we understood that the service must be of high quality. Our aim is to provide our users with effective and easy-to-use tools for making resumes.

Has ResumeBaking got the feedback and growth you expected since launching earlier this year?

We didn’t expect the service to become so popular in such a short period of time. We’re getting positive feedback and that’s the best reward for us.

What technologies did you use for ResumeBaking and what were you reasoning?

We’re using the latest web technologies for our service which make it more flexible and user-friendly.

Who do you see as your target audience?

The target audience is quite big, they are people who are looking for a job or are currently employed but would like to change their job. The active part of our world population :)

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

We have got an excellent team and each of us is an expert in their field and we really enjoy what we are doing but there is one big problem – there are only 24 hours in a day :)

What has been the most technically challenging part of building ResumeBaking?

The most challenging part was the builder itself and it was Alex’s job. He was working on it for about a month constantly improving the code. In the process of development usability ideas came up and we had to put them into action quickly and change the code. As a result we have a work of art in a manner of speaking :)

What are you most excited about at the moment?

We are working to launch the second version of the builder and there are lots of discussion and disputes at the office. We want to impress our users with new features.

Can you convince the reader to start using ResumeBaking in under 50 words?

Our mission is to make complex things simple and easy-to-use. And using ResumeBuilder you spend far less time on creating your resume and so you have more time to enjoy your life :)

Finished reading? Check out ResumeBaking!

Redesigned for interviews

DoesWhat launched three and a half years ago and has moved its focus quite a few times. 7 months ago we moved focus once again. The future of DoesWhat is in interviewing founders and CEOs. To reflect that DoesWhat has gone through it’s most significant redesign to date. We hope you like the new design, […]

Interview with Filipe Batista (Bundlr)

Bundlr is an online application that allows you to easily create collections of media you find on the web and share them with everyone in a bundle.

I interviewed Filipe Batista, Bundlr founder to find out more. This interview is the twenty fifth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Filipe for the interview!

How would you describe Bundlr in under 50 words?

Bundlr allows you to create bundles with the best content you find on the web about a specific topic.

How and when did you come up with Bundlr?

The idea for Bundlr came up after a attending conference with Sérgio. We wanted to have a place where we could find all the relevant images, videos, tweets, etc, about that conference.

How is work split between yourself, co-founder Sérgio Santos and employee Pedro Gaspar?

The workload is split very naturally right now. Sérgio takes care of the backend and I am responsibly for the frontend. Pedro Gaspar is now our API guy but it is involved in every aspect of the product, as every one of us.

How long did it take you to build Bundlr?

We started developing it September and launched our private beta in February.

Has Bundlr got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

We launched with a half baked product and we have been improving it every day. Our users know that and they are always giving us feedback. So the growth rate is being accelerating gradually, reflecting our development philosophy, and we are happy with it.

Has your initial vision changed since launch?

The fundamental vision has not changed. There is a big need for curation at the level of the content and not just links. There are lots of users using Bundlr for research purposes without being interest on sharing their bundles, so we will be following closely that use case and see where it fits in our upcoming business model.

Bundlr was invite only until June this year. Do you think invite only drives user signups? What did you learn?

I think it could have worked better if we had a much more focused message. Our message was very broad and it hurt our signup rate. Our decision for going with the invites was also for a precaution measure. The code was badly tested in the beginning and we had to go slowly in case something went bad.

What’s the most creative way you’ve seen your users use Bundlr?

Well, there was a user who put together all the parts of a movie uploaded to YouTube into a bundle.

Who is your biggest competitor?

We have seen some big competitors come and go. Right now Storify does have some unique selling points, but our vision seems to be very different from theirs so it will be interesting in the coming months, I reckon.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

Focusing our message. Bundlr serves many use cases and it is hurting us in this early times. We are in the process of ignoring some use cases and just sticking to one. Our next homepage will reflect that.

Do you have a favourite Bundle?

This one: gobundlr.com/b/tsunami-no-japao

It was the first Bundle exceeding one thousand views. It was updated realtime, and we genuinely followed the news through this bundle. It was great seeing our tool being used by a real journalist to cover a major global event.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

About the upcoming bundle visualizations. Bundles will be much more enjoyable and versatile.

Can you convince the reader to use Bundlr in under 50 words?

If you ever needed to put a tweet next to a flickr image, next to a youtube video and wondered why you had to deal with embed codes and losing references you ought to try Bundlr.

Finished reading? Check out Bundlr!

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