Interview with Payman Taei (Easy WebContent)
Easy WebContent is an online easy to use website builder and editing system.
I interviewed Payman Taei, Easy WebContent founder to find out more. This is the hundred and thirty eighth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Payman!
Give us the elevator pitch for Easy WebContent.
Easy WebContent is a web based Do It Yourself system that allows Everyone to create and maintain rich interactive content online. From professional websites, to interactive presentations and demos the platform helps anyone with little to no design or programming knowledge to create and maintain engaging experiences with their audience through easy yet powerful interactive tools that are web and mobile friendly.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I am a down to earth, straightforward, ambitious individual driven by challenges and the ability to do everything I can in my power to solve and overcome them.
You suffered with Crohn’s disease during your senior year at the University of Maryland in 2000. However, being bed-ridden allowed you to start your entrepreneurial career. Tell us how you first started out.
I believe that events in our lives happen for a reason. We have a choice to dwell on the past or take them as a trigger for change in the direction for future impact of our lives. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s / Ulcerative Colitis in my first year of college, and it progressively got worst where in my senior year in College it got bad enough that I had to drop out weeks before I was graduating with my B.A.
This was a turning point in my life. I was a biology major and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my major. I used to commute in traffic for an hour to School daily and for anyone who has ever had an active Crohn’s flare up they know how difficult it can be to cope with it; so I had to drop out of college my last semester. I was pretty much bed-ridden at home for the next 3-4 months where my friends and colleagues were graduating and heading off to graduate school (and having fun and partying during the summer) while I was stuck at home trying to get my flare up under control.
I always had a passion for graphics and animation but had never really put the time to gain experience. So I ended up taking advantage of the time and sticking to my Desktop day and night, browse the internet and read and learn all I could do and start designing websites for small local businesses. It didn’t just take off; it was a very slow process but it allowed me to gain experience and little by little it started to pay my bills.
So I made a decision to skip graduate school (I didn’t think it was for me anyway) and do it full time and started a Web Design company called HindSite Interactive which fully specialized in custom websites from the ground up tailored to each businesses’ specific needs.
After over 10 years, Hindsite Interactive is now one of Maryland’s leading design and development firms and was acknowledged as one of the Top U.S. design firms by International Business Times last year. What would you say are the three main factors that have led to this success?
We are not the biggest web design firm in the area. For us it’s not all about how many employees you have, and we’re glad to have gotten some of the recognition based on what we create and not our size and growth rate. And for our clients who believe in our work and continue to depend on us to serve them well appreciate this and we maintain a very low turn over rate. In fact some of our clients have been with us since our inception and pretty much all our growth is been through referrals and expansion of our client’s businesses.
The main three factors I credit to our success are persistence, consistency and hard work. Let’s face it, Web Consulting is a competitive market. We’ve seen design / development firms come and go and some who grew fast and cut back on staff. My goal at HindSite Interactive has never been to grow exponentially. But to grow at a steady pace and have to avoid layoffs and cut backs. We provide custom services and work closely with our clients. As a result I believe if we grow too big we would could lose touch with our custom offering.
What made you decide to start working on Easy WebContent in 2008?
It all started with the realization that many small businesses and individuals do not want to spend thousands of dollars on custom websites or expensive content management systems to edit and manage their sites; but they do want to have control and ease of use over their web presence.
So we launched a division called Easy WebContent, which in late 2008 started as just a Site Editor (we call it HTML Editor) where anyone with an existing website regardless of who designed it and where it is hosted can easily connect and edit the content of their site pages directly through their browser without the need to install a Content Management System or code changes on their site. We received a lot of praise for this and great reviews from PCWorld and other prestigious sources.
A couple years ago we decided to expand our service at Easy WeContent and launch our Site Builder which allows anyone with little to no technical knowledge create professional looking sites. The beauty of the tool is you have control over your themes and structure as opposed to most competitors who have strict templates with little to no flexibility.
Our services are low cost and affordable by virtually anyone.
Who uses Easy WebContent?
Majority of our users are small businesses, non profit organizations and individuals from all walks of life. Most of our users are in North America, but we also have dedicated subscribers from Australia, U.K, New Zealand and other countries as well.
What was the most challenging part of developing Easy WebContent?
Since we are developing an application that runs directly through the browser with no third party plug-ins, one of the challenges we face is creating custom features that are stable across all standard browsers; this often requires extensive testing and debugging; but we’ve got a fairly efficient process in place now to overcome this.
Any plans for a mobile version of your Site Builder?
Our Site Builder generates mobile friendly content. We do have plans to also allow users to create complete mobile versions of their sites in the future.
Having bootstrapped the company so far, do you plan to seek angel investment to scale the product?
I’ve gotten this question on a number of occasions. Since we are generating revenue we are not on a time crunch to seek Angels and VC’s. I believe at some stage in the near future we may want to more aggressively scale up our development pace and efforts; so if we find the right synergy with investor(s) that share our visions we are open to the opportunity and welcome it.
Where do you see Easy WebContent in 5 years time?
If there is anything I’ve learned in running a business, it’s that you can set goals but you can’t foresee the future no matter how hard you plan for it. So I set more short term goals typically in 6 to 9 month increments.
But since you ask, I want to make Easy WebContent the leading online based content generation application that many depend on as a central hub to easily create, edit, share and manage content online.
Has Easy WebContent got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
We have had great feedback from subscribers who rely on our system to manage their content online. We have also gotten praise and positive reviews from various editors and venues. The growth has not been exponential, but instead linear for the first few years. This was not a bad thing for us; It helped us to scale at a steady pace, and concentrate on improving our product line.
Additionally up until just last year our only service was our HTML Editor. With the launch of our recent Site Builder and our upcoming Presenter we are seeing an increase flow of users and more aggressive growth and will continue to support and expand with it.
You are now expanding into the world of HTML5 Interactive content. Tell us more.
We were hard core Flash designers and developers at my Web Design company HindSite Interactive. With the disruption of flash thanks to iPhone and iPad devices, we had to make a conscious decision to begin utilizing HTML5 as the future and replacement of Flash for content engagement.
We have seen a lot of restrictions in the available web/mobile friendly content creation applications that utilize HTML5. So we took upon the challenge to develop a HTML5 content creation application that our design team would use in-house and if its good enough for our web agency then we’re sure it will be good enough for others as well.
We’re calling it Easy WebContent Presenter.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Everyday there are more and more startups and online applications coming online, faster than ever before. So increasing traction and distinguishing your offerings versus your competitors is a challenge. We are not too concerned however because we believe in our service and our unique offerings.
Which entrepreneurs do you most admire?
Every successful entrepreneur is unique in their own way; from their strategy and approach to their outlook and how they face challenges. A couple of Entrepreneurs I admire are Ditlev Bredahl of OnApp; I had a great conversation with him a few months back at the recent Hosting Con. His determination, outlook on business and how he tackles business opportunities are a great asset and reason for his success.
I also highly admire Jason Fried of 37signals; It’s amazing how through simple design and communication he has grown the company to it’s current state. Also Ben Chestnut of MailChimp has great outlook and strategy on business.
What one piece of advice would you give to soon to be startup founders?
I can’t emphasize the importance of balancing risk with return. Whether you are bootstrapping or seeking investment, position your resources carefully and plan accordingly. Too often start-ups look at becoming the next Facebook, Square and Google. For every Facebook there are 1,000 start-ups that went bust. Be an optimist but also realize risk is very high and therefore plan accordingly.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
We are very excited about the upcoming launch of our Easy WebContent Presenter tool. You can signup for the Beta; we believe this tool will simplify the way designers and non designers create engaging and interactive web and mobile friendly content.
Can you convince the reader to check out Easy WebContent in under 90 words?
There is a fundamental problem with most content creation software. They are either made too basic and lack flexibility for the average person or loaded with features which then become too complicated and only fit the needs of a professional. At Easy WebContent we are changing the software game by bridging this gap through our line of simple yet powerful web based tools so that everyone from designers to the average person can take advantage to easily create and manage professional content.
Finished reading? Check out Easy WebContent!