Interview with Christofer Karltorp (Zerply)
Zerply is a professional network with a difference.
I interviewed Christofer Karltorp, Zerply co-founder to find out more. This is the hundred and thirty ninth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Christofer!
How would you describe Zerply in under 50 words?
Zerply is the professional network for people who create things; musicians, developers, producers, designers, marketers, entrepreneurs etc. People who understand that their professional identities are made up of more than vague job titles, but of the actual things that they create.
I am sure you have been asked this hundreds of times, but what makes Zerply different from LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is built for the Fortune 500, focusing on resumes and rolodexes for all the suit clad, stock image professionals out there.
Zerply is for the makers; the hackers, designers, producers and artists who in one way or another create digital content. We’re the essential evolution of the resume, the portfolio and the recruiting process – built for a generation of web natives.
What made you decide to start working on Zerply?
We loathed the idea of having to become suit and tie professionals. It just wasn’t us. We just wanted to create cool stuff, and we realized there were a lot of people like us. So we figured, why can’t we be the ones building the professional network for people who make cool things?
We obviously didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, but wanting to scratch that itch is what the beginning of Zerply :)
How did you come up with the name?
The name is actually derived from Serious Play. It’s basically a homage to the saying “when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life”. Our idea has always been to lighten up the professional world, making it more creative and playful.
What technologies have you used to build Zerply?
It’s a fairly basic LAMP stack. PHP & MySQL.
The design and feel is elegant and simple with room for adding personality. How did you decide on the look and feel of Zerply?
The most frustrating thing for us in the early days was that anything professional automatically equalled corporate and boring. Just do a Google image search for “professional” and you’ll get my point :) We wanted to build something non-corporate, something that’s playful and individual at the core that’s actually appealing to our generation. We basically designed what we’d want to use ourselves.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Zerply?
The more recent additions like Zerply Converse and our yet to be announced makeover (internally dubbed as ‘redux’) has been the most challenging technically. Besides that, we’ve found that building something that seems simple is not easy at all! A lot of thought and energy has gone into creating the look and feel of simplicity, even though the underlying tech is kind of complicated.
How long did it take to put together Zerply?
It’s hard to say. There are so many different versions and iterations that lay the foundation of what Zerply is today. We launched our public beta in June 2011 and had worked on various iterations for about 6 months prior to that. The thought process had of course been going on for much longer than that however.
Do you have any new features in the pipeline?
We sure do! Like I mentioned above we’re working on a makeover that will redefine how experience is being handled and displayed on Zerply. A large majority of our users are project oriented, and right now it’s hard to get a good overview of all the various projects that people are involved in. We aim to change that and create a much more engaging way to interact with your skillset. So stay tuned :)
What were you doing before starting up Zerply?
I was studying at Stockholm University and doing consulting on the side in my hometown in Sweden, looping Taaniel in on more and more development projects. We did a workshop about cloud based services for small businesses in late 2009, and that’s how we came in contact with Dropbox and a few other Bay Area startups and realized something was going on out here. We visited the area briefly and decided we’d do whatever it takes to move out here.
Where do you see Zerply in 5 years time?
In five years Zerply will be the top network for anyone in a creative capacity – be it accountants, videographers or mechanical engineers. It will be the most straightforward way to find out who someone is, what they’re good at and if it’s someone you’d like to collaborate with.
Has Zerply got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
Yes and no. The feedback from our users had been truly amazing. There’s been an emotional connection with our users where many have said that they absolutely love what we’re doing. I had no idea that would happen, and it’s really cool to see. When it comes to our growth, our early estimations have been so off that I almost cringe when I find old notes about where I thought we’d be at various points of the journey. I really didn’t have a clue :) It’s been such a learning experience with tons of iterations to find our place on the market. That said, we’re growing nicely and we’re very excited for what’s about to come in the fall & winter – and this time it’s not just pulled out of thin air ;)
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
I believe the biggest hurdle for every startup is to matter to a lot of people. To build something that a lot of people want to use on a regular basis is hard. Once you have a small group that truly cares about your startup, that excitement has to be translated into new areas and gain mainstream growth at scale. This is hard, and definitely one of the things we think about the most.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting up?
Don’t give up. Not under any circumstances (if you really believe in your vision that is). You need massive amounts of perseverance to be able to pull off a startup. At first no one will care. Then they won’t care some more. Then finally a small group of people might start to care enough to use your product regularly (which is the best feeling ever). Then it’s about learning why that happened and how it can be happen with other groups as well. Rinse and repeat.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
It’s really rewarding to see something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into for so long gain recognition and praise. It certainly didn’t happen the way we first thought, but we have indeed built something that people want to use and that makes us very excited!
Can you convince the reader to start using Zerply in under 50 words?
If you’re good at something, you want that to show. You want to use your talent where it matters and makes a difference, no matter where the opportunity presents itself globally. Zerply highlights your skillset and puts it into context so you can be found and collaborate with others like yourself.
Finished reading? Check out Zerply!