Interview with Tõnu Runnel (Edicy)
Edicy is a web application for building multilingual websites.
I interviewed Tõnu Runnel, Edicy CEO and co-founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and fifty sixth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Tõnu!
Describe Edicy in under 50 words.
Edicy is a super simple tool for creating multilingual websites for businesses. Sites made with Edicy are well designed, responsive, mobile-friendly and SEO optimized, out of the box.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I’m an entrepreneur passionate about usability and design.
You took your first steps in to the business world at age 15. Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m born and based in Estonia, a tiny and aggressively evolving post-soviet country. My parents are writers, so creative people and activities have always been around me.
I started to create websites for myself and my friends back in the high school. It was fun to play around. I didn’t think of myself as a designer and my tinkering as work until someone scouted me and a good friend of mine to design a website for the largest national newspaper in Estonia. Just like that.
Still, instead of going to study design, I went to law school because it was a tougher challenge to get in. During studies we founded our first design studio with friend that gained considerable recognition in the region.
What made you decide to start working on Edicy?
After having built tens of websites, we noticed the similarities in their underlying requirements. We tried to scale our energy by combining the repetitive tasks of content management into a self service tool for our customers. In order to simplify our work further we tried to make the product self explanatory, more usable.
Only then did we realize that it could be used by anyone not just the customers of our design studio. We had to make it public, let anyone sign up and drastically reduce the cost for users.
Where are you based? Who is the team behind Edicy?
We are based in two cities in Estonia, Tartu and Tallinn. Edicy is co-founded by four people — by the lead developer Priit Haamer, a Skype co-founder Toivo Annus, an early Skype employee Märt Kelder and me. We are all product people — designers and developers with focus on the user.
How did you come up with the name?
It’s pretty straightforward actually. We were trying to find the shortest readable .com name with some connection with what the product does. Edicy is derived from ‘editing’ into a 5-letter .com name.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Edicy?
Back in 2007 browser standards were still disregarded by more than 50% of the browsers out there. So making user interfaces work as designed was more difficult than scaling the product to thousands of concurrent users.
How long did it take to put together Edicy?
We started to plan the product late in 2007. Coding started early 2008 and the public launch took place in mid-2008.
What’s the startup scene like in Estonia?
Estonia is incredibly vibrant in the tech and startup scene. A good example is that Estonia has by far more Seedcamp winners per capita than any other nation in the world. One of the most well known hackathons in Europe, Garage48 started here too. Many startups move their headquarters to Valley or East coast after getting funded of course. But the development and core product/design knowledge stays here and boosts next round of startup incubation.
What other projects are you working on?
I’m running a design studio, Fraktal that forms the basis of Edicy product team and helps many other European startups design their websites and apps.
On the sideline we also have another cool web app, Defolio. It’s a design collaboration platform for designers and their customers.
Where do you see Edicy in 5 years time?
We are moving clearly towards professional users — design and web agencies who see us as a well maintained, up to date platform for website development. Self-hosted CMS software is difficult to use for their customers and costly to maintain for them.
Has Edicy got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
It has been slower than our wildest dreams for sure. But the growth is accelerating, we are profitable and have reached a pretty hefty 350,000 signup threshold. Users tend to recommend Edicy to their friends so we are really happy with how it’s going.
What advantage does Edicy have over its competitors?
Edicy is multilingual to the core, it gives a responsive and SEO optimized result with no configuration, it’s easier to use and every detail of the sites created with it is customizable by developers and designers for their customers’ unique needs.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Hiring. Estonia has so many good startups that every great designer and developer already works in one or two of them. We have to bring talent in from neighboring countries.
Name 3 trends that excite you.
1) Push for retina and 2) increasing design/interaction capabilities of browsers. We are designers and love to create beautiful, functional products for screens. It has never been so rewarding.
3) Copyright laws are likely going to change for better and more flex as the new generation doesn’t understand the backward oldschool ways of how it’s done today.
Which entrepreneurs do you most admire?
37signals guys and other independent tech entrepreneurs, who have reached the stars. Lean, free and “huge”.
What one piece of advice would you give to soon to be startup founders?
“Overnight success” takes five years of hard work.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Working together with more and more designers and their customers switching to Edicy. This is the most interesting crowd of Edicy users because of my trade.
Can you convince the reader to start using Edicy in under 50 words?
The most simple, elegant and lean user interface for a powerful website builder out there. As der Spiegel, the second biggest magazine in Europe billed us — you can’t go around Edicy when creating a multilingual website.
Finished reading? Check out Edicy!