Got a problem with a design? Skwibl it out online! Many designers and clients can relate to the frustrating back-and-forth communication that takes place when alterations need to be made to a design. Launched in February, Skwibl helps solve this communication issue by offering a service that allows interactive collaboration on images and videos.
How does it work? Designers log on to Skwibl.com, upload their designs and invite the client or a team member to the project. Instead of emailing a list of corrections, the client can leave marks on the images, circling areas they want changes and leaving a task list for the designer to work with.
“This way both benefit: the designer, who is a visual person, understands the tasks better, while the client gets an easy way to give feedback and receives a more satisfying result in the end,” says Skwibl CEO Tatiana Protasova.
It was a little over a year ago that Yuri Karadzhov, Skwibl CTO, came up with the idea to help people communicate online with a technology that had recently entered the market.
Karadzhov developed a prototype simply to get a feel of the new technology and entertain friends and family with his solution. Seeing that his peer group enjoyed playing with the tool, he realised there was an opportunity to transform the idea into a viable business.
The inspiration to pivot towards web design collaboration also came from his experience working with freelance web designers. Stuck with emails and Skype calls, most of his suggestions and edits were lost and after many iterations the resulting design was still not satisfying.
Making comments right on design sketches yielded unexpectedly good results, and so a pivot towards web design was only a matter of time.
Dmitry Kovkun, Skwibl designer, joined the team early on while they were brainstorming how to approach product development, making sure Skwibl satisfies the needs of designers.
Karadhoz’s vision inspired Protasova to jump on board with the venture and begin looking for an accelerator that would not only help with financing, but nurture their skill set so they are competitive in the global IT market.
Their innovative idea earned them a place in Adelaide’s ANZ Innovyz START accelerator program; and they eagerly flew in from Ukraine to participate.
“We are coming all the way from Ukraine to join the ANZ Innovyz START accelerator program and the reason for this is that we have a working product aiming at the global market and we strongly believe Australia is the place where we can realize that vision,” says Protasova.
She adds that they see enormous value in participating in the program given the Australian market is extremely tech savvy and globally-oriented – for instance, by keeping close ties with the US and other global hubs of innovation.
The Skwibl team plan on merging the global graphic design market which generates $44 billion in revenue per annum with the fast-growing online collaboration and proofing software market.
Since their beta launch, Skwibl gained 1200 registered users with no marketing and is evenly distributed between the clients and the designers.
The product received considerable recognition from design agencies outsourcing projects to web studios, startups that are constantly negotiating corrections to their product interfaces and companies outsourcing design to freelancers.
Funding and business model
After they gathered their initial financing of AUD$20,000, they joined as a team of four – with two developers, a designer, and a marketing and business development specialist to execute the business idea.
“Now that we have joined ANZ Innovyz START we have received another $20 000 and plan to keep to a lean strategy and work hard on acquiring the necessary partnerships to help us grow,” says Protasova.
Skwibl is currently free to use and the team are in the process of implementing a freemium model, where extra features will be available on subscription.
As a small team with an overwhelming number of tasks to accomplish, there has been constant stress; and the biggest lesson they learned from the experience so far is that it is important to maintain positive relationships with the team.
“Especially because over 60 percent of startups fail due to conflict within the team, which is a good reason to work on building a strong team and maintaining a positive synergy along the way,” says Protasova.
The future of Skwibl
The upcoming year is going to be crucial to their product innovation. Given the design collaborative space is very dynamic, the team are keeping track of the solutions that are working in this area.
They are currently working on launching a groundbreaking video collaboration solution that will allow for people to provide feedback right on a video frame as easily as with the image collaboration tool that Skwibl is offering at the moment.
“Our core differentiator however is in our focus on simplicity. You don’t need to be a tech guru to use Skwibl. It is as simple as uploading a design, marking a few corrections, and getting a new corrected version from your designer,” says Protasova.
“We plan to keep improving, all the while keeping that focus on simplicity as we introduce our new video collaboration tool to the world in the coming month.”
Take a tour of the site via www.skwibl.com.