Small Business Spotlight of the Week: Slikc Amanda | July 28th, 2011
There’s nothing more inconvenient than looking at pictures on someone’s smart phone. I feel this is the appropriate time to insert the hashtag #firstworldproblems. But, self-awareness be darned, because those moments of wrist grabbing, head tilting and eye straining are legitimately frustrating.
Recognizing this, I introduce you all to PicoSnap by Slikc. PicoSnap is the first app that allows you to use pico projectors with your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Previously, using a projector with Apple products required jailbreaking the software so it would recognize the other device.
Kevin from Slikc took some time to tell me more about what they do:
How would you explain what you do to somebody’s grandmother?
We’ve found that people love to extend their personal media space, so we create software to make that happen, easily. Lots of smart people at other companies have worked out ways to walk around with media — on our phones, our iPads, our netbooks. It all works really well — the whole mobile media sector has done a great job of connecting with what customers see as their real needs. But the current approaches to mobile media are inevitably meant for one set of eyeballs. Informally sharing a chart, a picture, a movie — that’s much harder to do, gracefully. And that’s where we come in. Our users can pull an iPhone out of one pocket, a pico projector the same size from their other pocket, and instantly start sharing media with a group of people in an elevator, a construction site, a lobby. It’s a simple idea but it turns out to be very powerful in the right hands.
What made you use crowdSPRING?
Crowd sourcing has been such a phenomenal thing — so, as long-time computer science aficionados, we’ve been aware of proto-crowd sourcing since Louis von Ahn’s ESP Game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESP_Game). We’ve had an eye out for new players in the crowd sourcing space over the years. So we came to crowdSPRING as fans of this new way of using human networks and felt that crowdSPRING had a sense of themselves which was very much in keeping with our company’s way to seeing technology.
What are some industry specific challenges you faced?
The future is already here, we often say, it’s just that it’s not uniformly distributed. With any new idea, some people are right there with you — they see the idea as a response to a problem they understand, and they’re curious to see how it this solution works. These people are not evangelists, they just have a suitable background for seeing your solution in context. The context is the current landscape of problems, and it’s crucial to understand that in order to understand your solution. Our challenges come not from these people, of course, but from everyone else, from finding a way to make what we do legible to these people. Winning over these folks is incredibly hard. We have to stretch to see the world through their experiences.
What was your biggest learning curve/experience?
We’ve learned a lot about growing as a company while keeping a flat, non-hierarchical structure. Companies naturally grow tiers of management over time, but for us that evolution would turn off the crucial flow of ideas from one person to another. The suggestions and ideas that we need to keep ourselves relevant can only come from a flat org chart — but it’s hard to manage that in practice. How a company like Google manages a flat environment for 20,000 people is a mystery to me — we have problems with that as a very small company!
What’s the craziest story you have from starting your own business?
People talk all the time about the asymmetric advantages of a small company — but we’ve seen it firsthand. One of our first products went head-to-head against a company literally one thousand times our size — let’s call it Company X. We would routinely have to spar with Company X for business. In one case, a client had awarded Company X a lucrative contract, and had invited them down to their offices to formalize the contract a few days later. In the intervening days, they heard about our competing software and actually invited us to come present to their board — a few hours before they signed with Company X! Well, we gave a bravura performance, and the client switched to our software — we exited the building as the Company X people walked in, having eaten the giant’s lunch. Score one for the little guy.
If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?
Our company took a while to really see the value of software for the web. We’re like a lot of software companies in that way — even the biggest software companies (sometimes it’s especially the biggest companies) have a chauvinism for desktop software. With such richness in the tools, such power, such proven history — why would anybody be excited about the crummy little toy programs running on the internet and phones? Well, obviously, taking that approach is a mistake. Now we see that access trumps power, and convenience trumps features.
How do you see your company growing in the future?
The act of writing, by itself, leads to new discoveries in the writer’s mind; it’s not different for companies writing their future. The old paradigm of developing a plan and then executing it has been demolished by the Guy Kawasakis of the world. In its place, we think of a company is an algorithm. You set it up, run it, pay attention, and it gives you feedback. It tells you where your strengths are, where your users are connecting, where an new avenue is opening right in front of you. Compared to the static, scripted company plan, the dynamic, living company model we’re building is certainly more lively.
Six words of advice to those looking to start their own company.
Don’t be afraid to iterate, excessively.