Many of us love our real-time streams in Twitter, Facebook and other social sites. However, as they grow, so does the desire to compartmentalize and look for smaller communities for our various needs or interests. And we’ve seen plenty of them popping up – from Yammer and Present.ly, that connect corporate environments as well as smaller teams, to Sprouter, connecting entrepreneurs around the world, and even more niche sites like Thankfulfor connecting people interested in sharing gratitude, there is no doubt a real desire to create more focused steams.
Today we’re fortunate to hear from Forrst founder, Kyle Bragger, who built a real-time stream product specifically for sharing code, screenshots and links with other designers and developers. Fortunately, he wasn’t the only one interested in this type of targeted community and Forrst has started to gain some real traction. In this interview, Kyle shares his path so far, thoughts on the community and the future of Forrst.
Tech Cocktail (TC): Why did you create Forrst?
Kyle Bragger (KB): I made Forrst to basically give myself a place to collect/share development related stuff, cool UX patterns, etc. I have never been much of a blogger and Tumblr/Twitter just felt way too general purpose for sharing such a focused group of things. In the beginning it was kind of a microblogging tool with the potential to have some community baked in.
TC: Tell us about the team behind Forrst. How did you come together?
KB: I’m here full time working on development and product. Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk are investors and partners who handle the business side of things (ad stuff, our Cabin feature where we offer deals to members, and so forth). Adam Kopec and Keith Holjencin are the design muscle behind the site (they help out from time to time when not working at Vaynermedia). Mike Evans helps run the moderation side of things out in Detroit. Before Forrst, I worked at Cork’d, one of Gary’s companies which shared office space with Vaynermedia. Keith, Adam and I became friends because of that. Gary and AJ invested in mid-March and as a result I was able to work with Adam to revamp my prototype of Forrst into a full web app. Keith has recently come on to help realign a bunch of the UI based on user feedback and where I believe the product needs to go.
TC: What impact has Forrst made on the developer and designer community?
KB: I like to think it’s made a good dent so far. The way I see Forrst is as a place where devs and designers can come to hang out with their peers, learn something new, and ultimately become better at their craft. It’s a pretty non-judgmental place where passionate folks, irrespective of skill level, can hopefully feel at home. In my opinion, the community is the site’s shining feature. There have also been more than a few projects started as a result of partnerships forming between Forrst members (here’s a blog entry with some of the apps).
TC: What are some the innovative ways you have seen developers and designers using Forrst?
KB: Many use it to share iterations of designs they’re working on. I’ve seen people get help debugging code or tweaking CSS. I’m constantly blown away by the willingness of the community to go to great lengths to help one another. I’ve been using it to get product feedback on some of the new UI upgrades we’re rolling out soon.
TC: What’s Forrst’s business model? Have you taken much funding?
KB: I took a small seed round from Gary and AJ in March; from January 2010 to March I was hacking on Forrst in my free time and paying out of pocket for hosting and whatnot. In early March the site was written up by Think Vitamin, which helped generate some buzz and got people interested. It became clear (to me at least) that I was potentially on to something pretty cool, and Gary and AJ were awesome enough to help me follow that vision by investing a seed round and partnering with me on the business side. I took just enough to support myself while working on the site full time. I’m definitely a huge proponent of bootstrapping and only taking money if and when it’s warranted, and taking a seed round when I did helped me to get the product to an awesome place. As far as the business model, that’s something we’re all still thinking through, and in the meantime the site is making money through ad sales and running Cabin promotions (weekly members-only deals). I’ve got some other things I hope to roll out by years-end related to premium features.
TC: What are some future plans for Forrst?
KB: I’m heads down right now building “Timber”, the codename for version 3 of Forrst. We’ve gotten a slew of incredible feedback about the product since launching for real in May and this release aims to integrate much of that feedback. I’ve gutted a bunch of features, the UI is leaner and much more thought has been put in to designing the best user experience possible in line with the way people use the site now. I also hope to roll out at least the first round of premium features before January. I’d also love to get to a place revenue-wise where I’m able to bring in another developer (days like this I could really use them). Ultimately, my goal is to keep building a great product that enables the community to grow even more.
TC: Is there anything else you would like to add?
KB: I’m still kind of dumbfounded that Forrst ended up where it has. To see it go from an ugly prototype I made for myself, to a real community has been awesome. I’m looking forward to the next year.
Thank you, Kyle!