January 11, 2012
Mobile is the future, and the future is here.
The numbers don’t lie; there are more mobile subscriptions than people. Your 12-year-old cousin now has an iPhone. Your dad is trading in his laptop for a tablet. Mobile browsing is ubiquitous. Consequently, the supply of mobile designers hasn’t met the surge in demand.
That’s where Kirill Zubovsky’s mobile designer marketplace, Scoutzie, comes into play.
Tech Cocktail (TC): What was the inspiration behind Scoutzie? When did you arrive at the idea?
Kirill Zubovsky (KZ): The idea of Scoutzie was born late in August. After moving to Seattle about a year ago and then attempting to build a number of Internet applications, as well as failing to get into TechStars, I was on the verge of getting a job. As the last stand, I followed the advice from Andy Sack, a Seattleite VC and the man behind TechStars Seattle. I met with Kelly Smith.
Kelly, the creator of Inkd, ImageKind and Zapd, has been working with designers for many years. While working on Zapd, Kelly noticed that mobile space is moving so fast that many designers haven’t yet had the opportunity to work on a commercial mobile or tablet app yet. In addition, the various complexities around designing for iOS vs designing for the many Android screens make it that much more complicated for designers, creating a very limited pool of talent for those looking to get things built.
With Kelly’s desire to see a unified pool of mobile designers and my drive to build a successful company that would address the needs of the market, partnering to build Scoutzie was inevitable.
TC: What challenges have you encountered along the way? How did you overcome them?
KZ: My original goal was to create a first version of Scoutzie in five weeks. As you might imagine, that was a bit too ambitious. We got a prototype ready in five weeks, but it was sure not the type of product we would be proud to launch. Over the last four months, I went through a few cycles of design-develop-iterate before I even started showing the site to the early users.
To me, this process was as stressfull as it was exciting. I love doing many things at the same time, and being able to map users flows, think though the interface elements, to relentlessly email our potential customers, all while coding the site – that was all very exciting!
There were a number of occasions when I was ready to launch the site, mostly because I was growing frustrated and tired – I wanted that extra energy boost that comes with launching a product. Luckily, Kelly Smith was there to remind me that launching a sub-par version was just not going to cut it. Kelly kept pushing for perfection, and rightfully so!
TC: How do you go about getting the initial wave of developers/designers signed up – same for the “scouts”?
KZ: To be honest, getting initial designers was a really time-consuming exercise. I basically spent days-on-end browsing through various design websites, blogs, portfolios, and other online resources, looking for mobile designers (and their friends!). Then, I emailed everyone who I felt was exhibiting the qualities worthy of Scoutzie membership. It was a tedious exercise, but that was the only way to find the best mobile designers in the wold.
Now that Scoutzie is launched, we hope that others will be able to find mobile designers quickly and efficiently, easily matching their design needs and budgets with skills and talent listed on Scoutzie.
TC: How much of Scoutzie’s success comes down to word-of-mouth versus strategic marketing?
KZ: Excellent question! Although I am not against strategic marketing, the word-of-mouth seems to be working well.
For example, one day we were an invite-only private startup, then Michael Arrington tweeted about us. Google “The Arrington Effect,” you’ll see what I mean. Within minutes, I was getting Scouts signing up; within hours Google Analytics was reporting 20 users/minute on the site. It made sense to go public right away.
TC: Who/what is Scoutzie’s greatest competition?
KZ: There are existing design showcase sites out there, but Scoutzie is quite unique in that we are focused on mobile and we don’t allow just anyone to post content.
TC: What is your future vision for Scoutzie? Will you expand beyond mobile app design, or do you look to focus in only on this niche?
KZ: We like this niche – perhaps we shouldn’t even call it that. Over a billion apps have been downloaded on mobile phones just over this past Christmas break. Significantly more online commerce is being done on mobile devices, especially outside of North America.
Mobile design is still in its early development and requires extra attention. We are sticking with mobile for now.
TC: Have you received funding? Are you looking for funding moving forward?
KZ: Scoutzie is angel-funded by Kelly Smith from CuriousOffice. As per the future funding, we are currently talking to a few folks. Let’s save this for the next story.
TC: What trends should we look for in mobile for 2012? Beyond?
KZ: Personally, I think outstanding mobile design is going to be a huge differentiator in 2012.
The Apple App Store alone has over half a million apps, with 15 billion sold this year and a projected 21 billion to be sold in 2013. With so many apps coming online, users’ attention will get diluted, quickly. Design (beautiful icons, flashy screens and perfect user-experience) will be crucial to make apps stand out.
Long term, I am bullish on HTML5 (and Windows7 with it). Although an iPhone user myself, I can see just how difficult it is to design for a variety of platforms. As our day-to-day interaction with computers is becoming heavily mobile, the approach of designing for each platform separately isn’t going to last at scale.
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