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"Sounds neat, but I doubt it will work."
For the last two years, we've heard these phrases from people who didn’t believe a self-funded startup with a big vision could create a footprint in the hyper-competitive world of content innovation.
Today, I’m here to say that it can--because we're doing it.
Visme was launched in late 2013 as a simple tool to initially help users create short animations, with a mere 700 beta users.
Fast forward to 2016:
Visme has evolved into an all-in-one visual content tool used by more than 300,000 users in over 60 countries to create interactive presentations and infographics that can be easily shared online or downloaded.
But that’s not all.
Today, Visme is announcing its most important upgrade to date. After thousands of hours of development, a new version is ready to be released, which will set the foundation for future rollouts to achieve our long-term vision of helping anyone become a better presenter and communicator.
So, for all those who said it wasn’t possible: Yes it's quite challenging, but with persistence and hard work, you can bootstrap a tiny startup to profitability and create a viable service that is adopted by more and more users every day. Here is a brief story of how we did it and a sneak peek into our new release, which will be unveiled soon:
“You want me to do something? Tell me I can’t do it.”
When I first presented the idea that would become Visme (formerly called Presenter) at a DC TechBreakfast, I told a group of more than 100 attendees that we would help democratize the ability to create visual content by giving non-designers the tools to do it on their own.
It would be a multi-tool, a sort of Swiss Knife of visual content; in essence a marriage between key features of PowerPoint, Flash and a design software that anyone without experience could use to translate their thoughts and ideas into engaging presentations and infographics right in their browser.
Beyond simple text and static visuals, users would be able to add interactivity and motion to any object, publish their creations online, embed them into their own websites or download them for offline use.
I was not taken very seriously, though.
It's one thing to create a web app that merely survives the tide (over 80% of startups fail within a few years), but it’s an entirely different thing to consolidate multiple apps into a single tool that will work seamlessly on all the latest browsers and that people would be willing to use over traditional apps such as PowerPoint, Flash or Illustrator.
Besides, how could a tiny, bootstrapped startup out of the DC area--known more for politics and lobbying than its startup community--accomplish such a feat?
We were headed for failure or, at best, a struggle to acquire enough users to create a viable business, I was told.
If there is anything that has motivated me in business or in life, it is to be told that I can't do something. It lights a fire in me to do everything in my power to prove otherwise--even if that means going through some trying times.
When we first launched our soft beta, most of the 700 users said they found it hard to use and that their final projects were far from the designs they envisioned in their minds. When you spend months developing a proof of concept, it's a tough pill to swallow, but in hindsight it was exactly what we needed to hear.
We noticed most of our users were not designers and that they primarily sought to create presentations and infographics--animations were a novelty, not a requirement for many--so we quickly decided to pivot our solution to appeal to their needs. Over the next months, we used this constructive feedback to go back to the drawing board and improve the areas that mattered most to our users.
On our next version of Visme, the user interface was refined to allow users to concentrate on their primary goals of creating presentations and infographics. The animation engine, which was originally the heart of our first release, took a back seat to other features on the user interface and moved to a less notable area, available when and if the user needed to apply interactivity.
Over the course of the next year, we continued to implement new features and address user concerns and requirements, released thousands of quality icons and infograph widgets, and launched paid plans to unlock premium features.
But after a couple years of heavy development and building on our existing legacy system, we started to reach a saturation point in which a major upgrade of the entire system was not just necessary but absolutely required. We needed to strengthen our core foundation to allow us to further scale and improve the pace of our feature rollouts and address numerous user requests.
With resources from my digital agency HindSite Interactive, as well as my own personal funds, we bootstrapped Visme to profitability nine months after launching our paid plans in late 2014, allowing us to further invest into improving and refining Visme.
Today, presenters from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies are migrating from PowerPoint to Visme to create their slide decks. Communicators and marketers are crafting visual messages and improving brand awareness. Educators and students are translating their ideas into engaging visuals such as infographics. Nonprofits are raising awareness for their causes and increase donations. And the list goes on...
We're proud of what we have achieved but just shy of touching the surface of where we're going.
When my team and I realized that our entire system needed to be upgraded to improve the pace of future rollouts and address numerous user requests, we agreed it was time to revamp the infrastructure of Visme editor, from the ground up.
This meant fully refactoring our 70,000+ lines of code and updating our cloud environment to drastically improve the scalability and capabilities of Visme.
After eight months and thousands of man hours, we can comfortably say the new Visme is easier to use, smoother and, all around, more refined.
By addressing over 35 of the most common user requests and incorporating new features, the improved Visme will noticeably reduce friction in work flow, allowing users to increase productivity, and the quality of their designs as reported by our test users.
Here's a teaser of what’s to come:
Existing users will feel right at home since no major cosmetic changes have been made to the Visme interface, but a cumulation of numerous refinements (and new features) will provide an overall better user experience to both existing and new users.
We have completely revamped our text editor, allowing for easier editing capabilities and style control, improved single and multiple object selection and simplified color selection. We have also developed new charts and settings to visualize data and added tons of new infographic templates that will make our existing templates look like child's play. We have also developed a great audio engine, so you can easily upload audio or even record audio to add to your projects.
We will be releasing sometime in late January to early February. All existing users will automatically be migrated over to the new version and can continue editing existing projects or create new projects, while new users will access the new version.
If you would like to learn more about our new release and test drive the new system, feel free to contact us directly. Send an email to Support at visme.co, and we'll help you get set up.
Visme is not just about creating another startup but about developing a solution--and developing a supporting business around it--that will help all people, regardless of their design experience, to tell their own digital stories, create their own visual content and produce their own data visualizations--all while having fun at the same time.
We have a long term vision: It’s not about reaching overnight exponential growth (we will get there in time) nor taking short cuts to reach goals set by others. For us, it's been and will always will be about serving the needs and meeting the expectations of our long-term investors: our users.
Today, on behalf of the Visme team who helped make this happen, I personally thank the early doubters for motivating us on the path to developing the best product for our users. They are the reason Visme exists. Furthermore, we would like to thank our early adopters and users who believed in our vision and have given us constructive feedback to help improve Visme.
At the end of the day, we want to play an integral role in eliminating the friction that exists between conceiving ideas and translating them into meaningful visual content in this golden age of visual communication. We believe in every person resides a great communicator who, when given the right tools, can unleash his/her ideas and creativity.
We're just getting started. Stay tuned...