Welcome to the forty-second edition of “Startup of the Week” which features many great startups and interviews with successful business heads.
This week I interviewed Hovhannes Avoyan, the CEO and founder of PicsArt, a photo editing, collage and drawing app.
Simply, what does your business do?
The simple answer is…we make PicsArt, a photo editing, collage and drawing app that has everything you need to share your creative identity with the world. It’s a new kind of mobile creativity experience that offers thousands of editing tools connected to a global community where you can share, learn and collaborate.
PicsArt offers a full featured photo editor with hundreds of creative tools and effects. A collage maker for combining photos into beautiful creations and a drawing and painting studio where you can enhance your photos or make your own illustrations. More than 65 million people use PicsArt every month and they make the experience much more engaging by offering creative inspiration and new opportunities to collaborate and learn.
We believe PicsArt is part of a new generation of social media, where the creation process itself is social — not just connected, but fully integrated and synergetic. This cocreation harnesses the creative potential of a global community — because people are much more creative if they’re surrounded by other creative people, like in art classes or during photo walks.
This is a new concept we call “Community Generated Content,” (CGC), as opposed to User Generated Content. People contribute to CGC to gain reputation (BUT do not sell as in marketplaces) — similar to what we’ve seen with open source software development. It’s like an unlimited free marketplace where people earn a reputation, which they can monetize later.
How did the idea of PicsArt come about?
In 2010, I was inspired by my daughter to create a better mobile app that she could use to express her creativity with photos and drawing and to share her creative work with a friendly community. And that’s how and why we started PicsArt.
Did you have a business plan?
Yes, from the start our plan was to build a profitable mobile application business and I’m happy to say that we’ve achieved that goal. We bootstrapped our business in the first years and now that we’ve secured additional funding, we’re focusing on building the largest community of creative people, a new platform for sharing your creative identity online.
What were the challenges you faced when creating PicsArt?
When we started PicsArt, mobile phones and apps were not as sophisticated as they are today. The biggest challenges we faced were in how to build the technology behind an advanced photo editing experience, on par with the popular desktop tools, for small form factor devices. It was hard for, but we kept at it.
What is the difference between you and your competitors?
We’re really interested in getting people to create together, rather than just curating a gallery of their own images and posting them for the world to see. That’s why we’ve developed our #FreeToEdit feature that enables people to contribute their images to the community so anyone from anywhere in the world can download the image and use it to make their own edits. In this way, a single image can travel the world and undergo endless edits.
We’re also experimenting with new ideas in collaboration with projects like this one that invites people to edit just part of an image and then send it back to us where all the parts are reassembled into one creation.
What were you doing before PicsArt?
I taught computer science at the American University of Armenia and a tech entrepreneur. In fact, I founded four companies prior to PicsArt, one of which I sold to Lycos.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Focus on solving a problem or meeting a need that people have and that you care about. Develop your product quickly and pay close attention to how people use your service. Do a lot of A/B testing and be ready to make changes quickly when needed.
Work fast and stay flexible. Develop your product quickly and pay very close attention to how people use your service. If you’ve got a prototype, take it around the office, to a mall, to a café, and ask people to try it out. Watch how they use it, how they interact with it — gathering that information firsthand is priceless. It’s the key to building a successful product.
In one word, describe your job?
Headquarters: San Francisco, CA, USA and Yerevan, Armenia
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