With $1.6M seed funding, UXPin wants to make design more collaborative
The tension between developing and designing is a long-standing dilemma for those building out any kind of software. It's necessary to hew to best practices developing-wise, but a an aesthetically pleasing layout and design is just as important. Of course, this isn't news for anyone who's done this type of work. Yet it's still a problem small companies face everyday when trying to hire the best people to create their Web products.
UXPin is a startup that has been around since 2010, aiming to combine these two forces to create a way to build seamless, aesthetically pleasing, and easier-to-make softwares. It offers a subscription-based SaaS product to make software design less unwieldy, be it for a website, app, wearable device, etc.
Today the Mountain View-based company is announcing that has raised $1.6 million in seed funding. Andreessen/Horowitz, Freestyle Capital, and IDG Ventures, all participated in the round.
According to UXPin's CEO Marcin Treder, the company started very small. Treder himself has been a UX (user experience) designer for years, in both the US and Europe, as well as an academic, researching philosophy and psychology. During his time Web designing in Poland, he began seeing a fissure between designers and developers and wanted to create a way to bridge the two.
"We were trying to come up with a solution that would help the company be more collaborative during the design process," he said.
The first iteration of what is now UXPin was simply a series of Post-it notes, which then transformed into physical notecards. According to him, he began selling these pieces of paper to companies to better explicate UX design. And these companies, I gather, liked what he was teaching. It was a method he designed for developers and designers, showing how the two processes can be more collaborative.
Soon the cards turned into a full-fledged software, and now we have UXPin today. According to Treder, user growth has be enormous since its inception four years ago. "At the end of 2013, our year over year growth was 950 percent," he told me. At the same time, he wouldn't tell me precisely how many clients it currently has, noting only that it was "in the thousands." The company now has some pretty big-named clients too, including Microsoft, Sony, and NBC.
Treder explained that the entire philosophy behind UXPin is that designing is more than just drawing boxes. "It's about solving problems," he said.
Additionally, he believes that design tools should be easy to use but advanced enough for the most professional of users. He compared UXPin's design potential to Logic Pro or Final Cut Pro. That is, the most basic person can figure out how to make edits with these products, but musicians like Thom Yorke still use Logic to cut albums.
Right now Treder says the company has 20 employees and is going to use this new investment to hire some more. "We're focusing on product and growth," he said.
Growth will indeed need to happen in order for UXPin to make a dent. While Treder's software does look very nice, and design is important for any business to aptly show its work, this company is competing against the likes of Adobe. While some developers may be frightened of Adobe's powerful and quite advanced suite of product, any real designer should know it through and through. It's going to be tough to sway them any other way.
Of course, that's precisely the battle Treder wants to fight. And he believes UXPin can do it, given that it starts at an easier point of entry. We'll know that's happened once customers in the "thousands" transforms to "hundreds of thousands."