(By Adam Wren)
“What I’ve done is taken a model that works, that people are comfortable with, and added a feature that just makes a lot of sense, and by doing so the entire thing reaps the benefit of not just being functionally superior because of that feature but also philosophically different at its very core,”
John Saddington loves to snap photos of his life as a software entrepreneur in Atlanta.
He captures images of books that inspire him, his young daughters and wife, and the work that he does (many featuring his beloved Macbook Air, which he totes to various Starbucks across the city, as well as the headquarters of 8BIT, his blogging software development company).
An avid blogger, Saddington has accumulated a following of tens of thousands on Twitter who flock to his site for irreverent, snappy and thought-provoking advice on everything from generating money as a blogger to personal growth and innovation. His photos, which he used to capture with his iPhone and edit with Instagram, often complemented his posts.
Last year, though, Saddington began to grow restless for a service that would allow him to upload filtered images directly to his blog, and also own the images that he posted.
“It eventually became so unbearable that I quit those larger (social) networks entirely,” he said. “But I still really liked snapping images, and I wanted to own them from end-to-end, not just the capturing process, but also the publication of those images.”
So Saddington decided to build his own iOS app that allowed him to post filtered photos to WordPress, his blogging platform of choice. It wasn’t a groundbreaking idea, he admits, citing a quote popularized by the late Steve Jobs, echoing Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy; Great artists steal.”
It’s a strategy called focused innovation, he says.
“What I’ve done is taken a model that works, that people are comfortable with, and added a feature that just makes a lot of sense, and by doing so the entire thing reaps the benefit of not just being functionally superior because of that feature but also philosophically different at its very core,” Saddington said.
To execute his vision of helping users “to publish pictures worth 1,000 words,” he planned to work nights and weekends on the side project and begin using the app himself sometime in 2014.
But then one night earlier this year, his wife suggested he place his project on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter. So he began work on the project dossier—the app’s goals, how much he would need to fund it—which he finished 10 hours later. And on March 16, he began the crowd-funding process, which he dubbed “Pressgram: An Image Sharing App Built for an Independent Web.”
Over the next 30 days, he slept an average of three hours a night and worked almost nonstop. (He actually kept a graph of how many hours of sleep he got each night). By the project’s deadline, his work paid off: 498 backers pledged $56,500, fully funding his project and surpassing his goal by more than $6,000.
Since then, Saddington has been racing the clock to get the app in the hands of users. By July, users ranging from their teens to their 60s were alpha testing the app.
Saddington says he has plans to monetize the app, but wants to avoid in-app advertising and in-app purchases.
He is looking for venture backers, too, and has had conversations with potential angel investors, but many are waiting to see whether the app gains traction after its August launch, he says.
“In the end I may be called a simple-minded fool, a perennial idealist that believes in a simple rule that seems to work quite well: If you reward and treat your users with respect and create exceptional value for them that they will return that in spades,” Saddington said. “The challenge is finding a way to extract that tangible value without offense. That’s the entrepreneur’s challenge, that’s their mission, that’s the goal. It’s a noble one, at the very least.”
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