Recently we caught up with Matt Colyer, Co-Founder of an awesome startup called Easel. During our interview, Matt introduces us to Easel while sharing advice abut the business plan process and applying to an accelerator program. Easel is a graduate of the Y Combinator accelerator program. This is the second startup that Matt has taken through the Y Combinator program.
What is Easel all about?
Easel is the best way to design for the web because it uses the power of your browser to design. The Easel platform allows you to build pages using a rich visual editor, which works directly with HTML and CSS. Simply put, your designs will appear exactly as they would on your live site. And by working with real code, there is a significant reduction in the tedious work required to implement the design.
How did you come up with the idea for Easel?
My co-founder, Ben, and I have worked at various web startups, and we felt the pain of faithfully recreating a design from an image only to have to start over again whenever it changed. We both felt that there was an enormous amount of time and effort wasted translating from one format to another. That’s why we created Easel.
Instead of drawing out our interfaces and locking our information away in an image, we should be prototyping and building in our browsers. Previously, this wasn’t possible as browsers weren’t sophisticated enough, but that’s no longer the case.
What were some of the challenges that you faced starting a company?
I think the biggest challenge in a startups is product focus. You’re solving an incredibly large problem with a limited set of resources, so it’s important to focus on the things that can have the biggest impact. I think we’ve done well so far, but it’s something I definitely struggle with every day.
You took part in the Y Combinator accelerator program, what difference do you feel being part of an accelerator made to your company?
I’ve actually had the good fortune to go through the Y-Combinator twice, once back in Winter 2006 with Flagr and then this past Summer for Easel. Both experiences were incredibly different, but the best part of both experiences was definitely the people I met along the way. Having the support of a group of like-minded people can’t be understated.
What 3 pieces of advice would you give to an entrepreneur looking to get their company into an accelerator program?
You should launch and get your first paying customer before applying. Some businesses get to that point rather quickly and others take more time. Take that risk out of the equation, and get to that milestone before applying. That way when you’re in the program, you’ve got the basics down, and you can focus on growth. The last piece of advice is just to ignore everything else but the first two pieces of advice, launch and get paying customers.
What advice would you like to give to an entrepreneur thinking about writing their first business plan?
I think the most important thing to understand about a business plan is that it’s all about the journey rather than the destination.
A business plan in itself isn’t terribly useful. It gets out of date too quickly, and if yours isn’t then you aren’t experimenting enough. However, the process of creating a business plan can be incredibly useful. It forces you to answer questions you might not be thinking about on a daily basis.
When I’ve put business plans together in the past, I’ve found that I end up generating more questions than I answer. However, the great things about those questions is they tell you what you need to do next.
A massive thank you to Matt for taking the time out of his busy schedule to put down some awesome answers to our questions. We look forward to catching back up with Easel next year to see how things have come along.
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