12 Oct

KindCritic is a social platform where creatives can give and get crowdsourced constructive feedback on their creative works from real experts in their field of interest.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. ‘Jeff Callahan‘; Founder of the US (Austin)-based start-up “KindCritic”.

KindCritic” is A Social Platform that Allows you to get Crowdsourced Feedback on your Creative Projects.

Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Callahan’ regarding his internet start-up company “KindCritic”;

1. What is it exactly that you do and what “KindCritic” is all about?

KindCritic is a social platform where creatives can give and get crowdsourced constructive feedback on their creative works from real experts in their field of interest.

Users can post images, links, writing and music publicly or incognito. They can then track their creative posts and the best feedback gets voted to the top.

2. When has “KindCritic” been founded? And what stage is “KindCritic” currently at?

KindCritic was founded in May of 2012 with a MVP being launched in late July. After extensive feedback and further development we just launched a much improved version and are currently working on more exciting features to enhance the user experience.

We are pre-revenue, self-funded, but are open to meeting with potential investors.

3. What is “KindCritic”‘s business model and how does it work?

Eventually we will integrate an advertising model for both advertisers and users and are considering a licensing option.

Users will be able to pay for sponsored trends to get more exposure as we build our user base. We will also allow advertisers to buy space on the site.

We will also allow users a chance to pay for feedback from expert critics. For instance, I am an aspiring song writer and I want to get feedback from a real record producer in Los Angeles who was worked with big name bands. I can pay a small fee to get his feedback on my music and we collect a small fee.

We also are considering licensing the platform to Universities and schools with creative departments for students to have a place to easily critique each other’s work.

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

There are two of us who have worked to bring this product to life. We actually met online and have been working remotely since the beginning of KindCritic.

I am the business, marketing, and designer side of the business. I do a little front end as well. I also work with a very talented developer who built out the entire back-end.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

There are many forums online to post your content, but most succumb to cyber-bullies, trolling, or flamers.

KindCritic is a site exclusively for constructive criticism where negativity and bullying is not a part of our community. No other site is solely dedicated to getting/giving constructive criticism.

Also. no other site ranks critics. Using our scoring system we assign you a Critic Score. So, you can finally put your money where your mouth is.

It is the perfect place for aspiring creatives to really hone their craft and learn from vetted experts in a positive environment..

6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “KindCritic” achieved so far?

For our initial beta testing we had several hundred signups. We were very pleased with the interactions from the users and how much they were interested in the site. They were very excited to use the product and personally emailed us their suggestions on multiple occasions.

We have been mentioned on several blogs and have gotten nearly 600 Facebook followers in a few months.

Since we are public beta now, we are going to be looking for stronger growth and really ramping up our social media and PR to get new users.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is “KindCritic”‘s competitive advantage over them?

Websites such as Dribble and Behance are are closest competitors, although they are focused on design and visual media for the most part.

Other websites, like YouTube, Soundcloud, Reddit and various forums could also be considered competition.

Our competitive advantage is the advent of our Critic Scoring system and our community of like-minded constructive users. You can post your videos or music elsewhere, but will get a whole lot of junk from strangers with no critic scores!

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

After building a basic prototype, and having a private beta testing, I realized there were many features that were lacking that would needed to be implemented to create a great user experience. This meant I had to do a complete redesign and change the structure of the site.

Being able to start from scratch and admit your mistakes is a hard thing to do, but if you want to build a successful product, it is absolutely necessary.

Bug testing is always a challenging aspect of any project as well. It seems like a never-ending daunting task. But, realizing that everything will eventually come together and being patient will keep you grounded.

Also, coming up with over 1,600 unique tags for posts was quite challenging.

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

As far as constructive criticism goes…If you are not ready to take it, don’t ask. The worst thing someone can do after asking for feedback is get defensive. Don’t expect that person to give you feedback again if you do so!

For building web apps. Something that you take very granted every day, like the ability to drag and drop an image into your email client takes a lot of work. Tiny features for you are careers for others.

10. Why are you going to succeed?

Because I believe in kindness and that humans instinctively want to help one another.

It also feels great to get validation for your opinions. When you help someone with their project, or someone else requests your feedback on KindCritic- It feels good.

But, mostly I believe in the product and will work endlessly to make it successful. Hard work and passion can take you a long way.

11. If “KindCritic” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

When my startup succeeds I would like to expand into academia to better help students learn how to give and get constructive criticism and improve the creative process.

I don’t really think kids have a good place to showcase their work in a positive arena. I’d like to change that. And, hopefully I can have that opportunity.

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “KindCritic” based on?

I am a musician, designer and occasional blog writer. I have written hundreds of songs, but never had anyone to show them to that would give me honest feedback.

If you show your friends or family your music, they will say it is good no matter what. Also, they may not even like that music in the first place. I want to create an honest place where I could get unbiased feedback from other people with the same interests as myself, so I could improve my craft.

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

I have learned that people are very willing to take constructive criticism. Although, I don’t have a HUGE user base, no one has been defensive or attacked anyone else. Everyone has adhered to the principle and it has been great.

Also if you say you are going to launch in one month, you are probably going to launch in four. I have found that there always is one tiny problem that acts like a domino when you are developing a project and it never seems to end.

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

Hopefully my biggest problem is that I have grown too fast and I will need to upgrade my servers. Otherwise, It would be that without positive cashflow I will need to start looking for outside investment. It is hard to run a bootstrapped company too long if you aren’t making any money!

Also, trying to integrate new features. Many people forget that after you implement a new feature you have to manage it. Think keeping up with the bugs is hard now? Well how hard do you think it will be when you have twice as many features 6 months down the road with the same amount of staff. Growing in to many directions too quickly is always a curse.

15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?

The benefit for creatives posting their work is simple. You can get feedback on your work without all the junk out their on the web. You also can be sure you know the people who are giving you feedback know what they are talking about by verifying their critic score.

For critics, it is a place to build your reputation in the community and to help others improve their crafts. In the future it could even possibly be financially rewarding if you become highly ranked and people are willing to pay for your feedback.

16. How did customers / users find out about you?

Many customers found out through blogs, social media and forums.

I post interesting creative content on my blog that links back to KindCritic. I also do the same on my twitter and facebook. I have submitted by startup to many blogs and they have picked it up. This has brought some traffic as well.

Yahoo! answers gave me many users as well. I found people looking for constructive criticism and suggested they sign up for KindCritic. The conversion rate, was astonishingly high. But, Yahoo! Answers didn’t like what I was doing, so no more of that.

17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?

My current customers include writers, photographers, graphic designers, videographers, prorgrammers and artists.

We are targeting anyone who creates whether it be acting, painting, writing. We have many categories and tags to fit all interests.

The posters are usually more amateur-level creatives who are just starting out and looking for early feedback.

18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?

With the new site we hope to drive a lot of traffic and sign-ups through social channels.

Users can easily share and like content on the posts. Posters will post their content to their social channels in hopes for their friends and family to give them feedback (they can post incognito!). The catch is the person must be signed-up in order to vote or comment on content.

We also hope to drive users through PR as we are pre-revenue we don’t plan spending too much budget on advertising.

19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?

They love the idea. They were awesome in our invite-only beta testing and provided tons of great feedback that made our public beta launch possible.

When you get great feedback like that from users it is validation. You know they wouldn’t give you feedback unless they were interested in seeing an improved version of the product,

I am eager to see what they will say about KindCritic 2.0!

20. How are you going to scale?

We will test and reiterate all approaches and ideas. We will eventually need moderators for the community and hope to enlist some of our loyal users.

Servers will need to be upgraded if traffic volume becomes heavy. This shouldn’t be a problem as I have experience with this in the past.

If payment systems are used we will keep things simple and use a third party to process payments.

We will try to simplify every process as much as possible and use automation and tools for as much workflow as possible.

We will use a third party advertising network so we don’t need a sales department or advertising coordinator.

The biggest issue with scaling is the ability for the servers to handle the traffic, and you just need a plan of attack ahead of time for this.

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?

We are currently working on a few features that while aren’t absolutely necessary, they will improve the user-experience.

1. A badge and point system. This is really cool. We have over 120 badges you can win by participating in different ways on the site. It encourages use and really helps people get feedback. It also contributes to your critic score and gets you vetted more quickly.

2. The ability to upload/embed videos.

3. The ability to subscribe to tags and browse popular tags. We first need to determine which tags are most popular.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

We currently have no plans for internationalization. But, I would not rule it out. Many people from other countries have signed up for KindCritic.

It is nice that English is such a widely spoken language so many people all over the world can easily use KindCritic.

It would be great to break into Asia and Spanish speaking markets. I would not rule it out.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

Did you know that Yahoo! Answers is considered one of the biggest social media sites in the world, just behind Facebook?

Sites like that and Quora validate the idea that people want to help on another and crowdsource the vetting process.

The creative community is huge and can easily imagine having over a million users.

A strong organic strategy mixed with the virality of creative content should get us where we need to be. Great relationships with tech blogs and creative leaders don’t hurt either. Forging these relationships will be invaluable to our success.

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

I am not currently hiring and positions unless you want an unpaid internship! As a pre-revenue start-up we have to be extremely tight with our resources and creative with how we use every dollar.

As we grow I would love to have a front-end developer on board and someone to manage social and marketing communications so I can focus on the product.

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

I am interested in opening a dialogue with any perceptive parties interested in a partnership or looking to invest in a promising startup. I can grow with limited resources, but development costs catch up to you fast and it would be nice to have the security and ability to scale faster.

I am focusing on building my user-base first, and then I will reapproach my business model and integrate my monetization models after I have validated the user-experience.

Any interested parties may contact me at info@kindcritic.com

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

Willing to lose sleep, miss out on social events and do tons of monotonous work? Ever worked 16 hours in a row? Willing to risk everything including every penny? Are you a jack of all trades? Willing to be?

Star-ups are a lot of work, but it is very rewarding when you launch a great product that was once a mere vision.

27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

If you are reading this, please take some time and check out KindCritic and give use your feedback. Your opinions are invaluable for our growth!

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