This week I was lucky enough to interview Kevin Mann. Kevin is the founder of Graphic.ly, a community for comic lovers and a platform to distribute comics across mobile phones, iPads and computers. I found Kevin’s story inspiring, and was excited to see that he uses Pinterest as part of his creative process at a his new startup, Audacious.
Hi Kevin. It’s really nice to meet you! Where are you from and what do you do?
My name is Kevin Mann I live in Middlesbrough, a town in the north-east of England, where I founded a company called Graphic.ly and now I am co-founding a new company called Audacious with Rachel Burns.
When did you get started on Graphic.ly? What has it been like to see graphic.ly go from idea to reality?
Graphic.ly has been an amazing journey for me. While working as a 3D modeler I started to read comics on the long commute. I got pretty passionate about them but found it increasingly frustrating not being able to read the ones I wanted and thought - wow it would be amazing if someone built the iTunes of comics. So I quit my job and it started building that. The first couple of years I was working on it alone but went on to raise a little seed money, found a great developer Thanavath who, to me is the co-founder of company, and together we built a working prototype, shortly afterwards got into a seed funding program called Techstars.
(Graphic.ly now and when Kevin first started in 2007. What a difference a few years and a lot of hard work can make!)
Techstars was unbelievable, the company, product and I grew so much over the 3 month program, we went on to raise $1.2m and with the company needing to be US based we brought in Micah Baldwin as CEO, a mentor of mine during Techstars, who has a great business development reputation. The following year I learnt so much, had great successes, made mistakes too but grew so much.
(Kevin (left) and Than (right) in the Techstars Bunker, Boulder, CO. Photo by Andrew Hyde)
A couple a months ago I stopped working at Graphic.ly day to day. While initially a little sad to take a back seat with something I was passionate about and worked so hard on for so many years, I am now so excited to be able to use that experience with Audacious. Things are moving so fast and I have a great co-founder, everyday is just fun! I am really blessed to have learned so much and get to spend my day working on something I love.
It’s been a long road! What has been the most rewarding part?
The first was having so many great mentors via Techstars - Dave Drach from Microsoft instantly springs to mind as an example - he helped me grow so much and Microsoft through the BizSpark One program where incredible with Graphic.ly. Secondly, reading comments from comic book fans who were excited with what we were doing. Being able to create something that helps people enjoy and share their passion is an incredible feeling. I guess that is what we are trying to do with Audacious; build something that enables people to grow and experience the passion their have for the things they love.
Finally Comic-Con this summer, it was such great fun. Microsoft threw us an amazing launch party and working the booth on con floor was Amazing!
What has been inspiring to you on the way?
I think the main thing that kept me going especially when things got tough was witnessing other members of the team at work. In the UK office we tried to make it so that the team knew they were trusted to do the job we brought them into do and gave them the freedom and support they needed to just do their job. Being told that they loved it in the company and were excited to come back into work even after the times we did 38 hours of non stop coding was just really inspiring. It is such a great feeling to think you played a small part in people loving what they were doing and seeing them growing stronger all the time. One of the most exciting parts of Audacious is how Rachel and I are making investing in people integral to the business, we want to encourage and enable the team we build to be the best they can be and invest internally first.
I was so excited to see you join Pinterest. How are you using it?
From a personal point of view, I really love having somewhere I can put the images I find that is so fun to use and joy to look back through but which is also so easy to share with friends, but with Audacious we use Pinterest a lot in our business and in many ways inspired by it.
We have incorporated Pinterest into how we design and plan. Our workflow tends to be: discuss an idea, whiteboard out some roughs. Then Rachel hand-sketches her UI/UX ideas while I go play with Photoshop creating my ideas. We get back together discuss what we like on each, then go and sort of create a mood board, collecting themes, images and UI examples from around the internet storing them on Pinterest - which we then build out and iterate on. Pinterest is a great way to organize and quickly share what we find.
Our logo was born with help for pinterest too, Rachel and I talked about what we wanted. She went away and sketched some really cool ideas, I went online to find styles and looks that I liked, putting them on pinterest. We then took Rachel’s ideas and sketches along with the themes and moods from my boards and researched more on the look we wanted, again using pinterest to store bits we found. Rachel then took everything to friend of her’s Joanna Deans who runs a company called Identity close to us and together they developed the logo further.
Rachel had this wonderful idea of having a wall for us and people that work with us to put things on, that inspires them or just make them feel good - titled “blue sky thinking”. She sketched it out, now we have painted a huge section of the wall blue ready for what is going become very much a real life Pinterest Board. On the down side Pinterest does cost us both a fair bit of time, I would hate to count the number of hours lost due to us both scrolling our homepage boards. I can see Pinterest being the cause of many late nights in the office.
Is there anyone in the Pinterest community you’d like to see us interview?
Jeffrey Kalmikoff, formally of Threadless and Digg now at a great start up called Simple Geo would make a great interview. As a mentor of mine at Techstars his advice on UI, design and community was really inspiring. I think it was through him I first found Pinterest.