I’ve been thrilled to be able to talk with the new owner of TinyGrab.com – Company 52’s CEO Michael Poythress.
After weeks of quietly taking the rains of the Simple, Screenshot Sharing Service TinyGrab.com it’s now official, TinyGrab is under new management and we’ve got a great insight into this acquisition, and what’s next for TinyGrab.
Let’s Jump In.
So who are Company 52? And what do you do?
We are Company 52, a small development agency primarily based in the U.S. We work as a completely distributed team, and don’t have a traditional office. But we still have structure, order, and professionalism – this is a full-time job for all of us. Our exact size fluctuates a little as we try out new developers and designers and as our workload increases – some people love the distributed model and flourish with it, others don’t handle it so well. To stay on the same page, we start out each day with a quick phone call so each person can share what they accomplished the day before, and what they expect to accomplish today
Being distributed, we have a pretty relaxed / entrepreneurial management style. Everyone on our team is competent, self-motivated, and self-disciplined, but we do have very clear leadership to prioritize projects and set the tone / culture / goals. Our goal is to use technology to empower people – both through providing our development expertise to others (for hire), and through developing and maintaining apps of our own. Our own apps are usually more fun and less stressful 🙂
The professionalism and discipline we operate with allows us to work with some very large organizations as clients. Our specialty as an agency is getting great results *fast* – so there’s an emphasis on setting aggressive goals and timelines as a team, and working hard together to reach them.
Online tools make our business work. In addition to our daily calls, we collaborate throughout the day using online chat and instant messaging, a project management tool, and Dropbox. TinyGrab was a tool that helped us work together better and faster, and that’s how we ended up here today 🙂
We’ve never raised any outside money, and have taken the more slow, steady bootstrapped growth approach with our company.
Some of the other online applications we’ve developed from scratch and currently operate include PianoScheduler.com (a business tool for piano tuners – a very small niche), RainMakerApp.com (a financial donation tool for Twitter), and Tweet2Give (a white-label version of RainMaker for larger organizations). We also have another online service that’s about to be launched – called 52 Deals. More info on that will be released soon.
What’s your biggest success and biggest failure as a company so far?
Good question. I wouldn’t say we’ve had any massive successes OR massive failures, really. Certainly we have high hopes and expectations for each app we work on and launch, and they rarely start out experiencing the kind of widespread adoption and profitability that we dreamed of. But we’re still operating them all and working diligently to gradually build them. And each one is steadily making progress.
A lot of our most impressive successes have to do with what we’ve been able to pull off for clients, which we can’t talk about as much. But those things have shown us what we’re capable of, and given us the confidence to do that for our own apps. We seem to be developing a pattern of being “turnaround specialists” – coming in at the 11th hour and turning what is about to become a colossal failure into a success.
We’ve certainly made our share of mistakes since we started as a company 3 years ago, including the original founding partnership splitting up. But that helped make us stronger, and shaped the culture of relaxed professionalism we have now. Our biggest success is probably the fact that we made it through all that and are still in business 🙂
What motivated you to take on TinyGrab, what was the clincher?
Excellent question! The original motivation was this: we’ve been using TinyGrab for over a year, and we had no idea how much easier it made our lives until it became unreliable in March. We had originally just contacted the guys at TinyGrab to see if they wanted or needed help getting everything back stable, so we could continue using it. But it became apparent immediately that they were getting burned out and overwhelmed. At that point, we didn’t want it shutdown, so we started learning about what was going on and talking with them about acquiring it. The clincher for us was when we realized that some issues TinyGrab was experiencing never would have existed with some of our basic operating practices. What TinyGrab needed was just a little more experience, and we knew we had what it needed. At that point it was a no-brainer for us.
At first it may seem odd for a *web* application development agency to buy an installed application. But over half of what makes TinyGrab work *is* web-based, and our developers are experienced enough in the non-web-based part of TinyGrab’s code that we knew we could handle it.
Once we confirmed it was something we could handle from a technical standpoint, the only thing left was coming to terms on the business side with Chris & Nick. Our discussions happened over a period of a couple months, and we actually thought we had lost out to someone else. But apparently it became clear that the other party wasn’t as committed to keeping TinyGrab alive, so Chris & Nick came back to us and we resumed our negotiation. The clincher was obviously that Chris & Nick agreed to our offer.
What do you see as the “end goal” for TinyGrab?
The ultimate goal of TinyGrab is to make sharing screenshots with others as fast and simple as possible.
It’s not much of a leap to get from what TinyGrab does currently to sharing all kinds of files, like CloudApp. I won’t say we’ll never do that, but for now, CloudApp is serving that market just fine – at least for Mac users. Our first priority is to make TinyGrab the best cross-platform screenshot sharing app + service in the world.
What are your plans for the service of the next year or so?
First of all, we’ll be completing all (or nearly all) the features that were started or planned, but not yet completed. As part of that, we’ll be adding support for uploading images to more services than just grab.by – such as Rackspace Cloud Files, Amazon S3, Dropbox, and others. We’ll also be adding more “social” to the “social screenshot sharing” aspect of TinyGrab, with better social network integration. The iPhone app for tinygrab is ok, but there’s a lot more potential for that – we’ll be working on new mobile applications for iOS (iPad and iPhone) and Windows Phone. We also want to add in some customization features that specifically serve the professional users (like Company 52).
A lot of people don’t know about the “image gallery” aspect of TinyGrab, in account control panel at tinygrab.com. We’ll be enhancing that and making it a lot more useful.
What do you think seperates TinyGrab from it’s competitors?
When TinyGrab got started, it didn’t have many competitors if any. Several new ones have sprouted up in the last couple of months primarily *because* TinyGrab was failing. But now that it’s reliable again….
When TinyGrab stopped working reliably, we started looking for good alternatives that had its features and flexibility. But there weren’t any that fit the bill, that’s when we realized how unique it was.
TinyGrab is one of the only cross-platform screenshot sharing apps. Most others services are either for Windows OR Mac, not both.
Speed and ease-of-use. TinyGrab is just simple and fast. And it looks pretty. You don’t have to have any other account to use TinyGrab; it can be completely self-contained.
Flexibility. Even though you don’t have to have your own server to use TinyGrab, you can use your own if you want to. We’ll be expanding that with native support for more services, as mentioned above.
Cost. Some of the new apps and services sprouting up cost something, even if it’s just a little. TinyGrab will have paid versions, but for the casual users there will always be a great free version as well.
Do you plan to make any changes to the current income structure? – More ads, less ads? Or subscriptions?
No, not really. We’ll be keeping the ads basically as they are, but we will be re-introducing the subscriptions as soon as possible. For that to work we have to finish some of the programming to get some of the subscription-worthy features ready. We are also considering offering a non-subscription, one-time purchase edition at some point.
Any surprises? – Was it easier/harder than expected? – What challenges have you faced so far?
Yes, actually 🙂 But mostly good ones. The first surprise was just how many fans TinyGrab has. Sure there are a lot of ticked off users that gave up a while ago, but we were really excited to find some great allies on Twitter and via email. We’ve been chewed out some by people frustrated about the last few months, but each person who raves about how much they love TinyGrab and are excited to have us take over and fix it makes up for all the angry ones.
One challenge we didn’t expect was the complexity of taking over and migrating servers from Keyone. In the due-diligence, Keyone provided us with system resource usage. But one thing they forgot to include was the cloud *storage* for all the grabs that have been taken over the last couple of years. It was millions of files, and hundreds of gigabytes. And due to the way Keyone’s server infrastructure was setup, we’re having to move all of those files off to a new server.
The transition certainly hasn’t been a walk in the part, but it’s about what we expected. I wouldn’t call it “easy” in the objective sense, but I would say we were uniquely prepared to know how to deal with all the challenges and just take them in stride. We are still in the middle of quietly transitioning everything over behind the scenes, a process which will end up taking several weeks.
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