After off-the-charts reception on Hacker News, wireframing tool POP intrigues US, Singapore investors
January 14, 2013 by Terence LEE
Hangovers are usually unpleasant affairs. But for Ben Lin, Leo Lin, and Shao-Kang Lee, the three Taiwanese co-founders of POP, their post-revelry hang-ups came with a dose of good news: People started downloading their app like crazy.
To call this a pleasant surprise is an understatement: It’s like they’ve struck the lottery. Startups can slog for months without hitting any traction, while POP found theirs in the midst of a launch party two months ago.
They were all drunk when it happened — except for Shao, who was sober enough to track the explosion that was happening right before his eyes. To date, they’ve scored 304 votes on Hacker News and received 65,000 downloads — significant for a niche wireframing iPhone app targeted at designers.
It’s more than luck — there’s something intriguing about POP, which stands for Prototyping on Paper — that makes it stick in the minds of users.
Put simply, the app allows users to capture and upload pen-and-paper sketches of their mobile app designs and link them together to create interactive prototypes. It makes designers’ lives much easier, liberating them from the need to learn the UI of a standard wireframing software.
The app attacks another common problem: Miscommunication between designers and developers. By making sketches interactive, UX designers can better illustrate how the user interface should flow, instead of asking developers to imagine how the app works.
By cutting down on miscommunication, POP could eventually result in time and cost savings. The simplicity was what attracted fans on Hacker News. Even kids are now using it together with parents to design mobile games — an audience which the team totally didn’t anticipate.
Now, even investors in Singapore and the United States are intrigued.
I met Shao and Leo at a cafe in Orchard Road, Singapore, on a Saturday morning. Shao looked visibly tired while Leo seemed slightly aloof — which is perfectly understandable since the duo had just concluded a number of meetings with investors and startup accelerators in Singapore. My confab with them was the last item on their fundraising agenda before they fly out of the country. Their next destination was San Francisco.
‘Overworked’ is a word Shao used again and again in our conversation. He doesn’t just mean it in the sense that all startup founders work like dogs. He meant it in the how-do-we-deal-with-this-crazy-growth sense.
A problem they faced with the deluge of downloads was that they couldn’t properly mull over and implement a revenue model. It’s something they’re working hard to fix right now. The app will still be available for free, although power users will eventually have to pay.
While having tons of downloads is pretty cool, the team is focused on other metrics. Shao told me that 40,000 projects have been created so far, with an average of 7 sheets per project. That’s encouraging: It means that people are actually using the app to create complete and interactive wireframes.
Other metrics that they’ll be looking out for include average projects per user, and when the revenue model is implemented, premium conversion rate.
The team is adamant about moving out of Taiwan (“the startup ecosystem there is non-existent,” said Shao). As to where they’re headed, they won’t make a decision until they’ve met angel investors in Silicon Valley.
If all goes well for them, expect even more parties to come.
Note: WOOMOO is the company behind POP.
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About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE