File uploading, processing & delivery for web and mobile apps | Igor Debatur - Uploadcare
Igor: Uploadcare helps tech companies work with user-generated content. We provide a number of built-in blocks that help to build file uploads and store files, transform them, and deliver them. We are multi-CDN, and we also help to optimize images and videos and convey documents from format to format to accelerate their delivery and, for example, to view a document and browser, etc.
Building file infrastructure is a complicated process. It involves many tens of different moving parts, and you need to duct tape them together to make it work. And it is just a burden, usually. One of the main ways our customers get is that they don’t need to think about it anymore, and they’re sure that files are stored securely and delivered as fast as possible. Web performance is a big thing nowadays. It’s important to deliver images and proper performance, and Uploadccare just enables this, so the developers don’t need to think about it anymore, it just works.
What are the best features of Uploadcare?
Igor: The file uploader is still one of the best features that we have ever built, and the new one is doing better. It’s super lightweight, and it can be integrated into any workflow. Smart compression is another thing I’m proud of. We automatically decide how to compress each image and try to compress it as much as possible without any visual artifacts and our compression rates. They’re super good, and it’s the end-to-end solution for several complicated processes. I think the third important thing is its profile to delivery, it just works.
A super valuable free plan
Igor: We are engineers, and we started building a web development agency many years ago and even before Uploacare. And we always struggled to build this file upload part, then store them somewhere, then deliver them. We wanted to create solutions for other engineers, which was the original idea. When we released our first version, we didn’t have a billion integrated, so it was just for free to test.
I think our generous free plan is something that we wanted to give to the community, and we wanted smaller companies just to be able to start using it. Of course, we want them to upgrade just because their business is growing eventually, and when their business is growing, they’re actually ready and willing to upgrade. But we want to allow people to try Uploadcare before, not just to try it for a few days, but to give it an actual try. And when they’re happy, we would want them to upgrade.
How does it actually work after a customer joins?
Tell us the stories of happy customers
Igor: One of our customers that I can speak about is PandaDoc, which is an e-sign platform. They’re quite big there, and they are a unicorn. When people choose files that they want to upload, there is a browser window where they can choose whether they want to upload files from a local device or want to upload files from Dropbox or Google Drive. And it’s really useful and convenient. Uploadcare handles this part. They have been customers for many, many years. When they built PandaDoc, they integrated Uploadcare and are still our customers.
Another good example would be a website builder platform for e-commerce websites called Shogun, which is also quite big, and they have been our customers from day one. Originally Shogun was co-founded by an engineer who worked in YCombinator, and they were using Uploadcare. When they built Shogun, they started using Uploadccare and still use it on a large scale.
How is Uploadcare different?
Igor: We do have competitors. There are open-source solutions, and they were even before Uploadcare. It was one of the reasons why we decided to build software as a service because open source is complicated. If you integrate some open-source libraries, you actually need to update them. If you change something, you must maintain your changes when they update versions. But there is a good one called Uppy, and for people who really want to work with open sources, it’s a good uploader. Another open-source uploader is File Point, which is also a good one. We like how it looks, and the UX looks quite good for software as a service or platform as a service.
The largest one is Cloudinary. They also provide image processing capabilities and some file upload. Not as advanced as we have, but they have a lot of features around image procession and media procession. File Stack is another one. They also have a file uploader, so there is some competition, but we feel good because we have our customer segment engineers and CTOs and usually stakeholders in companies. They love a good developer experience, and I think this is one reason they chose us against some other companies. But we do have nice competitors.
They’ve been facing this problem for many years
Igor: The idea is from 2012, quite a while ago, but then it was a side project of the agency, and we continued training the agency and then another business, another mobile app that we’ve created. But in 2017, we understood that we needed to focus, and we focused on Uploadcare. We were just three in the original founding team, but now our whole team is 30. We raised angel investments at first a while ago, and then we fundraised late seed round in 2019. Overall we raised $3.1 million. Right now, we are breakeven and becoming profitable, so we feel excellent and steady right now and current with the current market, we are hesitating to fundraise today. We think we found some product market feed, and we definitely think it can be extended and expanded.
The importance of understanding your audience
Igor: We started going off the market,, which was one of the worst choices ever. When we understood that our actual audience are SMBs, larger companies, and engineering teams building new products or new features, we understood the self-service and bottom-up approaches. They worked for us really well, and we rebooted our marketing. From going to the enterprise segment, we went back to the roots, back to working with engineers, and it worked really well, but it was a major struggle, and we burned a lot of money going there, and it didn’t work. It worked much worse than self-service and bottom-up. Now we are back to the roots, and it works.
What is your vision for Uploadcare?
Igor: We definitely want to solve more problems for engineering teams, and right now, we help them handle everything from when the file is uploaded to when the file is delivered. We are working on display components to view this content and browser, and it’s one of the exciting things. Another one is that we can generate content on the fly with the same logic you just requested using the URL API,. Then, you can get something in return to generate user peaks to generate backgrounds to generate a gallery. We have something in this direction. With smart cropping, we can even draw backgrounds or find objects in pictures, and that’s useful.
What is your story, Igor?
Igor: Even before becoming an engineer, I was playing Ultimo Lane. It’s one of the classical MMORPGs, and then we ran our own server. When we were running our own server, I did two things. I was a game master there, and I’ve written some code. It was my first actual application of coding skills. I created NPCs and some other logic for our server and then started the Guild. And when I started Guild, I became a master and organized some events. It was management, and when I started working as an engineer, I also moved towards man management because it was naturally interesting.
Then I met my co-founder, and I was an engineer, while he was a designer, and we collaborated to start helping our friends to launch some websites. And it was the beginning of our agency, and the third person hired was our third co-founder with Uploadcare. Although I played almost 24 hours a day, gaming helped me learn to code. It helped me to learn to manage, and it helped me to understand that I love both.
What’s your best piece of advice for founders?
Igor: I think that my main piece of advice is still to be focused because when we tried to run the web development agency and Uploadcare simultaneously and then another business, that’s not for everyone, definitely not for me and not for my co-founder. We struggled to do this. I know some public persons run several businesses, but it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Ideally, many people still want to have some personal life and get something from life. Not just building a business but also something else. And it’s just impossible without proper focus, and when focused on Uploadcare, it started growing better. And the team was motivated because the founders were around, which is essential.
What’s your favorite SaaS product?
Igor: We use so many software as a service products, but I would say, Stripe. This is funny because Stripe was why we launched the company in the US and not Europe. After all, at that point, many years ago, Stripe was available only in North America, and we still love it. It still works for many years, and they continue to evolve. It’s an excellent example of a good developer experience and good user experience. It’s super simple, and we want to create a similar solution that solves the problem, and you just forget that it was integrated at some point.
Connect with Igor