Coming up with an idea for a new app that would help you and others isn’t that hard. If an idea was all that counted, the Angry Birds success story wouldn’t be that rare. What’s difficult is seeing your vision through to completion, actually building the product you’ve dreamed of, and funding its creation.
That’s what sparked my interest in PasteLink this week. It’s a new web app for sharing files through your browser, which in itself isn’t that new of an idea. What is interesting, however, is that its developer, Bret Michaelson is actually a network administrator that developed it to fit his own need, and is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund its development. We caught up with Bret via email this week, and were excited to get to interview him. Keep reading to learn more about his work, the future of PasteLink, and how Kickstarter fits into it all.
Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us at Web.AppStorm! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
I am a network technician by trade, and run a small business in Salt Lake City which provides IT and Networking services to small businesses. For the past few years, however, I have been focusing on web and application development. I am not a graduate of any degree programs relating to computer science or programming, but I would have to say that I’ve taught myself pretty well. Programming has been a hobby of mine for many years, but only recently have I considered starting businesses with the ideas that come from writing software and websites.
What inspired you to create PasteLink.me?
While working with clients of my IT business, it is often necessary to transfer files of all types and sizes to and from different machines, servers, etc. Though there are several tools which exist for doing this, none of them were extremely quick to use. I needed something that didn’t require signups, software installs, lengthy forms, etc. Any web app I could find that met those demands has a charge for sending or storing larger files. Eventually, I decided that I would program my own solution that I could use for my IT work. Once I had a working version of it, it seemed like a good idea to turn it into a business of its own.
There’s so many ways to send files. What’s unique about PasteLink, and why might we use it over another similar tool?
Creating a web app for sharing files is definitely a challenge. There are plenty of solutions out there for sending and storing your files. PasteLink is an answer to the problems that each of the existing products share. With storage services like Dropbox, you have to sign up and install software to get your file to somebody. That’s a lot of steps for just sending a file. With online file sending services, you are generally given a file size limit. To send files above that limit, you have to pay. I’m looking to create a product that everyone can use for free with no signup, no forms, and no limits that would stop them from sending common filetypes that can be large, such as movies and photos.
PasteLink sets itself apart from the others by removing steps in the process to share (no signups required), presenting everything in a slick, fun user interface with drag & drop capability, and by making large file transfers free. On top of this, plans are in place to have fully developed Mac, PC, iPhone, and Android apps for power-users who like to have native applications and advanced features.
Funding a web app via Kickstarter is an ambitious idea. How’d you decide to try to fund development this way?
This is my first tech startup. When I thought about actually trying to sell this product and turn it into a business, I was approached by a business partner. A few months back, he successfully launched a Fashion Watch company on Kickstarter. With that in mind, I went over to Kickstarter and browsed around for a while. Most of the projects are in the fashion, design, and art categories. But the few successful ones in the tech area I saw inspired me to make a pitch video and give it a shot. I believe Kickstarter will be a great way to determine how interested people are in the product, and could act as a way to obtain the first set of customers that every startup needs to succeed.
PasteLink looks like its UI is based on Bootstrap. Has Bootstrap made developing your app easier?
Bootstrap is a great way to rapidly develop awesome looking UI’s. Bootstrap definitely made it much easier for me to achieve the look and feel of the site that I wanted. I have used Bootstrap for many projects, and I will continue to use it in the future. I’d recommend that every developer and designer use it, at least to get started.
Tell us a bit about your plans for PasteLink. Will it go beyond simple browser-based file sharing in the future?
My ultimate goal is for PasteLink to be a fully featured file sharing service with an online/web component and native applications for Mac, PC, Android and iPhone. These goals also include the creation of an API for other developers who wish to integrate file sharing into their apps. The web app will eventually become more of a file sharing and storage platform, rather than just a place to share files. The simplicity of it however, will always be there.
What web apps are an essential part of your workflow?
I use several web apps to speed up development, and to make my life easier while writing code and working with my business partners. I use Bootstrap for design (though that isn’t really an app), Pastebin for code snippet sharing (another feature I will integrate with my product in the future), jsFiddle for on-the-fly code testing, icon-generator.net for creating icons, and Yahoo Smush It for optimizing of PNG images I use in my site’s design. There are probably more, but those are the main ones.
Are you using any web apps or services, such as Amazon EC2, in PasteLink?
Right now, there are no integrated web-apps or services in PasteLink, but a goal is to move everything to Amazon Infrastructure if/when things take off. For now I’m hosting everything on my own.
What’s your plans after Kickstarter? If you don’t raise enough funding, will you still try to build PasteLink and self-fund it?
If the Kickstarter campaign fails I will continue development on the project anyway. From that point, I will be seeking other methods of funding. However, before I can go for other types of funding, it is likely I will need a more solid product. So I will likely spend several months developing the site out a bit more and creating at least the Mac and iPhone apps for the product. Kickstarter is only the beginning, so I’m definitely not stoping if it fails.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from building and launching your own web app?
The most important thing I’ve learned (and continue to learn) about writing and launching a web app is that you can’t do it alone. The success of this project will be mostly based on how well I can spread word about it, which I work with many other people on.
It’s exciting to see Bret’s vision for PasteLink, and how he’s been able to use web tools to help him build and fund his dream app. We’d like to say a special thank you to Bret for taking the time to do the interview with us! If you’d like to see PasteLink succeed and would like an easier way to share large files from your browser, be sure to check out the PasteLink Kickstarter campaign. And if you have any questions about the project, feel free to ask below in the comments, and we’re sure Bret would be glad to answer!