Interview: Meet the Blinksale Team

Have you ever wished you could peek behind the scenes at the development of your favorite web apps? We are privileged to feature dozens of high quality apps on AppStorm each month, but you often don’t hear much about the thought and effort that went into the apps.

Today we’re privileged to get to interview the Blinksale team, the guys behind one of the most popular online invoicing apps that recently added the unique Blinkpay payment service. Patrick, Director of Operations, and Brandon, CEO of Blinksale’s parent company, Doublewide Labs, took time out of their busy schedules to answer some of our questions about their business and app.

We hope you enjoy the inteview, and if you have any more questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!

Tell us a little about the Blinksale team. Where are you based, how many of you are there, and what motivates you as a company?

Blinksale is owned by Doublewide Labs in sunny Dallas, Texas. We’re passionate about making it more fun to deal with your finances. We want you to spend your time creating cool stuff, or whatever your passion is—and for most of our customers, it isn’t anything related to billing or collecting money.

Staying busy at the Blinksale HQ

Is Blinksale your only product? Do you have any plans for other products in the future?

That and the newly released Blinkpay add-on for credit card processing. Our future plans revolve around additional horizontal expansion into helping our customers better “tell the stories” of their finances (read our CEO’s post on the matter here: http://www.blinksale.com/2011/03/telling-the-stories-of-your-finances/).

What inspired you to create Blinksale? Was Blinkpay always part of the plan?

We can’t take the credit for creating Blinksale. It was created by our friends at Firewheel Design, who went on to create Gowalla and subsequently hand over the reigns for Blinksale to us.  Blinkpay, that is another matter. We didn’t have any plans to build that initially, but after many complaints from our users regarding PayPal and the other credit card options out there (and our own frustrations with credit card processing solutions) we just had to act.

Is there a story behind your company’s name, Doublewide Labs?

The Doublewide was a hole-in-the-wall bar near downtown Dallas. And, one of our first pet projects was a “side-by-side” media player that allowed you to play a Vimeo video and a Slideshare deck, synchronized with each other. We started calling in the Doublewide player. And who can’t help but smile thinking about a big doublewide trailer with a big awning on the side and some lawn chairs out back.

Brandon Cotter, CEO and Istvan Hoka, Lead Developer, work hard and play hard.

Why did you choose to focus on web apps instead of traditional desktop programs or mobile apps?

Again, it started with our purchase of Blinksale in 2009. But mobile is certainly on the radar.

What challenges do you find with developing Software as a Service?

Mainly just the juggling of feature requests with the desire to keep it clean and simple—which is not, of course, unique to SaaS.

What about developing web apps excites you the most?

I think the most exciting part is that we get to shape something that impacts so many small businesses and makes their lives better in some way. I love the whole process actually—from white-board sketches, to wireframes, to comps, to development and refinement. Unlike making sausage, this process is actually great to watch (and be a part of).

How do you market your webapps without the exposure of an App Store or boxed software in brick and mortar stores?

We have the luxury of being around for over 6 years. That helps with inbound links and a great deal of word-of-mouth. We have a pretty active social campaign, and a referral program coming this summer, but most of our new business still comes from WOM and from the great write ups we get from places like this.

There are so many invoicing apps today. What are Blinksale’s unique features that set it apart from the crowd?

We were one of the first on the market, and the first to connect with Basecamp. I think the most consistent reason we get the nod is our ease of use. There are a bunch of apps with more features, but we have tried to stay lighter and provide the core things for a small business while not over complicating things.

Tell us a little more about Blinkpay. What advantages does it offer over PayPal?

We had three basic goals when creating Blinkpay. It was a direct response to users being frustrated with PayPal in general. We wanted to 1) simple enrollment: make it really easy for our users to sign up and not make them have to fill out 20 pieces of paper. 2) simple processing: Make it really easy for their customers by having a simple and elegant screen to enter their credit card information in. And 3) low cost: keep the cost as low as possible! Lower than Paypal, lower than Braintree—and with an easy-to-understand flat rate.

Blinkpay

Many online businesses find building a payment system to be one of the most difficult things. What challenges did developing Blinkpay present that you didn’t encounter with Blinksale?

Yes, it was difficult. We wrestled with it for months. Our design lead, Jared Christensen, wrote a great post on the process: http://www.blinksale.com/2011/03/the-story-of-blinkpay-making-something-complicated-really-simple/.

Could you share any upcoming features our readers can look forward to?

There is a lot on tap for Blinksale this year. Time tracking and simple, project-based expense tracking are high on our priority list. Also this year, are some big new PDF rendering improvements, internationalization, new Blinkpay features, and about a dozen small items that our customers have requested.

Thanks, Patrick and Brandon!

I’d like to give a special thanks to Patrick for taking the time to do an interview with us. It’s exciting to learn more about the stories behind the web apps we know and love. You don’t usually get to meet your app developers like you might meet the chef at your favorite restaurant, so it’s especially exciting to hear more about the web app development process from the people making some of the more interesting apps and services today.

Do you have a story about how Blinksale or Blinkpay have helped your business or freelance work? We’d love to hear how you’ve used it below in the comments, and I’m sure the Blinksale team would be delighted to hear as well!

Or, if you haven’t tried out Blinksale, be sure to give it a try. Their new $15 unlimited plans are especially nice if you have to invoice many clients each month!