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From Launchpad LA, Divshot focuses on improving beta, hiring engineers

Living up to its name, startup accelerator Launchpad LA has helped Kansas City-born Divshot leap into the next phase of its business.

Divshot, a drag-and-drop interface builder for web apps, was conceived in April 2012 at Startup Weekend Kansas City. Three months later, co-founders Michael Bleigh and Jake Johnson won a national pitch competition that included a finale in Los Angeles. With the win in L.A. came the opportunity to pitch at Launchpad, a Santa Monica-based accelerator founded by Mark Suster. Their momentum didn’t stop as the duo received an invite to join the accelerator.

Bleigh and Johnson promptly packed their bags and hightailed it to Los Angeles, where they have been working in the Launchpad offices since, focusing on their public beta, networking with investors and other startups and planning the next steps of their business.

With their stay at Launchpad coming to end – Bleigh said there isn’t an official end date, but that their time is “winding down” – we caught up with Divshot to hear the latest on their public beta, learn lessons from their quick move to California and find out what’s next for the Kansas City-born startup.

We conducted an email interview with Bleigh last week.

Silicon Prairie News: We last reported on Divshot in September, right after you moved to L.A. Tell us what you have been up to since then.

Michael Bleigh (right): We’ve been hard at work building the product as well as putting together the resources to make Divshot a lasting, successful business. When I look back at everything that’s happened it’s astonishing that things started just nine months ago.

SPN: How is the beta process going for you?

MB: We actually launched our public beta a full month ahead of schedule in early October when we felt like the product and market timing were right for it. So far the response has been fantastic; we have a tech-savvy base of beta users who are giving us great feedback on everything from the direction the product should take to hunting down browser-specific glitches.

This week we are releasing the biggest set of changes since the launch of the public beta, the star feature of which is full-page editing of the HTML on a Divshot page. Now professional developers don’t have to choose between a visual tool or one that lets them dig into the code, Divshot lets them have both. We really feel like the latest release lays the groundwork of our long-term vision for Divshot as a suite of tools that enable intuitive visual development while encouraging the best practices and code quality of top-tier professional web development.

SPN: Can you share any plans you have about eventually launching?

MB: There are still a few features in our roadmap that we want to make reality before we drop the beta label. One of the important ones to us is enabling team collaboration on Divshot pages so that everyone from a product stakeholder to a developer to a designer can contribute to the process seamlessly. While we don’t have an exact date planned for our full public launch, we are planning to do so in the first half of this year.

SPN: What has your experience at Launchpad LA been like?

MB: Joining a top accelerator program like Launchpad LA is a bit like drinking from a firehose; there are so many people you meet and so many resources available that it can be pretty overwhelming (but in a very good way). The people we’ve met and the connections we’ve made with investors, mentors, and even the other companies in our class have been absolutely vital to the future success of the business. The LA startup ecosystem has also been very welcoming; overall it’s been a great experience.

SPN: Have you raised the funding that you hoped to raise?

MB: We’re not ready to talk publicly about funding just yet, but we’re extremely pleased with how everything is going.

SPN: What advice would you give aspiring startup founders about going after a new idea, obtaining funding, re-locating, etc.?

MB: Doing something is 100x more important than thinking about something. Divshot started as nothing more than an experiment to see if I could build a drag-and-drop editor for HTML that would output halfway decent code. It doesn’t matter if you are technical or non-technical, what really matters is that you find a way to turn your idea into reality as soon as humanly possible.

The other thing I’d say to developers looking to build a startup is that great people are more important to the success of a business than great code. Find talented, passionate people and build lasting relationships with them, because at the end of the day code can only do so much.

SPN: It looks like you’re hiring web engineers, is that correct?

MB: Do you know any great ones? Yes, we’re hiring 2-3 engineers to help us make our roadmap reality a little faster. It’s been just the two of us on the team to this point and we’re excited to bring more people on board. If you’re passionate about web development and want to join a company aiming to play a big part in the future of the industry, get in touch with us!

SPN: What’s next for Divshot in 2013?

MB: All I can say is that this won’t be the last you hear from us in 2013 🙂

Here’s a Divshot overview video released by the company last week:

Read the latest on Divshot: “Divshot lands in Los Angeles for Launchpad accelerator“.


Credits: Photo of Bleigh from twitter.com. Video from Divshot on YouTube.

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