Horia co-founded Swipe after winning a Startup Weekend event, and since then he's been working hard to grow his company. Today he shares his journey and a few startup tips.

Horia Cernusca is the founder and CEO of Swipe, a responsive web app that makes it possible to turn anything to a slide and present it live to anyone, anywhere.

Horia co-founded Swipe after winning a Startup Weekend event, and since then he’s been working hard to grow his company. Today he shares his journey and a few startup tips.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is Swipe all about?

The goal when making Swipe was to make visual communication much easier, opening up a new way of interacting with audiences and simplifying the presentation experience as much as possible. At the core Swipe is a simple presentation tool that lets you present anything, to anyone, anywhere, on any device. The impacts are much deeper though, because it’s a whole new way of delivering content to an audience and it sets the foundation for two-way presentations that can become a lot more fun, engaging, and a whole lot smarter. We want to do with presenting content live what Dropbox did with syncing files. We’re only getting started, and we’re quite excited about what we’ll do in the next years.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?

I was born in Romania and raised in Missouri. I studied business in The Netherlands and worked in tech in Norway. I’ve always worked online with companies that were spread across the globe. I had to present tons of stuff and always really hated the experience. Not only your typical presentation, but showing anything visual online in real-time was pretty tough. The idea of Swipe was in my head for a long time before we actually made it. I didn’t know many technical people and I have a design/business background so I couldn’t really build stuff. I went to a Startup Weekend in the hopes of finding a technical co-founder. I managed to do that and win the event, which is where Swipe was really born.

Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?

We’re trying to make collaboration, privacy, and accessibility a whole lot easier. Those are things most “presentation companies” charge for and do a pretty bad job at, but we want to make them available for everyone for free, in a really smart way. Collaborative presentations are still a pretty big myth. We do real-time and we do that well, so we’re working on the future of collaboration in the browser, especially related to visual content. Otherwise, we’re focusing on two-way interactive elements and real-time analytics that can help improve a presenter and audience experience. Most of the great things we’ve made came out of thin air right before we launched them. We plan for the future and have exciting projects planned, but the majority of the great things we’re going to do will be very serendipitous. That’s what makes it all exciting.

Q: What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?

Our plan is to keep things really simple, understandable, and useful. We’re a product-focused company and we’ve already noticed our biggest source of growth has been word of mouth. We’re doing what we can with press, marketing, and so on. Not many journalists are willing to listen to small companies. Our biggest play is building our marketing within the product, making it extremely useful and sharable and building engines for virality straight in. There are few products that have managed that really well, like Dropbox, Evernote, Mailbox, and Basecamp. At the core, Swipe is something made to use with other people, and we’re trying to find ways to maximize that impact.

Horia Cernusca Co-founder of Swipe: How to Turn Anything Into a Slide

Q: What are the top 3 mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?

1 – “Launching” before we had a fully working app. 

We launched at a huge conference in Europe, but our complete product was nowhere near ready. The big lesson there is that it’s a fantastic thing.. people were waiting and got very very excited when they finally got in. As a result, they referred others and tweeted, shared, etc. A mistake, but a good one.

2 – Wasting time with big investors too early

We talked to big fund VC’s very early on and had meetings after meetings after meetings. They tend to lead you on, tell you how wonderful you are, but never seem to make the offer because they don’t know where you’re going yet. They’re fighting for exclusivity early on. We ended up going with a tiny fund and awesome people, because we believed in them and they believed in us. It only took one meeting – and we knew what we were going to do right away.

3 – Not quitting my job earlier 

I worked part-time for the majority of the first half year of building Swipe. In retrospect, both my co-founder and I should have quit the day after startup weekend. It’s easy to say that now, and maybe we should have done it. It still worked out though and it did make working on Swipe look way more fun compared to the boring day job, which is also important.

 Q: Please share some advice for new tech entrepreneurs, someone who’s just starting out.

Build what you want to use yourself. Ignore what others are making and launching. Don’t envy competitors. Launch early, it’s important for your motivation and your team. Something useful beats something beautiful. Have a small flexible team. Don’t hire anyone until you absolutely have to. Listen to your users, not to your critics. Work with great people that believe in you, which includes investors. You’re building a product that is useful, not a startup. Don’t listen to what anyone tells you (including this).

Q: What was the best business advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?

I know you want money to quit your jobs, but bootstrap until you can’t anymore. – Martin Varsavsky

Q: What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?

Trello, Google Aanlytics and Mandrill.

Q: What’s your definition of success?

Making something that’s useful for you, useful for others, which sustains your living.

Money and billion dollar valuations are nice, but you succeed way before that.

Q: What are three books you recommend entrepreneurs to read?

Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Rework by Jason Fried and DHH

Wabi-Sabi by Leonard Koren

Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?

Easy feels like a cold Coke on a hot day. It’s just so satisfying. – Jason Fried

Ergo, making things easy for someone is the most important thing you can do, it’s rewarding for them and for you. Make products that simplify stuff and are extremely easy to use, don’t make things that try to do everything and change behavior in every single way. Instagram was easy, Facebook was easy, Basecamp was easy, Dropbox was easy, Google was easy, Swipe is easy.

Q: How can our community get in touch with you?

Twitter: @horiacernusca or @swipe_to

Facebook: facebook.com/swwwipe

Email: horia@swipe.to or yo@swipe.to

 


  • Hey Ant, another great example of how Startup Weekend can help you launch a business. Thanks for stopping by.