Ever wonder what you should wear to a party? What plants would grow best in your garden? Or the best blockbuster movies to see this summer?

If those sorts of questions tie you up, Votely might have the answer. The iPhone and Facebook apps — developed by Shahzad Umar and Doug Gradt — taps into your social networks so that you can get answers to life’s basic questions.

We chatted with Gradt, who works full-time as a UX designer at Amazon.com, for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We develop social apps we truly like using ourselves and hope our users will enjoy them too.”

Votely creators Doug Gradt and Shahzad Umar

Inspiration hit us when: “We have seen for a long time people using their wall posts to try and make decisions. We wanted to create a way to do this and make the experience easy and fun. That’s why we set out to create the Votely iOS and Facebook integrated app. How many times have you been in a store or online and get confronted with a decision? What shoes should I buy? Which laptop is better? What should I have for lunch today? Where should I go on vacation? We thought it would be a great tool to help people make decisions using the opinions of their friends.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are a bootstrap startup. This has worked for us so far, but we like to think big. Some projects, especially Votely, would require a bit more time and expense to take it to the next level and we encourage investors to download and give it a try. They will quickly see how voting is not only useful and entertaining, but has revenue generating potential. Most importantly, we want to make sure people enjoy using our product.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Passion to succeed. Never give up. Never quit. There have been many times when we could have easily stayed home and watched movies or play video games. The toughest thing about developing apps are the sacrifices, things you have to give up in order to keep moving forward. I feel the secret is how you manage your time to get the things done that you set out to accomplish.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Building Votely. Seriously. I just created a vote: ‘Who do you think would survive a bat fight? A. Will Ferrel or B. John Reilly.’ It doesn’t always have to be so serious.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Where do you want me to start? You hear it a lot but it’s true. You have to fail in order to succeed. We fail often, but learn and improve. The biggest mistake may be not starting with mobile first. Planrly, another of our products, which is a social planning app, started as a website. Once we built the app, it changed the whole dynamics and we eventually were forced to rebuild the site. Building from mobile first has many great advantages.

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “They are all great at what they do. I guess it would depend on what the particular specialties one’s corner would require. Was Chuck Norris in the list? I guess he’s busy selling workout equipment.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “We’ve already started. By thinking big, listening to our users, and building things that they genuinely find valuable, we will greatly increase our success in the future.”

Rivals should fear us because: “We are passionate and good at what we do. We are able to move relatively fast and can iterate to improve our product quickly. We work at low cost and don’t require a large team to accomplish our task. We are not afraid to take risk and innovate. It’s how we learn.  We encourage healthy competition. It will only make us better.”

We are truly unique because: “In our opinion, there’s a need for simple ways to quickly ask friends for help in making  decisions. We feel we have achieved this with Votely. We are really excited that it is finally out there for people to download. This is only the beginning. We will have much more to offer in the future.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Losing direction and motivation. We’ve learned many times how to overcome this. It’s easy. Take a break. Get some sleep. Tomorrow is another day.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Stay focused on your vision. Finish what you set out to accomplish. Pay attention to what your users want, and tune out people who want you to fail. Some can tell you that you probably won’t succeed your first time. Learn from your failures, move forward, and never quit. When you fall, get right back up again.”

Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Seattle area startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out the questions above, send  photos of the founder(s) and company logo to tips@geekwire.com. Past profiles can be found here.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/jlpitts Jennifer Pitts

    Sounds very similar to Seattle Startup Swayable? Cool stuff. Must be something here.

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