If you’re tired of taking those messy screenshots and arduously cropping them to the perfect size, the solution may be here. Clipboard is a Bellevue-based company that allows users to cleanly grab images or boxes of text from anywhere on the Internet and save them to folders on the site.

The service often draws comparison to Pinterest, which was in the news Tuesday for reportedly raising a new round of cash at a more than $2 billion valuation. Clipboard users can organize the clips they screenshot into different themed “boards,” and share them with other Clipboarders. Some common boards are “Fashion,” “Funny,” and “Health & Fitness.” When you register for the site, it prompts you to download a plugin called “Web Clipper” that allows you to use the service on any website.

CEO Gary Flake

Since its inception in January, 2011, the seven-employee company has raised over $1.5 million from superstar investors, and has also received a generous sum of money from strategic investor Scientia.

Clipboard took its initial seed round in April, 2011, opened its web service as an invite-only beta in October, 2011, launched the service publicly in May, 2012, and released iPhone and iPad apps in September and December, 2012, respectively.

Gary Flake, the company’s 45-year-old CEO, previously held high profile positions at Overture, Yahoo, and Microsoft. We caught up with Flake — a past guest on the GeekWire podcast and Nextcast — for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Clipboard allows you to save, share, and organize portions of web pages in a way that preserves the look, feel, and functionality of the original source. You can group clips together on boards and use a board as a basis for collaboration by inviting other members to your board. Everything on Clipboard defaults to private, but you always have the option of making clips and boards public.”

Inspiration hit us when: “Very common tasks require that you pull together two or more units of information from across the web. For example, if you are planning a trip you’ll probably want to save a flight reservation, a hotel confirmation, and a couple of addresses or maps. Oddly enough, before Clipboard there was no web service that would allow you to save these bits of information in one place. In fact, the state-of-the-art seemed to be to copy and paste information into a document or an email, which usually degrades the look and functionality of whatever it is that you are trying to save. Inspiration hit us when we realized that everyone needs to save many bits and pieces of the web, but that there was no solution available that could grab arbitrary pieces of the web.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “It all depends. I think VC’s are best when the market, metrics, or momentum are already well-established, and you need to accelerate rapidly. But VCs usually want social proof of some form before they make a big commitment. Angels, on the other hand, tend to focus more on the underlying concept, the vision, and the team. Angels make an informed bet based on things which are difficult to objectively measure. Bootstrapping is best when you think you can (a) reach break-even on your own, and (b) handle the consequences if you are wrong. Everyone knows about the first condition, but most forget the second.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our Web Clipper. There’s a reason why every other service in the saving space limits what you can save to some combination of links, images, and text, and nothing else. Saving arbitrary slices of a web page is actually *really* difficult. Our Clipper is cross-browser and is remarkably robust in what it can copy. For example, it can easily grab an IMDB movie summary, an eBay listing, a Google search result, or a functional flash app. No other clipping tool comes close.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We were very earlier adopters of NodeJS and using it has been a real joy. Using NodeJS allows us to develop in Javascript and represent our data in simple JSON. As a result, code and data looks the same at all points on our stack (clipper, front end, back end, and even some ops). The net of all of this is that we spend most of our time thinking about our product and we rarely waste time thinking about the ‘plumbing’ of the app. This has allowed us to build a high quality service in a very short time frame with few resources.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “It’s hard to make a service that is both powerful and simple because power often comes about from having many choices but simplicity usually comes from eliminating unnecessary choices. In our earliest days, we were weighted too much in favor of power and failed to simplify the product in ways that would benefit all users. For example, we used to have a several ‘tabs’ in our UI that corresponded to personal clips, shared clips, and public clips. Today, we’ve simplified the world so that you a single place for your stuff (your profile page) and you can explore to find other user’s public clips. The shared stuff can now be implicitly found in either the personal or public side of the site, which is a much simpler way of organizing things.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “I don’t do ‘Sophie’s Choice’ scenarios ;-).”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “Users reclaim ownership of their own data. Today, the biggest web services are trying to form isolated islands of data that benefit themselves at the expense of users. In a world where all of your data is forced into one of these islands, you lose the ability to bring together different pieces into compelling combinations. Our long term strategy is to give you a safe place to bring all of your data into one place. As a result, the only way we can ‘win’ is if our users ‘win.'”

Rivals should fear us because: “We’re in this for the long term. We’re not trying to grow the fastest nor are we trying to do everything at once. Instead, we’re going to grow as smartly as we can and layer in new capabilities as part of a deliberate plan.”

We are truly unique because: “Clipboard is possibly the most advanced bookmarklet in the history of the universe. It is effectively an application that can be instantiated on top of other websites. Our iOS app is similar in spirit in that it allows you to combine information from multiple apps into one place. In this way, Clipboard is sort of like an OS for your data.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Saving and curation are clearly important new trends on the Internet. However, its popularity has inspired dozens of Pinterest knock-offs that have collectively consumed much of the available oxygen. We’re very different from Pinterest and all of its clones, but its been challenging to broadly explain those differences in the context of so much noise.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Doing a startup is like having a child. It’s vastly more difficult than you can ever imagine before you’ve experienced it, but more rewarding as well. Parenthood and entrepreneurship are also deeply personal experiences, so everyone who tries one or the other will find their own way and their own destinations. As a result, my advice is just about the basics. Get your sleep now, because once you start are the journey is earnest, you wont sleep well again for a long time. You’ll need your friends and family more now than ever, so don’t take them for granted and don’t forget to lean on them. Finally, remember to experience the highs and lows in the moment instead of dwelling on the past or obsessing on the future; this way, you’ll experience the experience, and not a mere artifact of it.”

Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Pacific Northwest startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out this questionnaire in a fun and engaging style that shows off your startup’s culture. (Remember to upload photos). Past profiles can be found here.

Reach Lily Katz at lily@geekwire.com or on Twitter @LilyKatz

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/ckittleson11 Chet Kittleson

    I’m going to be honest, I haven’t given Clipboard the time of day. I fell victim to the amount of noise in this space, as referenced in the article, and wrote it off as another Pinterest copycat. The traveling scenario illustrated above is a problem I’ve faced nearly every time I’ve planned a trip, and the “web clipper” sounds like a solution. I hope it’s a solution! I’m convinced to give Clipboard a closer look. I will add, however, that titling the article, “Pinterest rival Clipboard…” might have been a bit cruel, as Gary illustrates several times that they’re very different from Pinterest, and aren’t trying to be the same thing. Up until the interview I found myself scoffing at the “pinterest wannabe” and I think it’s fair to attribute that to the headline.

    • Shalendra

      Hi,

      Yes, it’s true Clipboard is aimed differently than Pinterest. Pinterest is all about broadcasting and aspirations while Clipboard is aimed towards helping you save content for your own selfish/private needs. People often clip flight, hotel information etc. on Clipboard to aid with their travel planning. Please give Clipboard a try and let me know if you have any feedback. My email is shalenATclipboardDOTcom. Thanks.

      • ChetCrunch

        Thanks Shalendra, I gave it a spin last night and had an overall positive experience. I’ll email you any feedback I have as I continue to use the service.

        • Shalendra

          Sounds great. Thanks.

  • http://eyejot.com/users/davidg davidgeller

    I tried Clipboard and the interface and toolset are excellent. The platform is extremely well implemented. I can’t speak to its competitive or market position, but it’s a seemingly well done product.

    • Shalendra

      David, thank you for the kind words.

  • Shalendra

    Lily and John – thanks for covering us.

  • Mark D. Walters

    Pretty cool sounding tool, and I’ll never stop being amazed at the creativity in the Seattle startup business community. I’m going to give it a test drive it over the weekend.

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