Startup advice from Haiku Deck CEO: It’s not about the product — it’s how you make people feel

adamtratt

Haiku Deck co-founder and CEO Adam Tratt shared some startup advice at the Seattle Tech Meetup on Tuesday.

Adam Tratt’s first slide at yesterday’s Seattle Tech Meetup was simple: A picture of himself with the words “Don’t Be Like Me.”

No, he wasn’t talking about the Adam Tratt of today, who is running an up-and-coming iPad presentation helper that won GeekWire’s App of the Year. Rather, he was referring to the Adam Tratt who started a company a few years back that, in his words, “imploded.”

Giant Thinkwell was not successful.

Giant Thinkwell was not successful.

You see, the former Cranium executive and his team at now-defunct Giant Thinkwell originally started making celebrity-based social games. While the idea was hilarious and the initial attention was aplenty, Giant Thinkwell’s business plan quickly crumbled just weeks after raising their seed round.

And now, after starting over and building something much, much more successful and rewarding, Tratt can now look back and realize what went wrong.

“Our huge mistake was that we set out to create an awesome product, and it’s not really about the technology or product,” Tratt said Tuesday night in front of about 300 at the HUB Seattle. “Creating something great is about how the end user feels. You want to make people feel good, better and more awesome. In our quest to make this product we lost sight of that.”

Tratt’s second “secret to success,” which is something that Redfin CEO and founder Glenn Kelman also spoke about a few weeks ago, was about picking a problem that actually matters to people, and something that will make people happy if said problem were solved.

After the Giant Thinkwell implosion, Haiku Deck co-founder Kevin Leneway had a eureka moment with Tratt.

“You know what really sucks, Adam?” Leneway asked. “Creating presentation sucks.”

haikudeck1“Yes, creating presentations sucks,” Tratt responded. “Nobody likes making them and very few like receiving them.”

And thus the beginning of what is now Haiku Deck, which now boasts more than 500,000 downloads and consistently ranks in Apple’s app store as one of the top productivity apps.

“Instead of setting out to create an awesome product, we set out to make people awesome,” said Tratt, who also penned this advice column on GeekWire last year. “We wanted to make it really easy for non-designers to make good presentations. It was with that focus when good things started happening.”

There were four other presentations at Tuesday night’s Seattle Tech Meetup, a new tech-focused event started by Brett Greene of Fresh Consulting and Red Russak of Apptentive:

geekworkxGeekWorkOur own Todd Bishop and Fresh Consulting CEO Jeff Dance showed off GeekWire’s newest offering called GeekWork, a network of geeks and a marketplace of work. It uses automated matchmaking to bring these two worlds together, based on the skills of the geek and the requirements of the work.

attentiveAttendible: CEO Georges El Khoury talked about his startup that allows users to discover and share local events attended by people with similar interests in a Pinterest-like interface. The company is housed in the SURF Incubator in downtown Seattle.

 

davidniuTinyPulse: David Niu, co-founder of NetConversions and BuddyTV, spoke about his “careercation” that was the inspiration for TinyPulse, a startup that gives leaders a pulse on how happy, burnt out and frustrated their employees are.

 

relaborateRelaborate: CTO Grant Gavares showed off Relaborate, which recently raised more than $500,000 in a first round of funding, money that the Seattle startup will use to continue to developing what it dubs a “smart content marketing engine” for companies.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Previously on GeekWire: Advice from Glenn Kelman: Entrepreneurs need to be tough, but also show lots of love

  • http://www.puzzazz.com/ Roy Leban

    I love HaikuDeck, but this is a case where it disappoints. Adam’s topic is something I personally care about and talk about a lot, and Adam probably gave a great talk. But the online deck doesn’t give me that. We really need either a video or a 9slides version.

    • Adam Tratt

      Hi Roy,

      Our embed player doesn’t include notes just yet. If you’d like the version with my speaker track, you can view it here…http://www.haikudeck.com/p/I2BjZz7C5n/secrets-of-being-awesome#

      • http://www.puzzazz.com/ Roy Leban

        Very nice! I can really get the flavor of your talk from your notes (and, yeah, it was probably a great talk in person). Hope you add notes to your embedded player soon.

    • Aaron Khoo

      Hi Roy, thanks for the 9Slides call-out. What you said is precisely why we created 9Slides. Online decks are more awesome when you can actually watch the person presenting it.

  • http://www.scoutzie.com/?utm_source=disqus&utm_medium=display_name&utm_campaign=disqus_display Kirill Zubovsky

    Having witness your GTW undertakings, I really love the simplicity with which you approached Haiku Deck. I gotta be honest, when it launched, it looked (to me) very much like a prototype, and that’s why it makes such a great story! Looking forward to see what HD becomes as you spend more time and funding on it.