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designlab3As more and more people create products on the web — from blogs to websites to apps — knowing how to design online is becoming more important than ever.

While there are lots of places to learn how to code online, Harish Venkatesan, Daniel Shapiro and Deny Khoung didn’t find the same for design.

That’s exactly why they started Designlab.

“I was sitting in a Barnes & Noble, trying to teach myself design from a book and utterly failing, when it struck me — it’s 2013,” said Venkatesan, Designlab’s co-founder and CEO. “Shouldn’t there be a better way to do this?”

We caught up with Venkatesan to learn more about Designlab for this edition of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We teach people web design skills through fun, hands-on lessons online. On Designlab, you get to learn design by doing!

Designlab co-founders Harish Venkatesan, Deny Khoung and Daniel Shapiro.

Inspiration hit us when … I was sitting in a Barnes & Noble, trying to teach myself design from a book and utterly failing, when it struck me — it’s 2013. Shouldn’t there be a better way to do this?

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: We bootstrapped as long as we could — it taught us how to do more with less, and was a great way to grow together as a team. We worked on Designlab across 3 different parts of the country (SF, NYC, LA) for 6 months of *long* nights & weekends. Now, we’re ready to take on more fuel for growth.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Our combination of design & technology. We’re teaching creative skills in a completely novel way through some pretty awesome technology — an in-browser graphics editor that gives you automated feedback on your design work. It’s like having a really easy-to-use version of Photoshop in the browser, and you’re able to get started immediately — no download required.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: Articulating our core vision and values. We have some deep beliefs about how we can change the world through design, and that informs everything we do. We realized that our website may change, our target users may change, our product may change — but our core beliefs never should.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Booking mentor meetings before 10 a.m.

designlab1Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: Jobs all the way! We’re here to try to make a dent in the universe.

Our world domination strategy starts when: Now. Early users are loving the product we’ve built, we have some amazing designers and mentors that we’re working with, and we’re aggressively executing on our vision.

Rivals should fear us because: We love our users.

We are truly unique because: We have a technical team, deep domain expertise, and a completely new way of teaching design online.

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: Figuring out a great way to teach design online. We’ve iterated on our product experience 5 or 6 times to get to where we are today, and we’re going to continue pushing the bar as far as we can.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Ask questions of people smarter than you, listen, and thank them for their advice. Pass it forward when you get a chance! Anyone who’s started a business knows that it’s hard, and the startup world only works because of people helping people. We’ve had the fortune of getting to work with some amazing mentors. GeekWire readers, feel free to reach out to our team if we can ever help (@trydesignlab). Use the codeword ‘Helvetica’ :)

techstars-casinoEditor’s noteThis month, GeekWire will be featuring the 11 startups participating in TechStars Seattle. This marks the fourth of those profiles. Make sure to check out TechStars Demo Day on Oct. 24th, and GeekWire Startup Day on Oct. 25th, both part of Seattle Startup Week. You will also get a chance to meet the Designlab team at the Demo Day after party, a fantastic opportunity to hang out with hundreds of Seattle entrepreneurs, investors and members of the Seattle startup ecosystem.

Past TechStars Seattle Spotlights:

Vetted matches big companies with independent consultants

Perfect helps you edit, share videos filmed with Google Glass

Shippable helps developers speed up software deployment

Codementor offers real-time, screen-sharing coding support for developers

Ex-Amazonians helping teachers create and sell online courses with Everpath

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