Mobile app success stories with humble beginnings in a basement or garage are becoming far and few between. In an industry where, nowadays, most successes are either spin-off and add-on apps published by the market giants, celebrity-backed ventures, or heavily funded concepts driven by a fear-of-missing-out investment strategy, it is refreshing to see there is still room for a small indie app to battle it out and win.
Starting out as a weekend and weeknight only project for James Shimell, the sole developer of the original app, Shutta has come a long way in the 14 months since its official launch. The neat little photo-from-video tool quickly became popular amongst sports fans and amateur photographers and – within a matter of months from the launch – the app had blown well-funded competitors like Vhoto and Taplet out of the water. Realizing the potential of the app at this stage, but with maxed out credit cards and barely enough time to deal with the ever-growing user base, Shutta set out to secure seed funding towards the end of 2015.
Fast forward to today and Shutta is ready to show off what they are doing with the money raised. Headquartered in Hong Kong, the founders opted to set up an important part of their team in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, opening up what is quite possibly the coolest office in town. Having worked in Vietnam for several years prior to launching Shutta, James Shimell is well aware of the high level of IT skills of this country which, with a median age of around 29, finds itself in a demographic golden age. The fact that more recently Vietnam has piqued the attention of global VCs and corporations goes to show that the indie developer has a nose for recognizing potential.
Now, boasting a team of 10 highly talented and driven people, Shutta has undergone a full makeover. The iconic scrolling wheel remains, but is complemented by a far more intuitive User Interface; the website has received a much-needed face-lift, including the addition of a view-only web app for the integrated social network; and, most importantly, the app is at long last available on Android and users are no longer restricted to connecting only with their iPhone friends.
Still, James Shimell does not believe there is a mysterious secret to indie success. “A good idea and an app that works well is only the start. After that, it comes down to putting in blood, sweat, and tears, in the belief that fortune does indeed favor the brave. Using the last of our savings to travel half way across the world to launch the app at TechCrunch Disrupt NY was a ballsy move, but for us, it was absolutely the right thing to do. The buzz and excitement we were able to create there is still with us today, and it has been precisely that passion and the belief in what we are doing that has allowed us to get to where we are today.”
What’s next for the not-so-indie-anymore app? For the development team going cross-platform was a basic necessity, and the team is looking forward to getting back to developing technologies that prove the point that photos-from-video make for better pictures. “The vision is to change the way the world takes photographs,” explains James Shimell, “because there is nothing stopping small apps from thinking big.”
In fact, the ability to think big and convince investors and employees of your ability to realize those big dreams may just be the secret sauce to indie success.
Photo by Steven Gerner
Author: Barbara Ximenez
Barara Ximenez is co-founder of Shutta and she is involved with investor relationships, the formal incorporation of the company, marketing plan, and strategic alliances.