Startups- Wanna tell the time or build a clock? Interview with founders, Toufee

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While reviewing Toufee, I almost fell in love with the product and must say that I have been giving my creative cells a try (I know it’s hard!).

While I still try to figure out what kind of flash movies shall I make, here is presenting our interview with Sanchit Bhatnagar, co-founder Toufee.

Interestingly, Toufee, after a day of being TechCrunched received a buyout offer!! But these guys have GRRRAND plans.
And if you are wondering why they have been slow with adding features, wait for another 2 weeks, and you will have iCandy!.

Here is the interview::

Tell us more about Toufee, and the team behind it.
Toufee was founded by me (Sanchit Bhatnagar) and my college friend Navneet Rai. We were batch mates in Delhi College of Engineering (DCE) from where we did our B.E. After college I started my own software company (Day and Night Solutions Pvt. Ltd) in New Delhi while Navneet took time to complete his M.E. Because of similar interests and love for computers in general, we decided to work together on projects one of which is toufee.

What’s your vision behind starting Toufee?
The demand for Richer Media is on the rise. For example, Flickr.com –Image Sharing becomes a big hit, Podcasting – Audio replacing Text on many Blogs and YouTube.com – Video Sharing site that leads the market.
So what comes next? We think that the next item on this list will be a website that empowers users to share an even Richer Media format. That offers creation of more engaging and exciting content combining more than just one multimedia format. A medium that gives users more
control and flexibility over the presentation style of such media items (like video mixes, image overlaps, voiceovers, special fx, etc) which eventually empowers them to be more creative!

Who is your target audience?
The goal we had in mind when we started out was to empower the non-technical crowd (your average internet user) to create flash movies. The biggest portions of non-technical users that love flash come from social networking sites like Myspace, Friendster, etc.

As a matter of fact, in the upcoming version we have a whole new section dedicated just to the social networking crowd, where they can create Flash Profiles, Video Mashups / Mixing, Image Collages / Scrapbooks, Flash Profile Intros and Photo/Video Slideshows in toufee with just a few clicks of a mouse.
Aside from that, we have also been getting a lot of signups from the Music Artists community (incl. myspace bands) and Website owners who love to create flash intros, and demos for their websites in toufee.

A product like Toufee has more of an international appeal (especially among
Bloggers/MySpacers) – What’s your plans regd. acquiring these users?
Our website is still in Beta so we haven’t formally launched any marketing campaign yet. But with our new product and design in place we plan to start a huge marketing campaign both online and offline.
Coincidentally, we are also rolling out many contests and promotions for our existing members by the end of June to increase the site activity.

Being an Indian startup, you guys are competing with other big players. What are the challenges do you see?
Honestly, the biggest challenge for us is with the marketing of our product. We have a strong programming team and good product but unfortunately not many people know about our site yet. So after the second version comes out all our focus would be on the marketing part.

Also toufee has generated a lot of interest from many American schools and teachers who want to teach this software to kids (primarily 5/6th graders). But being based in India it is kind of difficult to give them a hands-on demo of our product.

You guys have been slow with adding features. Why? Isn’t that a little risky
(especially after being TechCrunched?)

At the time Toufee 1.0 came out, only Flash Player 7.0 was supported on Linux. As a result most of our code was done in ActionScript 1.0 to maximize code compatibility and make sure the users’ flash movies ran everywhere – but a tradeoff of that was it put some severe limitations on our code (for example, no support for alpha channel in videos, no filters, no mask effects, etc).

Now that Adobe Flash Player 9.0 is available for all platforms, we’ve decided to rewrite all our code from scratch in ActionScript 2.0, to not only get rid of these limitations in version 1.0 but to also make the code object oriented and stable.

It took about 18 months for us to complete our first version while completing the second version took only about two.
It may look like we’ve been slow on adding features but after seeing the improvements we’ve been able to make in Toufee 2.0, you’ll find that you’re seeing a whole new exciting product.

How do you plan to monetize the product? Toufee site mentions that you will not embed any ads in the movies. What’s your business model then?
The site is fully free to use because our product is currently in Beta. We plan to keep this version (Toufee 1.0) free forever. Also, there will be no charge for using our new version for personal use.
But, we will be putting a small membership fees for professional use of our second version. Plus, we will offer a 24×7 dedicated support and a lot of other features targeted for Pro users. The initial success of beta has made sure that we have a big member base to our site, so by offering over 75 compelling reasons to upgrade with the new version we are trying to make sure that anybody who has enjoyed working with the free version, upgrades to the paid one.

If possible, please share your funding status? Are you looking for more funds?
Toufee is a self funded site. With the launch of our second version we will require some more funds for our promotion and marketing.
Thankfully, we have support of an angel investor in the USA who shares our vision and has been more than willing to help us out with this endeavor. Plus, we also have been approached by a few US based VCs (including a buyout offer one day after we hit Techcrunch).
We are planning a round of VC funding once we complete the Toufee 2.0, but the details are yet to be finalized.

Well, there is a difference between telling the time and building a clock. Toufee guys are building a great platform for the next gen RIAs (rich Internet apps) and I do see them making it BIG. Wishing them a very best of luck!

If you have questions/comments for Sanchit/Navneet, please add them in the comments section. I will pass them on to the founders.

tagged: toufee

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