To print an emotion
To most of us, technologies have become a part of our daily life. Companies are announcing new products every month, and it is a matter of our curiosity to follow the trends and news of this world. Boon Chin is the founder of the UBERSNAP company, that gives the users the opportunity to develop the GIFs and turn them into moving photos. We decided to talk about how did this idea reached today’s world and what possibilities it gives to the technology fans.
Could you give us a short introduction about yourself and your work?
My name is Boon Chin Ng, and I’m the founder of Ubersnap, the world’s first GIF printing app. Ubersnap empowers users to capture GIFs and turn them into Harry Potter style moving photos. We’re a Singapore-based startup, and I’ve spent most of my life in this city. My focus is on designing the user experience of Ubersnap — from capturing GIFs with the app, to receiving the prints at your doorstep. You could call me a designer, although I’m formally trained as an engineer. In my free time, I spend hours walking the streets of Singapore, taking photographs of strangers.
How did you decide to specialize in this field?
In 2011, I took a year off college to live in Stockholm, and work in a startup. It was the first time I had lived in another country, and I was halfway across the world from home. I loved it — working in a startup was a transformative experience for me. I came home with the realization that creating new products is what I want to spend my life doing. Spending a year from home gave me the confidence to jump into it. Little did I know that it was only the start of a long and painful learning journey for me. I like to think that I’ve grown as a person over the last few years, and that has allowed me to be a better entrepreneur.
What interests you in this sphere?
I’m mainly interested in how we can bring design thinking into creating new products. Good, thoughtful design is so important; and yet, it seems to be so rarely done. But it can transform industries — from electronics, to transport, to finance, to insurance. Startups are magical, because they create something out of nothing. It’s almost like startups can break the laws of physics, which state that energy can never be created — only conserved. When you bring a group of like-minded people together, they have the ability to create value for the world. I find that fascinating.
What is one on the biggest achievements that you have reached and why it is so important?
Creating something that provokes a strong, positive response from people. It’s so important to create something that people really love, and it’s so hard to do. I wouldn’t say that we’ve definitely succeeded in doing that, but we’re certainly in the right direction. I think the worst thing that can happen is to create something that people just sort of like, but don’t have strong feelings about. That just means that the product does not mean anything to anyone.
What was the biggest struggle for having what you have today?
I think the biggest struggle will always be finding the right people to work with. That’s probably the most important thing that you have to get right, and it’s not a process you can rush through. You need people who believe in the same things you do, and yet be able to bring different skills and perspectives. I’m fortunate to work with a wonderful team at Ubersnap — people who genuinely care about what we do — but it did not happen overnight.
Tell us more about Ubersnap. What concept is behind it?
Ubersnap is the world’s first GIF printing app, launched exclusively for iOS. The app empowers users to capture GIFs and turn them into animated prints — that come to life, Harry Potter style, as they are tilted up and down. We handcraft every print at our studio, to ensure the highest quality. We’re not just a printing service; Ubersnap is a community of creatives sharing inspiration. GIFs captured with the app are visible to other users, encouraging interaction and easy sharing to other platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. We have a growing global community from all over the world, and we’re extremely grateful to be a part of this movement.
How did you decide to create such platform?
The idea first came about when I started fiddling with the burst mode on my digital camera. I realized that, when stitched together, the photographs came together to form a very compelling moving photo – or GIF, as most people call it. However, stitching the photographs together was a long and tedious process, and required software like Photoshop. We decided to reduce that process to one single step, and make it accessible to everyone in the form of an app. GIFs will become a major form of communication in the next five years, along with photos and videos. It’s easy to dismiss GIFs, because of what it has always been associated with — silly memes on the internet. But a GIF is simply a moving photo, and a moving photo has incredible power for self-expression. We’re already seeing Ubersnap being used in intriguing ways, from showing off creative projects to capturing everyday moments.
How did this idea come into reality? And why GIF’s?
I’ve always loved the feeling of holding physical photographs in my hands. Even in this digital age, there’s a special place reserved for the tangible. We wanted to make that experience possible for GIFs. This idea came into reality because of the incredible work done by our team at Ubersnap. I’m very fortunate to be able to work with such talented people on a daily basis.
Why do you think today’s customer would be interested in your product?
Because it’s surprising, and delightful. Everyone understands that GIFs are only supposed to exist in the digital world. We bring that into the physical world, in the form of prints that people can hold in their hands. It has been incredible for us, to see people’s reactions to the prints.
What is the most interesting part about your work?
The freedom to let your imagination run wild, in terms of what is possible. There are no rules and existing conventions to hold us back.
Today when the social media is not a news to everyone, how do you keep improving your work, products?
We believe in doing things the right way, and that includes really respecting the customer. Respecting the customer means creating the best possible product for them — no shortcuts, no tradeoffs, no getting lazy. It means going to the extreme to make our users happy. It means never doing anything that’s only good for the company, and not the customer. That’s the fundamental approach that allows us to move forward, and keep improving our product. The rest are just details.
What advice have you heard that made influence in your life?
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
– Vincent Van Gogh
We live in an age when everyone is impatient for success. Over the past few years, my biggest learning experience was suppressing my anxiety for instant success, and practicing patience. Good things take time — whether you’re looking to build a great product or service, or you’re looking to work on a creative project. Let the process take its due course. Work on one small thing today, and one small thing tomorrow — a year later, you will look back and realize that what you have done is bigger than the sum of its parts. Many experienced founders say that it takes seven years to build a successful company. I used to think that it was madness — now I realize that it’s necessary.
What are your future plans for the company?
To become the Polaroid of GIFs, and re-introduce the magic of prints (with a different twist) to the world. To continue building the creative community on Ubersnap, and provide a platform for people to tell their stories in a totally different way.