Kilian Valkhof is a serial entrepreneur and maker. He is the creator of Polypane as well as apps like FromScratch and Superposi
Polypane is the browser for web developers and designers. It helps them develop, debug and test twice as fast and helps them build websites and web apps of higher quality.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Kilian Valkhof says:
Trust your gut. It knows things much earlier than you do. Choose the things that make you happy and fulfilled and give you a sense of purpose rather than the ones you think you should do or owe to other people.
Read on to know more about Kilian Valkhof and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background, and what are you working on currently?
Kilian Valkhof: My name is Kilian Valkhof, and I live in The Netherlands. I’m the creator of the web browser https://polypane.app/. Polypane is a web browser that is built specifically for web developers and web designers that helps them make better websites and apps in less time. Just like you wouldn’t use Word to program (even though it’s an app that lets you write), you also shouldn’t use a consumer browser to build websites. Before building my own web browser, I ran a digital agency for 14 years. I’m 31 now, so I started it very young, which has given me the privilege to grow along with the internet. When we began, web2.0 was just there, but things like the iPhone and iPad didn’t exist yet. So I was able to learn all these things as they become available and stay at the forefront of technology.
What motivated you to get started with your company?
Kilian Valkhof: Polypane started out as a prototype to deal with my frustrations with my own web development process. If you want to make a responsive website, one that works well on multiple screen sizes, you are continually switching sizes to check them one-by-one. It’s incredibly inefficient to monitor each screen size one-by-one every time you make a change. So I made a prototype that showed a site in all these screen sizes at the same time and started using that. Very quickly, I found myself being literally twice as productive. As I was using it and sharing it with other people, I was coming up with new features to help with even more aspects of modern web development. That’s when I knew there was something there.
How have you attracted users and grown your company from the start?
Kilian Valkhof: Initially, I ran Polypane as an open beta, which got me both excellent feedback and an extensive list of newsletter subscribers. When it came time for launch, I sent all of these beta testers the announcement and asked them to share it. From there on, my main focus has been on content marketing.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue? What strategy worked best?
Kilian Valkhof: Polypane has a subscription model, where you either subscribe as an individual or as a team. Growth comes from word-of-mouth. Using a new browser is a big step, so people want to hear from other people that it really works before trying it.
How much money (funding) have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round? (Additionally, any plan for the future?)
Kilian Valkhof: I am completely self-funded.
What are some marketing tips to help maximize the success of a product launch?
Kilian Valkhof: What helped me was getting an extensive list of newsletter subscribers. They are your fans and will help you spread the word, and if you decide to launch on Product Hunt and other sites, they can really make a difference. In the end, it all comes down to reach, so if you can get that initial boost, it helps.
What is a good product launch checklist?
Kilian Valkhof: There isn’t really one that I would point to, but if you search for them, you can find a bunch of them. Just combine them, and the best checklist is: double-check everything, then double-check it again. Missing links, typos, etc. are easily overlooked but can have a significant effect on your launch.
What’s the hardest thing about product launches?
Kilian Valkhof: Convincing people they should care, for sure. You can have the best product In the world, but the trick is that you have to meet people where they are. Your product launch is not really about your product, but about what your customers see.
Additionally, it can be challenging to know when your product is ready for launch. As a creator, your vision is always going to be a few steps ahead of what the product currently can do, so it’s still going to be lacking compared to your future idea of the product. But if you know this, you can set a goal post and stick to it. If my app can do X, then it’s ready, no matter if I actually also want it to do Y and Z. That can come later.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company? (or What should all first-time startup founders know before they start their business?)
Kilian Valkhof: I completely underestimated the amount of marketing I needed to do. To me, using Polypane is such an obvious idea with such clear benefits, but you need to meet potential customers where they are. They might not be aware of the inefficiencies in their own process. So you can’t just show them what you built, you have to tell people why they should care, and keep re-iterating that everywhere.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing?
Kilian Valkhof: I think they all do different things wrong (I know I have done many different things wrong!), but I think you really should think about “is this something I want to tell” vs. “Is this something my audience wants to know.” Your marketing should focus on the latter.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Kilian Valkhof: I don’t really have one major bit of advice that stands out, but what has helped me with a million things is having the right support group(s). Get a group of fellow founders and start a slack, or meet every month and share your problems with them, and help them with theirs. Their experiences can help you, and your skills can help them. It can serve as a gut-check for your ideas, and they can give you insights that you wouldn’t be able to see because you’re too close.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Kilian Valkhof: Trust your gut. It knows things much earlier than you do. Choose the things that make you happy and fulfilled and give you a sense of purpose rather than the ones you think you should do or owe to other people.
You can follow Kilian Valkhof here.
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