Dave Stewart Relates How Design Huddle Takes The Grunt Work Out Of Motion Graphic Design

November 14, 2023 by Dave Haynes

Everybody who is active and experienced in the digital signage space knows the big evergreen challenge for solutions providers and end-users is content production – keeping programming on screens fresh and relevant, but also attractive.

A lot of companies in the ecosystem – and not just the software guys – have some degree of template libraries and finished content that can be updated or pushed straight to screens. That’s a piece of the solution. But there’s also a demand for tools that make it easy and efficient to produce good-looking material for screens.

In looking over the exhibitor list for the upcoming DSE trade show, I came across Design Huddle, and wondered, “Who is that and what do they do?”

It’s a small West Coast US startup that has B2B graphic design software that allows brands, agencies, and other platforms to create what it describes as lockable digital, video, print, and presentation templates for their users. There are some similarities to solutions like Canva, but also a lot of distinctions. The one that would particularly interest a lot of tech companies in this industry is the ability to fully integrate and white label the Design Huddle toolset inside something like a CMS.

I haD a great chat with CEO and co-founder Dave Stewart, who is based (I’m jealous) in Huntington Beach, California.

Yeah, there’s LA traffic, but it’s lovely by the water …

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Dave, thank you for joining me. Can you tell me what the Design Huddle is all about? Because it’s unfamiliar to me. 

Dave Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. Ultimately, we are an enterprise focused on software as a service platform that focuses on templating and content creation in an easy and accessible way. We’re definitely API-first, so we have a big focus on platform integrations where our customers are programmatically creating content, but then we’re also really focused on end-user experience so people who are actually designing, whether that’s static content or motion content in a browser, are able to really easily fill in pieces of a video template or create content really for any purpose.

What kind of content would they be creating in the context of digital signage, which is obviously what I’m interested in? 

Dave Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, we were actually really surprised. We’re relatively new to digital signage, and within the last year, we had to get up to speed ultimately because a couple of players in this industry came to us and really expressed, “Hey, content is a big issue for us, right? We can sell these really expensive screens and they’re great, but our customers are just really struggling with what are we going to put on them and how’s that going to look good, right? We can have a great-looking screen without good-looking content, so there’s a problem.” 

So, I’ve been educating ourselves on this very recently, and it’s really a combination of things like static content where it’s like, I’m just displaying basic information that might be somewhat real-time or just informational, then also, motion content for things like, imagine the signs that are up on a football stadium or in a basketball gym, where you want to show basic animated content, that’s talking about whatever the context is for that sport or things like that. So it’s been a little bit of everything, but imagine anything that can be shown on a sign, someone’s creating that somewhere, right? 

Right. Is the core idea that the end user, the operator would be selecting from a template library or are they creating stuff from scratch or how does it work?

Dave Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. We are actually just the software. We’re not actually playing in the content game ourselves. We just make it really easy to create content on our platform, and generally, that’s going to mean importing from existing design files and animation files that you’ve created elsewhere.

We can import PDFs and maintain all the layers. So any static content that’s generated in any Adobe product or Figma, we can essentially just import it in and maintain that. In After Effects, you can now export to a format called Lottie files and Lottie files can be imported into our system and now essentially we can have really rich animations generating After Effects that are really easily customizable by an end user and also programmatically via API. So that’s the starting point for most of our customers is generating their content on their side, whether they’re contracting with an agency or they have a team internally, it’s building these things. The main thing they’re focused on is, we just don’t want to have to do these customs per customer. I was super surprised to find out that some of the initial interest from us, these hardware companies have content teams that are literally generating content individually for their customers and to me, that was crazy. but they had to, because that was the way they were going to sell their hardware. 

So we’re just changing that a bit where it’s like, just do that once, right? Generate some templates for them and then give them the power, empower them to actually make the changes for themselves, or, again, do it programmatically for them.

So I’m curious. Is this the sort of thing that is best suited to somebody who’s already a motion graphics designer, an animator, somebody with quite a deep set of creative skills or maybe technical skills? 

Dave Stewart: I would say a big focus of ours is when it comes to who we are going to sell to. Definitely, software companies are high up on that list who have a general system that’s trying to do a lot of things and specifically in digital signage, that might be a CMS or any of these other acronyms that we’ve come to find out exist here where they’re trying to do a lot of things. We’re just the content piece, and we feel like we can really stand out by creating a best-in-breed, seamlessly integrated white-labeled product that can fit into their platform in a way that feels proprietary but adds best-of-breed, innovative content creation ability.

Now, when it comes to who’s creating that content whether they have an internal design team with some expertise or whether they contract an agency just to initially create them a set of templates, it can work either way. I will also say, though, that we do work with brands directly, where brands are creating branded content that might be shown on lots of screens but they want to empower regular users to be able to make changes to those templates while still adhering to brand consistency and their brand guidelines and so like our locking feature is big in that situation because someone creates a template but then now anybody can actually make basic adjustments to it.

So it sounds like it’s a little reminiscent of what I’ve been hearing in the last year about AI and how generative AI isn’t going to really replace designers, but it does add a considerable layer of efficiency in that you can remove some of the drudgery and some of the building block stuff and automate that or streamline that but it’s not meant to just take designers out of the equation.

Dave Stewart: No, definitely not. I feel like we’re really excited about AI and everyone says that, but I’ll get more specific for you. I think, for us right now, we actually just sent out an AI survey to our customers to try to prioritize the main things that they’re really interested in.

For us, the basic stuff, like background removal, like removing background from images, which we already do, and background from videos. You have things like speech-to-text to provide like auto captioning and things like that. Obviously, generative AI, where you’re prompting via text to say, “Hey, I want an image that shows this, or I want to alter this one image to include this”, all those things fit in really well with what we do, but where we want to take that even further is, okay, let me generate a whole bunch of template ideas for you that are basic iteration changes from a set of templates that we may train a model on. So we’re actually gonna take all your content you’ve made and the holy grail for us is, let us shoot out and show you a bunch of previews of a bunch of similar-looking templates that follow the same kind of styles, maybe themes or layouts.

But in a new way you’re still starting with the designer that needs to set the standard but you’re able to generate content in a much quicker way and remove a lot of the monotonous activity that’s usually involved there. 

So what would be involved in using it?

Dave Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. So typically what will happen is, again, two sides of our business. We have a platform side where we’re going to be very hands-on with our customers and integrate this into some platform that they already have, where there are already users where they need to add on templating or improve some existing content creation suite that they have inside that.

So, we would inherit those users and they seamlessly became part of that platform. The other side of the business is, okay, their turnkey solution where we might work with an agency or brand directly. We white label it and they log into a portal that like we create, but it’s white labeled for you on your domain.

and the idea is that a user is just signing up and accessing a template in a way where you are just a distribution mechanism to provide them content that way. Either way, it’s going to be in the context of a browser, whether that’s on desktop or mobile and generally it’s going to be filling out a template that someone has gotten you, let’s call it 80 percent of the way there.

Okay. So like you were saying earlier, it’s not really that you would go in and say, I want to do a 15-second promotional spot for a car dealer and I would go find a template that seems to be about retail or car dealers or whatever it may be and I can monkey around with that. This is more important than what you already have and automating and making it much more efficient to do that sort of thing.

Dave Stewart: Honestly, I think it’s both. We have some customers that definitely fall more in the former, for sure, where they have more generic content that they’re trying to reach a lot of people with and they’re creating more generic content that could be used for different purposes while still allowing the user to really personalize it for themselves.

But then, we also have customers that are trying programmatically. 

So, let’s walk through the car dealer one then. If I’m Bob’s shovels in Fairbanks, Alaska or whatever it may be and I want to create five ads for our fall clearance event and I don’t have Motion graphics animator on my team or anything like that. What would I do? 

Dave Stewart: Yeah. No, absolutely. So in that situation, again, they’re not necessarily like someone that small isn’t going to be our customer directly. We’re going to inherit them from the fact that they work with some other company, whether that’s an agency or they have digital signage. Let’s imagine that.

They bought a digital sign and part of that came a subscription to some sort of content creation suite and we just designed how it all just so happens to power that content creation suite. That would be the scenario where we might be involved with a small business like that. In that situation, that would entail that the agency or the hardware company that is providing that software suite has created some basic templates for this type of customer, which is exactly what we’re seeing happen by the way. 

and again, I was very surprised about this, that these hardware companies would actually have content teams doing this but that’s exactly what’s happening.

and so, the content teams are just really excited that they don’t have to do super personalizing custom graphics, both motion and static for the customer anymore. They can just create templates and let the customer have them themselves. 

So one of the main reasons that end users and solutions providers to some degree struggle with all of this in terms of content is cost. Agency costs are higher and everything else and the idea of these kinds of tools is attractive for a number of reasons. But one of them is, this will lower my costs of producing content. I assume you guys have done some sort of calculations to say to your potential customers that if you use our stuff, you can potentially save this kind of money.

Dave Stewart: Yeah. Ultimately, not that we’re in the business of replacing designers that you might already have on staff, but most of the time we’re getting brought in a situation where there’s a design team and currently what they’re super focused on is super monotonous, non creative work where they’re taking a Photoshop file and making basic text changes and dropping in images.

and think about the salary of someone like that and what you’re paying for. We would say, we’re not trying to replace that person but let’s focus that, some of that person on something actually creative, that’s going to move the needle for your business, not on this monotonous work that could absolutely be done by the user themselves in a simple templating solution. So, that’s how we’d approach it and so when we talk about cost savings, again, you could think about the fact that, Hey, this salary is gone, but ultimately we’d say, no, let’s just repurpose that salary for something useful. Okay. 

So do you want to go back to skill sets?

What realistically do you need to use this? You’re going to be a designer or something already? 

Dave Stewart: Yeah. I would say, look, Canva is a really interesting thing to look at because Canva came on the scene and showed everyone that a platform like this in the browser can be really easy to use and we can remove a lot of the friction and difficulty that’s been associated with static and motion content in the past.

and so Canva has really educated the market on what’s possible and that anybody can kind of design following templates and ultimately, I would say, while we’re not trying to be Canva whatsoever, there’s clearly a lot of overlap in what we do in terms of a simple user interface, a really easy to create templating solution.

The big differentiation there is clearly that we’re fully white labels and we’re embedding this into some proprietary solution, typically in a way that really well fits into that ecosystem, whatever it might be in a seamless way. 

So, how did the company get started? 

Dave Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. So as I mentioned, digital signage is relatively new for us and we’re really excited about it, but ultimately, we operate in other verticals, so the opportunity originally was more like as we do in terms of media types, we support print, even large format prints.

For instance, we were at ISA earlier this year and our focus going to that was actually more on non-digital billboards and things like that. That was actually really interesting, by the way, as an aside, because, on the plane ride there, some people behind me were talking about one of our larger customers who’s actually a major player in digital signage and it opened my eyes to, wow, this is a much bigger company than I even realized.

and they’re having content issues. There must be lots of additional opportunities here. So, going into that show, again we shifted and pivoted. It’s like, Hey, you know what? Digital signage is actually a bigger opportunity than we thought. But to answer your question, again, starting in some of those other media types, we just saw the need for really simple white labeled, digital content creation, whether that be for ads, whether that’s just basic social media graphics and posts and basic print collateral.

There are lots of sites that are just offering like, whether that’s a printing website or whether that’s an agency just providing content to their users. Content is content and at the end of the day and it can be all sorts of things. We’ve really just focused on how do we create a really consistent experience for both motion and static?

How can we really seamlessly tie together? Even like print and digital content in a really simple to use easy editor and that has ended up applying to lots of industries and it’s been really exciting to find that out 

In terms of the business itself, what would be the breakdown roughly of what you’re doing for print, what you’re doing for online, what you’re doing for digital display, like digital signage is digital signage? 

Is digital signage a big component of it, or is it just something you’re trying to educate the market on and grow?

Dave Stewart: Yeah. Honestly, like I mentioned, we’ve just gotten into digital signage recently, so clearly it’s not a huge piece of the pie yet. We do have very large goals in digital signage Though, we actually do see digital signage being a pretty decent slice of the pie, within the next two years, but as of right now, I’d say that it’s hard because of the number of customers versus actual revenue. A lot of our revenue is tied to digital, for sure. So, there are a lot of use cases for ads, social media graphics, things like that, which were our bread and butter. We have a lot of print-focused customers. The revenue is not as high there.

There’s just more of them, quantity-wise. But I would say that both of those are fairly client counts evenly split. It’s definitely skewed more revenue-wise toward digital and what’s been really interesting is a lot of these digital-focused, even with social media. They are the ones that push us into video, right?

So, like motion content, as it pertains to digital signage, we were already creating HD-quality video just to try to serve that digital market with a priority to know about digital signage. So it’s been really interesting to see that a lot of the things that we’ve done can apply in other areas and it’s really just about how we can make a better mousetrap when it comes to end user simplicity of content customization and then programmatic API first control of a platform like this? 

Are you constrained at all in terms of formats and resolutions and things like that are obviously day to day things in digital signage?

Dave Stewart: Yeah, what’s really cool is that from the beginning, we’ve made it really easy to do basic resizing and that an end user could actually resize. So, if there’s a slightly different aspect ratio as we can obviously find very frequently on digital signage. Our algorithm will automatically move things around for you and try to keep the design kind of integrity maintained.

Now that doesn’t work perfectly when you have huge aspect ratio shifts, like clearly if you’re going portrait to landscape, it’s not going to necessarily work as well. But yeah, it is a big component of this. I would say that on the other side of it, on the programmatic side, we will have customers that will create different templates for slightly different aspect ratios and then ultimately they’ll use our API to populate all of them at once with the same data. So you’re now spitting out a whole bunch of creativity at one time, leveraging the same data images, text colors, all of it. Now you’ve just generated a whole pack for users that might have signs of different sizes.

So in terms of outputs, you can do HD video. 

Dave Stewart: Absolutely. Yeah. Now we haven’t gotten into a 4k yet. There hasn’t been demand because typically 4k is going to be created on professional desktop software. We can do it and we are thinking we’re going to get pushed into that.

and honestly, it’s just going to take one customer that kind of just tells us they really need it to pull the trigger on it, but absolutely, 1080p video we’ve been doing from the beginning. 

And are there any other issues around the output files? Like the video is 30 frames per second, that sort of thing?

Dave Stewart: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So we’re trying to follow all the industry standards there and honestly, even if a client has very specific requirements when it comes to Codecs and it comes to specific quality of specific items. We’re a very customizable platform like we have settings for all of those things that we can match what you need.

One of the bigger things has been transparent video. So, we actually are one of the few browser tools that actually supports transparent video, which is difficult because it’s not cross browser. There’s not one format that works cross browser on that and so importing transparent video files and maintaining them is obviously huge for things like background removal and things like that.

But that’s been a big one because combining that with our support for Lottie files, which I mentioned Lottie files earlier, but they’re really exciting what you can do with them and that plus just bit motion clips that you’ve either pulled from our stock libraries or that you’ve shot yourself.

Putting all that together, there’s a lot of really cool things you can do and they’re now attainable by a user who’s not a professional motion graphic artist. So yeah, it’s really cool. What’s possible now. 

So I’m very curious about the programmatic piece, and I think for people listening, it’s important to understand we’re not talking about programmatic advertising here where you’re talking about programmatic content creation.

Dave Stewart: Yeah, and I will say the overlap there is we do have some clients that are in ads and they will actually use our template platform to do A/B testing on those ads where we’ll pass in slightly different colors, slightly didn’t copy, to generate a bunch of creatives at once.

That’s our overlap in the ad space, but yes, when we talk about programmatic, I really just talk about programmatic content creation and the fact that with our API, you can generate all sorts of variations of content very quickly, including videos. We have some clients that don’t even show our editor to the user.

It’s really just about, Hey, I want to generate a video that’s 15 seconds from this template where it incorporates the customer’s brand, their colors and their tagline and their company name. So, spit this out and show them this. It’s that easy, right? You don’t even have to have them open the editor and do it themselves.

Can you give me a good example of how. You could use APIs and data tables and everything else to automate the production of a whole bunch of media pretty quickly. 

Dave Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. So if you are at a campaign that you were pushing, where you’re really just trying to get out consistent messaging and you were needing to do that again, I won’t even limit this to digital signage because a lot of our clients will choose us because of the fact that we can operate there and across their other marketing collateral at the same time. 

But the idea would be if the messaging is the same and you already have branded templates that are the starting point for a lot of different content you might be creating, great. Pass in the mess, the specific messaging, pass in specific keywords to generate images or pass in the specific images directly. Let us fill all of those in at once and generate a whole campaign pack for you in one shot.

What about for scale? Let’s say you have, I don’t know, a retailer that has 800 locations across North America and they want to be hyperlocal about the marketing or messaging or, “Here’s our store manager for this location” or whatever. They have a template. They want to knock out 800 unique versions of this or with some variations on it.

What kind of time is involved in doing that? 

Dave Stewart: It’s a great question. I’m glad you brought that model because we were actually operating in the franchise space before we even looked into digital signage at all because franchises specifically that have these locations all over the place had this issue with print, had this issue with social media that’s been around for a very long time and so they would come to us because what will happen is those store managers or locations are either one requesting individual personalized graphics from the corporate design team on a very regular basis and kind of and completely, taking off all their time doing that, or two, they’re going rogue and building off-brand content and it looks terrible and the marketing manager is finding it online and is just pissed off. 

So one of those two things is happening and where we would come in is look, the only way that you’re going to solve that is if you make it easy for them, because if it’s not easy, they’re going to try and do it themselves. or if they have to wait for you to do it for them, they will do it themselves. So the only way to do it is, Hey, how do we make this such an easy process that anybody can come in and feel like this is going to be the fastest way anyway and it’s also going to look great. Why not use that? So ultimately what will happen is, again, the brand manager, corporate team, or whoever is going to create the template. Ultimately, that franchise, franchisee, that store manager, whoever it is, is going to log into the system and they’re going to find the template. 

If they just and , most of the time, these are super locked down. So I have this template and ultimately, I just want to let the store put their store hours right here and maybe some sort of sale information on a specific percentage discount on something, whatever that thing might be and so literally, the user is just going to click that, change the text and then export it, right? It doesn’t take any time whenever you’ve really focused on the template. 

So yeah, they can’t go in and change it to Comic Sans or put in a picture of their dog or whatever. 

Dave Stewart: No, our locking feature is something we spent a lot of time on. You can take it very far. Most of our clients will lock down almost everything, but we’ve made it to where you have full control over exactly what users can and can’t do. 

You were talking earlier about Canva and there are a few kinds of platforms out there that are variations on this, or do some of what you’re doing. I’m also thinking about Promo and Shaker Media over in Korea.

When you get asked about your company versus those kinds of companies, particularly Canva, what do you say? 

Dave Stewart: Yeah, no, absolutely. It’s really interesting because, again, we don’t really compete with Canva, like even with Canva Enterprise solution, we don’t really compete with them because ultimately, customers are coming to us because they want this white-labeled and embeddable into their own platform or make it seem proprietary. They want to have control. 

Right now, when you go to Canva, you have no control, right? They control the interface. They control the layout. They control the flow. You have zero say in terms of what the user then can do and where they can go and go off crazy and get lost inside the Canva ecosystem. We’re like the opposite, right? The whole goal of this is you make it what you want. You show exactly what you want. You lock down what you want and it looks like it’s yours and that’s why people are going to come to us. 

A lot of overlap and functionality, like you said, when it comes to content creation, features and things like that, we definitely have focused on more of some of the more niche-specific things that Canva hasn’t, like for instance, for print, we have full CMYK capability, Canva doesn’t really. It’s a conversion process for them, but we started from the ground up. For large format prints, we support really large format printing for things like large banners and things. That’s not something you’re really going to do on Canva. For video, this idea that we can support, like these, Lottie files and transparent video, like Canva just launched Lottie files, but their implementation is really simple where you can only really use basic, almost GIF-type content. We’ve taken it way further. We just go deeper on the more professional aspects and then, again, are more focused on the white-label, embeddable nature of it. 

You have a booth of some kind at Digital Signage Experience. I assume you’re there to start building partnerships and creating awareness that you exist.

If I’m a CMS software company, that is probably the best example, what kind of work is involved if I say, “This is awesome, I’d love to integrate this into my overall solutions offer and have it white labeled.” Is that a three-month journey, a twelve-month journey, or allocating five people to work on it for a month or just how does all that come together?

Dave Stewart: Yeah, that’s a great question. Now we’re really excited about DSE coming up. This is the first time we’re even attending and we’re really excited to exhibit based on, again, what we’ve heard and who’s going to be there. So super excited about that and I’d say that when it comes to who we’re trying to reach there and understanding how it would work to work with us, for a CMS company, honestly, our messaging, you’ll see this in our booth is all about and we feel like you’ve ever actually tried to do some level of content creation already as part of a platform and so our messaging is mostly, “Hey, let’s upgrade that. Let’s make that a little better. Let’s improve that inside of your system because we can do that and make it still feel like it’s yours.” 

So that is our focus in terms of messaging to them and I would say that in terms of the actual implementation for a company like that, we have a lot of walk-before-you-run type solutions when it comes to integrations. So a lot of our customers will actually start by initially just using our kind of turnkey portal that we have out of the box and then getting their initial customer buying on there and starting to create the templates that way, before actually doing the deep integration. While they’re doing that, they’re slowly starting to build the integration in and they could do a really basic integration where they’re mostly just embedding all of our components in a simple way and then facilitating fairly basic workflows and then that’s like a starting point. Then we would say that the next step is, okay, how do we incorporate some of the other data that you have in your CMS to do the automatic population of content where we can take event-specific information or location-specific information and start injecting it automatically, leveraging our API.

So that would be like a second step and then how do we make sure that this feels seamless at every part of your workflow, maybe that’s a third step. So we would say that a really basic integration takes a team one or two months, typically, just to get started and then we would say that if you’re doing something really deep, maybe a few months after that, over time, starting to get it ingrained more and more.

And what are the commercial aspects of this? If I am a CMS software company, I think this is really intriguing. What’s it going to cost me to work with Design Huddle? 

Dave Stewart: Yeah. So again, being enterprise-focused, we found that there are no two customers alike. We actually assign what we call personas to their end users and we say, we have some customers, like their users come into the system once a year and we have some customers where they’re using the system every day. We can’t price that the same; it’s going to be a little bit different. When we talk about API-driven fully use cases where there’s no end-user or direct interaction with our editor, that’s a little simpler because we can just price it based on API activity and it’s fairly straightforward. But when we talk about end users, no users are the same, so we actually do a pretty custom proposal process for customers and we dig into their specific use cases and try to assign a persona to these users. Still, ultimately, the idea would be that, in a user-based kind of pricing proposal like that, the more users you bundle, the bigger discount there is and then we have overage tiers where the cost per user gets cheaper as they grow. 

The idea is that we’re scaling together and things get cheaper and you get to get more profitable over time. 

But for the purposes of referencing this, I’m sure there are people listening, thinking this is really interesting, but is this going to cost me like a quarter million dollars or something? 

Dave Stewart: Oh, no! 

It’s $500 for Starter, $750 a month for Pro and then you’ve got Enterprise and as you said, that depends on all kinds of variables. 

Dave Stewart: Yeah and each one of those, just to be clear, includes a certain number of users, right? and the number of users that’s included, again, is getting into what I was just trying to describe as it can vary a little bit. But yes, we’re definitely not a quarter-million-dollar product, starting point, right? We have a basic setup fee, which is usually in the low thousand s and then, in the hundreds typically for most initial engagements or low thousand s. 

For that setup, that’s because you’re going to spend all this time working with your partner companies to sort out how to do this.

Dave Stewart: We are very hands-on. I know a lot of companies say that, but honestly, for us, it’s a huge waste of our time to spend a lot of time with you upfront, try to get it going and then it does not succeed. So we do everything we possibly can at the beginning of the engagement to make sure that you have the tools you need.

We actually create custom documentation for every customer that lays out exactly what they need to do based on a consultation session where we talk through the specific platform, what they need to do, what they’re trying to accomplish, give them tips and tricks and advice based on what we’ve seen successful for other customers. That’s all part of it. In addition, obviously, training for content creation, like getting your templates in the system. All of that is very front-loaded and so that’s where our setup fee is really focusing on that initial time we’re going to spend with you to make sure that it’s successful.

Yeah, I’ve certainly seen some setup fees from software companies where I thought, okay, that’s just a cash grab. But that definitely doesn’t sound like the case here.

Dave Stewart: No, it really isn’t. Honestly, we’re probably doing that at a cost, to be honest and then the idea is that once you’re in, it’s a great thing, like as much as we make our team available around the clock to answer, to always be around support wise, like we hear, as you can imagine, less and less from clients over time, right?

So if we can make them successful at the beginning, They’re really easy long term and we’re just growing together and they’re happy and, then, all of our support costs are front-loaded for that reason. 

You’re a virtual company, West Coast. How many people are in the company?

Dave Stewart: So yeah, the latest count is, I’m about to hire another one, so around 12-13. We’re relatively small. 

Canva’s got 3,500 or something like that? 

Dave Stewart: Oh yeah and it’s fun, right? We’re a really nimble team. You know, this is my second go-around. My last company, I took it to about 150 employees before I exited, so we’re still pretty early on our journey here and that’s really exciting for us because we see so much opportunity in this. 

I do expect this to grow a lot in the next two years. but we are a lean team of seasoned and professional software professionals and we’re able to do a lot with a fairly small team right now. 

And is this bootstrapped or venture-backed?

Dave Stewart: Yeah, great question. My previous company actually started in the 2009 timeframe when everything crashed and there was really no money going around the way that it was capitalized. It ended up biting me in the end, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. 

So going into this, my partners and I were really trying to bootstrap this from the beginning. I wanted full control over how this is going to work. That said, very early on, we had a large company come to us and say, “Hey, we really want to use you guys, but we’re too worried about whether you’re going to be around next year.”

That company is Smartsheet, right? They own a company called Brand folder, which was the one interested in us. Smartsheets is a public company, they’re very large, so they ended up becoming a small minority partner. They did basically a strategic round with us. That’s a very small percentage, but ultimately it gives a lot of people a little bit more comfortability working with us because they’re our backstop. The only reason that they invested was really just to make sure that we were going to stick around because they were going to be so invested in us.

So they’re there for that reason that said we are fully, sustainably and profitable at this point. So we, actually, are currently setting our own. Of course, we’re in a really good position and we’re excited about that coming from my previous experience.

If people are going to DSE, they’ll be able to find you on the exhibit floor and I know you’re coming to the mixer; and if they want to find you online, how do they do that?

Dave Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. They can definitely check out our website, designhuddle.com. You can reach out to schedule some time with us.

We are doing some of the DSE kind of promotional material. You may have just seen an email about us there where you can schedule some time with us at the show. but yeah, we would love to hear from you. We’d love to talk with everyone. As I mentioned, we’re excited to learn more about this industry and get deeper into it and we’d love to have all the conversations we need to figure that out.

Great. All right, thank you, Dave. Much appreciated. 

Dave Stewart: Awesome. Thanks so much, Dave. It was a pleasure.

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