New York City startup InVision has raised $1.5 million in seed funding to help companies answer an important question: Are we building something that people will actually want to use?
The funding comes from FirstMark Capital. Managing director Amish Jani says he was excited to invest because, for one thing, co-founders Clark Valberg and Ben Nadel are addressing a real problem that they faced. InVision came out of the pair’s web design consultancy, where they say they were frustrated by the lack of tools for creating a design prototype that actually provided a reasonable stand-in for the finished product.
There are other prototyping tools out there, but none, Valberg says, that incorporate everything that InVision tries to do well. He argues that prototypes need to look as beautiful as you want the final product to be, while also incorporating real interactions. They also need to be seen in a real context — namely, a normal web browser. So InVision customers create the screens in Adobe’s designer-friendly tools like Photoshop, then link those screens up to add basic interactivity, and they can share the prototypes through a link (which can be password-protected).
Other features include the ability to create mobile prototypes and to collaborate with other designers. You can play with a sample prototype here.
The funding announcement comes with effusive praise from several startups, including InDinero and LaunchRock — InDinero CEO Jessica Mah, for example, calls InVision the company’s “secret weapon” which has “completely changed our design process.” Jani says FirstMark’s portfolio companies were excited about the product too, and they had plenty of feature requests. At the same time, the InVision website lists some bigger companies like Google and Whole Foods as customers. Altogether, the startup says it has been used by 19,000 designers to create 118,000 screens.
In some ways, the approach that Valberg advocates, where companies run tests on multiple prototypes before writing a single line of code, runs counter to a current branch of Silicon Valley wisdom, which calls for startups to release a real product to at least a limited group of users as quickly as people. Valberg isn’t opposed to iterating based on user feedback, but he argues that it’s better to get much of that initial iteration process out of the way beforehand, before you “lose a lot of control” by making your product publicly available. Valberg also argues that InVision puts the big product decisions back into the hands of the designers, not the engineers.
“Designers are the future of product creation,” he says. “The engineers ruled at the beginning … but now the question is who can create something that’s emotionally appealing and meaningful to our lives. The ones who are best equipped to do that are the designers.”
Valberg says that InVision will become more of a platform this year, incorporating a wider range of ways to collect user feedback.