When Pelin Kenez and her co-founders were at their previous company, they were constantly moving files between designers and developers. That ended up producing a hassle, with developers having to basically manually pull in elements from the design file.
That’s where Zeplin comes in. It uses software to better move files between designers and engineers, and it said it has raised $1.2 million. The investors include Elad Gil and Mike Maples, and also a few Turkish investors, Kenez said.
“We were working at a mobile company, after designing something, especially for the handoff process; we were always dealing with this problem,” Kenez said. “As a designer prepares the design, they have to hand it over to the developer. What they usually do is take out some PNGs and prepare this PDF file with all these annotations, so basically Zeplin automates this process.”
The goal is to help designers and engineers work together more seamlessly. Designers and developers essentially work in a shared workspace where elements like sizes, distances, fonts and icons move seamlessly back and forth without requiring a large design file that is essentially annotated with what the designer needs. The company charges based on how many active projects there are running, up to $100 per month for an unlimited number of projects.
When designers send over those files to engineers, they’ll automatically be able to get a bunch of different elements that they can insert directly into the build. That can be along the lines of color codes, and the main goal is to make it easier for engineers to do their jobs, as well as designers. The result, in theory, is that products get built faster. Zeplin even helps differentiate the necessary elements between iOS and Android.
Originally based in Istanbul, the company came out of Y Combinator’s most recent batch. They were looking at accelerators in the U.S. since many of their users were based there, and at the same time were closely following Paul Graham’s essays, Kenez said.
Kenez said the funding is largely to continue growing the company’s team, as well as having the founding team in San Francisco. Zeplin will maintain a team in Istanbul, and Kenez said she would decide whether or not to move the team to San Francisco or continue having two teams. That’s a challenging situation, having a team across the world, but there are plenty of success stories like Talkdesk that essentially had a cross-country team to begin with.
“For a seed round in Turkey it could take 2-3 months, and in San Francisco it was very fast,” Kenez said. “The investment and the whole startup scene is relatively new here.”
There’s certainly a challenge here. Design studio makers — like Adobe — may decide to throw their resources behind making a tool like this, and there are other companies like InVision that can end up as competition for a company like Zeplin. And of course, if it’s an area that Zeplin finds attractive, other startups could also go after the space. But the company says it has 85,000 users, 1,800 of which are paying customers. Zeplin has companies like Slack and Pinterest using the service as well, Kenez said.