Wandering the startup alley of Disrupt as a tech reporter can be overwhelming. Startups are paying upwards of $1,500 (USD) for only a pair of tickets and a tiny table to demo their products, so getting as many eyes as possible on their service or tools is paramount to their success at Disrupt.
Often times, founders and PR are aggressively hunting for press through the crowd in an attempt to snag that little bit of extra coverage. The competition in the air is thick with competitors lined up next to one another who all believe that their product will change the world, and aside from a few standouts, the rest have become a blur.
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For those who can’t afford to purchase tickets, it seems they’ve found a sneakier way to infiltrate TechCrunch Disrupt and showcase their products without having to pay the exorbitant fees. I’ve discovered one such entrepreneur (or rather, he discovered me) and pulled him aside for an interview with The Next Web.
Alex Prushynskyy is the 24-year-old Co-Founder of Wixci (a photo-sharing application for products on Android) alongside his partners and co-founders Aris Harutyunyan, Wixci CFO, and Bo Li, Wixci CTO. They’re an international team based in Moutain View, California that soft-launched last week on September 9 to a private beta of 250 people.
Check it out.
Sherilynn Macale (SM): What were you expecting to accomplish by getting into TechCrunch Disrupt?
Alex Prushynskyy (AP): I didn’t expect anything when I came over here. I knew it was going to be a lot of fun — a lot of smart people who I wanted to meet, and just speak with to get some feedback on the app. I never expected to be interviewed by a reporter! I feel starstruck.
SM: So you’re definitely going to tell your friends about The Next Web then, right?
AP: Oh definitely! It’s going to be all over my Facebook! Woo!
SM: What gave you the idea to sneak into Disrupt?
AP: So it’s an interesting story. We started on this journey about a year ago at the last TechCrunch Disrupt — we did the Hackathon and built our first initial prototype there. You only get two tickets if you pitch, so my partners went to check it out, then enjoyed the parties afterwards. It took us a year, but we finally pushed our first product a week ago for Android called Wixci. We did the same thing this year, and here I am pitching to The Next Web.
SM: What exactly is Wixci?
AP: Wixci is a picture sharing application for products you like. Could be a fashion item or any other product, and you then share those photos with your friends. It’s an okay product for now, but we’re definitely looking to raise money and make it rock. We’re already talking to a few investors.
SM: Where is Wixci based?
AP: I actually live in Mountain View. One of my partners lives in San Diego, and another lives in Santa Clara. We’re from all over.
SM: How many people do you have on your team?
AP: There’s only three of us and we’re all international. I’m originally from Russia. Aris, another of my partners, is from Armenia. And another of our partners, Bo, is from China. But we’re all here in the United States now.
SM: So who’s in charge of what, and who decides what happens next?
AP: Bo is responsible for everything that relates to mobile — coding, testing, the app store. I come up with most of the ideas, product development, wire framing, and Aris takes care of our financials but also helps out with product and market strategy.
SM: When you originally approached me, you said you were “bootstrapping” your way through the event. Can you give us the details?
AP: It just means working full time, nights and weekends, trying to talk to people and get the word out about your product. We don’t have any fancy press releases right now, so we’re just getting feedback about the application through face-to-face interactions. There’s a lot of having to put out fires by yourself, added on top of the fact that there’s no money in it at all — the app is free — and buying cheap phones off of Ebay just to do our own quality assurance and testing to see if our app actually works. Y’know. Bootstrapping!
SM: Have you seen any startups here that are similar to yours? What’s the competition like?
AP: Yeah, definitely. There are a few competitors of ours here. But our biggest competitor, Pose (who isn’t here today), is probably our biggest. The thing is that they’re only on iPhone. We’re an Android app, so if you’re a fan of fashion and have an Android, you should definitely be using Wixci — nobody else offers it on that platform. There’s a lot of similar ideas here, but there’s none that do it the way we do. Ours is different because you can actually follow a specific brand’s products.
SM: Any plans to be on any other platforms in the future, or are you sticking to Android?
AP: So we were planning to order an iPhone App in maybe a month or so — but it’s a three month process to develop it and polish it out. But we do also plan on building a full-blown web app as well.
SM: Has anyone noteworthy expressed interest in Wixci at all?
AP: Yeah, definitely! I actually ran into Chamillionaire out here, I showed him our app, and he sent me an email to have me keep in touch. It’s crazy.
SM: How do you plan on acquiring users?
AP: So our current “going-to-market” strategy is to push our product out to bloggers, fashion bloggers, and small brands who can leverage our platform to reach out to their consumers. We believe we’ve built something very powerful for them to broadcast their new looks. Instead of just publishing lookbooks that go nowhere, they can actually publish it to specific user groups that are actively engaging with their brand’s products.
SM: Do you actually plan to attend Disrupt legitimately with your own table and tickets in the future?
AP: Of course! We don’t mind paying! As long as there’s money in the bank, of course.
The world of startups and entrepreneurship isn’t always full of well-funded companies able to drop thousands of dollars at the drop of a hat. For companies like Wixci, the founders were able to take advantage of a loophole to get a peek at what it might be like to demo at Disrupt, effectively “getting their feet wet” before taking the plunge for tickets themselves. Luckily for them, The Next Web is always on the hunt for interesting stories to tell.
For those of you interested in taking Wixci for a spin, head to Wixci.com to sign up for the private beta. If you have any personal thoughts to share, chime in below.