/ Entrepreneurship

10 Questions for Studio Founder and CEO Joe Wilson

We started Studio with the belief that we can simplify the design process to a point where it’s accessible to everyone.

Joe Wilson is the CEO, Founder, and Lead Designer at Overlay Studio, Inc., a mobile development company based out of Provo, Utah. The company is best known for creating Studio, a design creation and sharing application for the iPhone. When the app first went public, Mashable wrote an article stating: “What Instagram Did For Photography, This App Will Do For Design.”

We managed to catch up with Wilson via email to discuss his background, Studio’s BoomStartup experience, dealing with investors, the future of Studio (will we see an Android version?), and much more. We threw a bunch of questions his way, and he was gracious enough to take the time to answer each one.

Here’s our conversation:

Beehive Startups:

Tell us about your background. Where did you go to school? What laid the foundation for you to start a mobile app development company?

Joe Wilson:

I grew up in Northeast Indiana, and came to Utah for school at BYU. I have a BS in Psychology (with an emphasis on the BS) from BYU.

I’ve been an Apple fanboy for a long time. I ordered the first iPhone the day it was announced. I had an opportunity to design an app when the SDK was first made public and loved every second of it. I’ve been designing apps ever since. “Starting a mobile company” isn’t really what we set out to do. We had an idea that we felt could really help people express themselves — that’s how Studio started.

Beehive Startups:

Tell us about what you were working on before Studio.

Joe Wilson:

I contracted for a long time here in the valley, working with lots of great people. I would list them all, but I don’t want to leave anyone out. One product I helped build that’s still available is SloPro. It’s still the #1 slow motion video app on iTunes, and it’s a fun app to use. Check it out, it’s free.

Beehive Startups:

Tell us about your BoomStartup experience. Would you recommend it to other Utah entrepreneurs? What did you think of the mentors? Did any mentors stick out?

Joe Wilson:

If you’re looking to raise money, Boom is a great route. The mentorship is extremely valuable, and it’s all driven towards helping you build a company. You’ll get a lot of candid feedback about your product and vision — if you have the right attitude, this can be very helpful in making good decisions and tackling problems early on.

All the mentors ‘stick out’ — they’re successful, smart people. I should probably mention Brad Hagen — he stuck out enough that he’s now a member of our core team, leading up biz dev.

Beehive Startups:

What has your experience with investors been like? What have you raised? Do you have any advice for Utah entrepreneurs looking to raise funds?

Joe Wilson:

We raised $1 million for our seed round. Our investors are very helpful and provide us with amazing resources. It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur. The smart investors (like ours) are taking the time to gather and distribute resources to their startups to help them succeed.

As far as advice goes, it’s pretty simple. Investors want to see traction. If you need money just to build a demo of your idea, you’re probably not going to get it. But if you can build something, set it free and see some results … then you can just say, “look, this works, we just need the resources to build and scale the whole vision.” That’s a much better path to funding; and in our experience, a much easier path to funding.

Beehive Startups:

Why build Studio? Why a design app?

Joe Wilson:

We believe design is a powerful tool. We started Studio with the belief that we can simplify the design process to a point where it’s accessible to everyone. We still believe that, and we’re seeing our users create and remix amazing things. Studio is the place you go to create something awesome, whatever that may mean to you personally.

Beehive Startups:

When did you first realize Studio was going to be a big success? Did you expect Studio to take off like it did? Who are some the recognizeable names that are using and promoting the app?

Joe Wilson:

Define big success. We did expect Studio to have a great launch, but we were still happy when it happened. We plan on Studio being a massive community with 10s of millions of users sharing creativity — so we spend our time looking towards the bright future.

It’s fun to tell someone that you’re a part of Studio and to hear them say, “I’ve heard of that,” or, “I have Studio!” But the truth is we won’t be satisfied until we’re the household name for mobile creativity/creation. We’re on our way — you’ll know when we get there.

We’ve had a few celebrities jump on. Madonna has a pack in Studio supporting her #ArtForFreedom campaign. Ashton Kutcher is also a user/investor.

Beehive Startups:

Tell me about the latest news from Studio. I noticed on Twitter that you’ve been working on an Android version of the app. Do you have a timeline for its release?

Joe Wilson:

We’re hoping Android will be available before Christmas 2013 — we’ve been hard at work on it. It’s a big initiative to launch on another platform, but we’re excited to expand Studio’s reach.

The big news will come within the first quarter of 2014. We have some really great things coming.

Beehive Startups:

What’s Studio’s revenue model?

Joe Wilson:

This is not something we typically share, as it’s part of our secret sauce. Studio will be profitable without ever displaying an ad to users. I’ll give you one hint: partnerships.

Beehive Startups:

Tell us about the Studio team and each member’s role.

Joe Wilson:

Studio was founded by Kevin Heap, Spencer Smith, and myself. We brought Brad Hagen on very early in the process to help with building the business.

Kevin and Spencer are the chief developers. Kevin’s main focus has been the design editor, while Spencer has built most of the social engine that drives interactions in Studio. If I can offer anyone trying to start a tech company the right advice it would be to surround yourself with talented people. Kevin & Spencer are world-class iOS developers. We’ve worked together for 4 years now. Trusting and respecting your co-founders abilities makes sailing much smoother.

Brad heads up biz dev for us. He’s been helping to create meaningful and lasting partnerships with influencers like Madonna, WhoWhatWear, and others.

I’m the lead designer on Studio. I’m currently in the middle of wading through tons of valuable user feedback. We’re doing a major redesign of Studio for early 2014 that will help people create in a much more fun and meaningful way.

Beehive Startups:

What advice do you have for up-and-coming mobile developers and designers?

Joe Wilson:

My advice is two-fold: 1) Be honest with yourself. Your ideas may be good, but even the best ideas have flaws and barriers to success. Be honest about what your challenges are and hit them head on. 2) Take all advice with a grain of salt. Seriously, this industry is only a few years old and it’s far from being permanently defined. No one really knows everything there is to know about developing a successful mobile project.

Beehive Startups:

It’s been exciting to watch Studio, a Utah-based startup founded by smart, talented mobile developers and designers, gain steam and momentum by building a great product and a great business the right way. We’re confident Studio will soon be a household name. We wish them nothing but success in the future. You’ll no doubt be hearing their name on this site again and again. We expect great things.

Published 12/14/2013