A one man startup in Columbus Ohio called Objra is making it easier for people with just a little bit of graphics experience to reach past animated gifs and do actual animation renders using HTML5. Objra’s founder Eddie Bowen created Objra after noticing the poor methods used to share graphics on sites like Reddit.
“It struck me that jpegs and gifs are terrible ways of sharing graphics, but there isn’t an easy alternative. It’s just one step from rendering vector graphics to animating vector graphics. Then a light bulb went on and I realized I was fumbling towards a great design product.” he told nibletz.com in an interview. With that Objra was born.
For lack of more technical verbage, Objra allows anyone to get to their website and create animations using simple drag and drop placement. You can watch the animations render before your eyes, edit, and change whatever you would like before downloading them to share. If you’re on a budget or looking for something fast and easy, Objra may be the way to go.
We got a chance to talk with Bowen about Objra. Check out our interview below.
What is Objra?
Objra is a web-based HTML5 canvas authoring application. It produces graphics and animation for the web.
Here, let me show you: <iframe width=”480″ height=”300″ src=”http://objra.com/i/f9J” scrolling=”no” />
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
It’s a presentation app.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Objra is a one-man startup; my name is Eddie Bowen. My background is fairly complex; I’m English and was a visual arts major. I worked as a designer and then as an illustrator in London in the 1990s, working for magazines like The Face, Arena, Esquire, and MacUser. I also did an awful lot of music industry work for a bunch of techno labels. I moved to New York in 2000 and worked for GQ, Yahoo!, and Maxim. I started doing web design and evolved into a web developer.
Where are you based?
I’m currently based in Columbus, Ohio. I generally follow my wife around the country these days.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
Columbus is a great tech city, but I actually don’t really care for the startup scene. I’m much more focussed on the user scene because it’s happy users that make things worthwhile. One nice thing about Columbus is that it gives you a non-New York feel for the market; most of the designers I know in New York are preoccupied with status, which is a bit toxic for startups that aren’t famous yet.
How did you come up with the idea for Objra?
The original idea was in response to seeing image macros on Reddit. It struck me that jpegs and gifs are terrible ways of sharing graphics, but there isn’t an easy alternative. It’s just one step from rendering vector graphics to animating vector graphics. Then a light bulb went on and I realized I was fumbling towards a great design product.
How did you come up with the name?
Objra is short for Objects rendered and animated.
What problem does Objra solve?
There’s this great web technology out there called HTML5 canvas, but it is still considered an API for developers to use, rather than as a medium for designers. Objra makes canvas a design tool rather than a development tool.
What’s your secret sauce?
Objra’s unique proposition is the “edit” button; when you view an Objra animation you are given the opportunity to make your own derived version of it which you can then share. It’s the perfect environment for virally spreading a visual idea.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
Neither, and I’m not in a hurry to accept money right now. My burn rate is very low, largely because Objra is all vector, which doesn’t need much bandwidth. I started a blog a few years ago called Photoshop Disasters; I sold it a couple of years ago and that’s what’s funding my development phase.
This doesn’t mean I’m closed to investors, but what I do need is someone who will help me develop the business side of the project and help me connect to people who can, for instance, help me license Objra to third parties.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
It’s really about process, and using process to avoid being trapped by technical decisions.
I’ve built Objra from scratch about a dozen times using a variety of different browser technologies. I’d try to embrace the technology and model my application on the API that I was using. Every time, development would become progressively more complex until I reached a point where I simply couldn’t move forward. I’ve burnt through a lot of code doing this.
The epiphany I had was realizing that it’s much easier to develop an application if it is platform agnostic; the current version of Objra – version twelve or so – uses its own internal graphic language called Olang. Olang is structured to make me happy, rather than making someone else’s API happy. It’s been a very successful approach. It’s much easier to be effective if you’re happy and confident about your code.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
There’s a guy I worked for here in Columbus who taught me a lot about developing a product. His name is Matt Scantland and he runs a web development company called Innova. I learnt from him that it’s very effective to be very patient with people, to spend much more time listening than talking, but to be decisive when it comes to taking action.
What’s next for Objra?
There’s a military term where you describe a weapon being “fired in anger”, instead of taking practice shots. That’s where I’m at with Objra. It’s about ready to be fired in anger.