“The mic still smokin', I ain't once go hoarse”
— Nas, WTF SMH
It's been exactly one year since posting an update for Hypermatic's 2nd birthday (From One to Two), so here's another annual recap to celebrate Hypermatic turning 3 years old today!
Some hits to celebrate from 2022 (tl;dr)
- 0 investors and $0 funding (still happily bootstrapped/default alive)
- 1 brand new product shipped (Commentful)
- 1 full rebrand rolled out
- 39 new YouTube tutorials recorded
- 562 new product updates and improvements shipped
- 1,298 total followers on our Figma Community profile (up from 690 a year ago)
- 570,000+ users (up from 290,000 a year ago)
Some new feature highlights shipped in the last 6 months (since July 2022)
Besides the usual bug fixes, customer requests, and other smaller enhancements, these were some of the other new features that made their way into the Hypermatic Twitter feed (which is mainly used to keep a record of these changes) over the last 6 months:
- Layer selection-based filtering to Bannerify
- Image carousels to Emailify
- Spreadsheet → Table imports to CopyDoc
- Support for full-width sections to Emailify
- Layer selection exports to Convertify
- Lossless GIF compression to Bannerify!
- Auto-layout support to HyperCrop
- Spreadsheet → Table imports to Emailify
- Editable content areas for Mailchimp templates to Emailify
- Retina GIFs support to Emailify
- Editable content areas for Klaviyo templates to Emailify
- Conditional tags for Localization imports to Emailify
- Layout Validation to Emailify
- EPS (PostScript) exports to Convertify
- New accessibility updates to Emailify
- Lokalise API integration feature to Emailify
- Intercom support to Emailify
- HTML email signature support to Emailify
- 3 new Adobe XD/AE export options to Convertify
- Mailjet integration to Emailify
- Adobe XD → Figma importer to Convertify
- Animated WebP image support to TinyImage
- Social Cards to Emailify
- Suto-scaling for After Effects comps to Convertify
- Animated WebP image exports to Bannerify
- Sendinblue integration to Emailify
- Audio support for MP4 video exports to Bannerify
- Google Sheets → Figma importer to Convertify
- RTL (right-to-left) text support to Emailify
- Animated MP4 video exports to TinyImage
- Google Docs → Figma importer to Convertify
- Rich text support for Localizations to Emailify
- Support for Spreadsheet Tabs in content imports to CopyDoc
- Loom video embeds to Pitchdeck
- Lottie animation embeds to Pitchdeck
- Google Form embeds to Pitchdeck
- Support for Password-Protected Websites to Pixelay
Some misses from 2022 (The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows)
While lots of great features and improvements were released this year, and the number of people using Hypermatic to automate their workflows has doubled in the last 12 months (which is awesome!), there were also a bunch of misses or unexpected events that threw off previous plans.
“It ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward.”
As I covered in the July 2022 update, the first half of was quite full on and delivered a bunch of curve balls:
- Finally getting Commentful shipped
- Doing a rebrand for the business to avoid copyright issues
- Russia/Ukraine war causing the loss of many customers
- Figma bugs causing some issues in our products for 4-6 weeks
- Figma update causing a significant decrease in new installs
By the time July rolled around, it felt like a great time to pause and reset for the rest of the year to catch up on any time lost from the events above; however, as is the rule with business, there was another big surprise around the corner.
In September 2022, Adobe aquired Figma, which was the biggest news and gave rise to the most fervor I can recall seeing in the design community. In the context of Hypermatic, we had been working on an XD to Figma importer for Convertify for months prior to the acquisition, which we ended up releasing a week or so after the news. Based on some interviews and tweets I've seen with people from Adobe, the acquisition news means that Adobe XD is effectively dead and will likely be discontinued in the future.
Now that the acquisition has already happened, and that all development of XD itself has been stopped, that also means that any upcoming integrations Hypermatic was going to ship for XD have now met the same fate. Any time spent on these so far is a sunk-cost, and further time invested into them would become an opportunity cost; there's no reason to waste time building something for a platform that is destined to wither away.
On the topic of products, while we launched Commentful earlier this year, and I'm happy with how it turned out and how the feedback from customers, I do think that the initial version took too long to ship, and in hindsight I would have learned my own lesson from previous products and got it out there sooner, rather than working on it for a few more months behind the scenes to try and anticipate every possible customer request.
2x is the new 3x
While some VCs have called Hypermatic a "lifestyle business" (which is true, in the same way that The Sopranos is a "lifestyle series"), I have always prioritized making this startup profitable and sustainable over the long-term, without taking on any investment or having any outside influence that would compromise the future vision for it.
During 2020-2021, it felt like things were pretty crazy with the amount of capital being invested in all these different startups, at way higher valuations their current earnings (if they had any at all). For some, it was probably a good idea to take advantage of this, but I think it also resulted in a huge excess in hiring and waste in terms of how that capital was spent based on overestimating some of the apparent trends we were seeing during that time of abundance.
Now that valuations have plummeted, and the environment for raising more capital is nothing like the previous couple of years, I think lots of companies (and especially startups) are going to have to pivot to a similar focus on becoming profitable and sustainable by delivering real value to their customers.
“2x is the new 3x. Meaning that: Given economic headwinds, 2x YoY growth over the next year will be as impressive (or more) as growing 3x last year, assuming a reasonable burn multiple.”
— David Sacks, Craft Ventures
With this "new normal" hitting home, and 2023-2025 all but certain to be much harder to grow than 2020-2022, the priority should be to focus and double-down on delivering real value to customers, and cut burn-rate enough to stay alive and come out the other end even stronger.
As mentioned in the previous mid-year update from 2022, this was (and remains) the outlook for Hypermatic, too:
“Hypermatic is proudly self-funded, default alive and default investible, with high enough free cash flow and a low enough burn-rate to allow the business to continue indefinitely creating value for all of our customers over the long term.”
There is no expectation or extra efforts being put towards trying to grow 3x, or even 2x; even a steady plateau for the next couple of years is totally fine. As long as we're still alive, it allows for more product development with a focus on the long term, and by creating more value now, we can offset and capture more of that value in the future.
recession “vibe shift” is coming
Not to pick on one publication, but to use as a consistent benchmark for the tone of the UX and design space over the last couple of years, it's interesting to look back and see how different the The State of UX in 2021 is compared to The State of UX in 2023.
By its own admission, the 2021 report had nothing to do with trends (or much about design) at all. When times were good, and companies were hiring like maniacs to fill design roles, it was easy to think things were on cruise-control, and designers could (and "should") expand their focus "beyond" their role:
“Not trends, but lessons. Lessons on how to make an impact beyond our products, how to collaborate beyond Zoom calls, how to organize ourselves beyond our bubbles, and how to improve our craft beyond artboards. Lessons from voices we still don’t hear as often in the design mainstream — but we should.”
Compare this with the 2023 report, titled A Vibe Shift Is Coming, which seems to make a hairpin turn away from the dogmatic list of 100 lessons in 2021, which were sometimes related to design, such as "Empathy is not enough", "It’s ok to slow down." and "Wash your hands", to now touting the need for designers to focus on adding value, and to make the case for why companies should invest in design:
“Companies cannot afford leaders who are only good at talking and not as good at delivering... when budgets are tight, the case for investing in design needs to be even tighter.”
In the same way that investors are shifting their portfolios to be more weighted towards value than growth stocks, what this "vibe shift" feeling that the UX report seems to reflect is the fact that the underlying excesses of the 0% interest-rate era is over. The party that culminated in the bubble during 2020-2021 (peaking in January 2022) has now come to an end.
The reality is that we will be in recession and an environment where rates and inflation will both remain higher for longer, which is why there have been ~152,542 layoffs at ~993 tech companies this year, because these companies know that things have changed and they need to prepare to stay alive through at least the next 2 years.
Software AI is eating the world design
Speaking of "vibe shifts" — back in 2018, I gave a talk at the DesignOps Melbourne meetup called Insanely Inevitable where I was talking about how automating and AI is super underestimated in design:
“I think that machine learning AI and automation are very underestimated in the design space. There's there's not really a whole bunch of chatter around it... but in general, I think that these are very, very underestimated for the future of design; and I'm not talking about the next decade I'm talking about the next few years.”
— Adam Brock, Insanely Inevitable
I remember talking to some designers in the audience afterward, where this notion was largely seen as a joke, or at least too far into the future to be seriously thinking about at the time, yet here we are, just 4 years later, and we have seen amazing breakthroughs in the space (such as ChatGPT, DALLE-2 and StableDiffusion).
As I (half) joked in the talk, where I showed a tweet from Jon Gold asking "which one of the two possible websites are you currently designing?", accompanied by a image of two very common website landing page designs; which to me, just made it super obvious that it was inevitable that there would eventually be an AI model trained to understand UI design and be able to create mockups (or even better, code) that was comparable to what a designer would come up with.
As we intuitively know, and as "science confirms", many websites do look the same, which seems like it will only increase how rapidly this AI revolution will start to touch of almost every aspect of how we currently go about designing and building things for the web.
It will seem obvious when we look back that the processes we clung on to for so many years were inefficient and didn't make much sense, but rather than replacing designers or developers, I think that these new breakthroughs will compliment our workflows instead.
These breakthroughs and tools are also going to get commoditised pretty quickly and the cost will be driven down to zero, so I think this will help drive innovation around how to utilize it best to create value.
If Github Copilot makes someone 20% more efficient as a a developer, but everyone is using Copilot (or something similar), then the productivity gains are evenly distributed and normalized, so you'll need to provide specific value some other way.
Eventually, I think there will be "Copilot" for everything, and it will just become totally normal and invisible, and it's already harder to imagine areas of design and development that won't be impacted or enhanced by these advancements in the AI space.
Looking ahead to 2023 for Hypermatic
As I mentioned in the July 2022 update, I really wanted to double down on all of our existing products and get them into a great spot by the end of the year, by focusing on a bunch of features and updates that have been on the todo list for a while and would deliver the most value to our customers.
By making sure all the existing products are stable and have a straong foundation to build upon where needed, this will also free up more time in 2023 to start shifting more focus into a releasing brand new product (as well as shipping some cool new planned features across the board for the existing products). The "one thing" for the next year is to ship the first version of this brand new product that has been in development for a couple of years now.
It's really easy to get swept up or distracted by these genuinely exciting advancements in AI, this new product won't be "AI first". However, this is definitely something I'm very mindful of planning for in the future, and making sure the technical groundwork is built in a way that will lend itself to enhancing the value of the product using AI in the future. I think that the developments I wrote about in the section above are going to be extremely useful to augment many (if not all) of the Hypermatic products.
The big lesson for me from 2022 is that Only The Paranoid Survive, so as much as I'd like to think that nothing will come up to interfere with these goals for 2023, I'm sure there will be a bunch of unknown unknowns to deal with, and that's okay, too. I'm ready to take on whatever 2023 has to throw, and as always, firmly focused on the long-term; always moving step by step, focused on doing one thing at a time, on a path that's directionally correct.