“Y'all know me, still the same ol' G
But I been low key.”
— Dr. Dre, Forgot About Dre
Besides posting new feature updates on our Twitter profile, announcing brand new plugins via our email newsletter, and writing articles on this website, we haven't really posted much about what's been going on here at Figmatic since our 2020 end of year update back in December.
Now that we've just hit the half way point of 2021, today seems like a good time to write a bit of an update here.
3 years ago (July 4th, 2018)
Before talking about 2021, I thought it was worth taking a pause and looking back to keep things in perspective. Exactly 3 years ago, the DesignOps Melbourne meetup that I used to co-run with my homie Ch'an Armstrong hosted a design-ops-melbourne-v0.0.5_figma July 4th Independence Day themed event, with special guests: cardboard cutouts of Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum.
We had many of the 100 attendees at the meetup bring their laptops and do a live "swarm" in Figma as part of the main talk called Why Figma will be remembered as a genre defining classic given by my friends Scott Moselen and Marty Coghlan.
I also gave a lightning talk called Life After Sketch – Featuring The Notorious F.I.G.. In the talk, I touched on a few trends that I saw continuing into the future, and why adopting Figma was the best bet for that future, and how you could make this happen at your company.
It's easy to forget, but back in 2018, using or advocating for adopting Figma was still somewhat of a fringe view in most companies; at least down here in Melbourne. It was a time when many companies had only just finally made the switch from Photoshop to Sketch, and the idea of doing that all again to another relatively new/"unproven" design tool was not something that was welcomed with arms wide open.
One only needs talk to any designer today in 2021, or keep track of the annual Design Tools Survey to see how radical and enthusiastic the shift to Figma has been in the years since then; especially with COVID-19 accelerating the trend of remote work and collaboration inside teams.
The last 6 months
The reason for looking back to 2018 is because it's always important to ask yourself if you're correct and just too early, or if you're actually just wrong.
When Figmatic was founded in 2019, the idea of building a startup based around Figma plugins had not been tried or validated yet. It was a pretty slow start, but after the first year, we had 60,000+ active plugin installs; today, we have 160,000+ active plugin installs. Even though this total number of installs is spread over 10 different Figma plugins, it has been very encouraging to see that people seem to be into the products that we're building.
We are a 100% self-funded company, which I still believe is an approach that will be sustainable for the long term in our case. I understand that this isn't a super popular decision in the startup space, where raising venture capital is almost a "todo" item on the founder's checklist, where it's not an "if", but "how much and how often?" to raise capital. I'm certainly not against venture capital, and I think it does make sense for many companies; especially where scaling fast or having network effects is critical to the make the business work.
While it might not sound as as cool as saying you've just raised $X million from firms "A, B and C", this was a very deliberate and important decision for me personally, because it means there are zero external pressures from investors or third parties. Essentially, it allows us to take risks and make decisions that are all about creating value over the long term. We never want to be in a position where we have to compromise on our integrity in order to pursue short-term growth for investors, at the expense of the things that matter most: our customers, products and mission.
This is partly why you don't hear much from us very often. We are not "out there" constantly demanding valueable time and attention from you by hosting webinars, having endless meetings, attending conferences, releasing free e-books, chasing "growth hacks", being on Twitter 24/7 or doing anything else to try and hype up what we're building. First of all, we're too busy actually working for any of that, but more importantly; none of that has anything to do with our mission, which is to reduce the distance between design and production closer to zero.
I believe that focusing on building great products that save hours or days worth of time for our customers, coupled with making it really easy for anyone to discover and use them, is the best shot we have at making a real change in some of these legacy workflows. So, it's no surprise that the last 6 months here have been laser-focused on building the best Figma plugins, and consistently shipping things that add real value to our amazing customers. While it sounds boring, I believe this is the best way for us to generate long term growth and value, both for Figmatic and our customers.
Since the last update in December 2020, we've released a brand new Figma plugin called Emailify, launched our Pro Bundle, published a collection of free Figma templates, had hundreds of conversations with our customers, and shipped dozens of new features and updates across all of our Figma plugins.
Figmatic is still a 7 day a week, ~12 hour per day startup. As I mentioned in the previous update, I personally don't subscribe to the idea that you can get away with working for a few hours per day if you just really only focus on the important things. Instead, I believe by having hyper-focus on the important things and spending more hours on it, you get a way better outcome than the approach with less absolute hours.
Working harder and/or longer hours has got a bad wrap in recent times. While it's certainly important to stay healthy, get good sleep and spend time with people you care about or with your hobbies, there is certainly something to be said for working hard on something that you truly enjoy.
“But you see," said Roark quietly, "I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards — and I set my own standards.”
When you have a clear view of the future and what you know needs to be built, then the most important thing is getting there as quickly as possible. By removing everything that's unnecessary (meetings, distractions, focusing on vanity metrics etc) to stay focused and work more hours than you would in a "normal" workday (provided you're still actually productive), theoretically, one can move twice as fast towards that future.
The next 6 months
The list of upcoming features and updates for all of our Figma plugins is exciting. Every single day here is spent focused on building more of what both we and our customers believe are the highest priority on any given week for our plugins. Just in this last week alone, we've built a browser extension for our Pixelay plugin, shipped a couple of dozen features to our Bannerify plugin, and published a bunch of updates to a few of our other plugins.
In addition to these daily and weekly updates to our existing plugins, we're also focused on developing brand new products in parallel, which will be released in the future and improved over the long term.
So, looking towards the future, I'm happy to confirm that we've had another brand new Figma plugin under development since last year, and it's shaping up to be one of the coolest we've released so far. As with our other plugins, it fits firmly with our sole mission of bringing the distance between design and production closer to zero.
Lots of the learnings that have come from building all of our other plugins have helped direct this new plugin. There was also a bunch of time dedicated early on (before writing code) to think deeply through the philosophy behind how this new plugin will go about tackling some of these problems that it's being designed to solve.
Outside of continuing to update our existing Figma plugins and help our customers improve their effectiveness every day, the big focus for the rest of this year will be this brand new plugin. If it's half as good as I think it can be, then you're really going enjoy using it as part of your workflow.
So just chill, 'til the next episode.