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I'm Alex, the co-founder of Creative Tim, a startup that is generating over $500k/year licensing web design tools. I've designed most of our UI Kits and Dashboards and they are now used by over 330.000 web developers. AMA!

Alexandru Păduraru
Feb 7, 2018

Hi everyone,

I'm Alex, the co-founder of Creative Tim. I have a master degree in computer science and I really love doing web design. I'm 26 years old at the moment of this AMA.

We started as a 2 person web design agency in 2013 and we've seen some patterns while we build the interfaces for our clients. We decided to create some components that we can reuse for our clients in order to save time and money from the development. After we made the first set of components we posted them on our website and they got a lot of popularity. We've been featured in Product Hunt, Hacker News, Reddit.

Then we built some premium UI Kits like "Get Shit Done PRO" or "Material Kit PRO" and the revenue was basically growing 2.2x year over year.

At this moment our products can be found in different projects from small personal websites to large web applications or in different internal tools of governments, schools, different catalogs from Stanford, Harvard or enterprises like Vodafone, Orange etc. 

AMA! You can get in contact with me on Twitter or Facebook. If you need feedback that requests more writing: alex@creative-tim.com

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Could you kindly suggest some good web design tools for Linux?

Feb 9, 5:55AM EST0

If the website is built on web design tools from Weebly and GoDaddy, do you have to build a brand new website to improve SEO?

Feb 9, 3:37AM EST0

Hello! All of this sounds incredibily great! Are you operating in US or in EU?

Feb 8, 7:13AM EST0

Hi Roksana,

Thank you for your question. We are operating in EU, Romania but our products are sold globally from EU to the USA to China, Australia, Russia, Canada etc.

Feb 8, 8:26AM EST1
Show all 4 replies

What would be the actual tasks of front-end web developers who are working  in a big company?

Feb 4, 8:19PM EST0

Hi Poeeain,

Thank you for your question. Is that Mark Zuckerberg on your picture? :D

Feb 8, 8:25AM EST0

How can i learn to become a professional ux / ui designer ?

Please share me to your guideline.Let me hope to your kindly.

Last edited @ Feb 5, 3:23AM EST.
Feb 4, 8:11PM EST0

Hi Thu,

Thank you for your questions. I've responded to the same question to JEVIE P. Please check it there and if there are more questions don't hesitate to ask them.

Feb 8, 8:24AM EST0

If you weren’t into IT or web development, what do you think would your job be?

Feb 4, 6:50PM EST0

Hi,

Thank you for your question! If I wasn't in the web development business, I would 100% be in the interior/exterior design business. I really like to see the great design on different things. So I'm lucky that I can see that design on web pages now, otherwise, I would put my fingerprint on buildings and interiors of buildings.

Feb 7, 2:21PM EST0

How do you choose the best tools to use out of the many that are available ?

Feb 4, 6:16PM EST0

Hi Buchi,

Thank you for your question. I'm having so many "tools" that I use. At this moment my setup is something like this:

I can say that I'm very simple and I stick with "oldie but goldie" technologies than going and switching through all the new tools that appear every day. Hope this helps.

Feb 7, 3:11PM EST0

How do you know what branch of computer studies you need to take? Seeing to the fact that they are quite a number. And how do you know what kind of developer you'd like to be e.g. full stack, front-end or back-end?

Feb 4, 6:14PM EST0

Hi Buchi,

Thank you for your question. The answer here can be very very long as the domains are growing exponential. For the Frontend I recommend you to start with HTML, CSS, JS, jQuery + Ajax, Bootstrap, then frameworks like Angular, React, Vue.js and for the Backend, I would recommend starting with PHP, Ruby, Zend, Ruby on Rails and then you choose which one you like, then you go with databases like MySQL. I would recommend you to go through the courses from Free Code Camp. and then you will see exactly which you like better, front-end or back-end. I'm not so happy with the full stack name as you cannot be good at all the things, you can only be a master of something. Hope this helps.

Feb 8, 8:23AM EST0

Even if I enjoy what I'm doing, sometimes I'm losing motivation and don't feel like doing it. How can I get over this?

Feb 4, 6:16AM EST0

Hi Alin,

Thank you for your question. I've also responded a little bit to another question about motivation and what I do when things don't go so well. So please check that.

As an addition, you need to set some higher goals for 1-5 years, where you want to be and what you want to achieve in these years. The time will pass even if you feel like doing something or not do it, so you don't have many choices. When you have those "bad moments" I recommend you to get a couple of days of vacation where you get out of the daily routine so you can think and check again the 5 years plan. You have to know that great things take a lot of time and effort, nothing is built overnight.

Also listen to some motivational speeches from great guys like Jack Ma, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and you will see that everybody had and has his struggle and problems and times when things didn't work well and feel like you want to give up. These periods are normal.

You lose motivation when things don't happen right away and you don't have that "instant gratification", just be patient and continue your work:

Feb 8, 8:20AM EST0

Is your co-founder a friend of yours? Is it difficult to be partners with a friend especially when you don’t agree with certain things?

Feb 4, 4:29AM EST0

Hi Nickie,

Thank you for your question. The co-founder was a colleague from University. We worked on some projects for school and seen that we are fit, as one did web design and one did the code. Then the years passed and our attributions separated and we took care of a lot of things. We were very very different as persons and in ways that we did different things. We decided in the beginning that it should be better to let our egos aside and make the best decisions for the company. 

The secret here is to make sure that each of the founders has different roles and they don't step over each others' job, otherwise, you will have a lot of not productive discussions. Also, it is very important if you go 50-50 with somebody to decide on the execution level who will be the CEO and who will take care of the entrepreneurial part of the business. Then after each year you both evaluate the performance of that person and agree if it continues or you can switch the roles. Don't make the mistakes where both people have the same decision attribution on the company growth as that will result in a split between the founders.

Hope this helps.

Feb 8, 8:13AM EST0

Before Creative Tim, what would you consider your biggest achievement as a solo web designer/developer?

Feb 2, 3:14PM EST0

Hi Farayola,

Thank you for your question. Before starting Creative Tim, I've been doing websites for different clients for almost 1 year. So I consider that a very good achievement because before doing that, I was a student. I never really worked as a solo web designer, as I started to do this with my co-founder from the day 1. I was taking care of the design, the co-founder was taking care of the code. Hope this helps.

Feb 8, 8:09AM EST0

For someone who wants to start doing freelance work, what is tge best way to start?

Feb 2, 11:05AM EST0

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for your question. I gave some details about this on JEVIE P.'s question. On top of that, I recommend you to start building a Dribbble.com profile and then pay for a 20$/year so you can get hired for different projects. Hope this helps.

Feb 8, 8:03AM EST0

If you were to choose any company in the world to create a website for, who would it be?

Feb 2, 10:55AM EST0

Hi Megan,

Thank you for the interesting question. Sincerely, I never thought about that, but if I have to think right now, I would like to do it for one of these companies: AirBnB, Tesla, Dribbble or Stripe.

Feb 8, 7:59AM EST0

Probably I should ask this question on stack overflow, but it's not everyday I get the chance to have my question answered by someone so experienced, so here goes my questions:

what do I need to do to make my websites rank number one on search engines like Google and which set of skills do you think someone should have in order to develop a web app similar to soundcloud ?

Feb 2, 1:54AM EST0

Hi Helcio,

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, I don't have experience with SEO, we just build UI Kits and Dashboards. We hired somebody to help us with the SEO changes for our website. Maybe this will help: https://ahrefs.com/blog/learn-seo/ 

Feb 8, 7:58AM EST0

How did you market  your products?

Feb 2, 1:32AM EST0

Hi Gollapalli,

Thank you for your question. I've also responded a little bit about this subject on another question in this AMA so please check that too.

Basically, we just talked with a lot of people on twitter, forums, Facebook in the beginning. Then we appeared in different communities, blogs, newsletters. Then we've been involved in Startup Weekends and then the things started to get traction.

We sell our products only on our website for this moment. I've written a very complex article about all the steps that we did in the business and I recommend you to check it: "How my friends and I grew our side project into a $17,000/month business".

Hope this helps.

Feb 7, 2:50PM EST1

How did the people that needed your product find you at the very beginning?

Feb 1, 4:49AM EST0

Hi Stefania,

Thank you for your question. I've talked a little bit about this topic in the other questions, so please check them and I also highly recommend you to check the article that I wrote about how we built our startup from 0 to $17,000/month business. That was written 1 year ago and has a lot of useful information. It also contains all the steps that we took in building the business.

Hope this helps.

Feb 7, 2:55PM EST0

A great accomplishment at such a young age! What’s next for Creative Tim? What are your future plans?

Jan 30, 9:56PM EST0

Hi,

Thank you for the kind words and for the question. Our future plans are to continue the development of new design trends and to impact more and more people. We will probably start to create some video tutorials to help people understand also the process of building a Dashboard or an interface.

There are a lot of people which doesn't know where to start or what to do after they finish some Web Design courses. Hopefully, that will help more and more people understand why our products are so successful and how they should "think" when they build something for them or for their clients.

Feb 7, 2:46PM EST0

How old were you when you first designed a webpage? What was that about?

Jan 30, 1:28PM EST1

Hi Joy,

Thank you for your question. I've designed the first page when I was in 9th grade in high school, probably I was 15 years old. It wasn't a real design, I was trying to reproduce some pages in HTML + CSS for a client from vworker.com (some kind of freelancer.com). It was an e-commerce with some t-shirts and shoes, still, remember the struggle, haha!

Feb 7, 1:32PM EST0

What motivates you in your work? How do you keep the positive energy flowing?

Jan 29, 9:04PM EST2

Nice to meet you mister Bear!

Thank you for the questions. I'm motivated when I see great looking products/websites that work smooth. Our motto is "made with love for a better web", that means we want to give for free only high-quality templates, UI Kits, and Dashboards, so more and more people can use them to make their websites better and that will make a better experience for their customers. Of course, we need to make money, to pay our rent, salaries etc. but this isn't the first motivation. 

In a startup, you always have ups and downs and you have to be positive all the time in order to go over the bad periods. Here is a graph that I like about startups:

When I'm in that mood, I just play some nice Rap music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2ak_oBeC-I) or listen to motivational speeches like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhTMpxred2Y

Last edited @ Feb 7, 1:57PM EST.
Feb 7, 1:56PM EST1

What do you consider as your greatest achievement in the field of web design?

Jan 29, 5:31PM EST0

Hi Emily,

Thank you for your question. I think the greatest achievement is the impact that we have with our UI Kits and Dashboards. There are a huge number of websites that were built with our products. I'm 100% sure that those websites have a very good impact on the people that visit them every month. Here I'm talking about tens of millions of people that visit all the websites made with our products, every month. Hope this helps.

Feb 7, 2:43PM EST0

What were the challenges you faced as a start-up business? How did you overcome them?

Jan 29, 8:21AM EST1

Hi Moissona,

Thank you for your question. The biggest problem was that we didn't know where to start from, we didn’t have any Twitter followers, Facebook fans, or email list subscribers. We posted a lot of stuff about our freebies on various design forums and we used the “stalk web developers on Twitter” technique to spread the word about our products. 

At first, nobody really understood what we wanted to do. They didn’t understand the value we could provide to help them improve their businesses. We decided that it would be better to create a more complex product that would help people understand what we were doing.

Then we launched the Get Shit Done Kit, a UI Kit based on Bootstrap. It was featured on Designer News, and it was quite popular. We got over 11,000 users from that source, which was a huge spike for our business. We've got lucky that we've been featured there, as an influencer saw it while we were doing the twitter/forum techniques.

Then the things started to move smooth, as we grew from 2-3 persons/day to 200-300persons/day on our website.

Feb 7, 2:00PM EST0

When did you develop your love for web design? Who were your early influences?

Jan 29, 4:49AM EST0

Hi John,

Thank you for your questions. I started to love doing web design during the 3rd year of university. I was involved in some school projects where I was in charge to build the interfaces. I also started to learn Bootstrap and made a lot of changes on top of it. Seeing that I can "manipulate" the elements of the website with anything that is crossing my mind gave me a lot of freedom and power.

I really like the design made by Mike from Creative Mints and Ionut Zamfir.

Feb 7, 2:39PM EST0

For how long did you have to work on your web design skills before you decided to make it into a business?

Jan 28, 9:39PM EST1

Hi Megan,

Thank you for your question. Before starting the business, I was just playing with different tools like Photoshop, Xcode, Dreamweaver and programming languages like C, C++, Java, Objective C, HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, Ruby for around 6-7 years, starting from high school till the first year of business.

I was basically playing with them, nothing serious. I also had a couple of simple website projects on vworker.com (like freelancer.com). 

When I started the business, I was learning a lot of Bootstrap, Zend, and Ruby on Rails. I can say that I was a pretty noob on all the programming languages when the business started, I had to learn a lot while I was working for clients so you don't need a huge experience when you start something. Just jump off the cliff and build the plane on the way down :D

Feb 7, 2:06PM EST0

Please describe briefly what is the difference in the premium UI kits in “Get Shit Done PRO” and "Material Kit PRO”

Jan 28, 2:09PM EST0

Hi,

Thank you for your question. Both UI Kits have the same structure, that means they have:

  • basic components like buttons, social buttons, inputs, switches, tabs, navbars, footers
  • different types of cards, like blog, profile, pricing, testimonial, signup/login, contact us
  • example pages, like about us, landing page, product page, contact us page etc.

From the structure point of view, both products are almost identical, but from the design, colors, typography, spacing, icons, they are 2 different products. It is like you are looking at a Mercedes Benz and a BMW, both have 4 wheels, windows, steering wheel, engine, 5 seats etc but when you check them from the details point of view, they are different. They both satisfy the same need, taking you from point A to B (in our case, building great websites) but some prefer bright colors with light typography and rounded elements (like GSDK Pro) and some prefer Google's Material Design trend with bold typography, squared elements and Material icons (like Material Kit PRO).

Hope this information helps.

Feb 7, 2:36PM EST0

Did you notice significantly highest interest in one of the mentioned kits?

Feb 8, 12:52PM EST0

You mentioned that you started as a two-person agency in 2013. How many are on the team now? How has the company expanded?

Jan 28, 8:51AM EST3

Hi Cyndi,

Thank you for your questions. Yes, we started as 2 person agency, we've got 1 more persons in our team in the second year of business (2014) while we were doing websites for clients. Then in 2015, we've got 1 new person on the team, then in 2016, 2 more persons, 2017 4 more persons. Now we are 10 persons. We try to optimize our working flow in order to be more efficient and deliver more great products without getting too may people onboard. 

In the beginning, we used to deliver 1 product every 3 months, now we deliver almost 4-5 products/month while the quality of the code and design is growing with each launch.

Hope this helps.

Feb 7, 1:14PM EST0

What are your other hobbies and interests? What do you normally do when you are not in front of the computer?

Jan 28, 4:27AM EST0

Hi Kelvin,

Thank you for your questions. Usually, when I'm not in front of the computer, I'm probably reading or listening to music. I've read a lot in the last years and that helped me in my interactions with humans. I can recommend you some books that changed me 100%:

I also like the combo: travel + drink + party 😇

Feb 7, 2:59PM EST0

Where was your first office and how was it like? How about now?

Jan 28, 12:44AM EST0

Hi Caroline,

The first office was in a Starbucks in Romania, we used from there for 1-2 years. Then we moved into a 1 bedroom studio with our 4 persons' team. Then when we were 5 and wanted to grow the team, we moved in 4 rooms office. At this moment we are in that 4 rooms office.

Feb 7, 2:19PM EST0

What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you like the least?

Jan 27, 6:34PM EST0

Hi Mich,

Thank you for your question. I really like to do web design and to create interfaces. In the last period of time, I had to move from creating interfaces to doing a lot of management, business, partnerships etc. So, basically things that we, as creators, don't really like to do but we have to do in order to make sure the vision is implemented.

I really hate doing the accounting staff, we have a 3rd person who is responsible for that, but I still have to collect invoices and bank statements for him.

Feb 7, 2:15PM EST0

What kind of after-sales support are available to clients?

Jan 26, 9:09PM EST0

Hi Kitty,

Thank you for your question. At this moment, after a customer is buying something or is getting something for free, we offer fixes for the issues/bugs that they find without any additional payment. We have a "free forever updates" policy, that means people receive free updates without having to pay anything. This is also available for the support too.

On the other side, we do not make custom changes for our clients as that will make us lose the focus from building great products that everybody wants. For those people, usually, we give contacts of friends who have web agencies and can help them with customizations, as that is their main business.

Feb 7, 2:09PM EST0

How many clients have you served since you launched your business?

Jan 26, 11:43AM EST0

Hi Kgio,

Thank you for your question.

At this moment we have 349.000 web developers registered on our website (when I posted the AMA there were 330.000). From this amount, around 12.000 are customers who paid for something, all the others are developers who use our free products.

Hope this helps!

Feb 7, 9:35AM EST0

What was your first job? What did you do before you started your own web design company?

Jan 26, 8:32AM EST1

Hi Frank,

Thank you for your questions. Before starting Creative Tim, we used to work as a web agency. We got some clients and we basically made websites for them. Before doing this I was at the University of Mathematics and Computer Science. Basically, the timeline is:

1. 19 - 22 years old - Student

2. 22 - 23 years old - Starting own company and make websites for clients

3. 22-23 years old - Study in parallel with having a business a Master degree in Software Engineer

4. 23 years old - Realize that we can create some templates/UI kits to help us in the work for clients

5. 23 - 26  years old - Building Creative Tim

Hope this helps.

Feb 7, 9:32AM EST0

How did you market Creative Tim? What is your secret to marketing success?

Jan 26, 6:38AM EST0

Hi Iana,

Thank you for your question. 

Most of our marketing strategies consisted of submitting our content to different communities like Reddit, Product Hunt, Designer News, Hacker News, and Github. Some important subreddits that work well in our area include /r/web_design/r/html5/r/frontend, and /r/webdev.

We also paid between $100–200 for newsletter campaigns a couple of times. Even though the ROI ratio matched the amount we invested, the campaigns did not meet the expectations. (Maybe it was just our case that wasn’t profitable and it works better for others.)

We realized that the best business model for Creative Tim was freemium: we create high-quality freebies that help web developers build great websites, then release the PRO versions for those freebies, which contain more elements, sections, plugins, and example pages. In this way, we get a lot of traffic for freebies, while we monetize the PRO versions.

Hope this helps.

Feb 7, 9:25AM EST0
What advice can you give to web design artists who are just starting out in this type business? What trade secrets can you share?
Jan 26, 1:43AM EST0

Hi Jevie,

Thank you for your question. As Pablo Picasso said "Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal", I would recommend you, for the first 2-3 years of learning "to steal" from other persons/companies. Don't get me wrong, by "stealing" I mean trying to reproduce as much as possible of their techniques. Another advantage of stealing from other persons which are better than you, like 10-15 years of experience, means that you will form some habits and you will be forced to learn more in order to replicate what they build.

This is very important for a young designer as he needs to learn a lot of things, like Typography, Colors, Shapes, Shadows, Gradients and trying to mix will be a mess as the young designer doesn't have experience. This is also the purpose of evolution, we don't create the wheel again, we just get what other people build and make it better.

Here is an example of Apple "stealing" from Braun:  

Here are some great sources where you can find a lot of talent: 

  • https://dribbble.com/
  • https://behance.net/
  • https://awwwards.com/

I've also written an article a couple of months ago about how we built one of our products: The Anatomy of Light Bootstrap Dashboard. You will see there a lot of "secrets" that we made public.

Hope this helps!

Last edited @ Feb 7, 6:39AM EST.
Feb 7, 6:38AM EST0
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