The Product Punks Interview: The London-based Software Engineer Making Bookmarks Fun Again
How Boris Tane is rebooting Delicious for the knowledge management age with Bkmark
Bookmarks have been the fundamental unit of the Internet since we first started sharing interesting links with our friends in chatrooms and email threads in the nineties.
But in the four years since Delicious failed to make bookmarking social, our relationship with our URLs has hardly changed. We're either not bookmarking them at all and leaving 100s of browser tabs open, or we're clipping them to tools like Notion and Evernote, which is overkill for quirky sites we just want to remember to send to our friends.
Founded by London-based software engineer Boris Tane, Bkmark is a lightweight extension that promises to bring sharing back to the forefront of our bookmarking workflow. Born out of lockdown boredom, Bkmark solves a problem familiar to anyone who lives and works on the Internet—how do we control the firehose of new links and websites coming at us every day and actually make them useful?
“It was full lockdown, you know, and there was nothing else to do,” explains Tane about his decision to start building Bkmark. “And I started thinking, OK, I’ve always had this problem with my bookmarks so I might do something about it. I talked to a few friends and they were like, yeah, I have the same problem. I was like, OK, it's probably not a huge problem, but it's a problem that exists. And there are probably people out there who are just like me and have two hundred, three hundred bookmarks all around the place. And that's when I started building.”
A serial maker, Tane embraced the build in public ethos for the first time with Bkmark, and it’s already played a big part in the product’s initial success. “The products that I built in the past were fun projects just for myself, you know, where I’d give myself a couple of weeks, three weeks, maybe one month to get it out,” says Tane about his previous side projects. “I was completely doing it wrong—in stealth mode, not talking to anyone, thinking that I know all the answers. I think the main difference with Bkmark is I put it on Product Hunt and then somehow I got onto Indie Hackers. And I was like, OK, I might go with this and talk openly about what I'm doing.”
What’s also been different this time is Tane cares deeply about what he’s creating with Bkmark. “I think the biggest difference between my previous projects is that I'm actually just doing something that interests me,” he continues. “It's not just a startup idea. There’s a lot of potential in something that I actually want to do. And there is this amazing community where I can exchange ideas with people, talk to people about what's going on.”
Tane already has bold plans for Bkmark, but he’s taking it one step at a time. “What I’m focused on is really making it helpful for the people that are using it now and the paying customers that I have now,” he explains. “I really need to be laser focused on just one or a couple of ideas, make sure that they are actually the things that my customers want, that solve that problem for them, and then move forward onto the next.”
It’s the next set of problems which are the most exciting, though—like helping indie hackers monetize their expertise through their bookmark collections; something that’s not really been done before. “There are a lot of opportunities, like allowing people to build collections of bookmarks on areas that they're experts in and selling those like we see a lot of people selling on Gumroad.” Tane continues. “Why not do that with bookmarks and things like that?”
Working full-time as a software engineer and building Bkmark on the side, Tane is already having to cope with the pressures that come with being a first-time founder. “As a founder, you have to do all those customer conversations. You have to decide what the pricing is going to look like.” he continues. “I’ve had to break away from being the tech guy who is always on his keyboard and looking at his terminal to the person who can talk to people and sell to people without being pushy, because no one wants to hear a sales pitch every single time they speak to you.” "
The effort Tane’s put in has been worth it, though. “Getting that first Stripe notification that you got paid for something you built, that was crazy.” he says, excitedly. “I was on the train and I received an email. That had never happened to me. Most people go from university, get a job. So we associate remuneration with labor, whereas getting that notification when you're not actually working, it's something fantastic.”
For Tane, though, Stripe payments are just a nice byproduct of the the buzz of building solutions to real people’s problems. “One of the best things has been all the customer conversations that I'm having,” he concludes. “Hearing people's stories, the problems that they're facing and trying to figure out how I can provide a solution to that. That is really, really cool.”
PUNKS & PRODUCTS.
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