When Adrian Zuzic and Matej Robar set out to be entrepreneurs, the Slovenian friends had no clear idea of what they wanted to invent, much less how they'd go about inventing it.
Yet after an agonizing and largely undirected period of trial and error, what they ended up inventing was Blooki.st, a blogging platform that, oddly enough, lets visitors wander through photographs, essays and personal stories in much the same aimless yet rewarding way Zuzic and Robar created the site in the first place.
Blooki.st is a blogging platform stripped almost to the bone. Open a "blook" — supposedly what you get when you cross a blog and a book — and it suddenly consumes your entire browser screen. Scrolling down actually moves you from left to right in typical Western reading fashion. With this full-screen approach, photography is blown up to stunning, enveloping proportions. The only other feature you can tack on is text in a single font.
"What we wanted was to offer anyone a piece of their own land," Zuzic says. "With Blooki.st, we reverse engineered the whole process. We knew where we wanted to end up and then stripped it down to the bare essentials." Not surprising given its straightforward focus on images and text, Blooki.st has created a small but dedicated niche for itself as a place to showcase portfolios and travel photography.
So how did a couple of post-grads with ambitions set on the IT industry transition to a serene blogging platform perfect for cutting out the noise?
"We always wanted to build something that would give back to the community," Zuzic says. Initially, the pair thought the music world was their calling, but were drawn more and more towards publishing platforms as their idea machine kicked into high gear. "We were changing ideas week by week until we ran out of everything. A "blook" was just a concept we had lying around until one day we realized that was it."
The fact that each blook moves left to right is a nifty touch. But from a self-publishing philosophy standpoint, a blook contains a myriad of possibilities reduced to the simplest of forms, with potential far beyond portfolios and photography. As more blooks get added to the site, the way people use it begins to change, noticeably, day by day.
A Good Wander Spoiled
When the Blooki.st cofounders initially hopped a plane out of Slovenia, they had high hopes. Zuzic had studied law and Robar media communications, but both were convinced the world's most desirable opportunities lay elsewhere.
"I thought there must be something better than ordinary life in the office," Zuzic says. "We had big egos, and lots of optimism...so we took the plunge." The plunge was London, where Zuzic and Robar flew without a return ticket.
The plan was ambiguous: start a company, expand an idea, create something unique. The focus was originally on IT, but it was broad, and without ever having crafted a single line of code, the pair knew that their loose roadmap was a bit of a risky undertaking.
That was in April of 2011, and it did not go well.
"All projects or ideas we had were disastrous," Zuzic admits. "We were looking for that perfect idea, looking for people to join our team, facing high costs of living and had no success." When it starting becoming clear that it wasn't going to be as easy as the duo had hoped, they were forced to recalculate their approach. "We realized that optimism without a bit of realism won't work."
So Zuzic and Robar started from scratch, and kept the ball rolling through failed idea after failure idea. Not until a good friend of theirs, developer Jani Gorse from the Slovenian village of Kot pri Ribnici, showed interest in participating in something outside of his day job did the team find that they were ready to get an idea off the ground. And thus Blooki.st was born.
The team has now expanded to four people; in October of last year, Luka Locniskar joined as a front-end developer. But the platform is still in a stripped-down alpha phase.
"The good news is the platform is already publicly available," Zuzic says. Blooki.st launched on April 3, and began quietly will a select few invites. The team let it grow organically from there, and by mid-April it had garnered around 600 users. That met the requirements the team needed to test all the aspects of the platform properly.
"We were a bit 'evil' and did not include any guides, because we wanted to see how our users will respond," he adds. "Regarding the content, we have seen various styles, from poetry to photography, short cute blooks to massive ones, showing the variety we have to promote and work on." This variety has given the Blooki.st team some ideas about moving forward, especially in a rather unchartered space for blogging: user revenue models.
"We aim to start challenging the traditional platforms not only in terms of content distribution, but also revenue options for the users," Zuzic says. There are also plans to make Blooki.st as writer-friendly as it is photographer-friendly, with a focus on self-publishing everything from journalistic non-fiction to novellas and poetry.
What any of that will look like is still part of a fluid process changing week by week, but the Blooki.st team's attitude towards planning seems to have aligned with that of the very simple nature of the blook itself: it will happen when it happens, naturally, and without too much fuss.
A prime example of this blookist attitude is with the site's beta release, which is Blooki.st's closest thing to an official next destination in the meandering roadmap that started two years ago in Slovenia. (The site is officially still in alpha, if you believe what you see when you visit it.) But there's no official timeline for a beta release, either. Zuzic says it might just come overnight whenever the team feels ready.