The traditional way of designing for the mobile environment involves a lot of back and forth as developers design in one program, prototype in another, and collaborate in a third tool.
A new startup, To play, promotes itself as “the only native iOS product design tool that allows you to create, iterate and collaborate right from your phone. “Legacy software requires workarounds and hacks to do something similar,” said company co-founder and co-CEO Dan LaCivita.
“It’s the only design tool that uses the phone as the primary input device,” he told TechCrunch. “It lets you design, prototype and collaborate from the phone and it’s the only one that gives product designers a way to experience designs as they create them on the medium they want.” use. You can basically play Apple’s sandbox without having to code.
Users can choose to create from scratch or import designs from tools, like Figma, and use the Play library for common UI components like buttons, cards, and drives video or layouts for something quick and customizable to create fully functional pages. There are also native iOS features like live maps, augmented reality, and camera functionality.
LaCivita started the business in 2019 with Eric Eng, Joon Park, and Michael Ferdman, who all worked together at a previous startup called Firstborn where they built websites and mobile products.
“We experienced all the pain points firsthand,” said LaCivita. Joon said there has to be a better way. We continue to rely on traditional graphic design software, so we don’t need another tool, but another approach, like the phone. , as the input device.
Play is in the App Store, but is in private beta with a waitlist of over 25,000 people. They will be welcomed in the coming months and next year. It’s a freemium model right now, but next year there will be some price points as well.
Today, the company announced $ 9.1 million in financing led by First Round Capital and including Oceans Ventures. The round is a combination of classification rounds from the start of the year and from last year.
The funding will be used to evolve the team and continue to develop new products, like Play for iPad, which was announced two weeks ago was a direct request from customers, LaCivita said. It also recently unveiled its Teams feature to allow people to collaborate with each other.
When the founders first met Todd Jackson of First Round Capital, they weren’t looking to raise funds, but the “relationship clicked,” LaCivita said, and they found a partner they believed would collaborate more. as a teammate and as a venture capitalist.
Jackson said he found Play on Twitter and became intrigued. In his previous roles at Dropbox and Facebook, he had worked with designers with similar usability issues.
He sent Play to some of his friends who spent hours creating a design and adding animations that were only available on the desktop.
“It never occurred to me that you could do so much on a phone,” he said. “There is a mental model where people think there is only one design tool that does one thing. We often talk about the number of mobile product ideas that don’t see the light of day because you can’t share them with someone else. Playing unlocks this for everyone.