The ultimate problem we are seeing is that designers are placed in an unfair position when it comes to skills development. Comparing the space to those looking to get into development—where there are extensive resources for anything from skills-development to placement agencies, forums, training, and more—we realized there were few options for designers.-Gene Kamenez, Uxcel
As part of our Founder Focus series featuring conversations with up-and-coming SaaS companies, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gene Kamenez, Founder of Uxcel.
Gene is an experienced designer who currently resides in Poland. His passion for helping other designers develop their skills and grow led him to build Uxcel. Initially testing the idea on Instagram, Gene has built the go-to platform for aspiring designers to grow and learn.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to know more about your backstory. How did you get started on the path you are on today?
My name is Gene and I’m one of the co-founders of Uxcel. We got started back in June of 2019. I have a background in design, and I noticed that there was no one place where one can easily learn design, without hustling, without boring courses. So, I had the idea of trying to help people learn the most essential pieces of information needed in their day-to-day work. We got started with a pre-MVP of our idea that we launched on Instagram and started posting there. We spent zero dollars on advertising, and in six months grew to over 100k followers. That’s when we realized we were onto something. We created bite-sized interactive learning experiences that piggyback on users’ bad habit of scrolling through Instagram.
Since then, we started talking with users and iterating. I connected with a future co-founder and developers, and we started building the first version of our app. It was simple back then, but it got us on the radar of venture funds. Since 2020, we started building a team and building an interactive learning platform. Our growth suggests that we’ve achieved strong product market fit, alongside strong NPS scores. That’s been the past two years in a nutshell, building a place to design, create, and learn.
We’ve also created skill tests for design professionals, since we noticed that no other alternatives existed. At this stage, we’re moving into a complete solution for designers, adding features such as professional profiles, introductions, skill test results and more. That’s where we are currently at, trying to approach the problem with a scalable solution. Our solutions cost $5-$8/month, as opposed to bootcamps which are $5k-$10k/month. We’re Duolingo for design professionals, helping you train UX/UI design skills. Furthermore, Uxcel is a great complementary tool for existing UX bootcamps, many of which have enriched their curriculum with our tool.
At Sonan Digital, we love chatting with founders from across the globe. Can you share where you and your team are currently located?
We are currently spread across Europe. We have people in Poland, Italy, Ukraine, and employ a few nomads currently in Turkey and Thailand. So, a very global team.
Share a little bit about your previous experience. Have you been involved with any entrepreneurial ventures in the past?
My co-founder, Colin Pace, and I previously worked at a company together, both full-time. He also has a background in design. We are both self-taught designers and realized that two-thirds of people are self-taught designers. We’ve been through it and aim to help people go through this path more efficiently
What is the ultimate problem you are trying to solve with your product and what was the “aha moment” that led you there?
The ultimate problem we are seeing is that designers are placed in an unfair position when it comes to skills development. Comparing the space to those looking to get into development—where there are extensive resources for anything from skills-development to placement agencies, forums, training, and more—we realized there were few options for designers. It is limited to platforms such as Dribble and LinkedIn. I would say designers are underserved in this sense. So that’s where Uxcel comes in. Our platform will expose aspiring designers to training, hiring resources, and other tools for designers to build their careers.
Give us your elevator pitch. In your own words, what does Uxcel do?
Uxcel is where design careers are built.
Acquiring your first customer is something most never forget. Can you share how you acquired your first few customers?
Instagram was and continues to be our largest source of customers. We’ve spent zero dollars on ads. So, we primarily focused on the creation of a landing page that collected emails prelaunch. Making lots of mistakes and learning a lot along the way. When we started, we realized we weren’t offering enough value, but that changed as our platform and offerings developed. Our NPS score has always been above 70.
Given the competitive nature of Instagram, that’s an impressive feat. How were you able to stand out?
It was a combination of great timing, effort, and luck. It was three-four hours daily on top of my day job at the start. Between creating content, engaging with users, etc. it was a lot of work.
Are you facing any competitors? What makes Uxcel different?
There are many options for learning design out there, but when it comes to learning it in an interactive way, we are the only one. We’re providing a unique learning experience that for some learners is 10x better than anything else that is out there. Beyond that, for a complete career building platform I’d say there is very little competition. Skills testing is also another differentiator.
What is the biggest hurdle you’ve faced so far? How did you overcome it?
The challenges come and go. That’s a hard question. Covid placed some pressure on us. It threw us off our established schedule and made communicating more difficult. Beyond that, being a start-up, we find prioritization a constant challenge. We’re still learning how to make the most of our resources.
The sales team is often considered the backbone of most SaaS companies. How do you structure your sales process currently?
Our paid customers are users, straight B2C. So, we don’t need much of a sales-process, it’s all primarily product-led growth, marketing and viral efforts. Our skill tests have proven to be effective in helping get the word out there. We have users that pass a test and share the fact that they’re in the top 15% of designers, suggesting that co-workers and colleagues take the test as well. That’s created a lot of user growth.
How have you handled funding Uxcel?
We have a venture partner that supported us with a seed round.
What is your current roadmap to grow Uxcel?
We’re putting a focus on the career support side of the platform. Adding features to Uxcel Recuit, trying to make it more attractive for businesses to tap into the pool of talent that we’ve been able to build.
We plan on offering two solutions for companies. One self-serve where companies can get access to search and messaging our talent pool. The other will focus on a more personalized approach where companies can approach us with there needs and we help find them the right talent through our internal resources.
What are your users’ typical goals when they use the platform?
We’ve focused on the learning side of the equation over the past couple of years. We see there being three main pillars: learning, testing your skills, and showcasing those skills through your professional profile. Learning has been solidified, testing was launched in September of 2021 and has since been solidified, and the skill showcase part has launched in January of 2022 and is being developed further.
We will combine this to build a complete value offering. Our ultimate goal is to help you build your career with Uxcel, while also creating valuable connections for the companies we’ll be serving.
How can people find and connect with you?
For Uxcel, check us out at Uxcel.com. If anyone has any further questions, they can contact either Colin or me through LinkedIn.