When Novamind was sold in August, I shared the announcement from the perspective of founder Gideon King. Now, I have completed an interview with its new owner, Patrick Klug, who shares his perspectives on what’s next for this innovative mind mapping software program. Klug is the founder of Greenheart Games; he plans to run Novamind as a separate company.
Chuck Frey: What opportunities did you foresee when Gideon King approached you about buying Novamind?
Patrick Klug: The sale of Novamind was not driven by a get-rich exit strategy from Gideon. If he wanted to do that he would have surely sold Novamind to the highest corporate bidder who would have likely absorbed the userbase and IP into their own product. Instead, he approached me because he knew that I had intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Novamind and that I shared his vision of what a mind mapping application can be.
More importantly, Gideon had a strong desire to make sure that users who decided that Novamind is their mind mapping application of choice, could continue to use it in the future. My decision to purchase it came both from my personal attachment to the product and a desire to see the product remain an independent and innovative part of the mind mapping market.
Frey: Are you hiring any of the developers from the Novamind team? Or will your existing developers take on this project?
Klug: The team has largely moved on to new roles, even before I was involved in any sales talk. Once the transition is fully complete, I will further assess the development situation and plan our roadmap in more detail before making hiring decisions.
Frey: You’re now a game developer. How does a mind mapping software program like NovaMind fit in with your existing business?
Klug: Business-wise they are two completely separate companies and, apart from myself, there is nothing linking them together. Having said that, I feel that I have learned a great deal these past few years from making games and I intend to bring this perspective back into the world of mind mapping. Games are some of the most complex software products in existence, yet they often manage to not only be fun but also approachable and enjoyable to explore. I think software can learn a great deal from that mindset.
One extremely successful example of applying such a mindset is Slack, a real time team chat application which has taken the business world by storm and changed what a business application looks like forever. Slack’s origin was actually in gaming. There is simply more to software than feature lists and efficiency and I think this mindset is a perfect fit for Novamind, which is already known for its innovative nature.
Frey: I understand you were part of the team that developed Novamind 5. What was that like?
Klug: Extremely challenging but also gratifying. No one really knew that we were only a handful of people and we were competing with companies that had 20 times more staff and resources, yet we arguably out-researched and out-developed them on two separate platforms. The downside of our ambition was that it took us a lot longer to get NovaMind 5 out the door and I think we shouldn’t have announced and sold it so early to customers. It’s easy to be critical in hindsight but in the end all the effort and all that work and research is the basis of what makes Novamind great today. Gideon was extremely brave to attempt to develop this iteration of Novamind and I’m glad he did it.
Klug: A superior layout engine and one of the most versatile theme systems of any mind mapping application. We also tried very hard to make these features approachable and easy to use and I think Novamind enables you to create better looking and better formatted mind maps with ease.
Frey: What needs to be improved about the software? What are your plans for further development of it?
Klug: I have my own vision but it will take some time to finish the transition, assess the new situation and then bring on the new course. I don’t intend to make our roadmap public for a while.
Frey: What makes you think you can be successful where Gideon King ran into some challenges? How will you approach development, marketing and support of the product differently or in a better way?
Klug: I can attribute a lot of my own successes to the lessons I’ve learned while seeing Gideon run his business. He is a very smart and hard working person and showed incredible bravery and stamina. We had a very close vision of what we wanted the next mind mapping application to be but I also have the benefit of seeing what didn’t work so well.
I think, to start with, the greatest visible change will be more on the side of marketing. I don’t believe in marketing and selling a vision of the future as a promise – no matter how much I believe in it – I think the currently available product can and should stand on its own. In the end, I’d rather under-promise and over-deliver. I’d rather have a sustainable long-term business with happy customers instead of going hard and fast and disappointing our supporters. I think this will serve both the company and our customers well.
Frey: If I was a corporate buyer, I’d be a bit concerned about the longevity of Novamind – that it may not still be around in a few years. What do you have to say to those people?
Klug: Given our business strategy, I don’t think there is any reason to worry. We will be around. Our subscription pricing and structure is also affordable, flexible and low risk.
Frey: How will you differentiate Novamind from the many other mind mapping programs that business people can now choose from?
Klug: I think Novamind has a lot of good selling points that make it stand out. The new website already tries to present Novamind in a different way by focusing on the strengths of usability, versatility and quality. Ultimately I think that mind mapping and visual thinking is a deeply personal process and as such everyone should make their own choice of what tool is best for them.