Building Imprint as a college founder

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April 30, 2020

(3 min read)

Spark SC is a student-run entrepreneurship ecosystem at USC. The organization is featuring some student entrepreneurs and builders on campus. Spark recently interviewed Roland Shen, Founder of Imprint, about the product that he's built. Here's the transcript of the interview.


What’s the name of your product, and what does it do?

Imprint (https://imprint.to), a social blogging platform focused on content ownership.


What problem(s) is it solving?

The current state of blogging has made it pretty difficult for readers to find good content and start meaningful discussions, and it’s typically been hard for writers to get started. Medium emerged, which solved all these issues in the beginning. But that place has devolved over time, making content inaccessible to readers due to a paywall. Good writers also began fleeing the platform due to unfair practices like injecting content into peoples’ posts and not allowing people to host their content on their own websites. It was frustrating seeing this happen, so I wanted to build a spot on the internet that would retain the positive qualities of the community I loved.


How did you come up with this idea?

I’ve learned so much from just reading thousands of blog posts online, with topics ranging from software development to design to personal finance. I think blogging is the backbone of the internet, giving everybody an independent place to voice their ideas. Using platforms like Medium was constantly frustrating due to the issues discussed in question 2, so I wanted to build a place for myself and for others to just produce and share good knowledge.


What has the most challenging part been so far?

I’ve been 95% focused on design and development these past few months, which hasn’t left a lot of time for talking to users and spreading the word. I also just don’t think marketing is a big strong suit of mine, as I don’t have a ton of experience there. The project is getting to the point where it’s ready for that publicity, and I’m eager to dive in.


How did you balance your time between school and this project?

Whenever I have free time, I find myself working on Imprint. It really feels like more of a hobby than work, which makes it easy to commit time to.


What lessons have you learned through building this project?

I’ve learned how much it takes to scrap a project together. Things that I estimated taking just 1 or 2 months extended to 4 months. There are just so many moving parts to any project. Design (UX) was something I wanted to get down really well for Imprint, so it took a ton of time to lay down flows that worked. There are still dozens of things I’d change, but it’s working for now, which is great.


What are the next steps?

Spreading the word! I’d love if you all checked it out. Publish that old essay you have lying around! Publish that novel thought that’s just been sitting in your head these past few months. Journal about life in quarantine. I’m sure it’ll teach somebody out there something new. If you need any help getting things setup, shoot me an email at rolandsh@usc.edu.


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