An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Know what your passion is, and you’ll be able to pick an industry that fits you. Once you’ve found something you’re passionate about, you’ll be able to stick with it for a long time.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”,I had the pleasure of interviewing Ilgar Tali.

Ilgar Tali is the Founder & CEO of Smartist, the ultimate tech app for artists. Smartist was launched in 2021 and based in Miami, FL.

Smartist is the first app designed by artists, for artists as the next big leap in relationship between the art and tech worlds. Downloaded over 400,000 times in over 170 countries, Smartist makes it faster and easier than ever to digitally showcase artwork by using real dimensions and scaling onto pre-uploaded pictures of interiors. Its seamless design is easy to navigate. The app’s ability to stage artwork quickly and efficiently can do more than just drive sales — it can enhance social media content, boost engagement, set the stage for an artist’s online shop or help create a robust professional portfolio for any audience.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I was born and raised in Baku, Azerbaijan. Since I was five years old, I’ve been drawing and painting, but graphic design is what I followed as an occupation. In 2014, I came to Missouri, USA, to learn English as a Second Language. While there, I started painting again after a break from my design career. I created an Instagram account and shared my new paintings with the world. It was then that I first thought about presenting my art in space so that people could understand the accurate proportions of each piece. Even though I’m a graphic designer by trade, it took me time to find a relevant image on the internet — usually an interior photograph — open it up in Photoshop®, add your artwork on top of it and make it look realistic. This process proved to be time-consuming.

I was offered an opportunity to exhibit my art in New York City. I visited NYC for my show and fell in love with the city, so I decided to stay there and explore creative opportunities. I had the chance to work for many different creative agencies, allowing me to improve my branding and UX/UI design skills. In addition, working with talented people has given me more confidence in my abilities.

Even though I was focused on my design career, I participated in a few group art shows that made me realize many artists struggle to market their art. Artists spend more time selling art than creating it. In addition, the majority of them have part-time jobs to make a living. I have a profound desire to help artists, which led me to start a contemporary art agency called Kontempo, representing talented emerging local artists and creating new opportunities for them in 2019. After curating two group shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn with hundreds of visitors, it became one of my most enjoyable activities. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, we had to discontinue.

By the end of 2019, my passions and past experiences helped me connect the dots and inspired me to work on a new adventure that will have a more significant impact. I wanted to solve a problem in 2014, make visualizing art easier, and help artists sell art online faster. Studies show that when you display art using realistic visualizations, you are more likely to sell your art. As a result, Smartist was born at the intersection of a love for art, design, tech, and support artists.

In early 2020, I started assembling a remote team to help me research, design, and develop the app. During the lockdown, I decided to move to Miami, and after many months of hard work, we launched our first version on April 7, 2021. Since it was my first tech product, learning the ropes took me some time.

Today, we are proud that Smartist has made thousands of artists’ lives easier by saving their creative time and helping them market and sell art faster.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

It’s hard for startup founders to get people to believe in them and their vision, not to mention the challenges they face when they don’t have any external funding. For me, it was most challenging when I got investor rejections while we were still in beta testing — it affected my motivation and self-confidence. So then, I’ve decided not to spend time raising capital but focus on the product and find other ways to fund the business and keep my inspiration high.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

I am grateful for all of the things in my life and the way they are going. Resilience and grit are two essential traits that can lead to success in many areas of life. Those with these traits persevere, maintain their determination in the face of challenges and adapt when situations get complicated.

It has been said that our mistakes are our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

When we make mistakes, it’s more often because we rush and lack knowledge, focus, or patience. For example, we worked on the app’s first version for over a year before releasing it to the App Store. Unfortunately, I made a mistake when I accidentally clicked the ‘Release’ button without final testing. As a result, the app had significant bugs and incorrect pricing plans.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

According to thousands of 5-star reviews, Smartist is the market’s most powerful art visualization app. What makes us unique is that we update the app every two weeks with new additions to our content library, features, and bug fixes. We also listen to every user’s feedback and frequently implement their suggestions.

We believe that, together with our community of users, we can continually improve Smartist for all our users. We love our Smartist community, and we feel their love, too. That said, this is just the beginning for Smartist. We plan to continue developing innovative tools that empower artists and other creatives in every aspect of their lives and careers.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Burnout happens when we try to do everything at once and forget the importance of priority. There are plenty of opportunities in every industry, but only some prospects have the same priority. So make the right choices by focusing on what’s essential today and remembering that FOCUS means following one course until successful. That’s the key not only to business but also to the life you want to create.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

First, I’d like to thank my mom for believing in me regardless of distance and events. Next, I’d like to acknowledge my small but fantastic team members — I couldn’t do it without them. Lastly, I want to thank the Universe for allowing me to manage my thoughts and doubts while keeping a positive attitude.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

Smartist has been downloaded over 400k times by 175 countries. We are proud to have built a product that people love and share with their friends. To create word-of-mouth marketing, first, build something hard to ignore; second, make it affordable and focus on one marketing channel with the best ROI.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

Our business model is freemium. Users can use our app for free with limited features or purchase a premium subscription to unlock everything. Smartist is essential for artists who want to market their work effectively. Based on our survey, Smartists reported increased sales, connected with more potential buyers, received positive client feedback, and upgraded their art portfolios or websites after using our app.

Thank you. Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS?

  1. Know what your passion is, and you’ll be able to pick an industry that fits you. Once you’ve found something you’re passionate about, you’ll be able to stick with it for a long time.
  2. Define why your app should be built. You need to identify a need or problem that your app can solve. Is the problem worth solving? Is it a common problem? If not, you’ll have to think carefully about getting people to adopt and use your app regularly.
  3. Create a solution for your users’ needs. Research your app’s competition and target audience to create a product that meets their preferences.
  4. Design and develop a minimum viable product (MVP) that is easy to understand and allows you to test the app effectively.
  5. Test your app with a small group of users before you release it to a broader audience. Make changes to the app based on their feedback, then test it again thoroughly to ensure that it is stable, reliable, and free of bugs and other issues.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Since childhood, society and our family have encouraged us to study different subjects and sciences. When we want to learn more about any topic, we research, analyze, find insights, and understand the case from the core. But why don’t we do the same about ourselves? The place we live in — our mind, body, and soul — should be explored just as thoroughly as any topic of interest. Knowing yourself well is essential to make choices that bring you happiness.

We tend to spend too much time worrying about things we cannot control. Instead, we should focus on transforming ourselves for the better. It is not only good for us but for everybody around us and the entire society.

I would start a movement for the most significant science — The Science of Self. The world would be better if we all tried to understand ourselves better.

How can our readers further follow your work online?





This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Ilgar Tali Of Smartist: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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