What is your startup and what does it do?
Prototype1 is a custom software development shop that focuses on building better software with high-fidelity prototypes. We work with clients to understand their end-user needs and behaviors, then we build and test prototypes and deliver development ready UX/UI platforms and fully developed products that are evidence based – not assumption based.
At whom is your startup aimed?
High-fidelity prototyping is ideal for any organization that builds and utilizes software platforms – but we focus on partnering with two primary channels. The first is a funded startup that needs help expanding their product offering but may not have the capacity to do so – or they need ouside perspective from an experienced product development team. The second is an established company that doesn’t have development resources to design and develop their software project or idea.
How does your startup stand out against its competitors?
Our experience and process differentiates Prototype1. We honed the process we use with clients at our previous company, where we worked with Fortune 500 companies on complex software systems. Our experience with these large companies influences our approach and process with current clients almost every day.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
We had been successfully using high-fidelity prototypes while at our previous company, ONOSYS, to build and sell products to our customers. At the time we had a number of friends using custom development shops to build software and they kept going over budget and time estimates – proving that the standard development process was broken. These companies weren’t setting up the project for success from the outset. This is when we saw an opportunity to really make a difference in the industry.
Did you have any concerns when starting your business, if so what were they?
Yeah – I definitely had concerns. I think it’s healthy to be a concerned as a founder. I can’t think of one thing that made me sweat more than others but business development and growth is always at the forefront. Fortunately we found our first round of clients much easier than I expected. I’m still learning to get in front of people daily and market the company. It’s not my strongest skill but I know it’s really important in the role I’m in.
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
My first startup experience was working at ONOSYS, where Oleg (my co-founder) and I met. I wasn’t seeking out a tech startup when I took the job at ONOSYS. I was looking for a position that would push me to grow professionally. I think the best thing about working at a startup is the fast-moving, passionate culture that motivates people to step outside of their comfort zone and wear many hats to get the job done. I don’t think there’s many experiences that beat the personal and professional growth you can have at a startup.
How did you initially raise funding for your company?
Being a services company we weren’t in need of a large amount of capital to get started. While I was still working full time, we took on side projects to build a foundation for when we launched Prototype1 full time. The side projects meant a lot of late nights and early mornings but it really helped having a cushion once we went full time.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
I’m really proud of the projects we’ve been a part of. It’s really fun helping other teams launch a new product. The fact that we play such a large role in the future of so many companies is pretty cool and it’s always rewarding to see the results.
How have you kept your business relevant and engaged with your audience over the last three years?
Being under a year old, Prototype1 is really just ramping up and beginning to increase awareness and growth. To stay engaged with the development and UX communities, we’re constantly networking, attending conferences, and learning from industry experts and new technologies.
How long has your business been in making, and who is the team behind the business?
The idea of a high-fidelity prototyping company came from reading Marty Cagan’s “Inspired”. We immediately saw the development principles he identifies in the book and we implemented many changes at ONOSYS. Very shortly after I saw the value of prototyping and the pain my industry friends had using outside development firms. I knew there was a real opportunity. Oleg and I flushed out the idea with the other 2 founders of ONOSYS, Alex and Stan. I also spent about a year getting very involved in the development community in Cleveland and getting feedback from just about anyone I could. Many of those people become early clients.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
As a founder with a very lean support staff, the biggest challenge has been balancing all the different roles I need to play while constantly focused on business development. I love spending hours heads-down on a client project solving a problem, doing research, or wire-framing a system, but remembering to pick up my head and network or schedule sales conversations can be difficult. I’m somewhat of an introvert so this can be difficult some days.
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business?
This year we’re focused on expanding our client roster and hiring a few more full time employees. We want to build a close-knit team that works together on developing badass software.
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business?
Balance. Both the work-life balance and balancing the many roles we have to play at work. When I went fulltime with Prototype1 I didn’t have a work-life balance or a balance of roles. I really like to work, I truly enjoy it, so that’s really all I did for a while. However to improve you can’t just do one thing and one thing only. Just like an Olympic Sprinter does weight training and takes rest days to get better at sprinting, we all need to take rest days and train ourselves to get better at our jobs.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Man, this question is primed for a deep quote. I’ve spoken about balance as a challenge and I think that it’s really important but everyone finds balance in different ways. What I think is much more universal is that everyone needs to find their focus. You don’t need to be 100% focused on work 100% of the time but when you are working that is the only thing that matters. The same goes for everything else in life – if you’re not focused on the task at hand or ‘present’ then take a step back and get focused. That’s the only way you’re going to put out the best work possible.