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By DAVID HURT, PROTOTYPE1 CO-FOUNDER

ELEVATOR PITCH

We believe the software development process starts well before code is written. We work with clients to understand end user needs and behaviors, build and test prototypes, and deliver development ready UX/UI platforms and fully developed products.

PRODUCT/SERVICE DESCRIPTION

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.

FOUNDERS’ STORY

Oleg Fridman and I met at ONOSYS, a tech startup which he co-founded. There we worked closely on building and launching custom online ordering systems for restaurant chains. The idea of software prototyping came from reading Marty Cagan’s book Inspired. Many of the development principles he identifies in the book led us to reevaluate our approach with clients and evolve our development process.

Very shortly after, I saw the value of prototyping in the pain my industry friends had using outside development shops. Their software projects were almost always delivered late, over budget, and without the functionality they wanted. I knew there was a real opportunity to do things differently.

Oleg and I continued to flush out the idea with the other two founders of ONOSYS, Alex and Stan, and eventually started Prototype1. 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.

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MARKETING/PROMOTION STRATEGY

Our marketing and promotion strategy is very much a work in progress. With a service-based company like Prototype1, the most impactful thing we can do to promote our brand is to build our network. I spend as much time as I can meeting new people, connecting with former clients or anyone who is willing to talk over coffee or tequila. My goal this month is to meet with one new person every day. So far, so good.

We are also building a content marketing strategy including a blog that will share our team’s experience and provide value to our industry. We want to help startups save money by testing their ideas with prototypes—not with fully developed MVPs—and coach established companies to develop better tools and products for their internal teams. Our blog should be live by the time this interview is published.

Additionally, we are working with teams like Publicize and creating partnerships with contacts in cities outside of Cleveland to help expand our network. Everything we’re doing is about creating relationships with people and providing them with real value whether it be knowledge, prototypes or software.

MARKET OPPORTUNITY

Most people have heard the adage all companies are becoming technology companies. More-and-more companies realize that in order to be an industry leader they must utilize technology to increase efficiencies and provide better customer experiences. As this trend continues, the market for custom development grows. In 2013, Forrester Research estimated the market to be almost $600 million, and I’m sure that that has grown at least 10-to-20 percent over the last two years. Our biggest opportunity is in helping non-technical companies become industry leaders through increasing the value they provide to their customers.

We’ve been working with startups to launch their MVPs, but have also helped established, non-technical companies build entire systems to increase engagement and grow revenue. It’s a lot of fun seeing how vastly different yet seemingly similar companies work.

HOW WE’RE UNIQUE

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.

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BUSINESS MODEL

As a service-based company we charge for our time and materials. Almost all of our projects are fixed bid because we believe this gives our clients more confidence in the process. This can prove difficult when a project is very undefined at the outset, but we’ve gotten better at understanding where each client is individually.

CURRENT NEEDS 

This year we want to grow into a team of really talented performers with great output. In order to do that, we are looking to hire additional team members. Currently, our greatest need is an experienced product designer who focuses on UX research and wireframing. Clients would be great too! We have been pleasantly surprised with how many clients we’ve landed in such a short period of time, but there is always room for more—until there isn’t.  Readers who have been with a service company will hopefully appreciate that.

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HEADQUARTERS: Cleveland, Ohio

WEBSITE: www.prototype1.io

FOUNDERS: Dave Hurt, Oleg Fridman

INVESTORS: Private

YEAR FOUNDED: 2014

TWITTER: @prototype1io

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/Prototype1io

CRUNCHBASE: crunchbase.com/organization/prototype1

ANGELLIST: angel.co/prototype1