Though his main goal is to help web designers collaborate more efficiently with their clients, Shane Long could provide a few lessons for entrepreneurs on bootstrapping.
Long is the Founder and CEO of Fredericton-based Prooflo, which is developing a Software-as-a-Service product that will help website designers communicate and collaborate with their clients. With a background in design, he has marshalled the resources needed to produce a minimum viable product, and expects it to be ready in a month or two.
Not only has he done it without raising money or giving away equity, he even sold the product before it was developed. To build the MVP, Long contracted the work out to a developer in Miami, trying to save money as he brought the product to market.
“Our goal is to hire someone local but there’s only so much money,” said Long in an interview last week. “You’re really milking every penny out of a limited budget. We’re now bootstrapping as the product is being completed.”
As a designer, Long came to understand that web designers and graphic artists have a hard time going back and forth with their clients during the process of creating a website. Clients have to view the work-in-progress, provide feedback, then be sent the changes again. Long estimates the designer and client can go back and forth as many as 35 times before they get it right.
“As the freelance, there are so many clients and interactions that this is a problem,” he said. “The average web designer might have 50 clients and that means they could have tens of thousands of interactions.”
What Prooflo plans to do is provide the designer with a tool that lets him or her share the work-in-progress with the client. Together, they can go over the design and functionality together, removing the endless exchange of emails or phone calls. It helps them manage their workflow, organizing their projects and keeping track of each piece of work.
Long began the development of the company by talking to freelance designers and agencies – the people who felt the sharpest pain with this problem. Some 70 to 80 percent of them said this endless back-and-forth was a pain for them, and three even bought the product before Long had built it.
Long, who recently graduated from the Propel ICT Launch program, said he and his developer now have about 75 percent of the product built, and he hopes to complete his minimum viable product in March or April. Within three to six months, he hopes to be ready for a market launch.
The long-term goal is to build out the product so it could be used by a range of creatives and improve their efficiency in collaborating with clients.
“In the long term, we want to empower the creatives, whether they’re website designers or videographers or whatever,” said Long. “We want to empower them to keep their project on track. . . . It allows the designers or creatives to focus their thinking on the creative aspects and not have to manage all the tedious tasks. The workflow is automated.”