In April 2013, Taiwan-based app prototyping service Prototyping On Paper (POP) travelled to Silicon Valley, US, as part of a hybrid deal with AVOS and 500 Startups. Since then, the Echelon alumnus has been in “stealth mode” while working hard to develop version 2.0 and adding multi-platform support for its product that helps people turn simple app concepts into working prototypes.
It has recently launched the second version of the app, which is available on iOS App Store and Google Play Store.
Ben Lin, the CEO and Co-founder, told e27 about coming up with new features and what he learnt from his stay in the Mecca of tech startups.
“To be honest, developing POP v2.0 was pretty challenging for us. Because the concept of rapid app prototyping is a completely new one on mobile, we don’t really have any examples to study from, so we’ve mostly been putting our faith in all the user feedback we’ve gathered,” he said.
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For example, the idea of adding multi-platform support to the updated version came after studying user behaviours, which revealed that users want to create a prototype on mobile and then proceed to editing it on bigger screens, like on a desktop or a tablet computer.
“For instance, at one point, we brought our entire team to meet with a class of 20 graduate students who were doing beta testing on POP v2.0, and the immediate feedback we got from them allowed us to understand what we should be focussing on next rather than speculating ourselves,” said Lin.
Other features include synchronisation with Dropbox, new tagging and filter features, and the ability to duplicate entire projects. “This (duplicating projects feature) is especially useful when your mock-ups have similar layouts, allowing you to skip building out the same links multiple times,” he explained.
POP after the Valley
One of the most important things Lin learnt while growing his company with AVOS and 500 Startups was that speed is extremely important. “Speed is probably the only reason startups even have the chance to compete with mainstream corporations,” he shared.
For example, instead of meeting daily, the team started making seasonal goals with monthly and weekly targets instead. He explained the rationale, “It was boring, not particularly useful, and the whole team was tired of it.” If Lin allowed the daily meetings to carry on, it would have killed morale and affected productivity.
However, it does not mean that the team has turned its back on meetings. Every Monday, POP team members meet to showcase their achievements from the previous week. Apart from creating a sense of positive competition within the company, this weekly demo has helped each member better understand what everyone else is working on. Being on the same page is important and cuts down on miscommunication.
Additionally, he learnt to live and breathe as a startup founder. “Once you’re a part of the startup world, it should be a part of everything you do,” he shared, “Work in it, play in it, eat in it, sometimes even sleep in it!”
That means that startup founders should also be ready to pitch anytime to anyone. “You never know, the next person you take the elevator with might just be your next investor, mentor, or business partner. And even if they’re not, at the very least, you’ve got one new follower,” said Lin.
At the start, POP consisted of three members, including Lin. Now, there are 10 people in the team. Growing the company has been a challenge, especially since half the team was based in the Valley at the end of last year. Remote working for a young team isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
Furthermore, due to their combined lack of management experience and time differences, effective communication between team members became an obstacle to resolve. Work was sometimes delayed as well, but Lin recounted enthusiastically, “But that’s how you learn and grow and get better!”