Mitchell is the founder of Prototype Hubs, a two-sided marketplace for retrieving (and delivering) faster quotes on manufacturing parts.
To read the full interview with Mitchell, check out Kicking SaaS: 101 Founders on What it Takes to Launch a Software as a Service–available on April 29.
What was the problem that you were trying to solve by creating Prototype Hubs?
We're a two-sided marketplace, so we actually solve two problems at once.
The first problem is that when a manufacturer receives a request for a quote, they often rely on a manual time consuming process–either pen and paper, or Excel spreadsheets. It takes them a couple hours just to put the quote together. Often, manufacturers never hear back from customers, who have often found someone cheaper in the meantime. So, manufacturers waste time putting together quotes that don’t get a high return.
The second problem is on the customer side. Potential customers will send out a bunch of RFQ’s to different manufacturers, but they don’t really know who can produce what they’re looking for. And they won’t even get a response from every manufacturer. Customers spend a lot of time on this process–researching, sending out emails to different manufacturers, and waiting to hear back.
Prototype Hubs saves time and labor for both parties by automating the RFQ process and connecting customers with manufacturers.
How did you identify this problem?
I've worked in industry as a design engineer, a manufacturing engineer, and a mechanical engineer. I’ve experienced both sides of the problem–as someone putting together a quote, and as someone sourcing a quote.
Was software development something you could tackle with a background in mechanical engineering?
Yes and no. I do enjoy complex problems, whether that’s coding or something to do with mechanical design. Going into it, I didn’t know exactly what coding language to use, or how to host it online. That’s where putting the right team together came into play. I needed not only software engineers, but people who understood machine learning and who are proficient in their skill sets and who know what they’re actually good at.
Assembling the right team is half the battle. Without my team, I don't think that it would be possible to be where we're at today.
What surprised you about building your product?
I was wrong about the timeline for what I thought was achievable. Software takes time to develop. Nothing happens overnight. So it was a bit of an adjustment. At first, I thought, I have this idea. Why can't we just implement it and get it done? The problem is that you end up having to overcome a lot of obstacles, one at a time, just to achieve a single goal.
Have you found any solutions that helped speed up the timeline?
Planning is a huge factor to success. Find developers who can identify some of the unforeseen obstacles or circumstances and plan ahead.
What does running a SaaS business full-time allow you to do now that you weren’t able to do as an employee?
Having freedom is huge for me. As long as I have an Internet connection, I can work from anywhere I want. I can even do a lot of work from my phone. I can also set my own schedule. If I want to work at midnight, I can work at midnight. The people that I'm working with often have the same mentality. So, we'll have working sessions between 8 PM and midnight, just because we want to do it that way. If I want to spend the day mountain biking and start work at 2 PM, I can do that too.
At the same time, running a business takes more out of you than going to work for somebody else and then coming home and leaving your work at work.
Want to read more? Read the full interview in Kicking SaaS: 101 Founders On What it Takes to Launch a Software as a Service–available on April 29th!