In September of last year we presented Reboot, a digital product studio with a startup soul, where we wanted to combine design and technology to create good products that solve problems and have impact.
1 year later we wanted to share some learnings that we have acquired along the way.
Properly positioning a product on the market can make the difference between success or failure. Something similar happens with studios and agencies: there are lot of them. Standing out in a market that is driven mainly by brand recognition and referrals is difficult, especially when you are starting out.
Our positioning has always been the same: we are a digital product studio.
- Studio because we believe in the impact of small, complementary and well-rounded teams. More is not always better or faster, and we have learned that along the way.
- Digital product because it is the concept that best captures what we do. The format does not limit us. We are not an app development, web development or ecommerce development agency. There are some fundamentals even more important than the platform where it is consumed, and they are the interface design and the technology that enables it. We do not understand digital product in any other way than assuming ownership of design and development in an integral way.
- And that's it. We do not do online marketing, SEO, SEM, analytics or branding, to say the least. Our focus is to make the best digital product, accumulating more and more experience in the design of digital interfaces that solve problems in a simple and elegant way, while developing technically robust solutions ready for the future.
The problem is that when you are starting out you are not very clear about what you are when you say “digital product studio”. This added to the fact that the beginnings are hard and the natural inclination is to accept every opportunity that comes out, we accepted some projects that were far from what we wanted to be. Some examples:
- Exclusively development projects (frontend or backend). We are not a development agency. Although we have the knowledge and depth to develop our own technology, we like to apply it in the context of a digital product project where design and technology constantly feed into each other.
- Workforce project where we enter into the dynamics of an already established team to perform backlog tasks. With this we learned that we did not want to be “an extra pair of hands” for the project, but to have the ownership of a product team to define, design and implement.
- Projects with legacy technologies or a stack far from our future vision. At the Studio we have a fairly definite idea of where the future of development is heading in terms of technologies, processes and tools. That is our bet and where we want to become the referents, so it does not make sense to create products with technologies in which we do not believe.
Positioning implies saying no to projects and this year we have learned to do just that. To say no to projects that, no matter how economically interesting they were, were moving away from the vision we have for Reboot.
How we value our work
Another huge learning has been how we value our work and charge for it. This has dramatically changed the company's cash flow, predictability, and growth management.
Initially, we offered a mixed model of a fixed price or an hourly price depending on the project. The reality was that all projects ended in a fixed price model because it is usually the one in which the client feels most comfortable.
Our mistake was to believe that you can establish a fixed price on a work where everything is to be done and everything is tailor-made. At the Studio we create projects from scratch and we do it because we do not believe that imposing prior barriers in the form of a template, platform or technology is the ideal way to create the best product.
This implies that many decisions are made as we move forward, and if we reach a dead end we turn around and rethink it. It is a living process. This is how the products that we all use and love are created. No good product came out of a closed spec sheet.
Returning to the thread, this way of working and conceiving the product implies that we could not continue to offer a fixed price to our projects, so as of January we moved all our projects to hourly price model and we do not accept any that are not in this format .
It works more or less as follows:
- We have a fixed studio rate for each person on the team that works on a project.
- An initial estimate is offered based on the information available and previous experience in similar projects, but it is clarified that it is a Time & Materials type contract and will be billed for the effective hours of dedication. Whether they are more or less.
- At the end of the month an invoice is sent to the client for the hours rendered.
It is not a perfect model and it has some problems, such as the fact that as you generate more value in less time it is detrimental to your business. This implies having to make adjustments to your value / hour from time to time, but it is undoubtedly a much healthier and more sustainable model for the Studio.
How we work with clients
During this year we have also learned to give our processes more structure. When we say that we have startup DNA, we really mean it, with all that that entails. We make quick decisions, we take the initiative and we prefer to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission. However, this can lead to some uncertainty for our clients at certain points in the process.
That is why we have worked - and we continue to do so - to create a structure and processes that allow us to give visibility at all times of where we are and contribute to reducing uncertainty.
Of course, this will not change our philosophy and we will not end creating a bureaucratic process full of presentations or reports that do not provide value. We will always prefer to spend that time building, iterating and refining.
If you are curious to know how we organize ourselves internally, Notion works very well for us, both for managing our company and for projects with clients. In this article we explain in more detail how we do it.
A vision for the future
Our goal is to create the best Digital Product Studio in the world. To achieve it we have to create the ideal conditions for this to happen: stimulating challenges, creative freedom, ownership and good conditions. Product talent is scarce and highly sought after by companies with resources infinitely superior to ours, so we have to play other cards.
We conceive Reboot as a space that allows us to constantly explore and deepen new ways of approaching the product. Each project we tackle is different: in interfaces, in technologies, in processes or tools. And we think this is a luxury for those who really love to work creating digital products.
Along the way, we also want to get back to creating content. Without a doubt, we believe that it is a very valuable asset to attract talent, clients and generate community, and at Reboot we are always learning and applying new technologies, techniques or tools in our projects that can help other too.