Are you hesitating to launch a tech product because you don’t know how to code? William Wright, the founder of PR.D, is proof that you can achieve your goals without becoming a software developer.
For a long time, technology was only accessible to an exclusive community of tech-savvy individuals. But William believes that non-tech folk deserve an equal shot at breaking through in the industry. So, his company’s mission is to reduce the ambiguity around technology development by offering people the expertise and tools needed to turn an idea into a product.
The founder himself isn’t a developer, but he’s always been intrigued by the idea of building a product from scratch. As a result, PR.D’s most successful product to date has been one that was developed in-house. With his methodical approach to technology development, William created an ordering app that helped local businesses survive the pandemic.
After working solo for the first year, William has now grown PR.D to a team of five and is dipping his toe further into custom product development. The founder doesn’t let his non-developer background stop him when he sees a clear need in the community – and you shouldn’t either.
Every Job is a Stepping Stone Towards Launching Your Own Business
William always knew he wanted to follow in his family’s entrepreneurial footsteps and start his own business, but first, he needed to discover what his passion was. Post-university, he had a diverse start to his career, working in pharmaceuticals, logistics, and construction. “These experiences gave me insight into the different approaches to conducting business, taking transferrable skills from each to be more resourceful in the next role. But it was the sheer creativity in software that solidified my fondness for technology,” he says.
In 2011, William worked at the price comparison site Moneysupermarket, where he learned what it takes to build software. He grew passionate about the entire process. After learning the ropes at a long-standing organization, William moved from North Wales to London in 2014 to join the startup scene. He applied his newfound learnings at a fintech startup with almost full autonomy and freedom. So, it was sink or swim.
“It was a lean startup where you couldn’t rely on senior team members to bail you out. You either got it right or you got it wrong – and you felt the full force of it either way. It taught me how to make business decisions that directly contribute to company growth. But even with these responsibilities, it was still a safety net for me. Before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship myself, I was able to make mistakes in a less risky environment,” William says.
Now, William has worked in the technology industry for 12 years. He’s covered many different roles focused on product delivery, including scrum master, business analyst, and product owner – but was never interested in learning how to code. Taking everything he had mastered from the world of tech, William started PR.D in 2018.
Bringing Transparency to a Convoluted Industry
PR.D started as a consultancy, but not in the traditional sense. Software agencies aren’t always clear about their capabilities and what it takes to create a product. So, William aimed to offer technology development with full transparency. “The industry has built up a reputation for being inaccessible and highly specialized, creating a perception that allows some tech agencies to bamboozle people to make money,” he says.
William explains that with the traditional agency model, the client tells the software house what they think they want. Then, the agency disappears for six months, comes back, and presents the client with a finished product that they think fits the bill. By that point, the client has already spent thousands of dollars. Whether they are happy with the product or not, they are left holding the baby, as it were.
“I don’t want to criticize the whole industry. But I think people, from aspiring entrepreneurs to directors in large corporates, were being taken advantage of because they lacked technological knowledge. This is fundamentally wrong, so I wanted to introduce a model where we build the tech in close partnership with the customer, bringing them and us into the fold to ensure the best possible results,” William says.
PR.D brings clients into the circle, reducing the ambiguity around what they aim to build. This results in a more efficient development period, improving the quality of the product and ensuring that resources aren’t wasted.
To that end, PR.D takes client input at all stages to streamline the development process and make it completely transparent. Whether it’s a startup founder who needs technical support or a mature organization looking for strategic support with a new initiative, William’s business helps deliver on those goals.
However, PR.D has also started investing in custom product development. So, while one side of the business is a service-led agency, the other side acts as a traditional incubator that utilizes PR.D’s resources to help get ideas off the ground. Given William’s passion for building and launching products – even if he didn’t know how to code – his first venture was more a question of when, rather than if.
Supporting The Local Community with a New App
PR.D’s first in-house product tackled a problem in William’s local community. He identified that there was a wealth of independent coffee shops in London trying to compete with big chains like Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Cafe Nero. That’s how the idea for Yoca, a low-cost order collection app for coffee shops, was born.
The founder tackled product development in the same way he would for PR.D clients – meaning he didn’t go straight to building the app. “It took about two months from the inception of the idea until it was ready to be built. Drawing on my experience, I mapped out the structure of the platform, what the tech stack would look like, and so on,” he says.
Given his constrained budget, William wanted to do as much work as possible on his own before bringing in a development team. With more upfront work, he could avoid wasting resources further down the line. This is exactly how PR.D builds software with its clients, optimizing the time and cost of development.
“I focused on clarifying exactly what I wanted to achieve. I knew what was required before engaging a development team and bringing them in on the vision. And that’s why I spent time using the resources available to me first,” he says.
After a concentrated two months, William brought on a development team of freelance coders (it was still too early to hire any full-time employees). The developers started to build Yoca at the end of 2019 and finished it in early 2020.
With the platform ready, William took a humble approach to marketing. “To get Yoca off the ground, I just started walking from coffee shop to coffee shop. I know that sounds very lean, but that’s how I did it. I live in outer central London and the coffee shop ratio is crazy. There are just so many of them – and that’s without counting the Starbucks and Costa Coffee locations. I started with one coffee shop twenty minutes from where I live and pitched them my new platform,” he says.
William took a geographical approach to his sales, trying to get as many coffee shops in certain areas on the platform. “The great thing about these independent coffee businesses is that all the owners are entrepreneurs in their own right. So they get it. I think my story resonated with them – someone walking in with a raw idea who’s passionate about solving a problem for local businesses,” William says.
Soon after launching Yoca, Covid hit. While the pandemic hurt many product launches, it was perfect timing for an ordering app. Especially in the UK, order-ahead took off because it allowed businesses to remain open while adhering to the social distancing rules.
Local businesses found Yoca more approachable than the likes of Uber Eats and Deliveroo, which had become William’s competitors almost by accident in the Covid landscape. Even though the app was not as far along as the competition, Yoca was a low-cost and local-owned option.
To incentivize small businesses to use the platform once onboarded, Yoca decreased its commission percentage after 50 orders per month. Coffee shops pay a higher percentage initially (which, at 15 percent, was still far below other order platforms at 30 percent). Then, they’re encouraged to advertise the order platform to their customers. Within the first month, Yoca had more than 500 organic sign-ups from coffee shop customers.
Yoca supported local businesses by helping them increase engagement with their customer base in trying times – which was a more important mission than what William had initially set out to do.
“I certainly wanted to make money, but during Covid, it became about helping local businesses survive. It was about giving them a line of communication with their customers that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. The sheer fact that we enabled some businesses to remain open was a huge success factor to us,” he says.
Throughout 18 months of the pandemic, Yoca grew by word of mouth. But it didn’t stop at just coffee shops. William tailored the platform to work for pubs, restaurants, and other local staples as well. Yoca generated £4,000 (almost $5,000) in sales by the third month and increased foot traffic to certain local businesses by 30 percent. This also earned Yoca a feature in the BBC’s technology column.
When You See a Gap in The Market, Go For It
With Yoca’s success, PR.D’s product team is expanding to new markets where they see room for growth, including property and agriculture. Now with a team of five (the founder, two developers, a QA person, and a marketer), the company is able to invest more resources into creating new in-house products and sub-brands.
In property technology (or proptech), PR.D has recently launched a system to support defect management in new build properties. They want to utilize this code base to assist with fire safety and drive environmental standards, for example, during the construction process.
William says, “We’re also making sure to apply the biggest lesson we learned from Yoca going forward: You can’t solve everyone’s problems. If you try to build something that works for everybody, it’s going to fall apart. So, we’re focusing on taking one complex problem and reducing the friction through our technology, iteration after iteration.”
In other words, think about what it is you are really trying to solve and what is actually needed from a product perspective. That pre-build stage is critical to making your project as cost efficient and effective as possible – and you don’t need a development team to do this.
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