Changing the world with a product is not an easy task, nor can many think of a product that may even come close to achieving that. Thinking of an idea is only the beginning of nothing if an individual doesn’t take the time and effort to develop it. Many of the innovative products and services that are seen today, are results of countless hours of stress, hard work, and lack of sleep.
Prong, a startup founded and run by two YU graduates, Lloyd Gladstone (SY 08’and Cordozo 2011) and Jesse Pliner (SY 05’), are no strangers of working hard and overcoming challenges in order to succeed. From bouncing ideas back and forth at a BBQ at Lloyd’s place, they came up with the idea of a pocket plug case for your mobile phone. On the case is prongs that go into the wall, and by flipping the prongs this case will give you the peace of mind that your phone will always be chargeable. Hearing Prong’s journey one is able to learn from the difficulties they encountered and even after having raised around $3.5 million still encounter on a day to day basis.
In an effort to raise money to make their idea a reality Prong launched a campaign on Kickstarter raising over $130,000 in the process. After taking a lot of money from family and people they didn’t know, they went out and decided failure was not an option. Lloyd explained that taking money from others and being afraid of public failure, is what gave them the push to make it a reality.
While working to develop the product, Lloyd found himself in China looking for a manufacturer to a prototype they had created. Their impression of China and manufacturing, before they actually had any experience, was that China is like a vending machine-- essentially just telling them what you want and they will deliver. Slowly both Lloyd and Jesse understood things were not that easy when the original manufacturer was unable to deliver on their agreement, months after the deadline they agreed upon. This left Jesse to fly out to China for what ended up being a sixth month stay, to try and push the original manufacturer and eventually find a new one. Six months in a foreign country may sound absurd to many, on the other hand to those looking to create an innovative product it may be the norm.
Lloyd explained that challenges exist everyday at Prong, from running out of money and having to go to investors, to eating Raman noodles because you don’t have a steady income. One of the biggest challenges that has occurred for Prong is having to deal with lawsuits both threatened and filed against the company. From a startups perspective, it is money and time that is better spent on developing the brand and the product, but unfortunately it is a challenge you sometimes must deal with. Something individuals rarely think of when working to create a product that will change the world.
Beginning their venture prompted the Prong founders to spend hours doing research to understand many of the detailed areas of any business that they needed to begin their venture. Lloyd explained spending numerous hours in the library working to learn how to write an executive summary, business plans, how to approach venture capital firms etc. Lloyd explained further that many of these things he picked up from three of the most beneficial classes he took at YU, the entrepernurial lecture series, Business Communications, and Business Law. From working to learn about marketing to the legal aspect of a business, individuals need to be well versed in nearly all disciplines.
Being mindful as well as being willing to listen to customers is important in running a long lasting business, as products must evolve to stay competitive. In putting out the product to consumers and to their Kickstarter backers, Prong received very positive feedback although many felt that the product would be enhanced with a backup battery in addition to the wall plug case. Prong went immediately to the drawing board taking their consumers’ advice, and worked to evolve their product to only enhance further success.
Many in beginning a venture often overlook these obstacles, and once they encounter even the smallest bump in the road they give up. Lloyd explains that starting a venture is like a tall mountain. If you look at the mountain and focus on the top you will never make it there, but if you focus on getting past the first few steps you will eventually catch momentum and reach the top. Yes, there are many challenges in starting a business, along with many great ideas, but unfortunately without putting work into an idea it’ll never be anything more than a good idea.