2022 was the biggest year for Prosal yet, but it’s a journey that started long before the website launched in February. Read an end-of-year reflection from co-founder and COO Alfredo Ramirez about what this year looked like and what 2023 holds.
2022 was one of the most challenge-filled years I’ve had in recent memory. It wasn’t only that I graduated from a master’s program or moved to a new state with my partner of two years, though each provided a unique set of challenges and rewards. 2022 will forever be the year that Prosal launched for the world to see and react to, and it’s been an unending rollercoaster ride throughout.
Prosal existed long before it went live in February 2022, though not necessarily on www.prosal.io. It began in 2021 with Nick Lopez and me talking about RFPs and how I found clients at ALRAS Digital. After welcoming our incredible third co-founder, Nyle Malik, the year was spent researching, exploring, and building. While there were successes along the way, we were in no way prepared for the things we didn’t know that we didn’t know.
It was abundantly clear in February when Prosal went live and….nothing happened! The expectation that hundreds of people would immediately flock to our platform, that RFPs and proposals would naturally live on Prosal, and that we would launch into overnight success by changing the RFP process – all of it was wrong. Speaking candidly, we hit a slight panic mode.
I began to question what I was doing. I had already launched ALRAS Digital in 2020; I was comfortable with my challenges and successes as a small business and consultant. Prosal was a completely different monster – I was tasked with co-creating, scaling, and sustaining a tech startup selling technology to nonprofit organizations and their consultants. No number of classes, podcasts, or books could prepare me for this experience.
Thankfully, Nick and Nyle were much more well-versed in the startup space and studied it for months before they helped create Prosal. Though their expectations were shattered as much as mine, they were prepared for the pivots, testing, and patience needed to realize our vision. We talked almost nightly for hours about what messaging to test, who we could interview, and how to make the platform more accessible and better than relying on listservs and emails.
By the end of spring, we landed our first set of RFPs and reached 100 users, both of which felt like mammoth accomplishments. As we continued to grow, albeit slowly, we opted to spend spring and summer in an intense research mode to learn more about our users and the industry we’re seeking to revolutionize.
Thanks to the Tufts Venture Accelerator and Boston startup community, where I was based for the summer, we learned from accomplished entrepreneurs and innovation experts like Elaine Chen, Moneer Azzam, Jack Derby, and others who provided personal and professional coaching. Rather than leading us to the answers, they equipped us with the frameworks and resources to be better leaders and innovators.
A recurring lesson was the intentionality behind design thinking and how customer interviews could help us better develop empathy for their problems. Diving more deeply into this approach, we became avid practitioners of jobs to be done, a system that posits people don’t buy products, they buy the completed jobs the products help bring about. I probably heard the milkshake story and mattress interview a dozen times each.
We also spoke with people outside our industries, including banking executives, patent lawyers, healthcare professionals, and clean energy advocates, who shared their experiences and challenges with procurement in their industry. This led us to develop deep and treasured relationships with exceptional technologists at places like JP Morgan Chase, Greentown Labs, and Emblem Health.
With new tools under our belt, we went out to the world, more confident about the problems we were tackling and how Prosal could solve them for the nonprofit community and beyond. We didn’t achieve the exact goals we set for ourselves. However, we did secure our first paying customers, focused more on how Prosal solves outsourcing challenges for nonprofits and their consultants, and developed a clear path for much larger goals, like reaching 1,000 users (we’re currently at just over 500!).
I’m closing out 2022 with extreme gratitude and appreciation for all the respondents, issuers, mentors, advisors, friends, and family who have supported our team throughout this entire year and are prepared to continue with us on the journey next year. If you’re reading this, I mean you – thank you for being a part of this movement.
I’m also thrilled about what 2023 holds, which will mean turning Prosal into a sustainable business that can grow and solve the challenges consultants, agencies, nonprofits, and foundations face when they want to work together. It will mean more conversations, testing, success, and failure, all to create a more efficient, welcoming, and inclusive RFP and outsourcing process.