Startup-ting X Studio XID “Startup story of ProtoPie, a global startup with worldwide customers” Review

2020 Spring’s last Sartup-ting was hosted with Studio XID, better known as ProtoPie. Although the session was live streamed on Youtube due to COVID-19, over 140 people participated and it was a pleasant and enjoyable lecture! ProtoPie is a prototyping tool that helps designers and developers communicate. It has users from 100 different countries, and is used by worldwide companies such as Google, Nintendo, Line. The story of ProtoPie begins now!

CEO Soo Kim, a former interactions designer at Google and Naver, started Studio XID after leaving Google in 2013. While working at Google and Naver, he spent a quarter of his time in China, a quarter in the U.S., a quarter in Korea, and the rest in planes, building up his own product. Today’s Startup-ting was divided into 3 chapters: the startup story of ProtoPie, how to make a global product, and how to compete with foreign competitors.

Protopie Stories behind the protopie

ProtoPie is a code-free interaction prototyping tool for digital products. Designers can easily explore design solutions with prototypes, and developers can test designs to minimize resources. “ProtoPie” is short for “Prototyping as easy as pie”, which means anyone can easily create prototypes. “XID” of “Studio XID” is an abbreviation of “Exceptionally Intelligent Design”. “XID” also sounds like “seed”, hoping that the company can be a place where designers can sprout like seeds. Studio XID was established in 2014 following the first launch of ProtoPie in January 2017. Studio XID builds a prototyping tool for designers, and provides B2C services, as well as industrial software services. The team consists of 4 leaders, 3 of whom graduated from KAIST and worked at Google, Samsung, Naver, and Publicis, a worldwide digital agency.

Studio XID has customers from 100 countries, and is working with companies all over the world, e.g. Microsoft, GoPro, Motorola, and Tencent. The upcoming product that will be released by Microsoft, as well as Google Chromebook OS, and Nintendo were designed using ProtoPie. In addition, HBO’s TV series Succession 2 used ProtoPie to control digital devices used by actors.

Born global- Global product made in Gangnam Korea

CEO Soo Kim thought of the idea of ProtoPie during his time as a product designer at Google, and tested whether there was a demand for creating prototypes. Google allowed time for designers to develop new products, and Kim had made a beta prototype with another engineer. After seeing that designers faced the same kind of problems as he did, he left Google to create his own prototyping tool. There were various reasons that made Kim decide to start a new company, but the main reason was that he wanted to help and give joy to people with his own product, even though at Google he could give a huge impact.

Studio XID created a cloud based alpha version tool and tested with Alibaba. At that time, the Chinese network had a lot of packet-related problems, and Studio XID thought that the success of the tool would lead to great profit. However, the first version failed because the images used by designers were too big, and the quality of the image would be downgraded due to packet loss. Soo Kim and his team resolved the package loss problem and in TechCrunch Shanghai, established marketing plans and opened pre-sales to continue his business.

Battle to win-Product, Marketing, Sales, Strategy

ProtoPie was first released in January 2017. Surprisingly, the first customer to use ProtoPie was Vietnam, and it turned out that Vietnam was known for being a software outsource destination in Asia. Starting with Vietnam, Studio XID expanded globally.

In January 2020, Studio XID was selected as this year’s most anticipated prototype design tool in various design magazines. It was not easy to create a global product from the start, but with the help of co-founders, Studio XID was able to become the worldwide company it is now. Kim recommended to start a company as a team, rather than working alone.

Kim mentioned that it was difficult to start a business in Korea, but views have changed and there is a K-premium because Korean people have been overcoming the COVID-19 situation well. Investors also like Korean startups because the labor costs of engineers are low, and there are a lot of startup supporting programs by the Korean government. Studio XID planned on building a sales office in the U.S. this year, but due to corona, plans have been delayed. Kim usually participates in various community activities, as well as travelling around the world to meet and listen to users, but is staying tight due to corona.

It is important to practice thinking big, as Kim says “Think big, Scale up, Generalize”. In addition, it is important to deal data with caution. For example, in the case of baseball-related data, Google uses MLB and Naver uses KBO as the data source, so it is important to not change the system structure drastically.

Lastly, the reason why startups usually fail is because the new product fails to find an appropriate market. When creating a startup company, it is important to choose and focus in a limited time. Kim agrees to “Do not compete, build a monopoly instead” from the book Zero to One. Many people say that it is important to have competition, but it is more important to find a market that one can monopolize because making a good product is different from making a good business. Kim ended the lecture stating that a startup is likely to succeed when there is a harmony between Product people, Business people, and Tech people, and that it is important to choose a target with a high probability of success when starting a business.

Q&A

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session.

There were some general questions like, “What was most useful thing that you learned in school to start a new business?” and “What is necessary for a person who created a startup”. Kim answered that it is important to organize one’s thoughts logically, and that one needs passion, determination, and stamina, respectively. He also recommended to start a business after building some experience working in a company. There are also cases where people create a startup while they belong to labs, but they tend to not work as hard because they have a place to return and the pool to meet team members is limited. Thus, it is recommended to start a business once you have built experience.

To the question “How should we prepare if we want to target the U.S. market?”, Kim answered that one must consider whether the U.S. market is an early market to sell software to American users or an exit model. There is not much of a difference in setting up a Korean and American corporation, so it is important to decide based on why we are targeting the U.S. To one of the most important questions “How is Studio XID hiring?”, he answered that Studio XID simplified the Google recruitment process and created their own process. Kim also gave detailed answers to questions including “What is the difference between Framer X and ProtoPie?” and “What are the difficulties in getting investments?”.

Studio XID, providing the service ProtoPie, is growing into a global company. Kim hopes that the COVID-19 situation gets better as soon as possible, so the company can launch an office in the U.S. and more companies and users will be able to use ProtoPie. Studio XID is currently hiring in engineering and business, please apply and stay tuned for upcoming Startup-tings 🙂