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Interview with Andres Garzon (Pricetag)

Pricetag makes it quick and easy to create accurate, customized quotes for your agency.

I interviewed Andres Garzon, Pricetag cofounder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the eighty fifth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Andres!

Describe Pricetag in under 50 words

Pricetag is a quoting tool for interactive businesses. Pricetag guides users to create a comprehensive quote. It takes the burden out of quoting by suggesting costs they may not have thought of before. It forces them to think about how much it really costs to do something.

You say Rework by 37 signals was a major influence in the creation of Pricetag. How so?

Rework was an influence from the very beginning. I came up with the concept of Pricetag by following the book’s advice to “scratch [my] own itch.” I know that quoting can be a real problem, because I deal with it myself on a daily basis. As I am familiar with the process, It was easy for me to tell precisely what was difficult and how to fix it to make it better. I decided to create the tool that I needed to fix my own workflow.

Another big influence was the way it inspired me to pick my partners. Rework maintains that you should pick the best team for your project, no matter where people live. In essence, personality trumps location, so don’t feel pressured to work with those who live in the same town as you. I live in New York City, as does the creative director/UX designer and marketing head, but the lead developer is in Ecuador, my home country. And it works out great, because we use Pivotal Tracker and Skype, and we all get along well. Face to face meetings aren’t that important, not when you have the right team in place. And these guys all came from within my own network of co-workers and friends. They’re not only skilled, but have the drive and creativity to create something new. And they’re also great people. Personal harmony leads to good communication, and that’s essential in any venture like this.

Rework also inspired us in how we structured the development of Pricetag. From the beginning, we decided to separate features into two groups: those that would be ready for launch, and those that would debut later. We knew that speed to market was important with an idea like this, so anything that was not strictly necessary was put on the back burner. And we also followed Rework’s advice to “underdo your competition.” We didn’t make something that was bloated and flashy with a ton of bells and whistles. Pricetag is streamlined and smart. It does one thing, and does it really well.

We brought that same discipline and focus to our workflow. Our core creative and development team was only three people. By keeping it so small, we ensured that there weren’t too many cooks in the kitchen. We were able to keep meetings brief and to the point. And though everyone weighed in on everything, we maintained respect for each person’s specialty: the creative director had the most say in design, the developer in programming, etc. We set aside fifteen (timed) minutes a day for a scrum chat, in which we worked out the goals for that day. This allowed us to divide the work into small, manageable tasks, which made completing them much easier. This way we were able to stay agile and focused, and not bogged down in the enormity of the project as a whole.

Who is the team behind Pricetag? Where are you based?

The team is composed by three very talented individuals and myself. Arturo Sheimberg is the marketing guy. He joined us quite recently but is quickly proving invaluable, as he’s already garnered Pricetag the attention of major media outlets. Andy Pratt is our creative ace (aka the creative director and UX designer). Camilo is the coding wizard who always builds the most amazing stuff. And myself, I just coordinate, push and serve these very talented individuals. BTW, we are based in NYC.

How easy was it to come up with the name?

My wife Andrea has always been a key supporter of my decisions. Many times I discuss business doubts with her and she always gives me great insights. When I asked her about names for this new idea, she came up with Pricetag.

Who do you see as your target audience?

Designers, developers, webshops, media agencies, freelancers and all interactive-related companies.

What technologies have you used to build Pricetag?

We built the tool using the PHP Zend framework. The promotional website was built in Drupal.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing Pricetag?

We decided to use a the Zend Framework that by design lacks a “model” (the part that actually stores and retrieves the data from a database), so we had to implement our own. This involved spending a chunk of time planning, building and polishing this piece of software. It is not really a part of what Pricetag is about, but instead something that the application relies on. Like the foundations of a building, the model in a web application needs to be solid, stable, otherwise you won’t get the rest of the building to hold. Now, Pricetag works like a swiss watch in part because of the work put into this.

How long did it take to put together Pricetag?

We built Pricetag’s closed alpha version in less than four months. After the alpha version, we did weekly iterations for three more months until we got to the beta version.

I hear you were very popular at the Launch Conference in San Francisco in March! What did you get out of the day?

The Launch Conference was great. We learned a ton, and we took it as an opportunity to see where we stood relative to the other startups there. The first area we looked at was design. We felt great about this, as every person who heard our pitch had good things to say about the look of the product. The second area we wanted to look at was results. That was also good news for us, as investors were impressed by the subscribers and interest we’ve generated so far. The third area we wanted to measure was the idea itself, and how other startups and investors reacted to it. The feedback was definitely positive, however we also got some advice that will help us take Pricetag to the next level. Just being open to feedback was so valuable. And being honest can also help you attract interested investors.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

We do. We’ll start supporting different currencies. We’ll also improve the webview and create a client’s view that allows them to accept the bid. The biggest change we have on tap is to develop an algorithm to create templates. The users will answer a series of questions about their quote, as opposed to filling out form fields. The algorithm will include blocks of deliverables and tasks that are related to the project. That way users can create any type of project with any type of complexity. And because it will assign roles to tasks, we can recommend interested users as vendors for each task. We believe that this kind of value–a combination of quoting and marketing–will encourage even more people to pay for the service. I think is going to have an awesome impact.

What were you doing before starting up Pricetag?

I’ve been on the helm of technology for the last ten years. Before Pricetag I started a company called Jobsity. We have teams of developers in Ecuador that help interactive companies in the US. I still run that company and thanks to Jobsity, I’ve been able to support myself while working on Pricetag.

What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?

I wish I knew how important it was to define my own identity and philosophy as a professional. Integrity comes both from understanding your own beliefs and adjusting them to different parts of your life, and being consistent in how you evaluate things. Five years ago, quality for me was relative to the circumstances. So if I was going to buy a pair of jeans, I would go for the cheapest pair, because I just didn’t care that much about what I wore. However, if I bought a computer, I would get the very best one. My definition of quality and value was not standardized in all aspects of my life, and so I wasn’t in a position to create a product that was excellent in every aspect. Now I no longer feel that way, and Pricetag is the fruit of that discovery.

Has Pricetag got the feedback and growth you expected since beta launch?

It has. We get feedback every week and we consider it very carefully. We’ve grown and evolved, but we still have a lot of work to do.

Where do you see Pricetag in 5 years time?

In five years, I see Pricetag as a fun company that is focused on delivering an amazing product: one that is insanely well programmed, obsessively designed and covers one necessity really well.

Have you passed up any opportunities which you now regret?

It’s a tough question because opportunities are always there, but having the clarity and confidence to choose the correct ones is key. Therefore I would say no, no regrets.

What is the biggest hurdle you, personally, have faced or are still facing?

The biggest hurdle I face is to stay focused and not lose perspective. At Pricetag, I am constantly distracted by new functionality that is not priority, but is “cool” to build. Or by colleagues pitching me to build another product, or a subproduct of Pricetag.

It is hard stuff building a business, and when you are an entrepreneur by nature, it is very easy to want to create new ideas, companies, and functionality. Staying focused is mastering saying “NO” to you, to your partners, and to other interesting people. It requires discipline, courage and stubbornness. You have to believe in your idea and close your eyes to the rest.

What one piece of advice would you give to soon to be startup founders?

I believe this question is very tricky, because trying to teach experience is though. It’s like trying to teach swimming when you don’t know if the other person has ever gone into a pool. Therefore, If I have just one good piece of advice, it is: cut the bullshit, jump to the pool and start swimming, remembering all the advice you’ve read and the experience you’ve gained.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

I am really excited about new features we are creating for Pricetag. With such a great team and the awesome feedback gathered recently, we think our changes can generate great value for our community. If we accomplish that, we know we are building something for the long term. It makes me smile just to think of creating that impact, of building a passionate team and a company that stands for its values.

Can you convince the reader to start using Pricetag in under 50 words?

Let’s say there’s great opportunity and you know you’re right for the job. Next step? The dreaded project proposal. Pricetag is easy to use, like Turbotax. It guides you through a 4-step process, and suggests things like rates and deliverables to create an extraordinary quote.

Finished reading? Check out Pricetag!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 at 10:32 pm GMT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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