Introducing Prota Ventures

Along with our first set of portfolio projects, my partners and I are excited to unveil Prota Ventures, a venture-building and early-stage investment firm based out of Seattle, Chicago, and Jacksonville.

As we say on our home page:

We are Venture Builders. Forged from decades of business ideation, validation, and execution, our team of experienced operators are on a mission to launch inspiring new ventures and invest in early-stage founders.

And that’s exactly what we are up to.

Thus far, three projects have passed our initial validation tests. If one or more of them sound appealing, feel free to click through to reserve your place in their private beta queues:

#1. Startup Rocket

Startup Rocket was birthed out of the frustration of re-inventing the wheel every time we started validating a new venture, building a team, launching a product, and accelerating a business to a place where it made sense to talk to interested investors.

It also came out of countless conversations with early-stage founders seeking to land their first round of funding.

Not surprisingly, there are a common set of mistakes that most founders make that are avoidable with the right coaching.

At the end of the day, all startup operations — especially those in the pre-launch days — are a chaotic mess. Over the past 11+ years, I’ve personally been involved in many startups (i.e. business ventures seeking to grow big and fast to the point that it, if successful, will attract investors). I can say for sure that the process of going all the way from the original idea to pitching investors is hard, inefficient, and accomplished only by the most ambitiously insane (and lucky) founders.

While there are plenty of resources to be found on the Internet diving into what it takes to pull this off in principle, I’ve yet to find a comprehensive guide that is practically helpful when it comes to execution. There are traditional business plans (or lean canvas/business-model canvas guides) to help with the ideation stages, but guidance through the nuances actually building your business is hard to find.

What is needed for many new founders is a framework to think about how to proceed researching, validating, and building their idea, including the critical first step of finding a co-founder (i.e. don’t pay an agency your life savings to build you a prototype!).

Thus, Startup Rocket is a web-based software product based largely on a startup operations book I am writing, including a validation platform and network to help founders efficiently get their idea off the ground, find a solid co-founder, and get customized help along the way.

If you are interested, reserve your place in the queue for our private beta here!

#2. WeCasa

Our friend and advisor Chris Deutsch pitched us an idea he had around opening up extra bedrooms, couches, vacation homes, etc. to first and second degree connections. In addition to being an inexpensive place to stay, the platform will reconnect old friends and widen professional (and/or personal) networks with unique hospitality experiences.

The kicker is that a large fraction of the cost is given to a nonprofit of the host’s choice. Thus, rather than worrying about a gift to bring, the guest knows that they have “paid it forward” by helping a cause important to their host.

Personally, when I posted my recent transition announcement on Facebook earlier this month, I was overwhelmed by the response and was reminded of awesome friends back in Seattle that I wish I could spend more time with (I live in Chicago now…’love this city!).

With WeCasa, I’m looking forward to inviting these friends to stay with me the next time they are in Chicago, and they’ll know I actually mean it.

#3. Ascend Growth Partners

While it’s relative easy for a team to build a product, it’s hard to successfully acquire customers and keep them engaged and happy.

Many organizations struggle to grow customer acquisition channels, let alone bake into their products inherent virality and funnel metrics to make data-driven decisions on what to improve (and how, exactly, to improve it).

Ascend Growth Partners is a team of growth specialists, visual designers, and software engineers that Prota Ventures has partnered with to exclusively conduct all of our contract work, including marketing campaigns and web/mobile projects that any of our portfolio companies need done.

Personally, I enjoy diving into architecting DevOps workflows, designing the software stack of web and mobile applications, writing code to quickly ship products, and analyzing data to make smart choices about how to better serve and acquire customers.

If you have any projects coming up that you think would be a good fit for Ascend to work on, let us know.

More projects on the horizon

If you are a potential customer of one of the three projects above, hopefully you’ll hear more from each team soon as we roll along. Make sure to secure your spot in the private beta queues by submitting your email address on their landing pages.

In addition, we also have a fun set of projects that we hope to make more public soon. :) We have a good mix of service companies, B2B SaaS products, physical products, marketplaces, and consumer-facing apps in the queue.

About us

We are a founding team of six: three battle-tested product engineers with a mix of visual design, web/mobile development, and DevOps experience, and three growth specialists with diverse backgrounds in inbound marketing, B2B sales, business intelligence, and marketing automation.

Our day-to-day operations involve running small experiments to test new ventures (not just startups) and making data-driven decisions on where to continue investing resources.

Let’s work together

We are interested in working with world-class Ruby/JavaScript/React developers, UI designers & developers, growth specialists, and/or early-stage founders ready to raise capital.

If you meet one or more of these descriptions and are interested in working on projects together — or if you are curious about investing in startups within our network — email us at hello@protaventures.com.

Author’s note: For those curious, the word “prota” (πρώτα) is the plural form of “first” in Greek. e.g. τα πρώτα βήματα = “the first steps.” Our team agreed that as we take “first steps” toward launching new ventures — and invest in others doing the same — that Prota Ventures was a fitting name. Also, one of my main writing projects at the moment a series of articles outlining Startup Rocket’s operational framework that we’ve developed over the last 10+ years. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I get new content up, and/or click “Follow” below to stay updated by the good folks at Medium. Thanks!