Last week, we celebrated Brooklyn’s new breed of innovators. But what about the innovators who help the innovators innovate? That’s where Awesome, a startup for startups, comes in. Led by Firat Parlak, Savas Ozay and Jean Merkle, the small company creates beautiful user interface and user experience designs for companies that are just getting their footing. They also help with the less glamorous side of things like securing seed money and helping out with prototypes. We spoke with Parlak and Merkle about the ins-and-outs of working in a city where it seems like you can’t take a step without bumping into an entrepreneur.
How does your team toe the line between helping and hand-holding?
Working in the startup world allows us to work with so many different types of clients that our approach is tailor-fit to each project. It’s definitely a balancing act between helping them form ideas based on our knowledge of best practices and helping them create brand new ideas for their product.
Our clients are unique, and each case demands special treatment. Some entrepreneurs that we work with want us to hold their hand, while others are startup gurus or serial entrepreneurs and have a strong knowledge of the process. Our choice to decline corporate clients allows us to focus on startups exclusively, which sometimes includes writing business plans or attending investor pitches with the interest of helping them raise funding. We alter our process to fit the client’s needs. One of the most important parts of starting a project is getting a feel for how they want to work with us. Once we know how they are comfortable, the rest is easy.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when creating a startup?
A huge mistake is underestimating the importance of great User Experience Design. Having a great idea is very important, but not enough to make a product successful. Executing a startup idea into a digital product requires a comprehensive understanding of User Experience and User Interface design. Too many entrepreneurs rush to launch their MVP (Minimum Viable Product) without investing their time and resources in design. Having a poorly designed product in terms of usability and functionality can lead to failure.
Why is user experience so important and what makes for the best user experience?
At it’s simplest, user experience is how a user interacts with and responds to a product. UX is vital in refining a product’s purpose and goals. For instance, it is not necessary to launch an MVP with every feature envisioned for the product. An initial product should do a few things, and do them well. That is the definition of the best user experience, and the first step is creating traction utilizing the best UX or it will result in an ever-shrinking userbase.
Firat, what inspired you to startup your own startup?
In 2011, the New York tech scene was growing and the demand for design talent was high. The major players, like Google and Facebook, recruited all of the top designers, and I knew it was time to start an agency that could produce the same quality work as the larger companies, but tailor it tech startups with limited funds. It turned out great! We’re coming up on our 3-year anniversary, and have worked with over 65 startups on about 100 products. To date, we have helped them collectively raise over $15 million in funding, which allowed them to create 50+ jobs for the tech community.
What are the personality traits you see most often in successful startup entrepreneurs?
A successful entrepreneur has empathy skills for his consumers and a strong understanding of the market. He or she invests in human capital and focuses on hiring the best talent to execute ideas. We find great entrepreneurs to be passionate, obsessive about details and understand the balance between getting it out and getting it right.
What sets NYC’s startup culture apart from those in California and other startup-friendly locales?
New York City is unique in its ethnic diversity in background and culture. It’s amazing to see how different ideas and life experiences can solve real problems that constantly occur in a startup’s life cycle. This amazing city brings brilliant immigrants from every corner of the globe that we’re now seeing lead teams to be proactive and solve issues together. New York’s startup growth is not dissimilar to Israel’s, one of the up-and-coming startup nations. Enriched by 70+ nationalities, they prove that diversity truly produces successful startups. NYC will always be filled to the brim with budding entrepreneurs with the next big idea, and will continue to create a name for itself in the startup community.
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