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‘Stuck in the Sand’ Helps Startups Get Started

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

It can be daunting to put together a prototype and business plan for a new app, but one Clarendon-based company hopes to help make it easier.

Stuck in the Sand launched two months ago, to help those with a new idea get their thoughts in order ahead of employing developers or looking for investors.

It was founded by Wa’il Ashshowwaf, who has built four startups including rights protection app Reyets.

One of SITS’ four staff members interviews a client to learn more about their proposed product. After that conversation, SITS will draw up a business plan and start working on the prototype of an app and a home page for its website online.

Potential app customers can then view the website, sign up for email updates and run a full demo of the app from start to finish to see how the service works.

SITS provides its clients with a full business plan, a wireframe for the app to show developers how it is intended to work and a folder all the materials, including mock-ups for marketing.

Ashshowwaf said that all he and his colleagues need to start putting together prototypes is a name and an idea for an app. They can take care of the rest.

“When you have a very fresh idea, you don’t know where to start, it gives us a lot of room to take your idea and take creative license and build you something that looks good and gets your main idea across without wasting time on colors or what things should look like,” he said. “It allows you to get it out very quickly, it gives people a jump-start. It’s like if anyone’s started a diet and they need that first jump-start to get motivated, it gives them that.”

The client can then go to potential investors with their prototype, with such design intended to be less crude than an idea scribbled on a napkin in five minutes. SITS also provides analytics with website home pages, so clients can show investors a level of initial interest before major development begins.

When working with a developer, such services can cost around $20,000 and take several months, but SITS provides its services for around 10 percent of the cost — just over $2,000 — and will have a prototype ready in a matter of three days.

Those cost savings come, Ashshowwaf said, as building a landing page for a website and an app prototype can be done cheaply and quickly, especially on a fairly basic level.

“The websites you’re building, you’re building a landing page to show them the product, you’re not building a database and a store and all that,” he said. “That can be done pretty quickly if you know what you’re doing. For the app prototyping, if you know the right tools and have the right experience, even without using templates, you can build out things pretty quickly.”

In the future, Ashshowwaf said he hopes SITS will work with around 20 clients a month and expand nationwide as more and more people try and develop new apps. In time, SITS hopes to begin offering angel investments to early-stage companies and help them get off the ground.

“If we find clients where we really like their idea, we get to know them over a short period, that opens it up for us to put up an investment,” he said. “For us, rolling this out into very early stage angel investments would really be what we want, then scaling this up.”

Images via Stuck in the Sand.

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