Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
Two millenials coding websites from a co-working space in Ballston have spent the last two years building their digital agency Exobyte from the ground up.
And along the way, Taylor Bagwell and Dominic Giacona — who are both brimming with ideas, inventions and solutions — say they’ve learned a lot about the balance required to grow a company while indulging their creative side.
“We have certainly had our fair share of growing pains,” says co-founder Bagwell.
Website development was a bit of a side-gig for both co-founders. Bagwell was bored at his government contracting job and began designing people’s websites for free until his name got around and he decided to monetize his skills. Giacona was in the U.S. Navy for five years and after leaving, got into user interface/user experience design (which is known by the abbreviation UI/UX) because he needed more work.
As he dove deeper, he became increasingly fascinated by the idea of telling hypervisual stories through website design.
“It all starts with user experience,” he said. “Making something visually appealing is one thing, but the goal is making it easy to use so that they don’t have to think at all.”
Growing Exobyte, which offers web design, app development, e-commerce and marketing services, has taught both entrepreneurs business lessons. Bagwell says he now cannot understate the importance of vetting potential hires with real-time skills tests. As for finances, he realized a good accountant is key to an unsurprising tax season.
Most of all, building Exobyte taught them not get distracted by “shiny things.”
“We’ve made mistakes with getting excited about things we wanted to work on and pulling our attention away from things that mattered,” Bagwell said.
They’re taking a more measured approach with a new idea, which Giacona says came from a family member. It is aimed at making people feel safer on the road, and particularly during traffic stops.
“I always had ideas and solutions for problems,” Giacona said. (Bagwell and Giacona met because Giacona had the idea for a biodegradable liner for a protein shake, and he needed a website for the product concept.)
The fitness industry, from workout apparel to nutrition, also became one where Exobyte made a name for itself. But now, Bagwell and Giacona say they’re hoping to take on more clients outside that niche.
“You get burnt out working with the same industry: at the end of the day, they all want the same thing and they’re competing with each other. It makes it harder to work with clients and differentiate them,” Bagwell said.
The key to staying happy as a digital creator, he says, is to be flexible and not to get too deep into one niche.
In the coming year, the two are looking to take on new clients and hire a developer so they can focus on building up Exobyte — and devote some more time to their side projects.
Enjoy alpacas, farmers markets and more at the Loudoun County Spring Farm Tour May 21-22.
Cali is the newest Adoptable Pet of the Week who loves treats, watching Netflix and nose boops.