Startup Spotlight: Fueled by profits, 10,000ft looks to take project planning to new heights

10,000ft team

The 10,000ft Team

10,000ft describes itself as a “design inspired Web application tool,” allowing companies to allot appropriate time and resources to various projects.

For example, it gives the current status of employees, regulates multiple projects at one time and adjusts budgets, all through a visually appealing design.

Whether you are dragging and dropping people’s schedules, represented by colored bars on a timeline, or checking out various people and projects in a display, it is all a little reminiscent of Twitter; there are splashes bright colors, profiles, and thumbnails everywhere you look.

10,000ft’s parent company, Artefact, created 10,000ft as an internal tool. After some initial success, Artefact spun it out into a separate startup last year, competing with a host of other online project planning tools.

CEO Martijn van Tilburg, who had been designing productivity tools for years, chatted with us for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it  “We build software to help people achieve mastery and autonomy in their jobs. 10,000ft is a visual planning tool to manage resources and projects pipelines. Unlike most project management tools it focuses on light-weight planning and management of resources and timelines because we believe that creative work can only happen with strict but few constraints. We developed 10,000ft focusing on the big picture needed to manage the project portfolio while promoting team autonomy. The result is a unique ability to make strategic decisions based on real time, complex data, increased autonomy and independence and ultimately, more opportunity to innovate.”

Inspiration hit us when:  “From our own previous experience at Artefact, we saw that existing tools didn’t really understand 10000ft_logo_final_whiteBG-01the nature of creative projects. While there is a real need to have some high-level structure around creative projects, most of the tools that were available were too prescriptive. For us, this was a straightjacket: when solving problems, we all focus on a big goal, not a to-do list. A good project management tool should work in the same way creative thinkers do, not enforce a predefined step-by-step schedule.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstraped and profitable! 10,000ft was created without any outside investment and in less than a year we’re proud to have achieved month-to-month profitability, which is evidence that even ina crowded market like project management software, there is still demand for well designed, innovative and easy to use solutions. Also, not taking external funding allowed us to stay focused on improving the software based on our user needs.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We stay very focused. Except when there’s cake.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We agreed that having killer customer support was our top priority. If you don’t care for your customers, don’t expect their loyalty. Ah, and make every team member cook for the others once a month.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We underestimated the cultural shift that 10,000ft spurs. When adopting 10,000ft for the first time, a company needs to get all its employees onboard and they usually rethink their core management policies, like Who assigns projects?, Who has visibility of the pipeline and the finances?. This meant that we were not a simple SAAS product, we’re in the change management business too, so our sales process is more intense than we initially anticipated. Since we became aware of this impact, we have been working on deepening our onboarding process, providing customized support to those who are responsible for the implementations and integration of 10,000ft in every company, because they are not just implementing a new tool, they are change agents in their organization.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Jobs. He’s an inspiration to make intuitive, beautiful and simple products that people love.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “World domination is old news: we are going for the Universe.”

Rivals should fear us because: “10,000ft it’s not just good, it’s also very, very beautiful. You can make something just work, but we wanted to make it work and look great.”

Martjin van

Martjin van Tilburg

We are truly unique because: “We’ve made what people thought it was impossible. We brought creative freedom and real-world business management together.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “10,000ft has a very unique philosophy on how to support business innovation with increased autonomy and transparency. Some organizations aren’t receptive to the idea that creative workers need autonomy to produce quality work. Old management processes, rigid tools and micro-management practices are still the obstacles we try to overcome everyday.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Build something you believe in. Build something that changes the world. Whatever segment of the world your product or service occupies, be the best, rethink the norms and give a damn when it comes to the details. Even if they disagree with you, your customers will appreciate that you stand for something and have a clear point of view on what you are making.”

Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Pacific Northwest startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out this questionnaire in a fun and engaging style that shows off your startup’s culture. (Remember to upload photos). Past profiles can be found here.

  • Kent W.

    Very cool. Moving to a real project-mgt tool rather than a traditional task-based “to do” list is hard. Glad we’ve got some help on the way.