“Engage in the industry you serve”
Props Labs is a Web3 product development studio and platform that empowers organisations with multiple brands to launch and manage Web3 products for their communities.
In this article we’ll break down who Props Labs are, how they came to be, and their unique approach to building and executing Web3 initiatives. We also got the chance to speak with one of Props Labs founders, Bitcoinski, to discuss some of the unique challenges they face as full-stack developers in the Web3 space, including the need to keep pace with a rapidly changing industry and the challenges of operating in an emerging space with global reach. He also shares the best and worst moments they've had since starting Props and what sets their company apart from others in the field.
In mid-2021, Bitcoinski and Calvin Hoenes met through UltraDAO, a decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) that they had both joined. Both skilled in their respective fields, they were approached to work on an NFT project called Woodies. After completing the project, they realised that their skills complemented each other well, and decided to join forces and start working together.
Through word of mouth, their reputation grew within the community and they began to be approached by other projects in need of their expertise. After working on several successful projects, they realised there was a demand for their services and decided to launch Props Labs. Their experience with NFTs and Web3 technology helped them become not only leaders in their field, but pioneers too, and they continued to work on innovative projects that pushed the boundaries of the technology.
Props Labs is a company building an enterprise-grade platform that enables organisations with multiple brands or intellectual properties (IPs) to launch, manage, and extend Web3 products for their communities. Web3 refers to the third generation of the World Wide Web, which aims to provide more control, security, and privacy to users by leveraging decentralised technologies such as the blockchain. Props long-term goal is to make it easier for teams within an organisation to deploy full-stack Web3 use cases and execute multiple Web3 initiatives simultaneously, without requiring as many technical resources.
Props make 80% of Web3 project execution repeatable using no-code/low-code tools, freeing up time and resources for new innovations and customizations that provide unique value for each project. Props Labs has been using their own platform for nearly a year now, and their team of just 7 people has already delivered on over 50 successful projects.
When partnering with organisations, Props Labs employs a three-pronged approach they call Props3: Strategy, Service, and Software. For each project, they work closely with their partners to plan, develop solutions, measure impact, and iterate post-launch. They also assign executive producers to each engagement to ensure project success and help their partners achieve their key performance indicators (KPIs). Additionally, Props Labs provides marketing strategy and optimised infrastructure hosting and support.
The company focuses on delivering value to its customers and remaining competitive, while also prioritising security and trust. In our Q&A with the company's founder, Bitcoinski, he emphasised the importance of investing in security, saying, "Security and Trust are our #1 priority always. The risks are far too great to not invest our energy to ensure the people who interact with our software feel confident in doing so." He also discussed their use of test-driven development and third-party analysis to ensure the safety of their software, saying, "we use test-driven-development, fuzz tests, and third-party analysis in regular attempts to hack ourselves."
This commitment to quality has helped Props Labs establish partnerships with major brands such as FOX. According to Bitcoinski, he is excited to continue watching FOX transform fan engagement in the entertainment industry through decentralised offerings, adding, " they (FOX) are an incredible innovator in this space and we owe much of our success to this amazing partnership.”
Q: What’s some of the best and worst moments you've had since starting Props?
A: “The absolute best moment is always launch day. Whether a project outperforms or not, the sense of accomplishment and pride I see across the teams we partner with when the culmination of their work is released to the world is really special. These teams sacrifice time in their personal lives to go after big ideas on short runways, which can weigh heavily on most. When we get to the other side of the mission I think everyone involved learns something about themselves and their potential. The worst moments happen on social media, where misinformed influencers gaslight the masses.”
Q: What type of unique challenges have you faced, and still do face, as full-stack developers in Web3?
A: “The biggest challenge is keeping pace within a high-velocity industry. New innovations are being created every day by developers and innovators, and it's important to internalise these advancements to ensure we align with those that can create new value for customers/collectors/fans/participants, all while delivering against a feverish project schedule.”
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced so far from a founder's perspective?
A: “Operating within an emerging space with a global reach like Web3 brings new opportunities but also many new questions around legality and compliance. We rely heavily on inside legal counsel to give us confidence that we are making good long-term decisions. The volatility of the space can create uncertainty as well when it comes to forecasting and resource planning.”
Q: What parts of working on projects have you been able to standardise versus the parts which are more variable based?
A: "This question reflects the reason why we're building the Props Platform. We strive to make 80% of the work required to execute in Web3 repeatable via no-code/low-code tooling, while reserving 20% for new innovations/customizations that yield the unique value of each project. We eat our own dog food and have been using our own platform to deliver big deliverables for nearly a year now, and have successfully delivered 50+ projects with a core team of 7 people."
Q: Do you have a favourite, or least favourite type of project to work on?
A: “I love working on projects with partners who bring excitement, fresh ideas, drive and conviction to their work. This is a space that moves at break-neck speed, and we work incredibly hard to execute and deliver value for our partners who themselves bring the same level of dedication as we do to a project. We split time between partner projects and our platform build, which I really love working on because it's a total green field and gives me an opportunity to solve new problems that haven't been identified before.”
Q: What would you say sets Props aside from other Web3 development studios?
A: “The traditional start-up mindset is to build point solutions with differentiation against their competition and market those to find an edge. But this is an industry that lives at the edge by definition, and so we believe our super power is the ability to identify new opportunities and execute against those rapidly and with high quality while continuing to lead out in front. Web2 start-ups typically kick-off by tossing ideas on a whiteboard, choosing one, building it and then attempting to make a market for their offering. We've built Props with a desire to always be continually pivoting towards the fast moving water, and so our platform looks nothing like you'd expect from a start-up whiteboard. It's the culmination of customer-led product vision earned over the course of delivering 50+ projects. If I had to pick one thing that sets our people apart though, is our deep expertise in enterprise SaaS rooted by 30+ collective years at Salesforce, Under Armour, Ebay, ShipStation and infosec firms across the partners.”
Q: What's included in the Props "package" that you offer to potential clients, and what can clients expect when working with Props?
A: "We call it Props3: Strategy, Service, Software. For every project, we embed ourselves within our partner teams to plan, project manage, develop solutions, measure their impact, and iterate forward post launch. We align executive producers to each engagement who are responsible for the overall success of the project, which means our partners reaching their goal KPIs for which they themselves are measured upon. We host and run optimised infrastructure for our partners, bring marketing strategy to bear, and generally apply our expertise to every facet of an engagement."
Q: Does Props have services geared towards smaller creators and artists?
A: "Make no mistake, the reason Props is a thing at all is because of the smaller creators and artists who gave us an opportunity early on in this emerging space to build and learn. Even though our primary growth driver as a business is to support the enterprise, we will continue to support smaller creators indefinitely. Balancing these two ends of the spectrum can be challenging from a resource perspective, but it's a symbiotic relationship, as Web3 native creators inform our product vision at parity or better than any enterprise could."
Q: When deciding which project/brands to work with, do you have a criteria that they need to meet before you'll feel comfortable to work with them?
A: “Not necessarily, there's no rubric or formula we apply per se, but we do extreme due diligence of the teams, organisations, and business plans we take on, and try to measure the opportunity costs of selecting one over another. Time is our most precious asset.”
Q: How do you prioritise the most important things to learn/implement into your business and services?
A: "Staying relevant technically is a function of staying current with new innovations in the industry by way of participating as a fan of the industry as much as an operator within it. We love this stuff and when we're not building projects, we're interacting with others we did not build and observing what works and what doesn't. Using the newest wiz bang innovation isn't always practical either, there are still massive organisations that rely on AS400 mainframes in 2022. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The name of the game is to deliver value using whatever tools give you the ability to do so."
Q: In a previous interview, it was mentioned that security is of extremely high priority to Props. Is there currently a "one size fits all" solution to blockchain/smart contract security?
A: “Security and Trust are our #1 priority always. The risks are far too great to not invest our energy to ensure the people who interact with our software feel confident in doing so. As every project is unique, there's not a one-size-fits-all approach per se, but we use test-driven-development, fuzz tests, and third-party analysis in regular attempts to hack ourselves.”
Q: Could you share any red flags people should look out for when approaching or being approached to work on a project?
A: “Project teams should have a vision other than "making money." They should also carry a mature attitude and have some experience in the arena which they are looking to build. If they are excited by an ability to hype a project as their core value proposition, run. Better, ask them how what they’re planning to build will positively affect the people who engage with it.”
Q: It's not always clear in Web3 what you can and can't do from a legal perspective. What type of legalities does Props have to be aware of when working with projects/brands?
A: “Every project brings new questions to answer, and we've learned so much along the way. The legal constraints that are top of mind revolve around securities law and contests. Very few, if any, US based entities should be issuing transferable ERC20 tokens without further guidance from the SEC and/or well-articulated legal memos from counsel. Very few, if any, projects run contests/giveaways in a compliant way. To name a couple.”
Q: Can you tell us more about Fox, and what Props involvement is with them?
A: “I can't share much, other than they are an incredible innovator in this space and we owe much of our success to this amazing partnership. I'm really excited to continue to watch FOX transform fan engagement in the entertainment industry via decentralised offerings.”
Q: How long does it take, on average, to complete a project from start to finish?
A: "It really depends on the project. Novel ideas could take 2-3 months of planning, solutioning, and development to execute - while on the other hand, we do a free drop every Friday called Props Drops where we regularly execute in 24-48 hours."
Q: How has the bear market affected Props, if at all?
A: "More than any financial impact, the impact of negative sentiment towards the industry as a whole can influence decision makers in mainstream organisations from making the leap into Web3 in the short-term. True thought leaders across these organisations have not been deterred, however, and we are seeing massive investments being put to work during this bear market. 2023 will be an exciting year, I believe."
Q: What does the next 5 years look like for Prop, and what will you guys be focusing on the most?
A: "It's hard to have a 5-year vision in an emerging space like this, but the nirvana state is that the Props Platform is a standard in the enterprise mar-tech stack for Fortune 1000s across the globe. Customer-led product development is the key - build stuff people need right now. As they identify new needs, build that stuff too. Integrate everything.
If you’d like to hear more from Bitcoinski I’d highly recommend listening to “The Builders Journey'' podcast on Spotify, presented by DecentDAO, where he is also joined by founder Calvin for a brilliant interview!
Bitcoinski - Web3 Developer and solutions
Calvin Hoenes - Full stack dev, focused on platform UX, SDKs and productization of components
David Devore - Strategy, biz dev, partnerships
Kevin Nuest - Strategy, production
BEE - Marketing & Comms
ombra.eth - utility full-stack dev, generative algos,
Rachel Clark - project/platform DX management
Written independently by DropHook community member Smithy - Drophook aka Smithy (@ShowPencil) / Twitter