Designing an app to give founders Harvard-level access to connections and resources

For many founders, work is personal, and Jeff Aguy is no exception. He began his startup shortly after the birth of his son, and he named it after the year he’ll turn 23—2043. Through his graduate studies in creativity and innovation, and subsequent career in startups and economic development, Jeff’s seen how societal change outpaces equity. 2043 exists because Jeff wants his son, a black kid in America, to have more opportunities by the time he graduates college than when he was born.

To build the world where Jeff’s son can live out his dreams, 2043 is bringing the siloed public, private, and philanthropic sectors closer together by creating the relationships that make entrepreneurship and growth possible. Over his decade plus of experience, Jeff has come to believe that relationships are what drive greater economic participation and equal opportunity: “People do business with people who they know, like, and trust. Based on what we see on TV or hear from others, we already dislike one another. When we never even get a chance to know each other, that ‘like’ and ‘trust’ can’t develop.”

An app as the next evolution of 2043’s strategy

Jeff knew about the power of connection intuitively, but valuing data, wanted the research to back it up. For 2043’s inaugural study, the startup teamed up with the University of Chicago to find that connectivity is an important yet underrated commonality that’s shared by successfully growing entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country. As a result, 2043 launched an experiential events program, Humans Get Together.

With the pandemic still a reality and a commitment to being a data-first company, however, an app to help entrepreneurs and experts get together online was the next logical step. At the outset, Jeff envisioned Prometheus as a marketplace that would let entrepreneurs and experts connect to each other as well as resources and events. As it grew, it would be able to learn about its users and automatically connect them to additional people and opportunities hyper-tailored to their specific business needs. Named after the Titan who defied the gods to give humans fire, enlightenment, and innovation, Prometheus seeks to defy exclusivity by bringing a Silicon Valley- or Harvard- level of access to any founder who wants it. The app would also help seasoned executives and industry experts tap into the startup world.

Emphasizing design and public benefits

Having helped other founders build apps before as a founding partner of the design firm NCXT, Jeff knew that he wanted any tech partner he worked with to be experienced, understand his vision, and support an iterative approach from start all the way to scale. And with 2043 being a public benefit corporation, he also wanted to work with a team that had a reputation for working under a public benefit lens. During Jeff’s initial conversation with Cloudburst, a fellow SBC, the team’s attention to detail, generosity of expertise, and option to work through Shared Success Agreement made Cloudburst feel like a partner that could meet his needs.

In further working sessions, Jeff got to know Cloudburst’s design team. They helped him think through all of Prometheus’ possibilities and then narrow them down to its core needs in a way he hadn’t before considered. He recognized that having both design and tech under one house was a major advantage. Says Jeff, “The design part of development is equally important as the technology part. My graduate experiences were in design thinking. A lot of my research was on that, and I’m a practitioner in the design field. So when Cloudburst’s designers walked me through their process and I realized, ‘Oh yeah, I don’t think I could have done that better,’ that meant a big deal to me."

Partnering on tech development vs. DIYing

Despite these positive interactions in the getting to know each other process, Jeff was still entertaining the feeling that he could hire employees to do things himself. But seeing how well the Cloudburst team worked together, and how much structure the team had in place convinced him otherwise. Ultimately, Jeff signed on for Cloudburst to develop a Prometheus prototype, and then a progressive web app (PWA). PWAs are mobile apps that use the web to deliver the same functionality for less time and cost than native apps downloaded from app stores.

He hasn’t regretted recruiting an established tech team versus building one from scratch to develop a native app in-house: “With Cloudburst, I’m not stressed. I’m really on autopilot. I don’t have to wake up every day for meetings or worry about fixing all these minute details, which kills creativity and productivity. It gives me the mindspace to run my business. I provide direction and think about strategy. I get to play the role of a true CEO. I’ve used my time to build partnerships and find investors instead.”

The Prometheus app was launched in March 2022 after three months of prototyping and development. Alex Betzler, UX Designer at Cloudburst, described the process: “Jeff has a strong vision and values for the community he wants to build. Our job was to bring that energy and ethos into the app design itself, to enable connections across industries and areas of expertise. We made decisions upfront to prioritize safety features within the app, to build the foundation where an inclusive community could thrive. We loved working with the premise that every human being has something to offer as well as receive.”

If you’re a founder, expert, or executive who wants to make meaningful entrepreneurial connections in a trusted environment, click here to join the Prometheus community. And if you’re interested in learning about how your startup can benefit from Cloudburst’s iterative design and development services, book an intro conversation with us today.