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Puerto Rican Tech Startup ‘Blimp’ is Changing the Project Management Game

Nowadays, it's difficult to imagine an entrepreneur not using some kind of project management software on a daily basis, no matter how simple the tool. It's even harder to consider this scenario when a team is spread out through various offices, perhaps in different parts of the world. In these cases, project management tools are as essential – if not more so – than a business card.

Among the numerous software and cloud-based solutions that have cropped up to meet this demand, platforms such as Basecamp – designed by the renowned development team at 37Signals – have become synonymous with increased efficiency and organization in the modern workspace.

But there is always room for improvement, no matter how polished the competition – and that opportunity to innovate motivated a team of young, Puerto Rican entrepreneurs to develop Blimp, a new and surprising contender in the highly contested software niche of project management.

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Launched late last year, Blimp has quickly won over a loyal group of supporters. Co-creators Giovanni Collazo (@gcollazo), José Padilla (@jpadilla_), and Elving Rodríguez (@Elving) have developed a company culture that values accessibility and openness towards its clients, also contributing to Blimp's rapid growth.

“No one is protected from angry clients”, mentions Giovanni. “We all do customer support, and share our personal email addresses and phone numbers with all our clients”. This practice has turned some of their clients into active collaborators that help develop an even stronger product – one that might easily surpass the expectations of the small core team that is responsible for Blimp.

What follows is an excerpt from the author's original interview with Giovanni Collazo about Blimp, the future of his company, and Puerto Rico. It was originally published in Spanish through PuertoRicoIndie.com [es].

Global Voices (GV): Your product competes with numerous high profile options. How is Blimp different?

Giovanni Collazo (GC): Blimp is a software with opinions, not a blank canvas like most of the tools that are available out there. This is a design decision that in some ways might limit its adoption rate, but also has the potential of attracting clients that simply love the product and can help us accelerate that rate.

When I say it's a software with opinions, I mean specifically the process we implement to manage a project's tasks. The majority of project management tools let users input tasks and manage them in the best way they can figure out the software. This becomes a problem for people that have never managed a project before or don't know how to. Blimp suggests one specific process for administrating a project. In this process, tasks are put through a series of simple steps that allow for better organization of your work, produce better results, and empower you to make better decisions during key moments within a project.

Blimp's process is derived from the techniques of lean manufacturing used by Toyota and other giant companies. The process starts out by laying out tasks that need to be done; then those tasks are worked on; then the results of those tasks are evaluated; and then those results can be approved or rejected. If the results are rejected, you start again; if they are approved, a task is considered complete.

GV: A problem within local technological entrepreneurship is its constant preoccupation with tailoring specific solutions for the Puerto Rican market. We've heard before about “a Facebook for Puerto Ricans” or the “a Twitter for Puerto Ricans”, and even a “Kickstarter for Puerto Ricans”.

It seems that the vision of providing services to a global community has been hijacked by one based on exclusion that is severely limited in scope – thereby difficult to grow and maintain. Yet Blimp is not “Basecamp for Puerto Ricans”. You are concerned with introducing new ideas into the global market.

GC: The new “default” is for all businesses to be global from day one. Whoever doesn't understand that is lost in space and needs help. Having said that, I think there is a big opportunity in creating services and businesses online for specific regions. But for those to work there needs to be some innovation, you need to provide something that no one else does, because others are reaching for the entire globe and your service might only work within a city, town, or street. I think the term is “micro-niche”.

A good opportunity that remains untapped is that Puerto Ricans spend millions of dollars a year on online sales, and I think that more than 90 percent of those transactions are done with companies outside the country. There's a huge opportunity there to make money with a “Puerto Rican Amazon”, but there needs to be innovation in order to take on Amazon. What can we do being geographically close to the buyer and understanding his cultural context, that Amazon can't?

So I don't think it's all bad. If you can make money with that and you don't harm anyone – good. But I agree that for many, the “default” is still to develop for the local market and then move elsewhere, as if the Internet had frontiers. From day one you are competing against the best in the world, no matter what you are working on.

GV: You've mentioned that Blimp bypassed financing its product through external channels outside the company because you didn't want your vision to be compromised. How about crowdfunding? Would you consider it in the future in order to develop new features or a new product, as the team behind blogging platform Ghost has done?

GC: More than compromising our vision, what we didn't want to have to do was to ask for permission. We are hackers and don't like to ask for permission. Perhaps we don't have the best ideas, but our ideas get made because we don't have to wait for anybody and this is something that we are not willing to negotiate. For us, creating a economic dependance on external elements is a way of having to ask for permission – and that's why we eliminated that possibility from the beginning. If we want to do something we have to get whatever we need directly and without intermediaries.

I think crowdfunding is a way of not having to ask for permission and doing what you want to do. The idea is to go directly to someone who cares and will benefit from your project and is willing to pay upfront so that it can become a reality. They are clients for what you are creating, not investors. The idea behind Ghost is a great one, and we know of other “free software” projects – free as in “free speech” not “free beer” – that have used crowdfunding successfully. This is better than going to investors, and we have already spoken about things that we are interested to do that go in that direction.

GV: Why do you think there are not many companies like yours in Puerto Rico?

GC: I think there are more people than we think and we are working, within initiatives such as Startups of Puerto Rico to make us more effective in the process of producing technology startups. I think we can hack Puerto Rico's economy.

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