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ProtoPie helps designers translate their work to engineering without the hassles

It’s the golden age of design for software companies. Designers are becoming more visible and popular on engineering teams, figuring out everything from the visuals of color palette and fonts to the deeper interaction flows and user experience journeys that underlie products. As my colleague Jordan Crook recently described, that popularity has translated into one of the big venture gold rushes to serve this newly-empowered enterprise customer.

Yet, between the Figmas and the Canvas and the InVisions and the Adobes lies a very specific challenge for designers: finding a way to translate prototypes from their heads into usable products for engineers to build on. Most of the design tools on the market help designers build their own prototypes independently, or collaborate with other designers. Worse, they often are unable to handle the complexity of modern digital products, which can end up on a range of end devices.

That’s where ProtoPie comes in. The service empowers designers to create high-fidelity prototypes of products, including products that might end up in such places as digital display kiosks, automobile dashboard screens, mobile phones, and others. The tool can also adapt prototypes based on readings from sensors like motion detection. Those prototypes, once accepted, can then be easily handed off to engineering teams for implementation.

In short, it’s “prototyping as easy as pie.”

The Seoul, South Korea-based company was founded by Tony Kim, a former designer at Google, along with two lead engineers at Samsung and Line. Kim left in December 2014 after getting fed up with existing design tools on the market and the lack of a clear winner in the interaction prototyping space.

ProtoPie founder Tony Kim (Photo via ProtoPie).

Over the past few years, he and his team have been building out the full feature set and growing the company within the design community following the product’s first launch in January 2017. Now, the company is charting a vastly growing curve following a switch to enterprise licensing last year, announcing today a $6.3 million expansion of its series A round led by Vela Partners. The company has collected a total of $9.9 million in venture capital since its founding.

Jenna Yim, who is chief strategy officer, offered an example of a car manufacturer prototyping a product. Most existing software tools focus on validating user flow, so you “click, click, click, and see how the screens transition,” she explained. But what happens if those screens should change depending on whether the user is in the driver’s seat or passenger seat, or whether the car is traveling at high-speed and safety is a concern? ProtoPie is “a lot more expressive than other tools you might see,” she said. “Because of our concept model, we can also create the interaction between multiple device interactions without any code.”

The company says that it has 100,000 global paid users, with major deals with Microsoft, Google, and other prominent tech companies. CEO Kim says that “even though we are based in Seoul, South Korea, most of our revenues come from outside of Korea … the US market is one of the big parts, followed by Japan, Germany, and China.”

With the new funding, the company intends to expand its sales team in North America and potentially launching a more expansive headquarters there as well. Kim says he also wants to expand the product’s collaboration features like its content library, so that users can pull pre-made components from other designers online.

The startup currently has 33 people mostly based out of its office in Gangnam, Seoul, and has a “everyone can work from everywhere” culture.

These leaders are coming to Robotics + AI on March 3. Why aren’t you?

TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics + AI brings together a wide group of the ecosystem’s leading minds on March 3 at UC Berkeley. Over 1,000+ attendees are expected from all facets of the robotics and artificial intelligence space — investors, students, engineers, C-levels, technologists and researchers. We’ve compiled a small list of highlights of attendees’ companies and job titles attending this year’s event:

ATTENDEE HIGHLIGHTS

  • ABB Technology Ventures, Vice President
  • Amazon, Head, re:MARS Product Marketing
  • Amazon Web Services, Principal Business Development Manager
  • Autodesk, Director, Robotics
  • AWS, Principal Technologist
  • BMW, R&D Engineer
  • Bosch Venture Capital, Investment Principal
  • Capital One, President of Critical Stack
  • Ceres Robotics Inc, CEO
  • Deloitte, Managing Director
  • Facebook AI Research, Research Lead
  • Ford X, Strategy & Operations
  • Goldman Sachs, Technology Investor
  • Google, Vice President
  • Google X, Director, Robotics
  • Greylock, EIR
  • Hasbro, Principal Engineer
  • Honda R&D Americas Inc., Data Engineer
  • HSBC, Global Relationship Manager
  • Huawei Technologies, Principal System Architect of Corporate Technology Strategy
  • Hyundai CRADLE, Industrial Design
  • Intel, Hardware Engineer
  • Intuit, Inc., Software Engineer
  • iRobot, CTO
  • John Deere, Director, Precision Ag Marketing and Innovation
  • Kaiser Permanente, Director
  • Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA), Inc., Technical Director
  • LG Electronics, Head of Engineering
  • LockHeed Martin, Engineering Manager
  • Moody’s Analytics, Managing Director
  • Morgan Stanley, Executive Director
  • NASA, Senior Systems Architect
  • Nestle, Innovation Manager
  • NVIDIA, Senior Systems Software Engineer
  • Qualcomm Ventures, Investment Director
  • Samsung, Director, Open Innovations & Tech Partnership
  • Samsung Ventures, Managing Director
  • Shasta Ventures, Investor
  • Softbank Ventures Asia, Investor
  • Surgical Theater, SVP Engineering
  • Takenaka Corporation, Senior Manager, Technology Planning
  • Techstars, Managing Director
  • Tesla, Sr. Machine Learning Engineer
  • Toyota Research Institute, Manager, Prototyping & Robotics Operations
  • Uber, Engineering Manager
  • UPS, Director of Research and Development

STUDENTS & RESEARCHERS FROM:

  • Columbia University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • Northwestern University
  • Santa Clara University
  • Stanford University
  • Texas A&M University
  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UCLA
  • USC
  • Yale University

Did you know that TechCrunch provides a white-glove networking app at all our events called CrunchMatch? You can connect and match with people who meet your specific requirements, message them, and connect right at the conference. How cool is that!?

Want to get in on networking with this caliber of people? Book your $345 General Admission ticket today and save $50 before prices go up at the door. But no one likes going to events alone. Why not bring the whole team? Groups of four or more save 15% on tickets when you book here.


Prototype manufacturer Tempo Automation gets $8M Series A to upgrade factory

Tempo Automation There’s little question that we’re living in the midst of a hardware startup renaissance. Crowdfunding, low cost components, rapid prototyping, scalable manufacturing – the stars have aligned perfectly to facilitate a golden age for innovative hardware solutions – but roadblocks still remain. Tempo Automation is a San Francisco-based startup built around the admirable… Read More