Bringing Products to Life in Richmond

 There are stumbling blocks, and there are building blocks. Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective. BLDR, a Richmond-based product and design team, understands how difficult—and worthwhile—it can be to push through the chaos in order to build something great.

Prior to founding BLDR, Brandon Lewis and Luke Rabin spent their early careers helping to launch a variety of startups. As with any business, especially in the tech industry, this experience taught the new entrepreneurs that the path to creating a product is often undefined and always unpredictable.

“You can’t create anything of quality alone,” says Rabin, the product lead at BLDR. “You can’t create a blockbuster movie by yourself. For something that is creative, technical, and business- oriented, it will take a team effort.” Rabin says that founders and larger companies must frst realize the value of focus and specialization rather than the “do-it-all” hustle. They must accept the fact that they can’t go it alone.

Prior to meeting his business partner, Rabin worked as a record producer and musician in Charlottesville to fund a string of startups. When he eventually landed in Richmond, he cut his teeth at local companies like PlanG, Maxx Potential, and Notch. Lewis, the design lead at BLDR, followed a similar path in Northern Virginia and Richmond where he became known for both design and development through trial and error.

“All of that bumping around—trying this and trying that—it’s what brought us to BLDR,” explains Lewis, who also logged time at PlanG and Notch with Rabin.

Together, Lewis and Rabin learned humility, bravery, and focus. Today, their company serves as a product incubator for its customers by methodically proving an idea has traction or not, prototyping products, and raising money. For their efforts, BLDR charges a fee plus a small equity stake, which provides an opportunity for BLDR to become lifelong advisors to companies it serves.

“We want to change the way founders create products, investors assess risks, and development shops engineer products,” says Lewis. “We’re changing the entire dynamic of working together as a system. It’s about people working together as a team to see something come to life.”

By providing a bruised-but-never-beaten team of experts, BLDR offers clients the lessons they’ve learned the hard way to give their clients the best chance at success. They offer two simple packages, either five or 16 weeks long including idea validation, a fractional innovation lab, business and pricing models, branding, fully designed prototyping, A/B testing, messaging, and investor presentations. BLDR also offers five-week accelerator startup packages.

“Being self-sufficient, the idea of doing it all on your own, is often wrapped up in the American dream. But nothing of real value in the world is done in isolation,” says Rabin. “Really special things are built by being able to lean on a team.”

CategoriesCollaborators, Innovators, Makers, Startups, Work

Publisher and Editor in Chief of Richmond Grid magazine, a conscious lifestyle publication designed to celebrate how the region works, lives and plays. Richmond Grid magazine is a B-Certified business that uses a community-based, solution-oriented approach to shift the region for good.