FutureLab was created in August 2011 by Ralf Klis. Ralf’s aim for the company was to provide quality web design at reasonable prices. His plan to achieve this revolved around the concept of small business – few overheads, no unwieldy bureaucracy, and no six-figure salaries for corporate figureheads. Ralf set up the company as the sole shareholder, but with a network of freelancers ready to provide their skills in graphic design, web development, and copy writing. In the first two years of the company, Ralf worked with many small and medium businesses on their new or updated websites, using his contact network and word of mouth to gain new opportunities and farm out the work to his freelance colleagues. During this time, Ralf also worked on development of both the company and his own project management skills: attending The Ice House Hatchery program to work on his business plan and gain expert advice from business professionals; and becoming a Certified ScrumMaster® and a Prince2® Registered Practitioner.
Together with his mentors, Ralf formed a plan for how he might change FutureLab’s business model to attract more clients from the small business sector. FutureLab already had many connections with marketing agencies and larger businesses, but its services to small businesses had room for improvement.
In March 2014, Ralf hired in-house staff for the first time and put his new business model into action. Under the Web Hatchery brand, FutureLab now offers new websites to small businesses that are not yet online, often at no initial cost. Instead, customers pay a relatively small monthly subscription fee for their website and for ongoing hosting and support. This model is unique in the web design industry, as usually website companies will ask for anywhere up to several thousand dollars up front for a basic website, and starting from five thousand dollars for an E-commerce website. By re-imagining the payment scheme, FutureLab allows small businesses to get online in a matter of weeks, rather than be hindered by large costs they often do not have the funds for. Interested businesses can meet with us for free to discuss their website ideas. We will provide a free quote and a tailored pricing scheme based on the complexity of the project. If the projects follow our template guidelines, then they will be based on subscription only. If the project is more complex, the customer may pay a mix of an up-front fee and a lower subscription payment. Our up-front fees are still ~50% lower than our competitors. Whichever pricing plan is decided on, the point is that we have made quality website design attainable to the average small business. Once we have discussed various options with the customer, our experience has been that they then opt for a more complex web design package after seeing what is available to them, and going over our prices.
When a simple website is provided with no up-front fee, only the monthly subscription costs, FutureLab puts in an initial investment that is earned back within a year. We believe that small companies shouldn’t be limited in their access to the latest technology by their budget, so we strive to provide the most cost-effective solution for our customers without sacrificing quality.The additional benefit of our subscription plan is that we can build up a database of subscribers who can be contacted by newsletter and may provide repeat business, or come back to us looking to upgrade their website’s design once again. Our aim is to provide a high level of skills and experience in the IT industry to small companies who would not otherwise afford such high functioning web design.