Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Richart Ruddie


We talk to Richart Ruddie, founder of Protos eyewear.

In our Springwise annual top ten, we talked about the widened scope for consumer personalisation, as a result of 3D printing’s increased accessibility. That’s exactly what Protos is offering — 3D printed custom eyewear, tailored to each wearer’s unique face.

We talk to Richart Ruddie, founder and CFO of Protos, to find out more about his key learnings from building a startup, and what keeps him motivated every day.

1. Where did the idea for Protos come from?

Protos grew out of San Francisco, California’s College of the Arts programme, where all of the founders, with the exception of myself, all went to school. They knew that the future of design relies highly on 3D-printing and wanted to prove that consumer-grade eyewear could be made, using rapid prototyping manufacturing methods.

2. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Protos?

Relaxing, for me, is sitting on the computer and working. Whether its doing outreach and networking or refining my marketing strategies. When I’m not in front of the computer I’m enjoying Bikram Yoga and indulging in an organic food lifestyle — a growing trend I am pleased to notice.

3. What’s the most important characteristic of being an entrepreneur?

Belief in yourself, and having the ability to know when you are right and when you are wrong. Plenty of people will try to tell you how to do things, but it is important to know when to believe in yourself and your ideas. Its also equally important to know when an idea is incorrect and how to pivot around something that is not working.

4. What drove you crazy when building your business?

Time. It’s the most valuable commodity in the world and something that we can never regain. Building a business that seems to be an overnight success takes years in planning and development. Software companies and websites are typically made a lot faster then product-based companies, but all of them take time, and continuous revisions and refinements. To make a perfect product takes time, and that drives me crazy, but makes me smile at the end.

5. What motivates you to keep going? What do you do when you hit a block?

It’s a fun game. Not about the money but about creating disruptive technology and things that make a difference. You may be surprised to hear that we receive hundreds of inquiries and ‘thank yous’ from individuals who have disfigured facial features, and have not been able to receive proper eyewear until Protos and our 3D-printing technology became sustainable.

6. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

We would raise money right out of the gate. We have a great product and huge companies breathing down our neck, and if we had the help and assistance of a Sequoia or any reputable Sand Lake Road entity, we would have had a much stronger bargaining chip and leverage, and therefore the explosive growth that our customers are asking for.

7. Do you have any habits or routines, which help you in your working life?

Every day I take a shot of wheatgrass. I love a healthy lifestyle as I always say “Eating Healthy is Being Healthy”.

8. What book are you reading, or writing now?

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. I tend to live a very stress-free lifestyle because I mentally choose to make it stress-free. You learn to not worry about spilt milk and things that are out of your control. This book preaches the way I try to live each day. It’s amazing I didn’t pick it up earlier.

9. If you weren’t working on Protos, what would you be doing?

I would be actively working on digital marketing projects around the clock, always trying to stay sharp and thinking outside of the box.

10. Tell Springwise a secret…

With the internet today there are no more secrets. Everything is out there in the public.

11. How did you get your initial round of funding to get your company off the ground?

It was funded from my success in digital marketing, combined with the access to high-end equipment from California College of the Arts that the partners enjoyed for free, during enrollment. Some of the best companies are created thanks to the resources made available through college.

12. How do you feel about your journey ahead and do you have any wise words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I feel like I will never get bored and tired, no matter what happens. That’s the intrinsic motivation. Set out to make a difference. Whether it is on your first venture or down the road, you need to have success and skills to build your entrepreneurial resume. It only takes one venture to succeed, to set you up for life. In the end, nobody will care about the flops when you have a successful venture.

You can read more about Protos here.

6th January 2016