Innovation Spotlight: A Conversation with Alfredo Ramirez (MALD '22)
Chief Operations Officer, Prosal
An informal conversation between two childhood friends, Alfredo Ramirez (MALD ‘22) and Nick Lopez, two years ago led to the official launch of Prosal earlier this year. Prosal is a company bringing an innovative, online solution to the wide-spread challenge of managing the Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Following is an excerpt from a recent interview with Ramirez, now Prosal’s COO. Learn more about Prosal here.
When did you start building Prosal, and what inspired you?
Prosal officially launched in February of 2022, but it had been an idea in development for over a year. Nick Lopez, the CEO and a close friend since 7th grade, and I were catching up after mountain biking in Miami in early 2021. I had been running my own digital consulting business for nonprofits and foundations since March 2020 with great success. He was asking how I found new clients, and I introduced to him the concept of requests for proposals, or RFPs. Once I’d explained the process, he asked if there was a marketplace for this. We were doubtful an RFP service didn’t already exist, but when we searched for something and found nothing, we got to work building it.
What has the start-up journey been like?
An exhilarating and exhausting rollercoaster ride. The beginning of the week might have me feeling the lowest of lows; by the end of the week, I’m on the highest of highs, and vice versa. I have learned so much in such a short time, and every day continues to provide new lessons about our business, the start-up community, and entrepreneurship and innovation in general.
What have been some of the most difficult challenges and rewarding moments?
Personally, one of my most significant challenges was launching this start-up while graduating from Fletcher AND running another business full-time. Although the work has led to many long nights and early mornings, I have surrounded myself with some of the best people I know, who I can learn from, grow with, and count on to help me get through the tough times and celebrate the good ones.
One of the most rewarding things is when someone gets just as excited about Prosal as I do. It’s not only the validation of the idea but also the sense that I might have found a partner just as crazy and willing as I am to go on this journey to build something no one has created before, and potentially change the world. There’s no qualifier to who this type of person can be. I’ve seen it from our users, advisors, investors, and even strangers I’m meeting for the first time.
What is the status of your business today?
To date, we’ve managed over $1.3 million in contracts shared on our platform by our users. This doesn’t include the contracts we’ve found ourselves online or through other sources. That number is exponentially higher. We have nearly 250 users and, from our network of over 200 businesses, over one-third are diversely owned and operated.
What’s the long-term goal for your company?
To replace the RFP. We want to build an end-to-end, industry-agnostic tool that provides enterprise-level SaaS tools with a marketplace for every industry that uses the RFP, from nonprofits and municipalities to healthcare and finance. We’re already laying the foundations for that expansion. We’re exploring a pilot in California for Prosal to accelerate the process for deployment of a solar microgrid in an affordable housing community in Los Angeles.
Has your educational experience at The Fletcher School played a role in your ability to tackle this opportunity?
I was a MALD student from August 2020 to May 2022, focusing on international political economy and energy and environmental resource policy. My focus at Fletcher was the development of renewable energy industries in oil-dependent states.
My energy classes have been helpful as we explore the municipal pilot for clean energy deployments, but they weren’t the only courses I took. I also took courses like The Arts of Communications with Professor Quartana, who helped me improve my public speaking skills and even advised me just today on my investor pitch. My favorite was Innovation for Sustainable Prosperity with Professor Gallagher. Her academic focus and methodology for studying innovation and entrepreneurship gave me a strong foundation for understanding these big concepts and ideas. When I picked up books like Lean Startup and Nudge on my own, it felt like I was back in her class.