I was conceived in the middle of winter.
My parents, a successful charity and a socially minded web agency, won a Tech for Good grant. They were delighted to hear I was on the way.
Even if you fail in doing something ambitious, you usually succeed in doing something important”
Peter Diamandis – XPRIZE Foundation
Research helps me grow
But it would be a while before I popped into the world. That time would be valuable as my parents were determined to build the right thing to solve the right problem.
They thought they knew their service users. But to be sure they did a month of user research, interviewing 12 users and exploring their experience of life, their daily tech use and how they currently solved problems. The research validated some assumptions but revealed others to be flimsy and inaccurate.
Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion”
Edwards Deming, Consultant
You’ll learn more in a day talking to users than a week of brainstorming, a month of watching others, or a year of market research”
Aaron Levie, Box Co-Founder
User journey maps build empathy
Next they built some user personas. These tools captured the context, attitudes and goals of my soon to be users. The personas generated empathy and deeper understanding of my users lives.
Then they built two journey maps. Map one was retrospective. It described how users currently went about dealing with the problem. Map two was prospective, exploring how users might solve the problem with me on the scene. My parents now had a clear, validated understanding of how helpful I could be!
I have to be valuable!
Would being useful to my users actually lead to better lives? I had to make a difference to their problems. And while making a difference I had to be delightful to use.
Phew! The challenge was on.
“If you don’t have user value you have something that’s really well intentioned, but becomes a white elephant because no one’s using it.”
Dan Sutch, CEO, Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology
A mini me!
So my parents built a paper prototype and tested it with some users. This was incredibly useful. We learnt more about my potential features and how my interface might work. Some features got killed off – I felt sad 🙁 – but the testers loved the rest. I felt good about this, and sure that when i entered the world I’d be right for them.
Learn not to add too many features right away, and get the core idea built and tested”
Leah Culver, Convore Co-Founder
How will I sustain myself?
My parents were wise and considerate. Already they were thinking about how I’d survive after birth. So they started exploring sustainable business models.
They asked potential customers about their problems and challenges. They talked about my social impact and explored its value together.
“When you can demonstrate that people will choose to use your product and prove that it is useful you can unlock financial value”
They were so glad they did! Insights flowed in. So many they created three business model canvases to capture all their revenue generation ideas. It was two weeks of hard work but they learnt so much. Just in time too, because this new knowledge changed how I’d be built. Bravely, my parents put more focus on my customer functionality than planned.
They didn’t know how sad I felt to lose more user features but I understood their wisdom. I’d now have one killer feature for my users and one for my customers. It made sense.
“Every time you make the hard, correct decision you become a bit more courageous, and every time you make the easy, wrong decision you become a bit more cowardly.”
Ben Horowitz, Entrepreneur
I’m becoming real!
And so my coding began. My web agency parents used agile methods that back then I didn’t understand. But I do now….
First they built a very basic digital me. Then they tested ‘me’ out in private with some users. Super exciting! But soon after they hauled me back to the coding shed for beefing up. This time they called me a ‘beta’ and sent me to some new users and customers who used me in real life. Again they watched what happened, measured my performance, then took me back to the shed.
I was a bit confused to be back in the shed again. Had I done OK? Was I a good enough app?
But it was all fine. I had done well but needed a few pre-launch tweaks. It was nearly time!
I am born!
I thought my launch might be by rocket, but turns out it was by blog, twitter and office cakes. I screamed and wailed with excitement!
To begin with lots of people used me. They liked me and I was pleased! My parents were even more pleased with all the learning it generated. They were still measuring me and talking to my users, testing me again and building a list of what they called ‘iterations’. They wanted to change me a bit but said this was normal and would help me grow. I trusted them.
As opposed to waiting for a perfect product, you actually want to be launching the minimum viable product, the thinnest possible product, and then you iterate and develop”
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder
Then I get worried
But I also felt worried. I overheard them talking about how they had no more money. They’d spent all the grant. Now how would they help me grow?
Turns out I needn’t have worried. All the time my charity parents had been building a following and email list. These people were interested in giving money in return for help with using me with their service users.
I get demo’d to people with money
My parents also got advice on secret methods for selling software to the public and third sector. Selling was rather new for them but they got over their difficult feelings and realised that they had made something people wanted to give money for. All my parents needed to do was show these people how I worked. When they demo’d me in this way people got very excited.
Selling is something we do for our clients, not to our clients.”
People don’t buy because what you do is awesome. People buy because it makes them feel awesome.”
Slowly the money started to arrive. And slowly my features grew more muscles and I learnt new ways to please my users. A year later I was delivering user, social and financial value in ways that could be measured. These measurements and the stories behind them helped even more users find me. And that meant more customers joined.
I was a successful for Tech for Good app.