Finding real problems to solve and getting paid before building anything

  • Thomas Botton

Find real customers, make them commit to pay and build the product accordingly was the methodology used for The A-Coach.

Learn more about our UX Design and Custom Development services.

Love the problem, not the solution

Within 5 month the MVP was built with little money but great impact. How? With Lean Startup accompanying. Shari, a former HR expert from the corporate world came to us with an idea. She wanted to provide a marketplace for the people in need of a coach in their professional life - an online coaching platform. Thinking big and far ahead is what we faced with Shari. Already in the first meeting she talked about a lot of features. Listening to her, the engineer in me was already thinking of a plethora of technical tools that we could put in place. My colleague UXer Jérémie, for his part, was already visualizing many wireframes and designs. The project we were imagining was worth several hundred thousand CHF, with many innovative features from a technical point of view.

But knowing our professional biases, we took a step back and proposed an objective process to test Shari's business hypothesis: talk to real potential customers, and don't build anything until a contract is signed.
That's what we did.

How to know what the market needs

Leanstack (founded by Ash Maurya) is the tool we used to develop each of her business ideas, broken down into seven lean canvases. There are a lot of ways to work with canvas. And the methodology is by far less important than the mindset. And at Liip we want to deliver digital products your users will love. After looking at all those canvases it was time to test the ideas. Through about 20 interviews with potential clients, Shari adapted her business model until it triggered a "Do you have a solution to this problem? If so, I want to be the first to test it!" among her prospects.Of course the support for conducting unbiased and objective user interviews is one part we can deliver at Liip. Knowing what the market craves before we actually started to work on the development of a solution was great.

“Love the problem, not the solution”

MVP now, scale later

Armed with this information from the field, we built a high-fidelity clickable prototype. We didn’t start with custom development, but used SaaS solutions and built a functional MVP in less than a week. Instead of using 200k on a fancy website we focused on the “must haves” of the product. Then we went back to two very interested prospects, both of whom signed on before we had even built anything. Shari found out that her product is viable from a business perspective before investing a lot of money into it.

 Custom development for the win

By the time all the needs have been captured in the MVP phase we started to build the custom made platform. Now it was time to invest money into more features as the viability of the product was given already. Of course the final platform is far away from the MVP. Python and Django were used to develop the platform. It offers companies’ employees the possibility to book coaches for paid and free sessions right away. As usual we faced technical challenges, nonetheless within a couple of months the website was up and running.

Upon delivery, these two new customers, companies with several thousand people, were won over from the first use of the platform. It sounds obvious when you say it like that, since they signed up when they saw the clickable prototype. But it's precisely this process of creating a digital application that changes the game. The A-Coach now has a dozen clients, and counting.

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