It’s nearly been a year since I joined Fruitful - a fintech startup that’s working to rethink how savers save and how borrowers borrow.
Since then we’ve been through a significant product redesign, a complete branding overhaul, a successful soft-launch and a customer response that has more than overwhelmed us. With customers investing with Fruitful from all over the globe, it’s clear that people are in search of an ‘alternative’ that offers fair interest rates, secured lending and the flexibility that we should expect from a modern investment product.
So as we venture into 2015, I thought I’d share a handful of the lessons that I’ve learned and have considered tattooing to my forehead.
Mostly product focused, take from this what you will:
Integrate Around Concerns
When working with a team of designers, developers and content people, there’s always a temptation to separate tasks by role, such as a ”design” todo list and a ”programming” todo list.
The problem with this approach is that it’s difficult to assess progress from separate to do lists or issue backlogs. On top of this, there’s an increased operational risk. Since the QA effort stutters, stopping and starting as each role’s to do list is completed, you run the risk of failing to test the feature as a whole.
Learning from this, we’ve formalised a workflow that integrates arounds concerns. Instead of organising around roles (e.g. design tasks, programming tasks), we organise around areas of concern (e.g. registration form, email receipts). As Ryan Singer puts it:
Marking one piece “done” is powerful because it requires design, programming, support and review to integrate around a specific point in the product.
Whenever a list is finished, it shows a piece of the product is ready to review and mark ”done”. It feels great to know one part of the product has no remaining contingencies. It’s ready to go.
Minimum Marketable Product
Give that I:
- joined the project just after its inception and
- had limited experience in the mortgage market and
- was (initially) unsure of its legal and regulatory commitments
I failed to ask some important questions about minimum marketable product (MMP).
And yes, I prefer MMP as it underscores the importance of building something that is sought-after, by customers, (marketable) vs. something that is viewed merely as feasible, by the company, (viable).
On top of this, MMP forces you to:
- Think about the important areas where you should adding value (i.e. your differentiators) in conjunction with:
- Working hard to develop those areas, so that they reach a high level of finish, giving you a better opportunity to win the hearts and minds of your customers.
Given the choice, I’d always favour a good job of half, than a half-assed job of all. Much later than I should have, I noticed that as a team, we were stretched and chasing our tails to reach our fast-approaching launch date.
After some belated conversations about the product’s essentials, and a hash through our priorities, we were left with a much more slender view of our MMP. As a result, we were able to achieve a higher level of finish with features we developed, we were less stretched, and we shipped quicker.
In short: dream big, implement small.
90% + 90% does not equal 100%
The ninety-ninety rule lassoed us a number of times:
”The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.”
Tom Cargill, Bell Labs.
In short: be very careful that you do not underestimate the time, effort and energy that the remaining 10% will demand from you and your team.
Deadlines are hard to reach. And they’re even harder when you mis-judge the magnitude of your plans.
Go broad before you go narrow
Common talk in the world of human-centred-design, but this is useful in most walks of start-up life.
When you have to make a decision, go far and wide with your ideas, no matter how daft or bizarre they sound. Superglue the Devil’s advocate mouth together while you go broad with your thinking. You never know what inspiration you might draw from this left field, brainstorming effort.
This method of thinking has helped us overcome some real challenges and produce far superior solutions and ideas.
Effective concepts often draw on multiple sources of inspiration and thinking, and this process will help you along your way.
Finally: on Venture Capital
“It’s all about burn rate, about burn rate, slow spending...”
Fingers crossed I’ll find more time to write and share what I’m learning in 2015. I hope you do too.