Over the past two years I have been working alongside my friend (and co-founder) Stef on Improved. Yesterday evening we released the first version to our friends and family.
I won’t go into what Improved is because its website covers all that; this post exists so that I can mark the moment when this all happened. Suffice to say, our vision is to
Remove the guesswork from finding the right person for the job
Some background info
People who know me closely are aware of the fact that I am a big fan of the Lean Startup model. Yet I just said that we’ve been working on this project for a couple of years, thus contradicting my previous statement.
Here’s my excuse: I have a day job, as Head of Mobile at Trade Me, and this job takes up at least 4 days of my week (sometimes I take work home with me). On Tuesdays however I get to work on what I am passionate about. For the past couple of years I have been spending my Tuesdays juggling work on Improved, with some other client work (for my boutique consultancy called Tmro), and with some other family activities.
This dynamic has kept my brain engaged at 100% and has produced an incredible amount of work related satisfaction (be it Improved, Tmro, or Trade Me). Without a doubt, all these companies / products have benefited from the experience I accumulated while working on the other ones.
Improved is the most recent initiative of this bunch, therefore it took a lot longer for the fruit of the work done on it to show. That ends today.
All in all (an including evenings and weekends) I’ve spent between 4 and 6 work-months building Improved. I am not counting here the effort and work poured into the project by Stef, who’s been doing a bloody awesome job in a similar 1 day a week arrangement for a period almost as long.
We decided to ship our MVP at the point where the platform supports the use cases we considered to be necessary (after doing plenty of soul searching and chatting to other people).
Roughly, these are the “features” of our v1:
- The simplest possible create and manage Job flow
- Support two way messaging and quoting (including Push Notifications) between job owners and service providers (aka Improvers)
- Search and browse Jobs and Portfolios
- “Smarts” that support our vision:
- photo doodling
- take similar photo assistant
- before and after comparison tool
- Social login and straightforward account creation
- Seamless Native app to Web handover
- Clear feedback/review process
Could we have done more? Absolutely! Our backlog is chocka full. Should we have done more? We think not. We want (and need) feedback from our users so that we shape the product into something that people love using.
After the first few user interviews we realised just how differently people think of their interactions around a job. Waiting longer and shipping a more “feature rich” product would basically mean increasing the number of assumptions made. This is a risk we chose not to take.
The next steps
Yesterday we started inviting Beta testers to use the app. We hope that everyone who uses the app (whether they have jobs they want done or they just look for their next customer) will find it useful.
We have an Android app underway, as well. I will shift my attention to finishing that app, while supporting the “early adopters” with anything they may need.
I’d love your help
If you’re reading this, chances are we know each other. Hi! You can help too! Get in touch with us by email and we will add you to our Beta test group. Improved is free for everyone to use, and posting jobs is non commital until you accept a quote (just like in real life).
Here are some other ways you can help:
- you can upload DIY projects you have already done. This way we can learn more about the types of jobs people do, and the language they use to describe them
- next time you need to mow the lawn, or prune a tree, or take classes or lessons of any sort, post a job on Improved. It’s free and you can build a pretty neat portfolio that you can be proud of
- visit our website and send us any feedback you can. Is is clear what the product does? Do you like / dislike anything? Do you have any recommendations
- spread the word. We have a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, and a Website. Please send our way all the to people you know who need stuff done around the house, who used a dog walker in the past, who took lessons or classes of any sort. Our mission is to enable people to be the best they can be at what they do.