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July 18, 2018

Product Management and the evolution of my app

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Two weeks before my flight to Cape Town I received my first assignment for the Product Management course I would be taking for the following four weeks. The assignment required me to find a problem and come up with a pitch for an app, service, or website, and this had to be accomplished in two weeks! I went around trying to solve daily problems I stumbled across every day but it was not until the few days before my trip that I found the problem I was going to fix. When My mom asked me if I knew anything about Cape Town’s food, sightseeing, or nightlife, I told her 'no, nothing at all'. That's when the light bulb went off. I wanted a platform where students studying abroad could easily access reviews and rankings of restaurants, clubs, and bars solely from other college students. Thinking even further, I thought it would be beneficial to incorporate a social media aspect by allowing users to follow friends and filter search results based off of who you knew.  Satisfied with my product idea, I got on the plane to Cape Town.

On my first day of class, every student presented their idea. This exercise was incredibly interesting because through everyone’s problems and solutions, we learned what they valued in day-to-day life. After listening to each presentation, the class voted on six projects. Unfortunately, my idea was not initially picked and I was put on a team with a product named Grapevine, an app that allows amateur musicians to find other local musicians to form a band. It did not take long for us to realize we were making a new Soundcloud that would not match up to the competitor. We then pivoted our idea back to creating bands based off of location. Frustrated that we wasted three days of our time, we reviewed other team member's original ideas; and that was when Spots was born.

'Spots' app wireframes

We ran a quick user test and found that our peers were most concerned about nightlife and where people were going during that time. We presented 'Spots' – an app that was a database of where all users were going out on a given night. During our presentation, we were completely ripped apart with constructive criticisms and came out with an entirely new direction. Our peers believed that this idea was not only applicable to students studying abroad, but also students on college campuses as well as recent graduates moving to a new city. People wanted to know not only where the general public was going, but also where their friends were going while also retaining anonymity, unlike the well-known Snapchat location feature.

Week two’s lessons were much more in-depth due to our newfound understanding of what exactly a Product Manager does. My team and I used the lessons we learned in class, whether it be on MVP (minimum viable product), user-testing, UX design, or wire-framing, to implement different methods of progression on our project. Our first task was to do user-testing to find out exactly what users want without asking leading or biased questions. This validation was enough to start wire-framing the different pages of the app.

Prototyping 'Spots'

The app evolved as the weeks progressed – our efforts scrutinised by our classmates who always asked poignant questions about early adopters, monetization, and marketing. Accordingly, we added new filters, changed the user interface entirely, came up with an idea to monetize our efforts.

In our fourth and final week we decided to redesign our wireframes to make our app look more professional . Initially we were going to find a developer to launch by the second session, however we determined we would use the presentation as a platform to expand our team. We remade our MVP video which can be viewed here. This video demonstrates our problem and how we plan to solve it by going through our new wireframes step-by-step. Eventually the end of the week came and it was time to present – a challenge we took on and loved, so enthusiastic was the feedback we received.

spots app
Week 4 version of 'Spots'

The 'Spots' team is still active. We still have three original members and have recruited a student coder as well as received interest from some of our internship CEOs.  While in the coding process, the Spots team plans to start considering patents, and launching ideas. If all goes well, the team will continue to develop outside of  Cape Town.

This course has provided me with a real life experience of exactly what a Product Manager does. I am excited to continue the developmental process of Spots and see where else I will be surprised with continued research. This experience has assured me that Product Management is my professional future, and the class has allowed me to develop an idea I believe in, with students who are constantly driven to make the best possible product.

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