A team of digital entrepreneurs takes on the gifting market to turn friendship, altruism, and a ‘black book idea’ into a wave of generosity.
Co-founders Dan Hamilton, Louis Wren, Hamish Page, David Parr & Omid Moallemi are Prsnt to tell the tale.
An innovative idea for a gifting application turned technical reality; from prototype to MVP on the path to market.
A team of experienced entrepreneurs seek funding in a pandemic, attempt to build an MVP with an offshore software house and experience the usual pains in trying to complete a product by taking that route. Prsnt decides they can no longer continue with their current provider and turn to Creative Stack to take over the project – to complete and get to market with an MVP in a short time frame.
Challenges faced, MVP fixed up, launched, traction, further funding secured – Prsnt are now taking on their next product evolution by building an MMP with Creative Stack.
- Deliver secure purchases and payments in a custom-designed, near-instant peer-to-peer gifting application on IOS and Android on React Native.
- Preserve Prsnt’s creative vision and initial timeline: building, testing, proving and then launching the MVP in time for Christmas 2020.
- Secure further rounds of funding with their MVP to scale their offering.
- Prsnt’s initial provider had seemed appealing on price-point. Yet, the craftsmanship and overall experience of building their MVP left Prsnt unable to finish the product.
Creative Stack’s Help:
- We were called in to get the product back on track.
- System audit and re-engineering to stabilise the app.
- Fixed security issues.
- Completed missed requirements.
- To secure and finalise the Prsnt App took just over a month.
- Together, Creative Stack and the Prsnt team launched on time!
- Now Prsnt has a product that works and is tested in the market.
- The Prsnt App demonstrates tangible progress and adds confidence to the investors in their next round of funding.
- Mission achieved: Further funding was secured with their Minimal Viable Product (MVP).
- Prsnt are now building their Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) with Creative Stack.
Prsnt | Part 2 | MVP → MMP | >Coming Soon< |
Read on for the full story: Prototype → MVP = Further Investment.
Prsnt’s Journey On The Path To Market
As a Start-up, carving out a new gifting marketplace is tough. Especially when one needs to build and manage a product team fast, and leverage modern technologies.
Prsnt needed to launch and validate their mobile application in 6 months on a tight budget. Yet, time pressure, potential competition and difficulties with their provider had left Prsnt in a tricky spot.
To attract more investment the Prsnt App needed a better market fit. To get there, they needed to rapidly accelerate their product by improving their feature offering.
Scaling Prsnt required a complete audit and skilled full-stack developers in various disciplines – more resources than they could ever hire as a startup.
Building an innovative digital product is hard enough, let alone in the midst of a pandemic.
As the adage goes: Buy the ticket, take the ride.
The ‘Ah-Ha!’ Moment
Omid had always found it difficult, from a solution point of view, to gift friends and family: sending last-minute (or late) parcels, cards, and belated messages.. just wasn’t practical – you get the idea.
As a product designer, that challenge gave rise to an idea – a gifting application on smartphones.
Penned in his ‘little black book’ in 2012, this idea was almost lost to history due to the technical challenges of the time.
Fast forward – It’s 2019 and the technology stack has reached a point where it is both economical and robust enough to pursue this innovative idea.
It was finally time for an actionable plan.
Practical Possibilities For A Prsnt Purpose
David, Dan, Hamish, Louis & Omid had all worked together in some respect over the years.
As parts of think tanks pioneering innovative product design, building digital applications and working in all facets of digital media and IT; you could say they were more than up to the challenge.
Discussions rapidly became exciting business initiatives.
As a united front, Prsnt drew on their interdisciplinary strengths to crunch through business planning and competitor analysis.
To their bemusement, they discovered that no one had fully realised the idea for a near-instant gifting application on mobile technologies.
” Before our full-time commitment to Prsnt, we worked through most evenings to make the fledgling idea for Prsnt into a reality. ”
— Dan | Prsnt
The team pushed Prsnt as far as they could and produced a clickable demo, but eventually stumbled on several technical requirements. It became clear that surpassing those roadblocks would require a team of skilled software engineers.
Plus, Prsnt were keen to get this idea off the ground with the budget they had, and test it in the market quickly – before anyone with the means to do so clicked their fingers and pipped them at the post.
“ We had put far too much effort into this gifting app for someone with the means to step in and do it like that” – ‘snap!’ clicks fingers. “
— David | Prsnt
Studio rented, loan landed, funds ring-fenced, the team braced for the journey: they sought investment while quotes were flying in from local, near and offshore development teams.
Cue Covid-19! No one saw that coming, did they?
Their potential VC backers were shook-up due to the pandemic; only doubling down on their previous investments. Added to that, the pressing need for this near-instant gifting app became a real accelerator!
It was a blindingly obvious market need.
Several quotes for the scope of development work were beyond their budget, so the team debated using a low-cost, offshore software house just to get their prototype out of the blocks and raise investment.
Despite wanting to use the same developers right through from:
Prototype → MVP → Launch → Scale, this wasn’t a feasible option.
There were a few concerns.
” We could be limited by a prototype that is only useful as a proof of concept in our first sprint. When we give this [prototype] to someone who really knows what they’re doing … they could say ‘that’s badly done, we’re going to have to start over. “
— David | Prsnt.
Nonetheless, it was a necessary choice.
Their provider quoted a set price for an MVP on the right code structure (React Native and Laravel). A deal was struck.
“ We always knew it wouldn’t be perfect going overseas, but I feel we made the right decision to create the concept that way – to raise on the back of it. ”
— Dan | Prsnt
Check out the article below for clarity on Minimal Viable Products (MVPs), and a summary of the path to market: Prototype → MVP → MMP → MLP
I digress…. back to Prsnt’s journey.
The Low-Cost MVP
As it transpired, they did get another investor with a technical background in the process of developing their MVP! He was really impressed by their idea, planning, and progress.. plus the potential return from a viable product in hand helped to push him over the line.
Unfortunately, that was one of the best parts of the MVP. Albeit, progress was made, a lot of experience was gained, and their prototype application was nearing ‘completion’…
The other side of the story was the usual, inherent issues that entrepreneurs encounter with most low-cost offshore providers.
” I think their level of documentation was open to interpretation. It seemed like we had to be very very obvious and specific about what we were talking about, or they were going to miss the point. “
—Hamish | Prsnt
The reality of their contract was that the client and suppliers interests were diametrically opposed: the developers wanted to retain profit while the Prsnt team pushed to finish the product.
” We just wanted a basic, low-cost product that would be marketable and that could prove our concept. But through that process, we added more features on top of the build. So by the end of that engagement, we had a ¾ finished product. ”
— Louis | Prsnt.
Even though the Prsnt team reduced correspondence to the most reasonable detail… the development house searched through the documentation to find any instances of scope creep, changes in direction, or client requests.
Shortly after, the developers made the case around ‘if’ those ‘changes’ were included in the original price. There were language barriers and miscommunication too. Ultimately this left Prsnt with several missed requirements.
“We ended up arguing about interpretations of the colour blue.”
— Omid | Prsnt.”
But, it wasn’t all bad:
” The good factors were the initial speed of development, and initial speed of implementation – it seemed like they had a lot of people on it. I suppose the bad parts were finalising projects; and actually, I suppose – the polish, the detailing – there wasn’t much attention to detail. The language barriers and the lack of detailed documentation were the ugly bits. ”
— Hamish | Prsnt
The Prsnt team had invested so much resource; they’d doubled-down on this project with a loan and had a new technical investor to satisfy, after almost 6 months of constantly pushing Prsnt uphill…. in the middle of a plague.
” By the end of it, there was a build-up of negativity. “
— Hamish | Prsnt
When it came down to it, the opposing pressures of profit-seeking and a lack of attention to detail from the software house, on one hand, and Prsnt’s need to finish their project for the agreed price without all that stress in a short timeframe, on the other, meant they needed someone more experienced.
The Need For Creative Stack
Prsnt wanted an honourable team who they could trust with any agreements, without all the disagreements. Plus, they really wanted to sit down with someone face-to-face and discuss their dilemma in fluent English.
To add to that, they needed an actionable, realistic plan to audit the implementation, plus a roadmap to finalise their gifting application in a short amount of time.
At this point, Prsnt were keen to recoup what investment they had made – they hoped to be able to refactor the code, and build out their 66% complete product into an MVP they could ship.
To do so, they needed a team of skilled developers who were capable of securely building their MVP and getting it to market with their creative vision preserved.
” Through the experience with our initial provider and the development with them, we decided we wanted a more polished product. As we went through the development work, there were more features added that were beyond an MVP.”
— Louis | Prsnt
Creative Stack Finalise The Prsnt MVP
In the end, Prsnt reached out to Greg Whitfield (Founder, Creative Stack) to solve this dilemma.
“The real reason we picked Creative Stack was because of the value they could add through their network of experts in different sectors. “
— David | Prsnt
Creative Stack ensured Prsnt had a plan that got them where they needed to be.
We showed them that; a) their product was salvageable, b) that It was going to work, and c) it could be launched by Christmas 2020.
A big sigh of relief.
” When Creative Stack stepped in and we started that relationship it was just great; the difference in quality, communication, and project management side of it – It was a breath of fresh air. “
— Hamish | Prsnt
” Where Creative Stack was brilliant is that they didn’t ‘poo-poo’ what we’d done before. There were no wrinkled noses – they didn’t react badly. They understood our low-cost offshore route was a different path up the same mountain. “
— David | Prsnt
” When they came to appraise what we had built, they were very open-minded. They didn’t deliberately rubbish the progress we’d made, even though we’d spoken to Creative Stack, in the beginning, to quote for the same MVP. “
— Omid | Prsnt
When it came down to it, Creative Stack helped Prsnt to make a difficult decision – that they could refactor some of the code rather than starting again.
To add to that, Prsnt wanted the built-in flexibility to scale their app, and the peace of mind knowing that potentially millions of transactions and user profiles were secure.
” We wanted to have some polish on it, so that’s also part of the reason we spoke to Creative Stack.”
— Louis | Prsnt
Our team of vetted experts stepped in; reverse-engineering the app, partially refactoring pressing issues with the code and adding in the right level of security through back-end architecture.
We produced a working, documented MVP much to the Prsnt teams’ delight.
“ Creative Stack were great at understanding our requirements and helped turn our dreams into reality. “
— Dan | Prsnt.
To top it off, our team preserved their vision and functional design aesthetics with some extra UI and UX functionality added in.
” For example, we had a design issue recently – the UX and UI weren’t quite right with Prsnt. Two phone calls later, we had Creative Stack on the line. They set up a conversation with some amazing designers – those guys ripped the UX and UI apart with absolute precision and experience, which was exactly what we wanted. I totally agreed with everything they said. “
— David Parr. Prsnt.
Together we launched Prsnt in just under a month after we received the ‘MVP’ from their previous provider, in line with the original deadline – Christmas 2020.
” It’s perfect for what we needed to do; the point was to build an application to run some metrics on, to re-raise. “
— Louis | Prsnt.
As David put’s it;
And, they certainly did – Prsnt secured their next round of funding with their MVP and are building their MMP with Creative Stack right now.
Prsnt is nominated for silver in The Best Mobile App Awards.
Here’s the Prsnt App:
Check out: Prsnt | Part 2 | MVP → MMP | >Coming Soon< |
Greg Whitfield, MD Creative Stack.