Pollo: Idea to App Store in 5 weeks

Well, that was what happened once we got our act together…

Last year, Cornell AppDev spent a full semester working on an application to replace iClicker, a piece of plastic that almost all Cornell students have to pay an exorbitant amount for to take simple polls or quizzes in class.

The problem with our initial approach to developing a replacement to the iClicker system is that our team of developers and designers spent too much time theorizing about the ideal solution, and not enough time focusing on creating a simple solution to iterate on. By the end of the semester, after conducting thorough primary market research, there was no clear path to launching. In fact, we thought that it would take almost a year to ship something to the App Store. I called 🐂.

It’s often better to create a solution that truly helps a small group of people than to create a solution that kind of helps a large group of people. This semester, we set out to build the perfect app for our training courses, so that our instructors could quickly gauge their audience and answer questions most relevant to the entire class.

I set a deadline of four weeks to have our MVP ready, and by our fifth week, we were ready to ship an iOS and web app for our students to use.

So how did we turn things around?

The only way to accomplish an ambitious goal is to start small. Success on a grand scale is the result of hundreds, if not thousands, of small wins.

An Olympic rowing coach once told me that when his athletes dream of winning an Olympic gold medal he gives them the following advice:

“Start with one perfect stroke. Then try for two. Then three, and so on. In races, beat one team. Then beat two teams, and keep going until you eventually start taking home medals. After winning locally, win regionally. Then win nationally. Then win internationally. Only then are you ready to go after an Olympic medal because your thousands of small wins have been adding up and converge to accomplishing your grandest ambition.”

Our mistake last year was that we wanted to fix everyone’s problems all at once. We met with professors from very different departments and heard about everyone’s different needs and wants. By the end of the process, our product timeline painted a picture of a bloated solution and a seemingly endless haul to the finish line.

By serving one class at a time, we are now incrementally collecting small wins. We first built a solution for our classes. After winning over our classes, we will target courses beyond our own — initially working with other student led courses. After winning over all student-led classes, we will target Cornell University courses one by one. And we won’t stop until we are used by schools, universities, and organizations around the nation and the world.

Who made it happen?

Our team is made up of two designers (Jon Lee and Jason Wu), two iOS developers (me and Kevin Chan), two backend developers (Megan Le and Jehron Petty), and two web developers (Annie Cheng and Daniel Li).

Check them out… they are beasts.

If you liked my first ever Medium article, please clap it up! 👏🏻

Please let me know what you think by commenting below and follow me on IG @keivanshahida to track my journey through product development.

Signing off… Keivan (it’s like an exotic Kevin).