From 0 to beta in 6 months — our journey in product design

2016 has been such a crazy ride for us here at Hyper Anna. As the end of the year is fast approaching, I feel now is the time to recap on our product journey and share with you our story to date.

February 2016: friends and family version
Our first version of Anna - code name: Bruce. Main feature: you type in a question and you get a visualisation. Our ‘epic’ feature was the ‘surprise chart’. You ask a question: sales trend by states, you get both a line chart (with sales by state over time) and a map for sales by different areas. We coded this in approximately 700 hours, and did about 20 demos before it was archived.

This was our very first attempt at data visualisation with natural language input.

March 2016: moving from visualising to analysing
As it turned out, people thought the ‘surprise’ chart was not all that useful!

We had the choice of keeping it just to one chart answer, but I really liked the surprise chart! So we decided that the surprise chart needed to be created based on findings in the dataset. We then tweaked it into a ‘deep dive’ chart. You ask a question : sales trend by states, you get both an area chart (with sales by states over time) and Anna then suggests you look at Queensland’s performance where she observes the highest increase over the year.

Fundamentally, this shift was and is still the biggest point of difference for us. We are no longer in the data visualisation market, we are now a solution for data analytics.

This was the first time we did a public demo at a pitching competition, and we won! The insight (one line) was very basic at best then, but the way Anna can help people explore data was really starting to take shape.

April 2016: natural language generation
We held our first focus group on my birthday where we invited people (our friends) to join a demo session, and they walked away with logins to trial Anna for 2 weeks.

One key insight we got from the focus group was people needed solid insights to understand Anna’s thought process. We spent approximately 600 hours on the first cut of natural language generation.

This was a great use of our time as it brought the concept of machine intelligence to life. People started to see Anna as more than just a tool, but rather an agent with some basic thought process. This was the first time Anna started to spark people’s imagination.

May 2016: creation of Pencil
We officially brought Pencil to life. One of the best decisions we have ever made!

Pencil is the force behind Anna’s ability to understand context. We initially coded Pencil as just a part of Anna, but we quickly realised there is a lot more potential to our little side project than we have ever imagined! So, Pencil got its own name.

July-present: the dog ate my homework (j/k)
We have been going through some crazy times lately!

The US trip where I cried over a burrito…first paying client, seed-round fundraising, second client, third client -> eighth client, product overhaul, team growth (quadrupling in size (2->8)), warehouse office and much more!

I would like to take the opportunity to thank our investors and customers who have believed in Hyper Anna, and supported us in this journey. We will continue to find ways to uniquely contribute to the data science and AI space.

I will continue to share more about our learnings over the coming months. Follow me on twitter to stay in the loop!

P.S. Below is a sneak peak of our current beta which will be launching in December!