Hello? It’s Your Users Calling

Bringing IDEO’s design thinking to the global DeFi community

IDEO CoLab Ventures
3 min readJun 25, 2020


Hand-sketched logos from the participating founders and startup teams.

Make no mistake about it, design is a hands-on discipline. And since the inception of IDEO CoLab Ventures, we’ve been experimenting with various ways to teach aspects of design — as a practice — to both portfolio companies and crypto entrepreneurs alike. For this reason we designed and conducted our latest experiment: Virtual DeFi Product Validation Day (or, PVD for short).

The most important aspect to building a product that people actually use is to talk to the people whom they’re trying to serve. While piles of posts and tweets expound the benefits of this activity, few teams set aside the time to line up the interviews and concretely test hypotheses in a way that advances their product. As a result, PVD was structured to have DeFi teams from around the world show up with testable product hypotheses that, by the end of three interviews, could be validated (or invalidated in many cases), resulting in a decision to pivot, pursue, or kill the idea.

The Day

From an initial group of 120 applications from around the world, we accepted a group of just over 30 DeFi founders for PVD. Each team showed up with several product hypotheses to test with three interviewees. By the end of the PVD, with guidance from both IDEO designers and friends in the crypto space (thanks Ken Deeter, Sid Ramesh, and Jesse Walden), we conducted more than 80 user interviews across the teams.

Similarities between pit crews and OR teams were surfaced through the IDEO process.

The Results

In the afternoon, teams worked through IDEO’s design thinking methodology to validate their core product assumptions. While some teams learned they are on the right path with what they’re already building, most will be significantly rethinking their product offerings, and a few decided to pivot altogether.

Whatever the outcome, the result was clear: there’s no substitute for talking to users early in the product development process.

From the Founders

We loved the rigor of defining assumptions up front and testing them repeatedly with potential users. After synthesizing our insights, we realized that our initial focus…might not be as impactful as providing a simpler and more trustworthy UX.

I liked adding structure to the process. Interviews => Download => Synthesis => Next steps. We’re going to keep this structure going forward for user testing.

It blew holes in our app.

[This is an] incredible framework and toolkit that I’ll continue to benefit from.

We’re also watching emergent behaviors appear in the community as a result of the value gained from the afternoon of interviews and strategy. In our growing Telegram community, a few founders and teams are now actively making themselves available as interviewees for other projects and dedicating a few hours each week to the practice of user interviews — this is an amazing side effect.

What We Learned

DeFi is a young and thriving community that’s just getting started, and learning how to bring IDEO’s design process to this global community of crypto entrepreneurs is why we’re investing heavily in this space. And with our first global, virtual user research event, we learned some valuable lessons (e.g., how to design for time zones, solo founders, etc.) that we’ll apply going forward.

And for those of you who weren’t able to attend this first session, no need to worry: you can apply to our next Virtual Product Validation Day here!



IDEO CoLab Ventures

Where venture meets design. We invest in big ideas and good humans.