Post mortem — MakeFriends

“Break the loneliness of people with intellectual disabilities”

This was our mission, the reason to why we put in so many hours besides our day jobs and why we wanted to succeed with our venture.

Unfortunately we did not. Now we want to share our story and learnings.

But first — the team. We were three founders. Elinor, the idea giver who is working within Habiliteringen as a curator, daily meeting our target group. Per, experienced developer and consultant and Viktor the business oriented part of the team. This was a good team and without it we would not have made it as far as we did.

During the September 2016 we came to understand that there was a fairly large group of people who were especially lonely, who were lacking a good way to find friends and maybe love. This group was people with intellectual disabilities.

As they were not especially active on Facebook our hypothesis, supported by industry experts, was that this target group did not find current solutions easy and safe enough to use.Therefore our aim came to be to create an friend finding app. A crossbreed between Tinder and Facebook where users could find friends and hang out with them. All this in a UI completely adopted for their needs.

Through cooperation with associations such as FUB we gathered a group of 20 men and women who wanted to be our first beta users. Our plan was to set them up in a Slack environment to simulate our app and gain quick insights.

This was where the problems started. Firstly, only 8 of the 20 where actually willing to test the app when we where ready to start (how strong was the pain?). Secondly, the group who acutally became users had the same behavior as on Facebook — inactive, there were no conversations or use.

Meanwhile we had been accepted to STING Test Drive and during this program our lack of business model became painfully clear. We had known about the problems but had not dealt with “elephant in the room”. In summary, the target group was not large enough to sustain a scalable business.

With users not using the beta product and a weak business model we had to realize that we had failed. On our retro perspective meeting we asked ourselves how we could have failed faster. These are our answers and learnings:

  1. Always address the riskiest assumption first. We knew that the business model was shaky but ignored it, we were probably afraid to fail
  2. Listen to the users/target group. All industry experts we talked to supported the app but the users did not even use Facebook. Customer obsession is key.
  3. Set up work to ensure quick feedback, from the users..

In the end I am glad that we discovered these issues quite early on. Now we have energy and experience to tackle our next venture. Stay tuned