Our answer to the challenges faced by charities around the world.
We are bringing our Medium publication to life! 🚀 My name is Keivan Shahida and I am one of the cofounders of Response.
We are a team of developers and designers that is pushing ourselves to learn more and use Medium as a way to keep ourselves accountable. Every week, members of our team will be posting new articles. Topics will range from new tools we are using to insights gained from talking to donors and charities.
Our journey with Response started at the end of 2017 when Kais Baillargeon and I started talking about how frustrated we were with the charitable giving process. As donors, we felt that our time was not being respected, and we were worried about how our donations were being used. For example, after giving, we would often get spammed by emails the next day asking for more money! 😱 On top of that, we never received updates on how our donations were being used.
Our conversations continued for days, so we started to talk about how to address some of our frustrations. We wanted to build a product that would deliver short interactive video updates on the causes we cared about most. A product that would never spam us for money and only reach out with relevant content when we wanted it to. We set out to build a product that would give everyone the power to respond to what they care about most. We immediately began to sketch up our minimum viable product (MVP) to address the problems we were facing… 🛑
Before I go on, I want to mention how big of a mistake this was.
Before sketching up our MVP, we did not conduct our research properly. We relied on survey data, but the problem with surveys is that they are inherently biased. When you create a survey, the questions are based on what you already know. Surveys never lead to discoveries. On top of that, we didn’t properly research our competitive analysis. We later found that the space was far more crowded than we first realized. It sucks to actively look for companies that are working on the same idea as you, but it is so crucial to understanding the landscape that you intend to operate in. In some cases, competitors can even be good — proving that you have a viable market.
The core driving force that led us to our series of errors was that as a developer-centric team we just wanted to develop. We brought both Nolan Gray and Elmer Astudillo onto our team to help take development to a new level. But by ramping up our development team, we dug ourselves a deeper hole.
Once we had a basic version of our product in our hands we started to discuss our plans for the summer as well as plans for launching the Response app. We first applied to the Lightspeed Venture Partners Summer Fellowship, but did not make it past the final round interview. Back at Cornell, we discovered another amazing opportunity in Life Changing Labs — an incubator on campus. Fortunately, we were accepted.
At the beginning of the summer we were introduced to a book called Running Lean by Ash Maurya. Reading through Running Lean was a good old-fashioned slap in the face for our team.
One of Maurya’s key takeaways is that you should first test out a series of falsifiable hypotheses and ensure that enough people NEED (not want) a solution to a critical problem.
Maurya ridiculed surveys for the bias that is built into them and praised in-person interviews. When you’re sitting face-to-face with someone, you have the opportunity to pick up on nuances not possible over the phone or email. Questions can be open-ended and conversational — reducing the likelihood of bias.
We decided that every member of our team needed to sit down and talk with customers until we had a real problem on our hands. To their initial dismay, all of the developers had to stop coding and start interviewing. In the end, we discovered that what we were building wasn’t addressing a true need. There were already solutions available, but no one was using them. Most donors are passive in nature and even though they wanted to get real updates on how their money was being used, they didn’t care enough to download an app to track those updates.
Without interviews, we would have devoted our entire summer to developing a product that no one needed. Instead, we dodged a bullet and discovered a market desperate for innovation.
Where We Are Now
We are digging deeper into research than ever before. We have spoken to charities around the world about the challenges they are facing from fundraising to marketing to logistics. From all the conversations we have had to date, we have realized that organizations are facing major logistical challenges. That’s where we come in.*
*More on this in a future article on our product.
At Response, we want to give everyone the power to respond to what they care about most.
In order to get there, perhaps our mission has become more literal than we originally intended. No matter what shape our solutions take, we will continue to chase the problem.
That’s all for now! If you enjoyed reading this and want to see more from us then make sure to follow us below or CLAP IT UP 👏👏👏 We will be posting updates from the ground on Instagram as well as longer updates on Instagram TV! Expect another Medium post from us later this week!
Let’s do this! 🎉
— Keivan Shahida✌🏼